Thursday, 23 March 2017

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 23 .... grandparents and the Great War

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

Grandad on leave, 1914
Dad was born the third child to David and Jane (Jenny) Newport at number 10 Tarn Street Southwark London on 13th February 1913.

No 10 was a terrace house with three up and three down an attic room and an outside toilet. He had an older sister Jane (Ginny) and brother David.

His Mother and Farther were married in 1909 at St George the Martyr in Southwark and moved into Rockingham St and then into Tarn Street.

By the time dad had arrived the First World War was about to start and Granddad (Army No.87358 Dvr David Newport) had joined the Royal Field Artillery in Woolwich as a Horse Driver.

He went off to fight for his country and amazingly actually survived to whole war without any injury.  In a strange twist of fate, my dad at the age of one saved his dad’s life.

Ted had caught diphtheria and the war office sent granddad home on compassionate leave to visit his wife and son. However dad survived this illness and when granddad got back to his regiment to find out that they had gone into a battle and very few of them survived the fighting.

Grandad David
His main job was looking after the horses and he was not a fighting soldier.

I guess this gave him a better chance of survival than most.

 I would like to have had a talk with him to find out more about the war, but he was not one for talking about his experiences.

I have his First World War medals.

After the war, he worked for the railway company which became British Rail, and he was a driver with horses and carts delivering goods and parcels around South London out of what was known then as the Brick Layers Arms Railway Depot.

Back from the war 1918, dad’s family started to grow with George, Arthur, Ivy, Freddie, Rose and Doris.
Grandmother and Jenny

The house in Tarn Street must have been bursting at the seams as his granddad came to live with them. He slept in the attic with Ted.

He was a blind man and Ted was his guide when he wanted to visit the local pub for a drink.
Dad left school at fourteen and started work. He was a hard worker and had many jobs.

His first being a baker’s boy pushing a handcart around the Southwark area delivering bread. He moved to various factories around the area. A bed manufacturer and pen nib maker. being two of them.

All of these factories have long gone. He also sold evening papers on London Bridge station. Anything to bring in cash for his mum to buy food with, he did not get much of the cash to spend on himself. Saving money was not an option then.

Ginny & David
As a boy dad joined the Boys Brigade and they held their meetings at Trinity Church in Trinity Street Southwark where he played the bugle. He told me they used to rehearse the band in the crypt of the church. Inside the church’s graveyard was a statue reported to be the oldest statue in London. It look like a medieval King and was thought to be King Canute.

 Dad as a boy was told that the statue on the hour of midnight would leave its plinth and go for a walk around the church. Thinking this to be true, dad was terrified and would make his way home as quickly as possible.

I heard this story many years later when on a trip to London dad and I went into the church only to find that it was no longer used as a church but as a rehearsal room for the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Apparently the acoustics were so good that it was a perfect venue for the orchestra to record in. We got in by mere cheek and had a look round. We had the pleasure of watching the orchestra rehearsing and, later on, having a cup of tea in the converted crypt now a restaurant. We were told that during the conversion they lowered the floor to give more head room and in doing so knocked down a wall. Behind the wall was found several hundred coffins dating back to the time of Oliver Cromwell. Dad said as he remembered it, the roof was a lot lower, and had he known that he was playing his bugle only a few feet from these coffins he would have never gone down there.

Granddad liked his drink and there was a pub at the end of the street. Dad was sent out to get granddad back from the pub to have his Sunday dinner.  Edie and Ted were inseparable and very often they were called upon to babysit Ted’s small brothers and sisters whilst the parents went to the pub. In about 1935 land development in the Southwark area took place, and Tarn Street with all of its terraced houses had to go and make way for tenement flats.

The family move to a new home in Dog Kennel Hill Dulwich. Ted by this time was a member of the Territorial Army Pioneer Corps in Brangazer St Kennington.  Ted and Edie did not make plans to marry I think they just could not afford to do so, So they just carried on seeing each other until the Second World War was to change all that.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

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