The Life Story of Arthur and Yolande Hutchings
This is the story Arthur Hutchings wrote of his life. It was discovered by his family after he died and sent for inclusion in Jersey Achives, The Underground Hospital Archives and websites such as Jerripedia to keep his memory alive and to provide interesting social history for fellow researchers. It is reproduced as he wrote it, save for minor punctuation changes.
I was born in May of 1915 at Eden Chapel, Maufant, the son of Mary and Alfred Hutchings. My father being a painter, paperhanger and grainer, working for the firm of JNO Reed and Sons, Nelson Avenue. I was educated at St Luke’s school, having left at the age of 14 in 1929 and joined the same firm as my father, as an apprentice carpenter and joiner, at which I progressed pretty quickly.
It was a very reputable firm, amongst our customers was the late Sir Betram Falle, the Lord of Portsea, who owned the big house called Plaisance, of which I did a lot of work there. Then after Sir Bertram Falle died, Howard Davis bought it and gave it to the States of Jersey, who decided to pull it down and make the beautiful park as it is today.
– Note: The property was bought by Thomas Benjamin Davis, one of the island’s greatest benefactors, who demolished the house and created the park, which he named after his son Howard, who was killed in the First World War, and then gave to the island.
During the time of Sir Bertram Falle he used to open his grounds to the pupils, of which I was one, of St Luke’s School at Chestnut time, being he had lovely eating chestnuts trees on the property. Also I helped to work on the Havre Des Pas bathing pool, repairing the bridge, deck chairs, bathing cabins, also the upkeep of the Black Stage at La Collette and the diving pool. We kept the pathway to the Low Cement and every year had to fit a mat to the diving stag;e and during the summer had to prepare for the Gymkhana, which used to draw a big crowd of people, visitors and locals alike.
We had professional divers and swimmers from England taking part and local people like the Samsons, Pat Macready, Humphreys, Watts and many others, including the Guitons, who used to do a lot of the organising. The pool used to be packed with visitors; many used to stay and help in different ways as the tide used to come in so quick before we had time to clear the chairs and forms away. It was a good day’s entertainment and I don’t think we ever had a bad day. I also worked in Vine Street and had the honour of cutting down the last vine. It was a great day for everyone.
After a while I decided to leave the old firm in 1934, as I thought I was capable of earning more wages, and from then I worked for the Western Railways and JMT Combined, which was then in charge of Major Blakeway. My work consisted of repairs to the railway stations, the gates, the railway carriages.
I worked with some interesting characters, such as Isaac Norman, Dick Shenton, Hedely Perchard, Springate, Romeril, such names you could see in several books wrote about the history of Jersey, including my old foreman Jack Wilton. It was during my first year that the railway had a fire in St Aubin’s Station, and following the fire the railway could not afford to carry on.
Work in the coach building shop was plentiful during the winter, but during the summer there was very little, so I suggested to Major Blakeway that if he required conductors or drivers I would not mind helping out, which he agreed to, so I went conducting and it was there that I met my wife Yolande on the St Laurence route.
After about a four-year courtship and the fact that I was due to be called up for war duty, we decided to get married. That was on 9 May. The war was fast approaching the Channel Islands and we were unable to go to England for our honeymoon. We got married at St Mary and St Peters Church in Vauxhall Street and spent a very happy honeymoon in a house in the Upper Caniskers in Guernsey.
We were very fortunate in being able to rent a big house, workshops and a large garden behind St Lawrence Church, known as Abbeygate, which was to become a house of extreme thrills and excitement. My in-laws lived in the cottage attached to the main house, of which there was a door under the stairs leading to both properties, so we were able to go to one another’s house as we liked, without having to go outside. We were not long living at Abbeygate when the problems started with the Germans. First they wanted my in-laws out in twenty-four hours, and fortunately having a large house they came and lived with us. Then they turned the cottage into a transmitting station.
After a short while living there we were startled by a knock on the door. Who was standing there but a Russian prisoner of war named Alexi, looking in a bad state, so we quickly got him into the house and saw that he needed food, so my wife Yolande quickly made up a feed of some kind and no longer than the plate had been put in front of him than it was gone. In trying to keep us in food I kept over one-hundred rabbits, so you can imagine the amount of work it took to feed them.
