Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Eight
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Eight Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
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During the night the Royal Naval fleet moved round the island to the peace and security of the other end, and we were all transferred from the tanker by means of a troop landing craft to the aircraft carrier, where we were reunited with our now very reduced personal belongings. It took some while for us all to be processed for the onward trip to the UK but by late afternoon all the documents had been dealt with and we were flown off the Hermes in a Sikorski to the RAF base at Akrotiri. After a couple of hours there we were finally loaded on to an RAF VC10 and flown during the night to Brize Norton, the RAF base in the south of England, being served en route by RAF air hostesses with a beautifully cooked and served roast dinner. I would never complain about being a tax payer again.

England seemed a rather cold place at that early pre dawn time when we landed, and after the briefest of formalities with customs and immigration, who went out of their way to be helpful, we were loaded onto several double decker buses and we were off to London, which seemed to be the logical place for most people to go to. Everyone else seemed to have someone waiting anxiously to meet them. We had become quite friendly with the little group we had been associating with over the last few dangerous days, and as one does, we swapped addresses and promised to keep in touch. As one does, we never did. But we often see Anthony Valentine on the TV, and think we saw Fred Hamiltons' name on the credits for a wild life programme which had been filmed in South America.

We reached London as dawn was breaking when we were sorted by a reception committee according to need. In our case this was a lift to Victoria Station where I bought tickets for Herne Bay, still with only the haziest idea where of it was. We were still wearing the clothes we had put on last Saturday when we had expected to leave on our scheduled flight, and here we were on the following Thursday, scruffy, dirty and unshaved and feeling a bit lost in the big city. And with less baggage than when we had set out, which meant that a change of clothing was not on the cards either.

On reaching Herne Bay, an hour and a half train ride later, we took a taxi to the estate agents where the key of my friends house was to be collected. They were taken aback at our appearance and said they had been expecting us ages ago. They were unaware that we had been delayed in Cyprus and were very good in taking us up to the house, as they were acting as agents for the owner. We found a 'welcome pack' of fresh foodstuffs had been left at the house for us last Saturday by the local dairy, but this had of course gone off.

So here we were then, 'home' at last, about 10 o'clock in the morning, with the cupboards all bare, no shops within walking distance and no idea how often the local bus service ran. It was then that a little angel appeared in the shape of a neighbour from across the road who had seen our arrival and came over with a tray with tea and biscuits and a sympathetic ear. She had been following the TV news bulletins and thought we had been killed when we failed to arrive. She was of enormous help to us during those first few stumbling, bewildering and probably shell shocked days whilst we found our feet. One of the first kind acts I can remember was her showing us how to get the hot water going so that we could all have a bath. True bliss at last. With her help, by the end of a week we began to establish ourselves in this rather alien setting, found our bank and obtained a cheque book, found the shops, got in essential supplies and arranged for deliveries, and bought a second hand car. Marjorie had become quite ill with what would now be described as post traumatic stress and had to spend a few days in bed. For the children, it must have seemed a bit like suddenly arriving on another planet.