My father, William Henry Allerton (known as Henry throughout my life, though I don't know when this started) was born in Hammersmith, London on the 23rd February 1913.
He was apparently a sickly child, and he once talked about learning, as a result of an army medical examination, that he had a muscle missing somewhere in his chest, near his shoulder. I was too young to take much interest, so don't have any more details.
The family returned to Birmingham during his first few years, I don't know exactly when. I believe they were in the city somewhere, but Grandfather (John Thomas Allerton) soon obtained a plot of land on the Mount Estate.
The family later moved out to the Mount permanently, partly it was said because of my father's poor health, which suffered in the air pollution in the city.
Like all of the children, he attended Salter Street School, up to the age of 14. He appears to have been an intelligent person, but never really made up fully for his poor initial education.
I am not sure what sort of work he did, but he talked about hotel work. He appears to have moved from job to job, possibly living at home much of the time until he joined the army during the Second World War. He was a driver, and part of his time was spent driving tank transporters behind the lines during the campaign in North Africa.
He had met a woman during the 1930s from whom he learnt German - I don't have any more information about her, he was never apparently inclined to elaborate. As a result of his knowledge of German, he joined the Intelligence Corps in the latter part of the war, and spent time in Germany questioning prisoners. This was his first "white collar" job I think.
It must have been around this time that he met my mother Marjorie Joyce Ramsey, apparently while on leave in Southend-on-Sea, her home town. They only saw each other on a small number of occasions before marrying on 6th August 1945 - only later they learned this was "Hiroshima Day".
I got the impression that marriage settled my father down - he had been drifting before that.
After the war, he got a job with the Control Commission for Germany (CCG), because of his knowledge of German and experience in the Intelligence Corps. I am not sure exactly what he did, but again it appeared to be questioning people. Some of this appears to have been part of the de-Nazification program, finding out about what people had done before and during the war, and whether they were 'safe' ....
Initially he was alone, but my mother and I joined him sometime in 1946 or 1947. We moved around, only staying about 6 months in any one place. I know that we were in Lübeck and Lübecke (two different towns, about 200 miles apart!).
His job finished towards the end of 1949, and we returned home (including my brother Nick who was born in Hamburg in March 1949), and went to live with my mother's sister and husband (Eileen and Rob Bowhill) in the Southend area - 9 Glen Road, I can still remember the address!
This lasted some months I think, until we moved back to Birmingham in 1950.
My father got a job as a telephone operator, mostly evenings and nights, and he did hedge-cutting as a sideline during the day. He also worked in the building trade for his brother Ernie.
Money was very tight, despite my mother doing 'homework' in the garment industry, and I remember him working a great deal, and being very tired when he was at home. I don't think he found it easy relating to young children, but as we got older, he would show us how to do various mechanical jobs, and we spent time with him in such pursuits.
My father took Civil Service exams, at some time during the 1950s, and as a result moved to more regular hours doing clerical work (for what was then Post Office Telephones), at a higher rate of pay. I am not sure exactly when this was, but I think it was before 1956, as I think the better pay was what allowed us to move from Balsall Heath to Hall Green, in the Birmingham suburbs.
My father continued to do some part time work hedge-cutting, and with Ernie, but was under less financial pressure. Nevertheless he did as much overtime as he could, and was always very fastidious in his work - he wanted to do it properly.
In 1961 he had the chance of a transfer to work in Oxford, and they both leapt at the chance - he went away working there initially from Monday to Friday, until he found rented accommodation at Blaythorne and the rest of the family joined him in August 1961.
By this time he had bought a new car - well a Reliant 3-wheeler - for the 20 mile journey to work.
It wasn't until 1963 that we moved to a new house in Charlbury, quite a step for my father.
|This rather faded photo was taken in the back garden of 4 Church Close, Charlbury, Oxon, possibly in the late 1960s, or more likely, between 1970 and 1975.|
|This photo was taken June 1974 - grandchildren (Rachel, Richard, and Ben - but judging by their ages, the main culprit must have been Rachel) had taken advantage of his falling asleep and put on his head the bucket that had contained Lego.|
He continued working for the Post Office after the age of 60, but at the age of 62 (in 1975) was obliged to retire, as part of a scheme to clear the workforce of older employees.
In 1976 my parents moved near to us in Blackburn, Lancs: they lived a mile or so from us. My father and I worked a large allotment (fortuitously) next to our house, and I think that it was at this time that we got to know each other better, and to enjoy each other's company more, a process that intensified later while we were living in Germany, and he visited us.
In July 1978 my mother had a heart attack - for the rest of us this was out of the blue, but she did say afterwards that she had been aware of chest pains on occasions before this. She was in hospital a week or two before returning home. Before this, my father had left domestic work to Mum, though he would always help out with shopping. My mother was very frightened and debilitated by her heart attack, and dad took over the running of the house completely, as well as looking after her. He did this without any trouble, seeing this as his duty, and he did it uncomplaining for 18 months, when my Mum died suddenly from a further heart attack.