First thing in the morning Yolande used to go out along the hedges and fields looking for food for them, whilst I used to go cutting grass for turning into hay for their beds. Once it was dried I used to keep it up in my carpenter’s shop. It was there that we made a bed for the Russian. He could speak English well, but after about a fortnight he decided that it was taking too much of a risk to be so close to the Germans, so he came down and told us that he was leaving. We often wondered what happened to him as we do not know where he went.
During that time our rabbits were diminishing; six or seven, every time we went in the shed the amount was getting smaller. Then this dreaded outbreak of disease called Miximatosis started to take more and more. So in the end it was very hard to get food. Fortunately I had an abundance of hay up in the carpenter’s shop, for after a while after the first Russian had gone another one turned up.
He was in a bad way, he had a gash to the back of his head, he was dressed in old trousers and worn out shoes and an old grey blanket over his back with his number and USSR painted on it. So we straight away got him a pair of trousers, shirt, and coat belonging to my father-in-law. My wife Yolande bathed the cut at the back of his head and once again made up some sort of feed for him, which I can tell you he ate and enjoyed.
The biggest problem was that he could not talk English. But after a while he produced a photo of himself with the prisoner’s number across his chest. Eventually after a lot of laughing we realized he could talk French, which my wife Yolande could also speak. So with that she could teach him English, also with the help of an old gramophone of which we had a record called the Milk Man, which he played and played until we were going mad with it.
He told us he was in the Airforce and his name was Peter Bolatenko. Once again we made a bed for him in the hay in my workshop and he used to have his meals with us, such as they were. What with the gramophone and my wife, he soon mastered the talking of English.
The biggest problem for us was how to keep him hidden. However after a while he used to wander in the garden and occasionally friends used to come and visit us and of course used to wonder who he was. We had a big friend of ours, Mr Charles Le Sueur, from Six Roads, St Lawrence who was a baker. One day he asked my wife who the chap was sitting on the front of the house. She told him he was a friend of mine, but he told her “don’t kid me” so she told him he was a Russian.
He said, “how on earth are you feeding him with the small amount of food you have”, so he said “look Yolande, I shall come back and pick him up in my horse and van and take him home and give him some food” which was a great help to us, and also give Peter a change, and I can tell you he thoroughly enjoyed it.
We were getting worried because everybody was getting to know that we were keeping a Russian. As food was getting shorter, our landlord had a farm at First Tower, so I thought it a good idea if I asked him if he would keep Peter, feed him and he could do a little work on the farm. So one afternoon I decided it would be a good idea to find out. So I told Peter,and we talked it over with my wife, knowing full well the risk we were going to take, so we walked all the way from St Lawrence to Tower Hill passing many Germans on the way, and I can tell you the way some of them looked at us made us feel as if we could run.
However, we eventually arrived at the farm and when I introduced Peter the farmer nearly collapsed and called me all the fools under the sun, so once again we had to walk all the way back again. As the following days and weeks passed, food was getting desperately short, however the news had got to a Mrs Carter that we were keeping a Russian, so she came around to see us and to tell us if Peter would not mind, she thought he could go and live and work on her brother’s farm – Mr Bill Sarre at Rue de Ras, St Lawrence.
So once again off we went down to the farm, but this time it was more successful, so that was the end of our friend Peter. We heard after that Mr Sarre, with the help of other friends, got him a faked passport etc. From there on we also heard that he would go to the barber and have a haircut and sit with the Germans and talk to them.
During that time I was making crystal sets for a number of people and my wife Yolande used to listen to the news of a morning, write it down for me and I would take it to work and distribute it around. The JMT workshop was next to the Harbourwhere I got very friendly with a Polish soldier who was also a prisoner of the Germans, but fortunately could talk English, so we used to have a conversation about the position of the war. I also gave him the paper that the wife used to write and in exchange he would give me a little bit of dripping which he would conceal in his shirt. This went on for some time but after a while I used to wait and he never turned up. I heard that a Pole had been taken and shot: for what I have never found out.
Also working for the JMT along with me was a man called Frank Luce, of which we were great friends. Frank somehow or other with the help of a German managed to print leaflets both in English and German and he used to give me quite a bundle to be thrown on the roads where ever we could. The wife and I both had bicycles with hose pipes for tyres, which we mostly used for dropping our leaflets and occasionally we would walk, depending on the time we had.
