We always enjoy chatting to our residents, and often discover they have remarkable stories to tell about their younger lives. John Taylor is 96 and as a young man he fought with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. Here, John shares memories of his adventures abroad and his later life in Worthing.
John’s Story Starts…
John says: “I was born in 1921 in Leicester. When the Second World War started I was 18 and working as a bank clerk for Barclays. I was due to be called up in April 1941, but I decided to volunteer for the Royal Artillery in the January of 1941.
After initial training we were posted overseas – one thousand men packed into a troop ship with no idea where we were headed as we set sail from Liverpool. The voyage was long and arduous as we swept around the Atlantic trying to avoid German U-boats. We reached Africa, and from Durban we travelled by truck to India. After several weeks’ further training we were equipped with our artillery: two dozen 25-pounder guns.
It was a tough few years in the East. Our regiment’s job was to defend the Indian borders against Japanese attack. We were often hungry (although I was good at scavenging biscuits!) and I was very ill at one point with both malaria and dysentery. Many British soldiers died from these diseases, but fortunately I recovered and made it to the end of the war, finally arriving back in England in January 1946.
After the War and Family
I returned to my job with Barclays, but after several years I began to hanker after a new adventure. When Barclays offered me the opportunity to work in Nigeria as manager of a local branch, I jumped at the chance. It turned out to be a fascinating place to live – very sociable, with the opportunity to play polo and make new friends in the close-knit ex-pat community.
It was in Nigeria that I met my future wife, Mavis. She arrived to work as a nursing sister in a local hospital, and I spotted her in the local social club. The matron introduced us, and after quite a long courtship we married in St George’s Church in the Nigerian town of Kano. Unfortunately our families were not able to travel to the wedding, but we had so many friends and colleagues that it was quite a shindig.
Mavis became pregnant, and we decided to travel back to England when the due date approached. But two days into the 13-day voyage home, Mavis went into labour. Fortunately there was a midwife on board, and she safely delivered our twin boys without any hitch. Philip and Martyn were healthy babies and seemed perfectly happy sleeping in a drawer until the Purser provided a moses basket!
We had a third baby boy eighteen months later, Nicholas, and at that point we decided our family was complete. We stayed in Nigeria for a few more years, before moving back to the UK. We found the perfect house in Worthing, and lived there for the rest of our married lives.
Life As You Get Older
Sadly, Mavis died five years ago. I missed her terribly, but I was determined to continue living at home and keep my independence. Even in my early 90s, I was still travelling up to London to meet friends, but after a fall near Hyde Park I became less mobile. My sons are scattered around the country, and although they visit regularly, I knew I needed the reassurance of day-to-day support. Melrose Care was able to provide this with its domiciliary service, and I was immediately impressed by the staff.
It seemed a natural progression earlier this year to move into Melrose’s residential home, just to give that added peace of mind. It’s a difficult decision in many ways, but there’s also an element of relief – not just for me but for my family – to know that I have round-the-clock support should it be needed.
It has turned out to be a very positive move for me. The staff are excellent and I have a nice room which looks out onto the road, so I can watch the world go by. Every morning I walk out into the garden, and I have plenty of visitors and enjoy trips out. I’m surrounded by family photos and familiar possessions, and Lou, the owner here, has had the idea to hang my polo sticks on the wall. It’s that kind of touch which has helped make the move much easier than it might have been.
Looking back, I’ve been lucky to have a happy life and many adventures. I accept that I can do less now, and moving to Melrose is the most sensible option. Now I’ve settled in I hope to enjoy many more happy years.”
Read about Doris’ story about her trip on Concorde, something most young people today will not have or ever get to experience.