We leave India. August 1947

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Our passport photographs

My family eventually decided that we would go to England and stay with my grandfather and his family; my mother’s father, her sister Joan and brother Brian. So we packed up the few possessions we could take, having been told by the authorities that we could only take one trunk which had to be of a specific size and weight; so one had been specially made.  Needless to say most belongings, including all our furniture, books and even clothes were left behind, just abandoned in the Fort bungalow, including the massive family bible  which had belonged to my maternal grandmother, at the back of which was a host of photographs of fascinating people in long dresses and morning coats, presumably her relatives. My mother did not wish to ‘deface’ the bible by taking out the photographs which would have meant tearing the pages apart as they were mounted between cards and stuck firm.  It is the only thing I most regret my family leaving behind; it was probably devoured by ants or destroyed, or is it sitting in some Indian home somewhere.  We left Madras on the 17 August 1947, we travelled to the station by three rickshaws, my father in the front one with Anne, my mother and I in the next one and the third had our luggage; everything we possessed. We travelled by train to Bombay and arrived there on the 19th, we went to distant relatives or maybe they were  just police friends of my father, Bill and Queenie Hallam to freshen up after the journey and on the same day we left for the Bombay docks to our waiting ship.

SS Strathmore

The sight of the SS Strathmore was overpowering. It looked enormous and absolute chaos seemed to reign on the quayside. Eventually we got on board, having spent virtually the whole day on the quayside, tired and bedraggled, hungry and thirsty.  We seemed to be treated like cattle compared to the first class passengers, who took precedence over everything. As each 1st class party arrived in their cars the gangway was repeatedly cleared for  them, and then we were let on. My mother was at first overawed by the sight of these rather grand people, but even her patience began to give way.

Life on board.  We sailed from Bombay in the autumn of 1947 en route to Tilbury Dock via the Suez Canal, and I can clearly remember seeing India disappear on the horizon. My father had a hammock in the bowels of the ship, sharing it with dozens of other men. My mother shared a cramped cabin with; I think it was six or eight other women and Anne. Anne, aged 5 had the bunk beneath her.  The bunks were in tiers on either side of a central aisle, it had probably not yet been converted from military use.  I, aged 10, was in an adjoining cabin which I shared with a man and a young boy. The cabin was the same size as my mother’s but most of the bunks were empty, and yet my father had been placed in the bowels of the ship in considerable discomfort.  My father requested if he could use one of the vacant bunks in my cabin, but was refused permission as the passage was an ‘assisted’ passage, in other words the Government had picked up some of the bill, and he was not entitled. In those days one did not make a fuss.   Just after we lost sight of India, my mother and I were violently sea-sick. Fortunately Anne was not affected so she shared my mother’s bunk and I had Anne’s. My father was also unaffected.  After two days at sea, he managed to break through from his area, no mean feat, and came into the cabin and demanded that we dress and come on deck.  My father had been virtually imprisoned in his part of the ship unable to join us on our deck.  All decks with their respective classes were strictly divided and guarded from each other.  We in our turn were not allowed on the 1st class deck, every staircase being guarded 24 hours a day. My father also had to eat separately from us. Quite iniquitous. Having got us on deck, my father having virtually dressed us all, my mother and I soon recovered and were never sea-sick again on the voyage. During those two days poor Anne had to live on biscuits given to her by fellow passengers, no one thought of taking her up to the restaurant for her meals, or maybe she would not leave my mother.  At the mouth of the Suez Canal, the ship stopped at Aden.  Little did we realise what part Aden was to play in our lives.

I remember we passed this statue of Ferdinand De Lesseps (1805-1894). He was a French diplomat and later developer of the Suez Canal which in 1869 joined the Mediterranean and Red Seas, substantially reducing sailing distances and times between Europe and East Asia. I understand the statue was toppled and now stands, rather forlornly, minus plinth, in a shipyard.

