You may remember that a month ago I wrote about Vic Jones and his time spent on Spitsand Fort in the Solent during the Second World War.
One of Vic’s pals at the time was William Neal, now of Boarhunt, near Fareham, and after their time on the fort they split up and went their different ways and to different theatres of war.
Vic served in Europe and Bill went to the Middle East.
But thanks to the Remember When column the two have been reunited.
Bill dropped me a line after reading of Vic’s exploits on these pages three weeks ago and wondered if I could get in touch with Vic on his behalf. I did better than that and took Vic to Bill’s home for their first meeting in 70 years. And it was as if they had last seen each only last week.
‘I still knew it was you. You haven’t changed a bit,’ was the first thing Bill said to Vic.
Bill is now 92 and Vic is the boy at a mere 90.
You would not believe the way they were talking about old times on the Solent forts as the memories came flooding back. About the outside toilets, the food and not being able to get ashore for months on end.
Bill was a little luckier than most as he was the postal clerk and had to get to HMS Vernon every day by liberty boat. He then picked up a cycle and rode around Portsmouth picking up orders. He then visited to the YMCA to pick up the needs of the men on the fort – soap, sweets, cigarettes, that kind of thing. Although there was a NAAFI on the fort they did run out of essentials at times.
Bill remembers on one occasion a German bomber flying over the fort. He thought it was going to bomb it but it passed over. Then in the distance Bill saw it attack an oil tanker off Cowes. It dropped its bombs making a direct hit on the tanker and it exploded.
On going ashore the next day he arrived at HMS Vernon at low tide and had to climb the sea ladder to the jetty. It was smothered in oil from the tanker which had caused severe pollution in the Solent and at Spithead.
In 1942 Bill left the fort and was sent to the Middle East via Brazil, where water was taken on board.
He then recrossed the Atlantic to Durban, South Africa, before sailing to India and then crossing the Indian Ocean to Bazra.
Bill has just written a book about his adventures which will be published later this month. I have read the proof and it is a marvellous story.
After two hours of swinging the lamp and sharing many other memories, I had to take Vic home.
They are going to keep in touch and hope it will not be quite so long until they see each other again.