Tag Archives: Netley Hospital

My Father; The Soldier.

6 Nov

I have written about my father before.  The writer, the advertising man, the playwright, but never before the soldier.

I was looking through some old boxes of photographs last week when I found his parachute regiment wings.  Then I remembered that the sixth of November, it would be sixteen years since he died.  I think perhaps he wanted me to remember him as the young and brave soldier that he was.

Peter was six months too late to fight in World War II.  He joined the army as soon as he could.   His drive was to help those that had been torn apart by war.  Joining the Royal Army Medical Corp, his first posting was at Netley Hospital in Southampton helping rehabilitate the American soldiers whose bodies had been shattered by the conflict.  He worked on their bodies and limbs getting them in a well enough condition to make the long journey back home.

My father’s next posting in 1948 was Germany.  The country had been flattened and it was part of his job to this time help get a country, rather than a man back on it’s feet again.  He was now attached to the Parachute Regiment and was trained to jump into any war zone if need be to treat the wounded and of course fight his way through as he saved lives.  Dad quickly became a sergeant and loved the responsibility of drilling and training new recruits and of course the camaraderie that came with it.  “The happiest days of my life,” dad would often say much to my mother’s annoyance.

At the beginning of the new decade, unfortunately war came calling again and dad went to Korea.  He never spoke about this much, until one evening in the 1990’s.  My father was a deeply spiritual man in a wonderful non-judgmental and life affirming way.  Dad had been pouring a few rather large whiskies and started chatting about his old life.  His face looked filled with sorrow and anxiety.  Dad told me he had killed somebody in conflict in Korea.  “I had no choice it was me or him, he was going to kill me so I fired and I had a split second to make that decision.”  Although he knew he had no other choice, the fact that he had taken another man’s life weighed so heavily on my father.  He had joined the Royal Army Medical Corp to save as many lives as he could and he had taken one.  I think this haunted him for the rest of his life.

I loved my father dearly.  He was funny, lovable, kind and brave, yes very brave.

Even when the Suez Crisis blew-up he was ready to go and do his bit.  Once again much to my mother’s great annoyance.

I can see him in my mind’s eye now showing me the correct way to salute and trying to get me to enjoy military music.  God bless dad and this November, as every November I shall salute that young brave soldier who wanted to make a difference.

IMG_2983

A POST WAR HAUNTING IN WUPPERTAL GERMANY – ECHOES OF WORLD WAR II

18 Oct

I can only promise you the story I am about to relate to you, I firmly believe to be true.  It was told to me with unerring regularity and honesty by both my parents, both together and separately.  Unfortunately both my parents are no longer alive, but I have utter faith that they definitely experienced the following events:

My father enlisted in the army and joined the R.A.M.C  at the age of seventeen just after World War II, having already run away to the Merchant Navy and sailed around the world at the age of fifteen.  He spent the early part of his training at the infamous Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley looking after many casualties from the recently ended conflict.

Netley Hospital, is notoriously haunted.  Dad always felt uneasy working there.  The ‘grey lady’reputedly haunts the hospital grounds and the wards.  Dad told me he hated working the night shifts there and could not wait to cycle away from the grounds, never once looking back at the forboding building.  But, it’s not the ‘grey lady’ of Netley Hospital that I am going to talk about in this blog.  If you want to read more about her here is a good place to start; http://www.southernghostsociety.co.uk/past-ghost-hunts/ghost-hunt-royal-victoria-country-park.html

No the haunting I am going to tell you about happened not long after my father left Netley.

It was whilst my father was stationed in the Southampton area that he met my mother on the legendary floating bridge, which took people across the River Itchen.  They immediately bonded being the only two northerners on that short ferry ride and they married soon after.

My father was soon posted to Germany to help the country get back on it’s feet again and being a married man, my mother was allowed to go out with him.

In those early days after the war, the military were allocated vacant civilian buildings.  The allocation was quite random and a sergeant could end up in a luxurious dwelling.

Dad was sent to Wuppertal and had quickly gained his sergeant’s stripes.  They were given the second floor of a large grand building to live in.  There were three floors in the dwelling so mum and dad had other British army personnel living above and below them.  The big white house was on a road called (as far as I can recall)  Kirschbaum Strasse (Cherry Tree Street.)

Both mum and dad were ecstatic to be given such a lovely apartment and with mum being newly pregnant, they were both very pleased with the size and privacy of the building.

