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Mr Geoffrey Broadwater (February 1998)

For many years Geoff and his wife Win ran a successful grocery shop in the village at Manchester House. The premises are now occupied by Londis.

My Dad was born at Morston on August 26th 1887. The family eventually moved to Hinderclay. I believe my grandfather was in the coal business. Dad left Hinderclay for Feltwell on October 27th 1903. There he was apprentice to the grocery trade at Fred Siers of Manchester House (now Londis Stores). He left Feltwell June 19th 1910 for Bushey. He married Jessee Olive Sharp of Thompson at Thompson Church May 27th 1912. They both returned to Bushey and I believe took up residence at 12 Queens Road managing a Grocery Business for a Mr Unit. During his stay at Bushey his father died and his mum with his sister Jessie moved to the 'Welcome' at Feltwell (now 3 St Mary's Street), then a small shop. Sometime after, Manchester House had been sold to a Mr Hall who, I believe liked his drink a little too much to be prosperous, eventually, after a year he sold up. Mrs Broadwater (later Mrs Lemon Payne) asked her son, my father, if he would like the business. The business was bought and my Grandma and Aunt (Mrs Broadwater and Jessie) moved to Manchester House. My Dad returned to Feltwell in February 1915. War broke out 1914 and after three years he was called for service (1917). After serving in France and Germany until 1919 he returned to the village to take up his business again. Clifford, my brother was born at Bushey on July 1st 1913. I arrived on the scene Feb 27th 1916. Then my sister Olive put in an appearance on April 25th 1920. Clifford went to Thetford Grammar School; his brother and sister (not so bright!) stayed at Feltwell School, going to the small Infant's school (now the WI Hall). The teachers there were Miss Howlett, Miss Johnson and the Headmistress Miss Knight. We went to school when we were three years old: at six or seven we were up graded across the road to the Big School. Our teachers were Mr Fasnidge (Head), Mr C. C. Davidson, Miss Beryl Addison, Winifred Spinks and Miss Frost. After going through the different classes we reached top class 7 where, at the age of fourteen, we left. My Grandma had by this time created a fancy for the widower down at Elm Tree Farm (now Central Garage) Mr Lemon Payne who she eventually married. She went to live at Elm Tree Farm. My Aunt Jessie fell in love with a Corporal Brookes who she married and set up home at Primula Cottage (next to Coopers). They had two children: Iris and Norman. After leaving school I worked for my Dad in the shop. Then I had a craze for engineering. Dad, not standing in my way, allowed me to leave and I went to work at Len Portass and garage at Emneth. Clifford, my brother, by this time had joined the Prudential Assurance Co. He was the Prudential agent at Emneth so it was convenient that I lodge with him. While Cliff was in his apprenticeship he met a lovely Woolworths assistant named Hilda Hubbard. They married and lived at 'Hylcliff', Emneth, the house name being a combination of their first names. After a couple of years in the engineering business my father developed bad ulcers on his legs and I felt it right to help him out so I returned to work at Manchester House once more. Cliff and Hilda produced two children Michael and Pat. Olive my sister worked at Harmers at Norwich (wholesale drapers). While at Norwich I think Olive met a very nice young man named Leslie Laddinan whose father was also in the grocery business. Eventually Olive and Leslie married. They had two children: Keith and Phillip.

Of course the 1939 war came. What a waste of time. I was called up in March 1940. Went to Aldershot Gibralter Barracks in the Royal Engineers. After our training we were posted as instructors of driving to Officer Cadets. One little incident that happened while and during instruction was the 142 OCTU (my unit) had a dance at Malta Barracks. Opposite our Barracks was Stanhop Lines the home of the ATS. Our dance was very well organised, several invitations were sent to the ATS. Anyhow the evening was appearing to be a great success. One partner I had danced with was extra charming, looking lovely in her uniform with her two stripes on her arm as Corporal. After one or two dances I asked this young lady her name. She replied, "It's Mary". Plucking up extra courage I asked her surname. She replied, "You'll know that." After some time and with her help I think I said, "It's not the old Bulldog?" To which she replied, "Yes, he's my father!" I was so embarrassed I never had another dance.

