The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

19. Commandant of the Red Cross

On returning from their honeymoon Tony and Jane went down to live near Portsmouth just outside Denmead in a delightful garden flat at Shrover. I knew Petersfield in those days as we stayed with some friends who were curators at Uppark on the downs when Tony was at Dartmouth and it was a lovely break in the journey, little did I think of one day I might settle in this delightful part of England. But there were to be many changes ahead. We had a settled life running this small shop. It was an interest for Ted and quite easy to manage so I had time to take stock of our life and realised that time was running out for his continuing ill-health. I had become Commandant of the local Red Cross, and a friend of mine was the Branch Officer and somehow between us the detachment flourished. It was a change to do some outside work, practical work I enjoyed but found the paper work very time consuming. Money raising was all important so this became our chief headache.

The previous Commandant had bought a disused church hall for headquarters as now we had a Cadet unit and link for the younger ones. The Hall had been neglected since the war when it was used by the Army. Dirt and dust were everywhere, with a grotty little kitchen at one end, large double doors at the front. The army had put in four loos, but they had been bricked up when they had no more use for the hall and vacated it. The cost of recovering them was too great for the time being, and so we had to be content with one adjoining the kitchen which was usable. After some months of work, climbing ladders and scaling walls to reach the ceiling with buckets of soap & water and disinfectant but with many willing hands we got it ready and did the necessary painting with brown, green and yellow paint which was cheap from the Government Surplus Stores - not pretty but hard wearing! - and it was finally passed for using as a nursery school every morning. They were not too fussy in those days so with that and some other lettings we at last had some money coming in.

Amongst our numbers we had a few men who formed an ambulance team and they were a great help, especially one who was a car mechanic in a local garage and he started an “Ernie” type lottery amongst his workmates and anyone else interested, in two years he was able to pay back the original cost!!! I can remember once entering our Cadets in a “Best Decorated Lorry” in a Village Fete when we won a money prize of 5. It was all grist that came to the mill and a fiver was quite a lot of money then.

Tony and Jane were married in August 1965 in the Village Church of Hildenborough and the wedding was celebrated at the Hilden Manor in true Naval Style. It was a beautiful summer day and Ted got through it well. After all this excitement we settled down to a very quiet time. One thing I can remember on a very snowy night during the winter I had turned out to give an old lady her weekly bath but I found it was her husband in the bath and couldn’t get out! After applying our usual method of a towel round the taps and a heave ho at the back he was soon up and on his feet. She had let him have the water as she didn’t expect me to go! On the way home I slipped on a pavement which had been cleared with hot water - so it had quickly frozen again. I eventually got home and I was in such pain I phoned the doctor who came and took me to hospital where they made it more comfortable but I had to return the next day to have it set, this time by ambulance which collected me at 9.am. I returned home the same way at 6.pm. I was in plaster for six weeks and found out what you can do with one hand!

During this rather difficult period with a shop to look after, a sick husband as well, I came across a woman looking for work. Her husband was out of work and she had a sick child who seemed to have to go up to Gt Ormond Street Hospital at regular intervals. She was a big strong woman capable of doing most things so I thought her a god-send. She kept the Hall clean for the Red Cross, her husband opened it in the morning and closed it at night locking up and kept an eye on any evening lettings we had, and even when he found work he still did these jobs for us. They both stayed on and helped until eventually left Tonbridge.

Ruby Bullock




Christmas Edition 2010

Ruby’s Memoirs


The Red Cross cadets  at the Village Fete, Hildenborough, circa 1964