One winter’s night it was cold so I put on an old navy blue overcoat and went off dropping our leaflets. Having arrived around Six Roads, St Lawrence, we had just dropped some when we spotted a German soldier; fortunately he seemed more frightened than we were. Two days after we heard there was a British sailor in the vicinity of Six Roads and anyone helping him would be shot. I feel sure this same German thought I was the British sailor. As quick as I could get the leaflets, Yolande and I would get rid of them.
We did have some fun at times, although times were hard, and as you know, you did not know who to trust. One day we were sitting at home when a cousin of mine came in and said “I don’t know if I should tell you, but I have found a leaflet that has been dropped by the British telling us how the war is progressing, read it but on no account show it around, and as soon as you have finished, burn it. Well you can imagine the laugh we had when he had gone. We knew by the movements of the Germans how the war was going. There used to be a lot of talking and manoeuvres if a heavy raid had taken place on Germany or France or thereabouts.
The day came when the German soldiers started to want to talk to us regarding the end of the war. They were asking questions such as how would the British treat them, would they shoot them, would they keep them in prison for life? So you can imagine the tales we would tell them. I used to keep my big radio going on jam jars with blue stone copper and zinc, so when the big day was getting close I made sure we were prepared.
As I have mentioned before, food was very scarce. A friend of mine Charlie Mauger had to work for the Germans as forced labour; he was a gardener for a house called Temperly on Mont Cambrai which belonged to a family called Walker, which owned the Tea Stores at First Tower. He came home one evening and asked if I would like some goat meat and would I be willing to help him. The object was that we would have to go and rob a goat and three kids off the Germans,so you can imagine the excitement and also the worry of how to carry out the task.
One day we were overjoyed with the news that the Germans were going to allow the British Red Cross to send a ship loaded with Red Cross parcels for the people of the islands, so you can imagine the excitement that caused.
So the day came for the arrival of the ship and the distributing of the parcels. All that took place on 31 December 1944, and promise of more to come once a month, but that did not deter Charlie and I from wanting the taste of goat meat.
Hence the planning took place of how to get into the place occupied by the Germans, and the route we would have to take to get the goat and kids home. The night came when we decided it was time that we went and carried out our task, so we went off with our two sacks and cord, left our families waiting with fear and hope that we will manage without being detected by the Germans.
After a walk that seemed hours, we arrived at the house and much in our favour they were having a sing-song with music blaring everywhere, and fortunately no guards to be seen while we were trying to locate where the goat and kids were. Having found them in the pitch black dark of a little cubby hole, Charlie said, “I shall untie the goat first and you can take her while I will collect the three kids”.
He was feeling around and he said one kid is pot-bellied so we shall leave it here (the worst thing we could have done). As we were leaving with the goat and two kids we heard the one which we left behind calling for his or her mother, so you can imagine the plight we were in. So Charlie told me we have to run for it, so you can imagine in the pitch black dark finding your way.
However, we reached some steps and he showed me the way down the steps and we were soon in St Peter’s Valley. There was still worse to come, as we got to the corner of the main road we heard a car coming, so we had to hide back in a gateway and all the time the goat was creating a fuss and getting difficult to handle.
From there we ran as far as the chapel. The next thing we heard was heavy transport and sure enough three lorries loaded with German soldiers who went by. Fortunately there was enough room to hide behind the chapel. Our next move was from there to the bottom of Ville Emphrie, which fortunately went off without a hitch. As we were halfway up the hill Charlie said “I can hear some talking” so we waited there and at the same time gave the goat a rest.
After a while we decided to start off again and reached the top of the hill. From there we decided to take the back lane running parallel to the main road. The poor old goat was getting vey tired so we had to give him a rest for quite a while. Our next move was getting from Colombiere Manor to Abbey Gate, so we decided to run for it, the worse thing we could have done. The poor old goat was tired out and decided to lay down in the road, so you can realise how we felt.
So the next thing was we had to carry him; we carried him as far as the church gates. The next thing was the sound of two cars coming down the main road, so we hid in the church yard while they passed by. You can imagine the women waiting at home, how they were wondering where we were. However by that time the goat was able to walk again and we arrived home to the joy of everyone, but not forgetting we were lucky the Germans in the cottage did not hear us.