There were three classes on board, first class, steerage (us) and whatever my father was in. The first-class had their own deck and dining rooms at the top of the ship and no one from steerage was allowed up onto this deck; a guard being permanently placed at the top of each staircase that led to it. The food was incredibly good in our restaurant and many things served would not be obtainable in England for many years to come. I can remember how excited and happy I was, the flying fish, the sharks, the sparkling sea at night and the magnificent sunsets.  And I was with my family and away from my dreaded school.    We settled into a routine mainly set around the meals that were served up to us.   And then we woke one day to find it dull, foggy and damp, we had arrived at Tilbury.

Tilbury Dock.  Disembarking at Tilbury took most of the day. The first class were let off and limousines and taxis and vans arrived to pick them up, everyone looked very glamorous. Massive pieces of luggage and crates of furniture were brought up from the hold for them.  While we waited for the 1st class passengers to disembark, we were served lunch and then we returned to gazing at our betters. Mid-afternoon we were eventually allowed to disembark.  On the quayside there was a great deal of checking of passports and papers and enormous queues to join, something I don’t think we had ever done before. None of this happened to the first class passengers who apparently had everything cleared before they left ship. Eventually we stood around with our small sorry looking cases, waiting for the unloading from the hold of our large brown wooden trunk, which contained all our worldly possessions.

To London and Salford.  We were kindly picked up by ‘Tiny’ Hussey, who was 6ft 4 in. He had been a member of the forces in India who had been wounded, had met my mother in the hospital and had become a family friend.  He became a regular visitor to our house as can be seen by the number of photographs of him with the family.  He gave us a lift in his enormous truck, on which he had just loaded something from the ship and took us to stay with his wife and parents in their cramped house in Acton, London.  He was a truck driver who delivered all and sundry across the country. We waited there for three days much to the consternation of his wife and mother-in-law, who had to feed us during the height of the rationing, and of course we had no ration books at that time. Tiny was waiting for a load to come his way which would enable him to drive past Manchester and smuggle the family luggage to us at Salford. He and my father travelled down to Salford by truck with the luggage and my mother Anne and I went by train.  We finally arrived at Piccadilly Station, Manchester, to be met by my grandfather and his son Brian. They took us by bus, the first time we had ever travelled on a bus, to their home at 39 Scholes Street, Broughton, Salford, where we were greeted by my mother’s sister Joan. My mother and her family had been apart since 1938, so it was a very emotional reunion. The following day Tiny and my father arrived with the luggage, and caused a sensation by parking his gigantic lorry overnight in steep, cobbled, filthy, Scholes Street.

Marjorie Johnson’s wedding. Within days of arriving in Salford, we had to attend Marjorie Johnson’s wedding to Thomas Muckle. We none of us had appropriate clothes, so my grandfather and Joan took us shopping in Manchester to kit us out. Marjorie Johnson was my grandfather’s sister’s daughter.  More of the family later.  I was also taken to a barber’s shop to have my haircut, ‘short back and sides’ another new experience for me.

The wedding of Majorie Johnson and Thomas Muckle. Marjorie was the daughter of Martha Johnson the sister of my grandfather.  The groom’s parents on the left and Martha and her husband Roland Johnson on the right. The Johnsons lived in Scholes Street, Salford.

Derek Stokoe, eventually to become my Aunt Joan’s husband, my father, Anne, my mother and my aunt Joan my mother’s sister. My grandfather refused to attend the wedding because he never went into a church if he could avoid it. 

Anne and I with  our uncle Brian, my mother’s brother at Majorie Johnson’s wedding.

My father returns to India. My father had to return to India, almost straight away as he had to finish his service so that he would be entitled to a pension. In November, before leaving, he went up to Cattrick Camp to meet his brothers Edwin and Charles who were stationed at the Camp and whom he had not seen for many years.  My father took the wrong train and eventually arrived at Catterick in a snow storm at about 9.30 pm.  He wandered around Cattrick all night freezing and soaked to the skin and it was only at 2am in the morning that he eventually found his brother Charles and his wife Elsie’s army quarters.  Here he also met up with his brother Edwin who was also stationed at Cattrick.  He stayed five days, but needless to say most of that time he spent in bed, extremely ill and he began coughing up blood, so he knew the TB was becoming active again.  He then returned to Salford accompanied by Edwin to say goodbye to us and then took the train to London for the night prior to his returning to Tilbury, to board the SS Strathmore on its return journey. Unable to afford a London hotel room, he tried for a bed at the Union Jack Club, where Edwin, as a serving soldier could get a room, but was firmly refused and ejected. Somehow they found a place for him to sleep for the night.  All he could say about it was that  it was one of the coldest and most miserable nights of his life.  By now my father was in the throes of advancing TB, was spitting up blood but was determined to return, to get what in the end turned out to be a pittance of a pension.  On 21 November 1947 he embarked at Southampton on the SS Strathmore to return to India.  He found out later, when it was too late, that he need not have returned, and this mistake was to almost cost him his life. He landed in Bombay on 8th December, one day before my 10th birthday.

