My Life And Times
by Bernard Rogers
I was born in 1925 in the house I am still living in now.. My parents were James and Beatrice Rogers. I had one sister, Thelma, who was two years older than me. Life was, in those days, very much different from what it is today. Not better, not worse, just very different.
Things were much more leisurely because of the pace of things around. Almost no motor traffic, there was a bus between St Keverne and Helston, and a train from there for those wishing to go 'up country'. My father went to Plymouth only once in his whole life, that is only about two miles outside Cornwall. He kept up to date with the news by reading the West Briton. If anything really big happened, someone would bring the news home from Helston Market from someone who had heard it at Truro Market etc.
That is how news travelled. Nowadays if something happens in Peru or Afghanistan, we all know about it, with film pictures, in minutes.
Before the war we had no television to watch. Some of us had radio, but that was not a young person's entertainment. We had each other and school and school friends. Almost every one went to chapel or church on Sunday evenings because it was a way of meeting people. We would sit through the service and then all the young people would walk out towards Coverack turning in a group. Once there, the fitter ones might walk around the 'triangle' of roads, by which time, the church youngsters, whose service was half an hour later, had arrived. A lot of young people who had walked out in a group, now came back in pairs with their chosen one. Sunday evening service was a social thing.
Local events were well attended with people travelling relatively long distances on foot or by bicycle to attend. Even when I was very young my father, after a long hard day's work would still get changed and take us to Coverack or Porthallow for a regatta or sports evening. Because we had no television athletics, there was always the possibility that OUR runner would beat all of their's and bring home the cup.
Social evenings, too, were very popular, especially in Winter. Every organisation had their Social Evening. In Summer the gala evenings and Sunday school anniversaries had all finished the evenings with games involving rings. I hesitate to say' kissing rings' because I don't remember a lot of kissing going on. Of course, I was quite young before the war. When the war broke out in 1939, life went on in much the same way, except that the young men went away to be medically examined for the forces, and in many cases they went into the various services. In the Summer of 1940 the German army advanced through neutral Belgium.
They attacked with such force with their tank units that they completely overwhelmed our forces. The French army collapsed and the French government sued for a settlement of the conflict. Our troops headed for Dunkirk where, miraculously, hundreds of thousands were got back to England. Most of their fighting equipment was left in France.
Now the Germans set about softening up England for invasion. First the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force had to be subdued. The Battle of Britain started, with London being bombed night and day. The government decided to get as many non-essential people out of London as possible. Many children went to Canada and Australia. Others were spread across England and Wales. A few, very lucky ones, came to Cornwall. Colleen's school were especially favoured because the girls went to Coverack, the boys to St Keverne, and the infants to Porthallow. Colleen, by chance, went to live with Mrs Martin of Little Polcoverack, who was housekeeper for a bachelor farmer, Mr Sam Eustice.
Previous to this, in London, Colleen had taken, and passed, the scholarship to go to a grammar school. When the new school year started in September 1940, she started at Helston Grammar School. I was already a pupil there. That is how we met. We were far apart in school years and four years is a big difference at that stage in life, but we always got on well. As one of the bigger boys, I sometimes saved a seat for her on the bus.
About that time West Ham school was evacuated to Helston and Porthleven. That was a grammar school and they needed to use our Helston school buildings. We locals had the school every weekday morning, including Saturday, from nine to one, and West Ham had school in the afternoons.
When it became likely that the German invasion of England would not take place, evacuees started to drift back to their homes. Colleen went back to London in November 1941, and at almost exactly the same time I passed an exam and went into the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice. I was posted to RAF Halton, and then on to RAF Radio School at Cranwell, Where I trained for two years as a radio fitter.
At the end of my training I volunteered to join the 2nd Tactical Air Force which was being formed to take part in the invasion of Europe. Colleen, back in London, had finished her schooling and had started to work in her family's shop. She still visited Mrs Martin each Summer. I was on leave from the RAF and one morning decided to go to Falmouth on the bus. On the bus to Helston I saw Colleen, who was seeing her sister, Sheila, onto the train back to London. Instead of getting the Falmouth bus, I waited for Colleen to say 'Goodbye' to Sheila and we now had to wait a couple of hours for the bus back home.
We walked together down to the boating lake and went for a row in the little boat called 'Mizpah'. That was our first real date, I was eighteen and she was fourteen.
