‘Coming Home’, 22nd December 1945

‘Coming Home’, 22nd December 1945

I always remember the weather on 22nd December 1945. It was rainy, cold and damp. The wind was blowing along Thornaby station platform as the train from Liverpool drew in. It was Sunday 22nd December 1945 and I was “Coming Home!”

I had been away from home for almost 4 years, what seemed like a lifetime. Many many nights from a hammock aboard the troopship Leopoldville to the jungles of Burma I would lay awake thinking of home, shedding a silent tear for those at home. I would think of the night I would arrive home and in my minds eye the platform of Thornaby station would be paved with gold.

I travelled home from Bombay aboard the troopship Queen of Bermuda along with another Thornaby lad Joe Dobson and as we left the Liverpool train we each had heavy kitbags. Joe’s Dad was there to meet him and it was he who helped to carry my kitbag to the bus stop at the bridge end. I learned later that my own Dad had spent most of the day meeting trains but having been given some fake information on train arrivals had gone home for a while.

I got off the number 8 bus at the end of Beechwood Road and struggled with my kit to the front door of number 8. Home sweet home at last!

The door opened and my sister Joan stood there. She was taken aback a bit. All my good intentions of what I would say were forgotten and with a great lump in my throat said,  “Does Mr. Pollock live here ?”, and the tears welled up in my eyes. “It’s our John” she called into the room but I’m sure those she was calling knew in their hearts who had knocked at the door. As I dropped my kit my Dad was there with outstretched hands and I knew from the trembling of his body as I hugged him that he was feeling a great relief. Nell, Marie and Joan and Matty, Nell’s new husband and the baby were there and we were soon hugging and kissing each other. It had been a long long time. And then “Where’s Mam?”, “Oh she is just round the corner at Sally Payne’s”, “What about Bill?” (my brother). A brave look from my Dad and a gulp from his throat, a moment I shall never forget and which hid a broken heart. “He’s gone John”.  I often wonder how many times my Dad must have rehearsed those words and how he would say it. My worst fears had arrived and I cried and they cried with me.

I had left my station Kajamali at the end of November and at that time my Mam and Dad’s most recent news of Bill was that he was a prisoner of war of the Japanese. I had told my Mam and Dad don’t worry any more I’m coming home. Prisoners of war had been arriving in India on their way home from Japan and Java since the end of September 1945 and I knew they had priority on aircraft flying home. I hoped against hope that when I got home he would be there. Alas it was not to be.

I couldn’t wait to see my Mam. Sally Payne’s house was about 5 minutes walk away and when I got there my Mam was in the front room. She had been helping out at a party for one of the Payne’s girls. It was dark in the back kitchen. My Mam came in and we threw our arms around each other. My Mam was crying and sobbing as she said “Only one, only one “. Words I will never forget.

F/Lt. John Pollock A.E., R.A.F.V.R.(T)