My father, front row, far left

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My father in India, his mother and the Bissetts.  His TB had now taken hold and he was extremely ill, but my father, being my father, drove himself to continue to work taking on the onerous duties assigned to him by the Madras police. He stayed with the Edmonds family during this period. On the 30 January 1958 he was on duty at the Legislative Assembly when he had a severe attack and began to cough up large amounts of blood.  He thought he was going to die. That same evening Ghandi was assassinated and the whole of the Madras City Police was mobilized on account of the riots which kept up for weeks.  He said he hardly got any sleep during this terrible period and he continued to cough up blood, until he could go on no longer. In March he finally reported sick, having kept his condition secret from his colleagues.   He was finally invalided out of the Madras City Police on 22 April 9 1948.  In need of nursing, he wrote to his mother and brother Herbert, with whom she lived, asking if he could come to them till the authorities found him a ship to return to England.  Typically she wrote back, saying no,  it was not her fault he had TB, and anyway he should be more thoughtful about her and not put her life as risk; they did not want to be infected and he would not be welcome.  He said later that he kind of expected such a reply, but it must have been a bitter pill to swallow. It was the first of many low points which were to beset him for the rest of his life and, in a short piece he wrote about this time of his life he said he ‘just wanted to die’. His mother was a woman with a very cold heart and I can fully understand why my mother could not bring herself to like her, something I know she never felt towards anyone else. All his life my father had been unloved and rejected by his mother.  It hurt him and he never forgave her.

My father in India. In March 1948 he was living in Smithfield Lodge, Veprey, Madras still with the Edmonds family, but they were in the process of moving and had problems of their own with their very sick mother and George their only brother who was so unwell that he needed to be nursed 24 hours a day.  In July my father was welcomed in by the Bissett family in their police quarters in St Thomas’s Mount, Madras. The Bissetts were wondering what to do themselves and where in the world to settle, and had two young sons, so it was brave and kind of them to take him in and nurse him.

My father finally gets a ship.  By now he was extremely ill and one morning he had a series of serious haemorrhages and a doctor had to be called to deal with him. Mr Bissett then wrote to the British High Commissioner relating his condition and asking whether it would be possible to speed up the finding of a ship for my father to return to England. There followed a lengthy desperate correspondence between my father and the Deputy High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Madras regarding his repatriation to England.  The SS City of Hong Kong and the S.S.Cilicia were considered ‘beyond Mr Holdaway’s means’ but there were berths on the S.S.Strathaird which presumably was within his means.  The Strathaird was to leave on the 15 July 1948. On 8th July 1948 the Deputy Commissioner’s office writes that ‘they regret to learn …that you are seriously ill’ and that the Commissioner would be prepared to advance my father 150 rupees for ‘unexpectedly large expenditure on medical treatment’.  However, before got the money, my father had to sign an undertaking – presumably to repay it as some time in the future. All of which now leads me to believe that he had little or no money and was probably sending everything he had to my mother. He was then informed that he may be placed on the SS Ormonde which was leaving Bombay on 26 July 1948.  On the 9th July he was told that he was on a priority list for repatriation and that he would hear definite news from Messrs. Cook and Sons. The Deputy Commissioner express regret to hear how ill he is and that ‘I sincerely trust that your health will permit you to travel when a berth has been obtained.  My opinion is that you would be unwise to request admission to the ship’s hospital until you get aboard, since the shipping agents might justifiably say that if you are already ill you should be treated in a suitable hospital in India.  Provided your doctor says you are fit to travel you had better go aboard normally (with a sufficient supply of ampoules according to your doctor’s advice) and call upon the services of the ship’s surgeon once you are at sea.’ On 12 July he was told that if it was not possible to sail on the Strathaird, he would certainly be placed on the SS Ormonde which was now to sail on the 27 July.  On the 16th July he is informed that ‘my optimism yesterday over your getting a cabin on the SS Ormonde has been punctured’.  However, there was a possibility of single cabin on the SS Canton sailing on the 21 August at £116. ‘Meanwhile you will no doubt consult the specialist who was treating you in Madras and find out how you can best ensure your fitness to travel.  If added expenditure is necessary I am sure the Deputy High Commissioner will agree to lend you funds.’  There is a PS to the letter which asks my father if he would be prepared to borrow £90 rather than £62 from the Government funds in order to fly back to England, the remainder of the fare being paid by the Government – £116 by sea and £144 by air. ‘This would of course depend on whether the Airways would carry you in your state of health and whether your specialist pronounced you fit to travel this way…’ Apparently, the air route was discounted and my father embarked on the SS Canton on 21 August 1948 to return home.

