My nan's brother sobbed with fear when his leave ended | Rick Jackson

My nan has just celebrated her 93rd birthday. I say ‘celebrated’, she didn’t want us to keep going on about it as she’s not a fan of being old.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 7:19 pm
The devastation in Portsmouth caused by the bombing of January 10, 1941.

She’s the last of five siblings and has lived all her life in the town that faces Portsmouth, Ryde.

Her father worked in the coal sheds at Fratton railway station and her mum, although living in Ryde, worked as a barmaid at a pub on The Hard in Portsmouth which is where they met.

My great-grandfather transferred to Ryde St John’s railway works to set up home with my great-gran. They lived in a two-up two-down railway cottage three streets up from the station.

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In the summer, when the holidaymakers came, so did seasonal railwaymen, because back in the day trains ran to all four corners of the island.

Their front bedroom would be rented out, so all seven shared one bedroom.

My nan moved out of home in 1952 when she married my grandad and my mum soon arrived. They lived in a maisonette until the 1960s.

What’s fascinating is what nan remembers about the Second World War.

She was nine when war broke out but still has vivid memories.

Watching Portsmouth on fire during the blitz, running for cover when the air-raid sirens went off and the noise of the booming big guns on the island, firing into the night sky to protect the city.

She remembers the awful news of one of the Portsmouth to Ryde paddle steamers striking a mine and sinking off Southsea and the worry it brought because her brother John was due back for some R&R that day.

Both her brothers fought in the war. John was on minesweepers and Sam was in the army. To this day she won’t talk about his time, where he went, what he did and what he saw. She still remembers him sobbing with fear as he left after his army leave was over.

Where was he going and did he expect to return? He did and lived to 92.

This is why it’s so important to hear their stories.

We cannot forget what that generation did for us, ever.


Both our kids had excellent school reports at their respective parents’ evenings as we broke for half-term.

But it didn’t stop me feeling nervous about it as we walked into their classrooms and met their teachers. I now know how my folks must have felt back in the day as I heard stories of how Holly keeps going to the toilet just so she can sing in the mirror!

Maybe it’s just me, but just like the police, teachers still have that air of authority you instantly respect. I still check my speed when I see a police car and I always call their teachers by their surnames!

I used to call all my friends’ parents by their surnames too. For me, it doesn’t feel right when a five-year-old calls me Rick!​​​​​​


I decided to treat myself to Sky Sports again. The online deal – the cheapest it said – was £25. I knew I could get a better one by calling.

It’s not easy finding the right number but eventually I got through. I was expecting a Scottish accent as I know its call centre is usually in Glasgow but this was different. It was obvious English wasn’t their first language. I struggled to understand them.

I eventually got it for £18 but only after being put on hold several times and more offers made. About 45 minutes later I got the deal I was happy with, which included movies and the kids’ channels. A week later my phone bill arrived.

That call cost £30. Furious.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron.

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