We moved to Gloucestershire in November 1978, and they had planned moving to Shrewsbury as their last home around the same time, as they had relatives there (Ernie and Kay in particular), but this was delayed because of Mum's illness.
They finally moved in November 1979 to Bayston Hill, just outside Shrewsbury, and only a short distance from Ernie and Kay. All seemed to have gone well, and Mum's health and confidence seemed much restored, but she died suddenly on the 4th February 1980.
Dad was devastated, though he talked little of his feelings, adopting a rather stoic appearance to the outside world. He did say that he was glad Mum hadn't had to go through what he went through.
He continued to live in Bayston Hill, and started going to whist drives, which he enjoyed very much. He sometimes drove a bus for Help the Aged to help 'old people'.
He had been a heavy smoker since the age of about 14, despite complaints from Mum. Looking back he had had a couple of spells of illness which were almost certainly the result of his smoking. One in particular in Charlbury (I think during the 1970s, and probably acute bronchitis or even pneumonia) had laid him very low. He had been barely able to get himself out of bed and downstairs for several days on end. He had always had a smoker's cough, which was particularly bad in the mornings. However, for the most part he showed little outward sign of the emphysema and chronic bronchitis that would finally kill him.
After Mum's death, he probably smoked more heavily, but still managed to be fairly active. He visited Nick and I at various times, and it was during one of these visits to us sometime late in 1980 that he became ill again, lasting about 3 weeks. He stopped smoking for only a few days, but despite this recovered and returned home. He didn't seem too perturbed about his illness, and we were unaware of its seriousness. During the late summer of 1981 I remember he repainted part of the outside of our house in Newent.
Sometime in December 1981 he became ill while clearing snow from outside his house, was cared for initially by Ernie and Kay, until it became apparent that he was seriously ill and needed more care.
When Dad was ill in December 1981, it had been planned that he would come to us for Christmas, so I went to collect him as it was the only way he could travel to Essex. Although he was just about fit to travel, he went downhill quickly over the holiday period and we asked our GP to come and see him, I think it was the day after Boxing Day. I vividly remember the doctor phoning the hospital from our house to ascertain whether a bed was available and I overheard him say "he won't be there very long" - I took this as an indication that he was not expected to last long.
Because of the inflammation in his lungs, he was not getting enough oxygen into his blood stream, and he was confused. We were prepared for him to die, but after a few days he began to recover, though only very gradually. He returned to Nick's home for a further period before returning home, still rather frail. Because of the lack of oxygen to his brain, he had no memory of about a month !
Dad gave up smoking at that point, and Nick said
I would say that giving up smoking extended his life by 6 years and 10½ months!
We moved to Germany in June 1982, which provided a whole new area for Dad, as a result of his speaking German and having lived there. He visited at varying intervals, occasionally flying, but often coming on the bus. This took about 24 hours, but he never regarded this as a problem.
We visited various parts of Germany with him, which he enjoyed enormously, as he did visits to France, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and East Berlin (then within the former East Germany). These were experiences we all shared and enjoyed, and we both learned a lot about the German language in the course of this. His health seemed to be much improved and he was quite prepared to sleep uncomplainingly in a tent in torrential rain or high winds. We later bought a caravan which he used.
Despite being limited by his shortness of breath (caused by chronic bronchitis, prior lung damage and heart failure of which we only learned later) he joined in most of what we did, and thoroughly enjoyed himself. We remember his patience with our two children, often amusing them for ages while we cooked etc on campsites.
In 1988 he suffered a further breakdown in his health, and was admitted to hospital. I remember his telling us that the doctor had said his heart was "in a parlous" state. Little did we realise how ill he really was. He was concerned about caring for himself after this, and managed to get himself admitted to an old people's home - Nick (with a great deal of help from Ernie and Kay) cleared his house and sold it. Dad arranged his financial affairs very carefully. He was still very much in control of his life.
He wanted to go to a home called "The Hollies" in Shrewsbury, but there was no place so he was placed in Oswestry for a while until a place became available in Shrewsbury.
Little did we know that he had made a lady-friend (Muriel) who lived behind The Hollies - they had met when he was minibus driving and attending whist drives, and seemed to spend quite a lot of time together. We never got any inkling of this relationship until after his death, perhaps he wanted to spare our feelings, but he needn't have worried.
We visited from Germany in August 1988, and though limited, joined in various activities with us.
We were therefore surprised when he was admitted to hospital in October, after being taken ill while at Muriel's house. It seems that heart failure was now very serious, and he was discharged after a short time back to The Hollies, where he died quietly on the 18th November 1988.
He seemed to accept his fate philosophically, and apparently said to one of the staff shortly before his death "to tell his lads that he had enjoyed his life".