Salford, summer of 1948.  Meanwhile back in England we were all trying to get over the shock of Scholes Street and the conditions in which my grandfather and his family lived but more of that later.

 

Brian, Anne and I in a park in Salford. Summer 1948

My father begins his journey home.  My father finally made it onto P&O’s SS Canton which sailed from Bombay at 4pm.

August 1948.  My father was extremely ill, but had somehow managed to get on board.   He had a cabin to himself. And I do not know what he did, or how he managed to look after himself. By midnight on the first day the ship ran into a storm.  During that first night he started haemorrhaging.  My father said that when the steward came to his cabin in the morning, he must have thought he had cut his throat there was so much blood everywhere. He was immediately taken to the sick bay where he was nursed.  He was told by the doctor that he would not survive the journey to England and that they would put him off at Aden where he would be taken to the Crater hospital.  When the ship arrived at Aden he was put on a stretcher and taken to the boat deck, placed in a lifeboat and lowered into the sea. A naval launch drew up alongside and he was transferred to the launch, during his whole process he was coughing up blood and my father heard one of the sailors say ‘Poor sod he’s had it’  He was taken off the launch and transported to the hospital at Aden.

 

            

We went to a local park with my grandfather and Martha and Roland Johnson. I remember we came back from this outing to find a telegram from the hospital in Aden.

The Telegram. A telegram was sent to my mother informing her that my father was dying and if she wished to see him she should fly out to Aden immediately. My mother must have been frantic with worry, particularly when she realised that she could not afford to fly out to him. She sent a telegram to her cousin Colleen McMahon Now Mrs Borghona, who had been brought up by my mother’s parents and rescued from an orphanage.  Colleen was living in Bahrain at the time, and was the only person she knew who could afford to fly out to my father. Coleen flew out to him and was with him for a short period, enough to reassure my mother that the surgeons were confident that they would be able to sort my father out and that he would live. Colleen possibly contributed money for the operations and nursing care. Anyway she returned home after seeing my father through his first operation. My father said he was always beholden to her for all her love and devotion to him for what was a very low and frightening time of his life. Sadly, considering what a large part Colleen was to play in our lives we have no photograph of her.

Aden.  My father was then faced with a series of major operations and massive medical expenses. Whatever little money we possessed soon disappeared. He did not wish to appeal to Colleen again for funds and he found he was unable to send anything to my mother in England. What little nest-egg he had accumulated had gone.

The Crater Hospital with TB wards, Aden.  The hospital was aptly named and they must have been baked alive in the crater whose sides loom over the hospital

Unable to pay his bills, he found himself removed from his ward and downgraded to a ward more befitting his impecunious status. So he woke one day to find he had been transferred to what represented a ward for poor natives and had been placed on a mat on the floor on a veranda. All nursing stopped and charity food was served to him. These were indeed dark days for him and nothing in the future was ever going to be so bad.