The Germany my parents found after the war was far from a happy place.  I remember mum telling me how defeated and malnourished the German people looked.  There were also those that held a deep resentment for their victors and their spouses.  Mum was spat at in the street, and when she was heavily pregnant nobody would give up their seat for her on the Schwebebahn (the overhead railway system.)  The worst incident she experienced was a man pushing her off the pavement on a crowded street and her narrowly missing a speeding car.

Despite all this, mum embraced her new surroundings.  She made friends with a German woman of the same age who was married to one of the Canadian soldiers and they became the best of friends.  It must have been a daunting but exciting time for a nineteen year old Liverpudlian girl.

There was however, one problem on the horizon.  The apartment, whilst spacious, high ceilinged, well located and almost sumptuous it made my mother feel extremely uneasy.  Mum told me she was soon growing to hate it.  Mum felt that the atmosphere changed as soon as my father went to work.  She actually felt some presence or entity if you like was focusing on her.  Mum would spend as much time as she could during the day out of the apartment.  Shopping, drinking coffee, walking the streets she felt happier with the naked resentment from the Germans rather than the oppressive feeling she had at the apartment.

I remember mum telling me that she couldn’t wait for my father to get home but that when he did come home, he would almost immediately fall asleep and then she would feel even more uneasy.  Dad would tell me he tried everything to stay awake and keep her company but found he was incapable of doing so, almost like he had been drugged.  We are talking about a fit man who was eighteen or nineteen years of age.  Mum started to feel like she was being watched and it was becoming almost intolerable.  There was a part of the room where she felt it even more keenly.  Running her hands over the wallpaper she could see a cupboard or a room division had been papered over.  She forbade my father from investigating this.  Now with hindsight, of course the correct thing to do would have been to have investigated further.  But all damage to buildings was chargeable by the army and also I think mum was just too terrified to find out.

It was getting to be a real problem for my father as mum wasn’t sleeping and a few nights she turned up when he was on guard duty and refused to go back to the apartment.  Dad told me he put her inside the sentry box with a coat over her hoping she would get at least a few hours sleep and praying, for his sake that she would not be discovered.

Up until this point it was my mother who had been experiencing everything that Kirschbaum Strasse had to offer.  But that was all about to change in a chilling turn of events.

One summer’s night my parents were awoken by extremely loud noises from the floor above them.  They both described it as the sound of furniture being dragged across the floor, things being thrown and loud voices shouting in German.   Dad was very annoyed.  He got out of bed and marched out to the landing.  As he approached the door of the apartment above, the noises immediately stopped.  Dad knocked on the door and told them to ‘keep it down.’  As soon as he got back to the bedroom the noises started again, so back up he went.  Sure enough the noises stopped.  This happened a few times until dad was sick of the noises and infuriated that nobody was answering the door.

They both made the best of a fractured night’s sleep still peppered with noises from the floor above.  The next day dad was still fuming.  After knocking on the door again and getting no answer he went to find the caretaker of the building.

“Who is now living in the floor above?”  Dad asked and then told him about the horrendous noises that had kept him and mum awake for most of the night.  “The soldier who has that apartment is on leave in England at the moment,” dad was informed, and “there is nobody there at present.”  “Well you need to open it up now,” dad replied “as I think it was broken into last night.”

The caretaker and dad made haste to the apartment on the top floor to see what damage had been caused.  They opened the door to one room after another in ‘apple pie’ order.  Not a stitch or a hair out of place.  Army neatness and order throughout the apartment.  My father was thunderstruck.  There was no way after the noises he and mum had heard throughout the night the apartment could have been in any other state but a bad state.

This sealed the deal for my father.  He now realised that mum had been correct in her instincts all along there was something very wrong with the house on Kirschbaum Strasse.  From that day, dad made sure that if he was not in the house mum spent as much time as she could with her German friend and would even stay the night with her rather than spend time alone in that apartment.

The noises were heard again during the night by my parents, on other occasions and the shouting German voices but dad never again ventured out onto the stairs and up to the apartment door.  They would cuddle up and try to ignore the noises.

I myself saw the house years later in the 1970’s when as a child I lived in Holland with my parents.  We went to Wuppertal one Saturday to have a look at some of the places from my parent’s past.  I saw that big white house on Kirschbaum Strasse and as I looked up from the car a child of my own age with a melancholy face looked back at me from one of the second floor windows.

Apparently dad found out that the house had a very sad past during the war it had some form connections to the SS and Von Ribbentrop’s henchmen.  It had been used for some very dark interrogations which would of course explain the noises and voices.

“Come on Peter, I’ve had enough let’s go” mum said on that chilly Saturday afternoon as she pulled her coat to her.    I watched the girl’s face until the house disappeared out of sight.

P1020470