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THANKS FOR THE WONDERFUL MEMORIES, LES


Sadly Les Oswin’s detailed account of a young man growing up in the thirties in Leicester is at its final chapter. Les has kept us entertained with his story about life in those innocent days up to the outbreak of the war when life changed for everyone, especially young, impressionable young boys. Les ends his story with news of how things went after the war. Only two of the characters in his story are still alive but thanks to Les, the memories will live on.


My account of life in Leices- ter in the Thirties’ is now finished, but it is only the Thirties calendar which has come to an end; life still goes on, and so does Leicester. We are now just about to start on a new decade, the Forties, and this will prove to change the lives for ever of all who survived the Thirties. It will be interesting to know what happened to those who were named in my account, as well as places, buildings and even ‘things’ which were men- tioned. Of all those individu- als only two are still around after all these years, and obviously I am one, having spent my whole life work- ing in the Health Service, less the five year’s war-time service in the Royal Cops of Signals. The


other survivor,


brother Rex was too young to serve during WWII but joined the Royal Navy for seven years immediately afterwards. He now lives in Birstall, one of the places I passed through on my bike rides to visit my Grandad. Brother Jim, who is no long- er with us, also served in the Signals, landed on Juno Beach on D-Day attached to the Canadians, lost an arm near Belgium in late 1944 and spent his working life as a Ministry of Labour official helping disabled people. He still managed to knock out popular tunes on the piano with my mouth organ ac- companiment.


Our dad came back from the Far East at the time of Dunkirk and for the next four and a half years, still in the Navy, did special work around the ports on anti-U-Boat services. He left


the Navy round about the time I left the UK for my final two years’ service in the Far East. My ‘uncle’ John served in the Fleet Arm till the end of WWII and re- turned to Trafalgar Square in Barrow-n-Sour.


The old stone cottages have gone of course and a modern residence now oc- cupies the site which is still bordered by the two stone walls and double gates at the top. I have no idea whether it has retained its original name. But the River Sour still meanders through Barrow and I expect ‘The Slabs’ are still alongside the river through the chestnut trees.


Back in Leicester, the three ‘Newcastle Boys’ final- ly obtained employment in reserved occupations dur- ing the war and Bob, owner of the double bass, married Betty, one of our mum’s do- mestic helps. We met him again only a few years ago when he was playing key- board at Leicester’s Grand Hotel, at the evening wed- ding reception of one or brother Rex’s daughters – what a coincidence after all those years! Our Mum, without Dad’s help, kept our home going throughout


the war, hav-


ing to contend with brother and sister evacuees from Ipswich, and later a couple of Pay Corps soldiers, to- gether with rationing and all war-time restrictions, at the same time writing regularly to Dad, brother Jim and me wherever we were in the world.


She was featured in a photograph on the


front


page of our local newspa- per, heading a queue for


some food or other in the Leicester market – she sent me a copy with one of her letters. She welcomed our Dad back home finally in early February 1945. Our ‘fiddling’ jeweller,


Harry Turner, later married Edith who also lodged at our home and after some years at their shop on Narborough Road, became the manager of the jewellery department at Lewis’s store in Humber- stone Gate, and remained friends with our family for many years.


But of course today the original Lewis’s store no longer exists, though the tower, a city landmark for over 70 years is still there in sight of the Clock Tower, another prominent feature though this is now pedestri- anised and you can’t ride a bicycle round it as we could back in the Thirties.


Before leaving the City Centre it is interesting to be reminded that our old gram- mar school premises, ‘Clar- ence House’, is still there as a protected building, being looked after by Age Con- cern, and used for many so- cial activities. And my earlier junior school in Shaftesbury Road still exists, providing education for local children. What about our Free Christian Church and Hall – Unitarian denomination; it’s still there but now belongs to some other religious group. Many happy memories exist for it was in this hall that we learned to dance and broth- er Jim met his future wife there. Three houses up our road, our old home, Number five Lindisfarne, is still there but it has been structurally joined with next door, Num- ber three, and now provides a home for a number of el- derly disabled people – it’s role hasn’t really changed a lot after all these years. But the old trams along


25


the Narborough Road went many years ago, replaced by buses but at least the tram lines which were a haz- ard for cyclists no longer the line the centre of the road. My small Hercules cycle probably went to help the war effort as did the metal railings in front of our house. Brother Rex eventually took over


cident.


the Rudge Whitwork bike but it has an inglorious demise when being ridden back home to Birstall after he war, the seat and handle- bars both parted company from the frame with only the brake cables keeping the parts in close proximity – brother Rex was the sole survivor of that dramatic in-


Straight after the war I bought a new Raleigh Len- ton Sports bicycle in metal- lic blue, for £5-17s-6d and this remained my mode of transport until I bought my first car towards the end of 1964. The Lenton Sports finally ended its active life in Northfield, Birmingham in 1988.


But what of Rolf, the Ger- man schoolboy from Ham- burg? I have written what we heard from in in 1947, but it was probably 1948 when a letter arrived from him in a Russian prisoner of war camp where he had been since being captured on the Eastern front in 1943.


The letter was addressed to our Mum and Dad and Rolf asked if there was anything they could do to get him and his comrades released from captivity all those years after hostilities ended.


Obviously there was lit- tle we could do to get him freed, but we sent the letter to the Member of Parliament for Leicester, Harold Nichol- son and were pleased when a year or so later we heard again from Rolf, this time in Germany thanking us for our help and saying he was trying to get his life back together again.


He did not mention his parents so we never knew


Continued on page 26 >


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