Sir Reginald Stuart Campion (1895-1982).  Fortunately help was at hand. He always referred to what happened next as equivalent to the cavalry coming over the hill to his rescue.  The ‘cavalry’ in this case were two extraordinarily kind people who happened by chance on a state visit to the hospital to meet and befriend him.  They were His Excellency Sir Reginald Stuart Campion, KCMG, OBE and Lady Campion. Sir Reginald had been, since 1944, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Colony and Protectorate of Aden.  They were inspecting the hospital and came across my father, found out about his troubled financial situation and had him moved back to his ward.

Sir Reginald by Walter Stoneman (NPG)

From then on they settled all his medical expenses and visited him regularly which caused quite a stir in the hospital who were only used to ‘state’ visits at irregular intervals. To this day it is not quite clear whether Sir Reginald had, as he said, found a fund to pay for my father’s medical expenses, or whether, as the family suspected, paid for everything out of his own pocket.

For many years after they met, my father would receive a Christmas card from Sir Reginald and his wife, together with an annual subscription to the National Geographic Magazine.

The Waltons.  As we are now living with my mother’s family the Waltons and are wholly dependent on them, it is time to tell the story of my mother’s parents and ancestors. My grandfather, Allan Walton (1886-1962) was the son of Harry Walton and Annie Wright. They lived at Peckfield, near Kippas, Yorkshire. When my grandfather was born his father was a farm labourer, and later worked as a maltster.

Harry Walton, my great-grandfather

There were four brothers and two sisters in the family. One can imagine the harsh simplicity and relative hardships of a family in those days. It was an area devoted to mining and agriculture.  The only certainties about employment were that it would he hard and irregular.

   My great-grandfather’s brother Spencer Walton. 1914

Thomas Walton my grandfather’s brother, with his son Thomas, 1914

  Robert Walton my grandfather brother, with his wife Ada and the children Edward and William, 1914 

Almost inevitably, on leaving school, at what one suspects was a very early age, my grandfather went to work down the pit as a miner. He is recorded on his army papers as having a scar on his back, the result of an incident in the pit. He might have continued to spend the rest of his working days as a collier but for the death of his mother. This event set him on a very different path in life.  He felt that the family had lost its most cohesive influence and he decided to join the army.

My grandfather joins the army.  With a friend he walked the 15 miles to Leeds, where the nearest recruiting office was located. How and why a young man enlisting in Leeds should have been assigned to the Royal Munster Fusiliers is not known.  However, he enrolled on the 18 July 1905.  He is described as being five feet, seven and a quarter inches tall, and of a sallow complexion. Thus began his service of eight and a half years with the Munsters.  His first foreign posting was to Gibraltar. From there the regiment served in India and Burma. Private 8124 Allan Walton arrived in India on 2nd December 1907. Between 1907 and 1908 he served with his regiment on the North West Frontier of India (Pakistan). The regiment was first stationed at Rawalpindi.

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During this time at the age of about 21, my grandfather went with his dog to Nowshera, which is near the Khyber Pass to have his photograph taken with his dog. 

Apparently he thrived in the army.  It was in his nature to make the best of everything. He mixed well with his fellow soldiers and was proud to be called ‘Paddy’ Walton.  This was after he took up boxing and was very successful at his own weight.  He flourished in other ways, too. In 1907 Fusilier Walton achieved the Army’s second class certificate in education. It attainments were: Writing to Dictation, Arithmetic, Reduction, Simple Practice and Proportion, Vulgar and Decimal Fractions, Military Averages, Percentages and Proportional Parts and finally Regimental Accounts. Quite an achievement for him as I suspect his education had been minimal if not non-existent.  By the way, the first class certificate went only to those described as well-educated in the fullest sense.

On 13th June 1913. Lance Corporal Allan Walton was granted permission to be absent from his quarters from 4th July 1913 to 30 September 1913 and to proceed to Champion Reefs, Kolar Gold Fields, Mysore, India. Champion Reefs was a gold mine near Bangalore. As the Madras City Police had a training ground here, it was likely that my grandfather went there for selection and training for his future career with the Madras City Police.