On the following morning Charlie went to work as usual, he was met by a German officer. His first words were “Mauger, we have had a robbery last night, our goat and two kids were stolen” Charlie said “I am very sorry to hear that”. The officer said, “don’t worry, we shall soon find who stole them”, and he said he had a job to keep serious. So on the following day Charlie killed one of the kids and brought us down a piece of goat’s meat.
You can imagine how Yolande enjoyed cooking and also with us enjoyed eating a piece of meat for the first time in five years. How we never got found out I do not know, because Yolande was practically full time trying to find food for the goat, and as soon as I got home from work I had to cut grass and dry it for hay for food and bedding for the goat. We kept it in the shed and also it used to come in the kitchen. As well as that we also had goats milk, which I can tell you was a treat, especially for Yolande’s grandmother, who was also feeling the effects of the lack of food. Every day I would milk the goat and when you think the Germans were in the cottage and they never found out. We kept it for about a year after the occupation and then we knew it had to be mated so we sold it.
But after the Germans had gone we used to put the goat in the lane at the back of our house and it did enjoy being out in the open. At times she used to break loose and go into the growers field and fill herself up with carrots and cabbage and come back quite happy. But one day disaster struck, the poor old thing was tied out in the lane but unknown to us alongside of a wasps nest and you can imagine the state it was in. I was at work at the time, Yolande was in a state , she did not know what to do. So she got buckets of water and threw it over the goat, but by that time the poor old thing was just about all in, but as luck would have it Mr Heddy Pipon, who was going to his field, saw what was going on, so he went back to his farm and got a can of cider vinegar and worked the goat down with it. For the next few days it was touch and go whether it would survive. Then, as I said before, we sold it.
Coming back to the Occupation. The day before Liberation we had a hectic time, what with decorating the house with buntings and flags and bringing my big radio into the lounge with about twenty jam pots as batteries. We had it blasting out music and speeches much to the Germans’ annoyance. They were passing up and down the road wondering what was going on. The following day was Liberation and we told everybody that Mr Churchill was going to make a speech. In no time we had forty people crammed into our lounge and some outside listening to him so you can imagine the excitement. We were singing, we were dancing, we were crying, we were just going mad.
As I mentioned before, I had kept my large wireless going on jam pots, blue stone, copper and zinc, of which all that we kept in the loft of the wash house, just behind the Germans’ rooms. We used to get up and down the loft with a ladder some how. The Rector of St Lawrence and his wife, who was big friends of ours, and also Father Messinger, from St Matthew Church, got to know we kept a wireless so they asked if they could come and listen to the news.
The loft roof was covered with corrugated iron, so in the summer you can imagine the intense heat up there. However, the day came when they arrived to hear the news, after struggling to get them in the loft they put on their earphones and settled down to listen, when they came down they were perspiring pretty badly. Fortunately the Rector De Heaume did not live far, because across his head where the dye had come off of the earphone straps were two long green marks across from one ear to the other.
When he walked in home his wife said “Charles have you met any Germans on your way”. He said “no, why?” She said “you just go in and look in the glass”. Well I can tell you he had a shock and, like he said, if they had seen him they would have known where he had been. What made matters worse for him he had been in the 1914 -1918 war and had a serious injury to his head, and had to have a plate put in, so you can imagine the job they had cleaning the dye off. As sad as it was we could see the funny side of it all.
We also left a crystal set on the arm of the settee chair for it was there that Yolande sat and listened to the news so that she could write it down and I could take it to work, as I mentioned before, for the Polish prisoner of war. But one day Yolande was in the kitchen when she heard someone walking along the passage, and it was a German officer who had his hand on the door handle to go in. Fortunately Yolande called out and came back and he told her he was looking for the Rector because he wanted to have permission to play the organ in the church.
Another night we were listening to the news in the kitchen when there was a knock on the back door and someone shouted out “Gestapo open the door”, so you can imagine the panic. We threw the set in the cupboard and answered the door only to find a friend of ours standing there, and this was after curfew, so you can guess all the sweet names he got called.
Another time we had gone up to Yolande’s uncle and aunt who lived about a mile away, we cut our time short and we were out after curfew and coming through the Waterworks Valley we came face to face with a young German soldier who seemed more frightened than we were. He stuck his gun in my stomach and shouted “house” so I made him understand that we did not have far to go so he said “rouse”.
