As 1915 turned into 1916, things didn’t improve. Father passed away, and Mother moved to Deptford, to stay with one of my sisters. When Beat suggested that her parents come and live with us, I agreed. I’d always been fond of Ma Hough, who was a good cook, and Pa Hough was quiet, and unobtrusive. By then, everyone was tightening their belts as the U-boat raids continued on Merchant shipping. My younger brother Sid got caught up in one of those torpedo attacks, when the boat he was on caught fire, and he was trapped there, breathing in the burning creosote. It damaged his lungs, but at least he survived. I hoped that having her parents around would be good for us economically, and restore Beat’s good cheer.
It didn’t work out that way. As time wore on, her parents gradually took Beat’s part against me, and so I began disappearing, often for weeks at a time. In 1916, conscription began, and I was assigned to the Labour Corps.
After the war, I found a job in Thurrock, to be near Emmy. My best course of action for avoiding Beat was to disappear, but Emmy was close to her family in Thurrock, and I couldn’t persuade her to leave without lots of explanation. On the other hand, it would be very convenient if my family thought I’d gone abroad, so that when Beat contacted them, if she did, they would have something to tell her of that nature. Fortunately, 1921 was also the year that my younger brother married. Sid found Doll, a sweet young woman down on her luck, and the following year they had a baby girl, Anita.
The last time I visited Sid in his modest home in Hook, Surrey, was in the summer of 1922. His lungs still bothered him, but now he had Doll to fuss over him, and Anita to give him a future. I placed a silver sixpence in my niece’s chubby hands, and said my goodbyes, hoping that this time when I disappeared, Sid would follow up on the hints I was dropping, about going off to Australia to start a new life away from Beat. [To be continued.]