In a document Army Form D.426, dated 30 November 1913 made in Rangoon Lance Corporal 8124 Allen [sic] Walton of the 1st Battalion, Royal Munster Fuseliers, at the age of 27 ½ years, height 5ft 7ins, whose trade is described as a collier, is transferred to the Army Reserve “with his consent before expiration of his period of Army Service”.  His service in the regiment was for 8 years and 144 days, of which 5 years 89 days had been served abroad. The same document states that on the 28 January 1914, he is discharged from the army ‘in consequence of his being confirmed in his appointment as sergeant in the Madras City Police’. His ‘conduct and character while with the Colours have been Very Good.” The documents also given particulars of any special employment which he pursued during his service: ‘Regimental Signaller 4 ½ years. Qualified Mounted Infantry duties’. Finally, as to his character, this is described as ‘Thoroughly sober & reliable’

So from this we learn that he was discharged on 28th January 1914, and at the time, he was a lance-corporal and the regimental signaller. Significantly, he was qualified in ‘Mounted Infantry duties’. This is, he was a fully trained and accomplished horseman which had a significant bearing on the choice of his future career with the Madras City Police where he would be required to spend a great deal of time on mounted duty. My grandfather made his way to Madras to take up his new appointment whilst, later that year on the 21 November 1914, his regiment the  1st Battalion the Royal Munster Fuseliers put to sea and landed at Calcutta on 25 November 1914.  Shortly after this they returned to England and were then sent out to France to fight in the 1914-18 war. I suspect that the regiment had been told that they would be returning home and, as is usual, the men were probably given the opportunity to either join a regiment which was staying in India or stay and leave for some other post in the India. The 1st World War did not start till 28 July 1914 and Britain only joined on 4th August 1914. So he would have been entirely unaware that his Regiment was returning just in time for the war.

My grandfather joins the Madras City Police.  There existed an active programme of recruitment of serving soldiers to take up appointments as police sergeants. Only men of unblemished character were considered and received suitable training. In his discharge papers he is described as ‘thoroughly sober and reliable’. He was also the possessor of Army Form D489, a certificate of sobriety, signed by the CO, to the effect that’ Lance-Corporal Walton is thoroughly trustworthy and, to the best of my belief has never been under the influence of liquor during the last three years of his Army Service’, quite an accomplishment, I imagine, in the Munsters. He remained tee-total all his life.  He left the army to better himself as promotion was a slow affair in the Regular Army, particularly in those days. A career in the Madras City Police presented a golden opportunity to live and work in India, to be independent and to assume more individual responsibility for his life. Thus, on the 28 January, 1914, on being confirmed in his appointment to the Madras City Police, my grandfather took his discharge.

My grandfather meets the Lionels.  One of his first friends and mentors was another police sergeant, but one with a completely different life story from that of my grandfather. Henry St Clair Gibson Lionel was born and bred in Madras, and one of his four sisters Inez Beryl Lionel (1895-1933), lived with him at the time my grandfather came to know Henry. Henry and Beryl’s paternal and maternal forebears had been in India since the late 18th century, with long connections with Fort St George.

The Lionel and the Edwards’s families

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Thomas Lionel (1762/3-1810). His maternal great-grandfather, is believed to have arrived from England on HMS London in 1780 which must have meant he had already joined the army.  He married Elizabeth Young in 1785 at St Mary’s, Fort St George, Madras on the Coromandel Coast. He was a Conductor of Ordnance in the Ordnance Depot, Madras. As can be seen from the family tree above they had four children, the youngest Thomas Lionel was born in 1798/9 and was baptised in St Mary’s.  Thomas senior died in 1810 and is buried at Negapatam, a seaport and industrial town in Madras.  Thomas junior eventually became an Examiner in the Accountant General’s Office, Chintadrepettah, and at the same church on 4th June 1827, married Frances Edwards (1808-1884) and they had six children. (see family tree).

Frances Edwards (1808-1884).  Frances was the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel John Edwards (1776/7-1817) of His Majesty’s 80th Foot Regiment.
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