Another time a friend of ours, Arthur Le Muire, had a wireless and he could not get it to go, so he asked me if I could; so went and collected it from his farm and took it home without any incident. But a couple of days after I repaired it and we prepared to take it back. So Yolande and I got our coats and I had an old kit bag which I put it in and put it on my back and off we went. To get to his farm we had to go down and through a meadow. When we got down there we heard a lot of shouting and, guess what, the Germans were on manoeuvres. They were so occupied that they did not bother us, much to our surprise. We still had to get back home but as luck would have it they had gone.
Another time coming back through the Waterworks Valley there were two men at the bottom of the reservoir when suddenly Yolande thought they were going to blow it up. She ran nearly all the way up Mon Desir. You can imagine the job I had to catch her.
It was like the time my father came back from work and saw that his pal opposite had not returned home. This man was living with his mother and on his way home he broke off a piece of wood from a hoarding outside of Springfield Hall for his fire. The Germans saw him and arrested him. He was a wireless and transmitter fanatic.
Knowing that, my Dad went over to his mother and told her he would have a look in his loft to see if there was anything in the way of wirelesses or parts. A good thing he did, he had quite a lot, so my dad got a box and emptied the loft and took it to his house just in time, for about an hour after the Gestapo arrived and started to search the place. The only thing they found was an old wireless switch.
When they got back to him they cross-questioned him about it quite a lot, so much so that he guessed that someone had emptied the loft in time, and of course there was only one that knew about the parts, was my father. However, they could not prove anything, so they let him go. So till the end of the war he thought it was safer for my father to keep the parts, which was very wise because about three months after, the Gestapo came back and had another search.
After a while some friends of ours got to know we were keeping a wireless, so he used to pop in when he could to listen to the news. But one day he told us he had kept his wireless but did not have a battery for it. So I told him about making batteries with jam pots, zinc, and copper of Blue stone. So our next job was to go around collecting jam pots; eventually we found enough. We had to strip some zinc off his shed roof and we found some old copper pipes, and being a farmer he had plenty of Blue Stone.
So we set about making the batteries, and to our surprise we managed to get the set working; but where to put it so the Germans could not find it? At last we decided to put it on the roof of the outside toilet, which was in the shed at the bottom of the drive. That was all well and good till one day the Germans decided to have a mock battle and one of the first places they went was into the shed. It just happened that day that I went down to discuss the news when to my surprise I saw what was going on. Being this farmer was very quick on the ball he decided to move some barrels and put them up over the wireless while they were in the shed, so that was another problem avoided.
How we could see the difference in the Germans day by day. You did not need a wireless to know who was winning the war. They were getting to the point where they were suffering the lack of food and also were losing their smartness. They were walking around like a lot of zombies and anytime there was a raid on France they seemed to lose all interest. As I said previously, when the end of the war took place did we enjoy the sight, sitting on the sea wall watching them being ordered by the British Tommies to walk into the water to the landing craft in St Aubins Bay? A few of the officers thought it was very lowering for them to walk in the sea water, but I can tell you the Tommies made sure they did just what they were told.
Following the liberation I thought it time that I left the JMT and start in business as a carpenter, painter and decorator. When my father heard about it he gave up his job and also my cousin Bill King and we started business together. We were doing very well when one day in 1948 my father was cycling back home along the bottom road when he got knocked off his cycle by Mrs Huelin. Two days after he died through it. I carried on in business for a while after but could not seem to settle down. So one day I told Yolande I felt like going away, so we sat down and talked it over.
I was thinking of going to Canada but during that time a friend of mine, who had a garage business, was also thinking of packing up and going to Africa. So we sat down one night and had a good talk about both places, and Africa seemed the best of the two. During that time another friend of mine got interested and also suggested that Africa seemed the best place to go.
So the next big job was to break the news to my partner that I was going to give up my side of the business. As sorry as he was we decided to sell all our stock, tools and equipment, we had a marvelous sale. The place was packed and we sold everything, so we decided we would go at least six months ahead of our wives to check out the place and see what the prospect was. So in the September of 1951 we booked our tickets and first went to London for Bob Capindale to say goodbye to his parents and we then boarded a Dakota for the four-day trip to Lusaka.