The time came when I was posted to 682 General Construction at Petworth Park. The name was changed to 682 Artisan Works Company and we were eventually posted abroad. We went from the Solway Firth, Scotland, around the north of Ireland. The Mediterranean was blocked so we went around the African coast landing at Durban after six weeks. Our stay in Durban was short, roughly six weeks I believe. Jock Houston my army pal from Chedburgh and I were walking along the coast road of Durban and we stopped at a bus stop to get a lift to the town centre. When a large limousine drew up the driver said, "Soldiers, what are you waiting at that bus stop for?" We told them and they told us that we were waiting at the wrong kind of bus stop. They offered us a lift as they were heading in our direction. Whilst driving along Smith street, 6000 miles from home, the gentleman asked me where I came from, where my home was. I told him near Kings Lynn. He replied, "I come from near there." He stopped the car and again he asked me where did I come from. So I said, "A little village called Feltwell." He immediately put his hand out and said, "I come from Methwold!" How marvellous I thought, 6000 miles from home and meeting a next door neighbour! But that was not the end of the wonder. While we were talking his wife sat beside him and when she could get a word in she said to Jock my friend, "And where do you come from?" Jock said, "I come from Chedburgh," and to my amazement she said, "So do I." Their names were Mr and Mrs Constable. They lived at Kloof a little way out of Durban. What wonderful friends they were. We went to their house every night possible. Had a lovely dinner and finished up with a lovely hot bath. Every time we returned back to camp Mr Arthur Constable gave us the train fare. I only regret I didn't keep up corresponding with them.

Only a few years ago I read of the death of Arthur Constable of Kloof who left 3000 to Methwold church. What a memory!

We left Durban for Suez and the desert, first going through the Sinai Desert to Bersheba and Palestine and on to the Turkish border, coming eventually to Elalamain and sand. Sleeping in bivouacs. After eight months of sand and dust we boarded the 'Yoma' to Malta. While on route to Malta and resting on deck, someone fell over my feet. I said a few harsh words to him all of which I regretted when I saw the soldier was Jack Main. We arrived at Valetta and pitched camp and realised we were there for the invasion of Sicily.

We had to waterproof our trucks to be under water for a short time. This we did. We had the alarm at 3am. The trucks we reversed into Tank Landing Boats and away we went. If ever I have been scared I think this was it as we neared the Sicily coast. The Germans had 88mm guns blazing away. Some trucks didn't make it. I thank God I did. Overhead Liberators were towing gliders, some were ditched short. Sicily was a difficult operation, advancing one day and retreating the next. My lorry got hit while I was in the rear. I had a short stay in hospital with a small fracture. After we had captured Sicily we went on to the Italian main land across to Toranto driving the Germans back. Then the Germans driving us back. Like a seesaw. I always remember in Toranto harbour was a sunken Red Cross ship just the funnel with the red cross on sticking out of the water.

After months of action during bad weather we eventually gained ground. Then for a change we went to help out Cassino. After some time we returned to the east coast where the Sangro river was a difficult object to take. Pages could be written about my experiences but we must skip them. Eventually we got to Austria and I was lucky to be given a months leave home after four years abroad. While at home I was refused at the back door of the Cock on the grounds that I was a foreigner because my skin looked very dark (this was rectified later by the licencee, Mrs Vale, when someone said, "That's Geoff Broadwater"). After being granted an extra two weeks leave I was given a home posting as my Dad had been taken ill. This posting was eventually at Brudall near Norwich. I stopped there until I was demobbed in 1946.

Life is so strange. My first marriage was unsuccessful. I worked with my Dad in the business, during this time I met my wife Wyn. I must emphasise that without her help I would never achieve my ambition of being a Master Grocer and Draper. Not only a wonderful business girl she is also a marvellous mother of two grand girls Vivienne and Kay.

Footnote

February 27th 1996. What a day!

I awoke about 7.30 with a 'Happy Returns' from Wyn. I usually have a few moments while the toast is being made so I picked up the paper to read the 'Births and Deaths' column. To my horror staring me in the face was my photo in Army uniform with greetings. I'll never forget how I felt also because outside on our hedge were scattered balloons everywhere and banners reminding me 'You're 80 Today'. Presents streaming in and cake in the form of '80' years.

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