Ch. 5 - Richard Coln Fifield AKA Colin - Into My Teen Years

For the trip to Brentford we would stop off at the workingmen’s cafe for toast and dripping and pint pot of steaming hot tea. Then we would watch the auctioneer, once the selling started. We would come away most times with a different rig or horse. One time we got a big Strawberry Roan, he was only 3 years old and not broken in properly. One day dad and I were going down town with him; some road-worker started some machinery up just as we were passing. Well that was it; the horse took fright and was off down the road at a Gallup. All dad could do was wave his arms and shout “runaway, out of the way”. The reins were lost, exciting stuff for me, hanging on for my life. After going for about half a mile the horse just stopped lathered up and frothing from the mouth, so we just carried on from there at a much slower pace, the horse had had it.

The building trade wasn’t the best, raw materials were hard to get, also tools. We would get a job to do but needed equipment, the country was just getting used to producing peace time things instead of war machines just after the war.

We started selling greengrocery around the streets, on slack days a rag and bone round and on Sunday a bath full of periwinkle’s would be on the cart. An old white sheet, a pint and half pint glass with handles borrowed from the local pub, perhaps some watercress. We used a cart for our little Shetland pony, it looked neat.

These horses needed brushing and cleaning out of their stables, I did my share of that, especially Sunday evenings, that was always my job, mucking out and feeding, horses always know if you are a bit scared of them, and I was a bit especially of the big cart horses when on my own with them. They would play a game with me if I had a bucket of oats for them I could always get up to the manger to feed them, but as I went to get out the horse would go over to one side by the wall stopping me. I’d duck under his head and start backing out until he swung back to the other side. I’m saying get over, and he doesn’t budge, and his little game went on for quite a while until I get desperate and move faster than he. That was also my regular Sunday evening, then to go to the movies and meet up with Roy Daniels. After the movies we would go to the Red Lion pub and see if Roy’s brother was there, if he was we would give him the money to get us a couple of pints of beer, as you had to be 18 to drink in a pub, I probably drank more beer when I was underage than I had since.

Roy and I were often talking about our future, what we wanted to do. We both decided that the merchant Navy would be the life us. We both went for an interview. Roy wanted to be a steward and was accepted for training college. The guy behind the desk asked me what I wanted to do. I wanted all the chances I could get so I said I don’t mind, anything. Well in that case he said, come back in 6 months, I’ll sign you up as a deckhand!  I wanted to go to training school with Roy, I never did go back.

Well I carried on at home and worked with dad, and when things got a bit slack I’d go out and get a job on a building site or worked on the railway as a porter, then as a trainee fireman on the steam engines. I had a job once on the big pleasure boats on the River Thames, as a deckhand. Many and varied job since leaving school until I was 17 ½. Around that time dad was getting real sick and suffered lots of pain. He went into hospital for an operation, after coming out 3 months later he died of cancer. I was in a state of shock. My Pall, my dad was no more. No more fun trips to the markets, no more going to the dog track. He was too young, only 54. He was the best. Mum of course had a bad time getting over the grief. Although dad liked his beer and they would have a few rows about the drink, they were happy together though.

Mum started putting attention to me, looking after me a real treat. Well being a selfish youth, I decided I didn’t want to be a mummy’s boy. I had to get out of the house on a permanent basis. I know, I’ll join the army, what a good idea. So I took Queen’s shilling and signed on for 5 and 7 (years), in the Royal artillery, and so one fine winter’s day, I went off to London to catch a train to Oswestry, North Wales, a land of sheep and mountains, rugged country. I met a few more guys who had the same idea and a lot more who had been called up to do their national service. As we proceeded north the train would stop at Birmingham and a few other towns along the way, there finished up to be quite a lot of us. From the station we headed into buses to the training camp Oswestry. Stepping off the bus we met up with this sergeant shouting profanities at us to get into line and straighten yourselves up ”you’re in the Army now”. It was about that time I realised what a terrible mistake I had made. After that we did all the usual things, got kitted out and had a haircut, so we all looked like Geronimo. Up at 6 in the morning five-mile run before breakfast, marching drill and for a change we would have marching drill and a kit inspection and barrack room inspection, et cetera et cetera, and being artillery we also had gun drill. We had the big anti aircraft guns. This initial training was for about 3 months, and then I was posted to the Isle of Wight, close to the small town of Newport.


Our barracks were across the road from the prison, “Parkhurst”. This prison had most of the long-term or lifers, murderers and really hard Case offenders of the law. We were given another session of marching, rifle and gun drill. I wondered how I would could get out of this predicament and get myself detailed to a specific job. The Cook seemed to be on a good wicket, so I volunteered to work in those ORs kitchen. That is the one that fed the troops en masse. As I wasn’t in the catering con I came under the name of regimental Cook. My world changed for the better almost at once and I stayed regimental Cook until my time was up. I moved around Southern England to various camps, also moved out of the ORs mess to the officers. We had to get dinner ready at night for them. I tried my best to get Sergeants mess. I finished up in Dover, Connaught barracks with a job in the Sergeants mess. The army was still a hassle but I had found a niche where I wasn’t bothered too much from the guys who had stripes on their arms, or pips on their shoulder.

Ch. 6 - Richard Colin Fifield AKA Colin Getting Ma...
Ch.4 - Ken, Joan and growing up


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