We had the misfortune to run into a storm and the lightening struck out a dial in the cockpit over Egypt. So we had to return to Tabora. During the whole time I had been asleep and to think I could with the noise of those old planes.
Eventually we arrived in Lusaka. I think the whole white population was there to see the plane arrive. The next thing was to find somewhere to stay, so we booked into the only hotel that there was. Our next job was to go out and find work, which was very easy. Instead of having to go and look for work the employers were more or less bribing you to work for them. My pal Bob found work for a transport firm, which ran a few Leylands, which he was quite used to, having worked on them in Jersey. This firm worked for the company building the Kariba Dam, of which I seen from the start to finish.
I myself got fixed up with a firm called Lusaka Building and Transport Co. Ltd. The main boss being a Mr McIntire, a nicer man you could not meet. Although being a very tough boss, he was as kind as anyone could be. The only accommodation he had for me was in his office, never the less he found me a good servant and it became home from home. I used to start work at five o’clock in the morning and we would finish at three o’clock in the afternoon. At about four-thirty I would have a little meal then more often than not I would have a little sleep and get ready for about seven o’clock when he would come around and pick me up and we would go to a hotel and have dinner and a few drinks. After sometimes getting home at one-thirty to two o’clock in the morning to be back at work at five o’clock in the morning and not always feeling like it I can tell you. Then one day I told him I would like to get my wife out , the moment I mentioned it to him he said, “leave it to me I shall find you a house”.
In the meantime he had a friend who had to go to Cape Town for an operation, and they had two little boys which were at school, so he asked me if I would go and look after the boys while his friend and his wife went to Cape Town. This I did for three weeks, then I returned to my office accommodation and it was there that he told me he had a furnished house for me. So as soon as he told me I wrote home to tell Yolande she could come when she liked. The next good news that I had was a letter stating that her and my friends wife had booked a passage and was leaving in a few days.
My servant was a big Zulu, a fine chap, he used to run the house while I was at work. I used to leave him some money and he would go to the shops and buy whatever was needed. The day came, the wife arrived when we got to bed I told her that the servant would be in in the morning with a cup of tea, and when he came in the wife dived under the covers. The boy laughed his head off, it took her a while to get used to him. One of my first big jobs was to make a large shop front for the only garage along the Cairo Road, a job that I did enjoy, because another carpenter had a go and made several mistakes and it was from there I was sent to work on a very big house that our firm had the contract to build. It was there that I heard the story of the gentleman that owned the house. Apparently he came to Northern Rhodesia wth the intention of finding a job as a dental mechanic. Well you can imagine the problem he had being there was very few white people about.
This was approximately in and around the year 1939-1940, being unable to find work he had a very hard job to survive so he managed to acquire a gun and to find enough food he went into the bush and started to hunt such animals as Buck Adiaca. As you can imagine he had a plentiful supply of meat, so much so that he used to give a lot away to the locals, which I am told brought people from everywhere. So after a while he thought to himself, it is alright feeding the locals for nothing. He decided to charge them a ticky, which was three pence. He used to give a generous amount so in the end it got around and it drew large crowds much to the delight of this gentleman.
Things were progressing nicely and he was beginning to acquire a little fortune from there. He built himself a little shed , which he turned into a little shop and from there things were beginning to look a lot brighter. He then proceeded to build a larger shop, which drew the attention of the white people and trade started to become that good that he had to employ. It was from there that he decided to build himself a nice house and the day came that he decided that it was time he brought his wife out.
I had a marvelous time with these people, they treated me as one of them. I used to have my meals with them and they also wanted me to live with them. From there he built another butchers shop in the same area. Lusaka was quickly turning into a city, and of course with it there were several more houses getting built and more shops, so business was progressing very fast. I am told from there he also bought land so vast that it was marked on the map.
I used to be very keen on fishing, so every Sunday I used to go with a friend of mine down to the Kafue, a round trip of about seventy miles and on dirt roads. I by that time had managed to save enough money to buy a little car, a little Morris with a sunshine roof. We used to pack our lunch and leave early in the morning with my friend’s two children and set off with our friends in their car down to the Kafue River, where we would do a little fishing and have our lunch and enjoy the day. That was the first time Yolande and I tasted watermelon, which we could buy off the locals for a few pence. Our friends being South Africans were used to eating them, so unknown to us they cut of a large slice each and gave it to us to eat. We laughed so much that we had more on the outside of our stomachs than in.
Then came the day that between our two friends and myself we decided to build a 25 foot long boat with sloped front so we could land on the side of the banks. We built it in timber and tempered hardboard. Being we were all at work except Yolande, it was left to her to do all the screwing, which consisted of three-quarter inch brass screws. We only had the ordinary screw drivers and Yolande, not being used to that kind of work, suffered with terribly big blisters on her fingers and thumbs. However it did not deter her , she carried on till we were finished.
We managed to buy a 50 hp Evermide outboard motor and the day came that we towed it down to the Kafue. That was a day to remember; we bought two bottles of champagne and we performed the ceremony of christening the boat. We had the owner of the land that allowed us to launch the boat and believe me a great day was had by all. The only problem we had was the amount of crocodiles and hippos that were about. Everything went fine until one night it was so lovely down there that we left it a bit late to come back and when we got to our landing place there was about ten hippos crossing the river. Then to crown the lot the motor stopped, so you can expect the panic that went on. The two children were not a bit bothered, however it was not so bad after all it had only ran out of petrol of which fortunately we had a can of in the boat. We used to make it a picnic every Sunday apart from during the rainy season.
We also had another friend which also was a dental mechanic, who at that time also had a job to find work, so eventually had to take a job in the Rhodesian Government as a health inspector, a job for which he had no experience at all. However, they sent him to an outpost called Fort Jameson which was about 400 miles away from Lusaka. When he got down there he got billeted with a Welshman which was a real character. He told him “I will give you instructions on how to carry out the work”. His job was to inspect the locals working for the white people for venereal disease.
Well you can imagine how he felt, he used to write home and tell his wife that he was in work and she and their baby son could come out and join them. The day came that he thought he would tell her what sort of job he had, well she went mad and after that refused to sleep with him. Being a dental mechanic I thought one day I could do with a new set of teeth, so I got in touch with him and the day came that I had to go down to have them made. The journey was 400 miles of escarpment which was only open each way three times a week, the reason being that you could not pass two cars as the road was cut in the hillside with a drop of 50 to 100 feet or more. When I arrived there he set to and made my teeth, then after that he said “lets go and have a game of snooker”. I said “you are joking”, for there was only four houses there for the medical staff and the working men for repairing the culverts. Sure enough there was a full sized snooker table in an old building and it was in lovely condition.
The time came to return, his wife decided she would like to come back with me and also bring her little boy, and this also was the start of the rainy season, and as you can imagine when it rains it rains pretty heavy. So after our goodbyes we set off on our journey. On the way we ran into thunder storms so heavy that trees were being brought down with the lightening and rain. Several of the bridges were under water, so I had to get out of the car and check if they were safe to go over.
My big worry was if the car would break, down what would we do? After all, it was an old Vauxhall, although it was in pretty good condition. Just over half way home the little boy was feeling sick, he was sitting in the front of the car with his mother and myself. All of a sudden he was sick, not only over himself but also over his mother and myself. What with the heat and the smell I can tell you it was not very nice. However, between the showers we managed to get out and have a bit of a wash in the river. We eventually arrived back in a black state, from where we had to move burnt trees out of our way and the car had to be washed out after the sick episode.
From there on I got moved down to the Copper Belt to a place called Ndola. During that time we had a six-month paid leave back to Jersey, where I met up with an old friend of mine who, after hearing how we were enjoying our life in Africa, decided with his wife that they would like to come out. So he and his pal decided to come out ahead of their wives, and when they arrived they soon found work on a building firm. Charles, my pal, was a block layer by trade and not being used to the heat was working out in the sun and being a very big man perspired a lot, plus the fact he was also getting very red with working in the sun. So one day I decided to go and see how he was getting on. Well I have never laughed so much in all my life as I walked into his room, what did I see was this big white form laying on a bed in the nude, he was bathed in white powder from head to toe. We both saw the funny side of it and I can tell you we did have a good laugh, the only thing I was sorry about was that I did not have my camera. However after a while his wife and son came out and settled down and enjoyed their life there.
When I went to Ndola I was put in charge of the workshop whose job was to maintain and repair the Riot trucks, the Police car, Fire Engines, Ambulances etc. During this time I worked on the Queen Mother’s car and she came and inspected the workshops. I also helped in decorating the town. It was during the rainy season that I had to bring a Riot truck into the workshop for repairs. Having quite a problem to start it, I got a small can and a drop of petrol and poured a little drop down the carburetor, which I have done several times before, and had started up straight away, but this one proved difficult. As I poured it in and pressed the starter it caught alight and having a fire extinguisher close by I dealt with the situation pretty quick. Unknown to me the head of the department was sitting in the top office by the window and saw all that went on. He called me up to the office and I thought I was going to have a good telling off. Instead he said I admire the way you dealt with that fire, I now make you a Fire Chief.
After a while we decided to go visit some Scottish friends of ours. A family that had come down to Ndola and stayed with us and asked if we would look after their son for a while, while he was in college in Ndola. During the time he stayed with us we got very attached to him. He used to go everywhere with us and was always up to mischief with the wife. It was nothing for me to come home and find the wife’s slippers on the roof and various little pranks like that.
Just before he came and stayed with us we decided to go to an out station called Fort Rosebury, close to the Belgian Congo, and at that time Yolande was pregnant carrying our first baby and she was not at all well. What decided us to go that far I do not know. It was a distance of about 500 miles over some of the worst roads you can imagine. Prior to us going we had a big storm which had done considerable damage to the roads and its main bridge connecting Fort Rosebury and Ndola. Unknown to us we crossed over the bridge going, but on the way back the police refused anyone to cross it.
The only other way back was another 500 miles, but in the state Yolande was in she could not have made it. So we had to cross that bridge at all costs. I went back a few miles and had a word with the police, leaving Yolande with a couple of locals to look after her. After a lot of arguing I managed to let them give us and a couple of fish lorries the permission to cross. The fish lorries decided to go across first. Having seen them cross over, I had a good look at the cracked foundations, which had hardly moved, so I decided to give it a go, and I can tell you it was a nerve wracking experience. We eventually arrived back feeling none the worse for it all.
The day came when Stuarts mother and father arrived to take him back home. His mother stayed with us for a few days while his father had to go to Lusaka on business and on his way back he would collect Stuart and his mother. He had got so attached to us that he broke down and did he cry, his parents could not get over it.
The day came when I was due my six months leave, all paid, to Jersey for my wife, our baby Pauline and myself. We had a four-day journey on the train from Lusaka to Cape Town. It was quite an enjoyable trip, we were looked after like Lords. Our baby Pauline was so good, everyone made a fuss of her, especially the waiters , they never left her alone. We arrived in Jersey in July, Pauline was taken very ill on the boat and we spent a good part of our two week cruise in the cabin. The doctor was in our cabin nearly every day. We made arrangements to up to Hull when we arrived in England to Yolande’s sister, a train trip of another five hours which did not do Pauline any good. However when we arrived they immediately got the doctor, after a while she was back on her feet again. After spending a few days there we eventually got to Jersey. I bought a second-hand car and we used it for our holiday, and then when we were ready to leave we sold it again. The day came we were on the move again.
The ship we came over on was the Cape Town Castle, a lovely ship. We had an unusual experience; unknown to us there had been a fire in the hold causing about a thousand pounds of damage,which we knew nothing about. Our return was so much better, we sailed on the Pendenis Castle, a comparatively new ship. We used to swim in the pool nearly every day and also played many games, and we took part in a crossing of the line function that occurs every time you cross the Equator. All in all we had a marvelous time. Again when we arrived in Cape Town we still had the four day journey by train to Lusaka in Northern Rhodesia.
When we returned we had to stay at a government hostel for about six weeks. Eventually we had a house on the outskirts of Lusaka. From there we moved to a bigger house. Yolande being pregnant again, it was a lovely house with a long veranda and a spacious garden. The day came when our son Trevor was born. He was christened in a Catholic Church in Woodlands, prior to that Pauline was born in a military church in Lusaka.
Everything was going fine then the trouble started in the Congo. Having two small children we decided to come back to Jersey and I started work at Underhills, Victoria Street. From there we moved to Southern Ireland. We first lived in Bellewstown. Then lived with daughter in Celbridge. Then we went and lived in the Vale of Avoca County Wicklow, then we decided to come back to Jersey.