We both went back from our holidays, Colleen to the shop and I to Cranwell, where I qualified the following Spring,1944, just in time to join 2880 Sqdn RAFR and get ready to go to Normandy in June. Colleen and I wrote to each other during this time. The war moved just as quickly Eastwards as it had Westwards in 1940, and the end of the war in Europe found me in North Holland. In July 1945, I was due for leave and told Colleen. On June 18th, Colleen's father died very suddenly on his 48th birthday. This upset all our plans and devestated her family, but as soon as things got back to something like normality, Colleen wrote me two letters. She sent one to me in Germany and one to Rosenithon saying when she could get to Cornwall.
I was on leave when the letter arrived in Rosenithon, and it was the day she was coming. I said to my mother, "What day is it today?" and she told me. I said, "I'm going to Helston this afternoon". I went in and met her at the bus stop. We came back together and had a wonderful holiday getting to really know one another.
Colleen had to return to London before the end of my leave, but when I passed through London she met me and we went to her home and I met all her family, with the exception of her father whom I have never met.
I went back to Germany for another two years, but now that the war was over, I came home on leave more often. In February 1947 I was posted back to England on a radio teleprinter course in Norfolk. I had a leave to come first and Colleen got some time off work, so we went to Cornwall in very snowy, icy weather. We got engaged, so we were probably warm enough.
At the end of my course I was posted to Aden. We wanted to get married, but Colleen's mum thought she was too young at seventeen, so I had to go off to Aden in a state of serious engagement. My time in Aden, Khormaksar, and Masirah make another story, but it took two whole years before I was able to write, "Arriving in Liverpool Oct 14" When the troopship arrived in Liverpool I managed to get on the RAF baggage party to go ashore in the morning. I rushed to a public phone box, phoned Colleen and said, "When is it?". "Sunday". she said, our wedding day.
We got married on 23rd October 1949, best man, Albert Smallman with his new wife, Audrey, and several members of my family had never been to London before. We spent a few days showing them around, (I hadn't seen much of London myself) and then on the train down to Cornwall where I had quite a lot of farm work to do because my father, (by this time he was sixty four) had been unwell.
After our honeymoon, I was still in the RAF, and I was posted to RAF Halton, where I had started, and only about thirty miles from Colleen's home. I actually lived in camp, but on my (t)rusty Royal Enfield I got to know that road really well. My father's health was deteriorating, and the Ministry of Agriculture was saying that he wasn't farming well enough and might lose the farm.
After a few negotiations the RAF agreed to let me go on payment of £50. This being £10 for every year I had left to serve. Colleen had banked all the marriage allowance paid to her by the RAF, and this amounted to £52-10s, just enough. I took the money back with me, paid it over, satisfied all the red tape requirements, and I was OUT.
The following week the Korean war broke out and having been back in England for the required six months, I would have been on the first boat out.
The first week I got out of the RAF, Colleen's mother sold the London shop, and bought a cottage in Rosenithon by telephone. On Friday we were on our (t)rusty steed en- route for Rosenithon.
October 1949. I took over my father's little farm of about thirty acres with eight cows being hand milked in a cowshed, one horse called Blossom, and a few implements.
We paid my parents a rent of £8 per month. The milk went to the MMB from the farm gate every morning. The first monthly cheque for milk came to £21. I owed £12 for cattle food and paid £8 in rent. Not much left to live on. Colleen's mother helped us a lot because we lived with her in her cottage.
It took a long time to get into a profit, several years in fact. One of the first things we did was to buy two more cows to increase the income. Gradually we got on top of the situation.
At that time we had Keith. My sister, Thelma, and her husband, Bill, had been living in a little bungalow in Rosenithon while Bill worked at Culdrose. Bill now got a job at Camborne Water Company with a house supplied, so they moved to Camborne. The bungalow belonged to my mother, so we moved into that. Along came Ian to add to our family.
We were still hand milking our eight or maybe ten cows. My father helped with the milking,with Colleen and myself. Keith running around the farmyard, Ian in the pram, and Colleen pregnant again with Janice.
In 1953 electricity cane to Rosenithon. This meant light at the touch of a button, no need to stop work because it was dark, and electric power. We had been married in London and many of our wedding presents had been electrical. These were now unwrapped and became useful at last. I bought a bucket milking machine from T.F. Hosking and so was able to do the milking by myself and my father could retire and become a part time baby sitter.
In May 1955, Colleen's sister, Betty, died when John was born. Her mum went back to London to look after Bill, Peter and John. We moved back into her cottage and bought it from her. My father and mother died in due course and we moved into the farmhouse after having it enlarged.1956 was famous for three reasons, we got mains water laid on, we got television, and we got Sally. (Those are not in order of precedence, just chronological). With Keith just started school, three children below school age and cows to be milked twice a day three hundred and sixty five days a year we were tied to Rosenithon.
There were no family holidays. We went once or twice a year, between milkings, to spend some time with friends at Rock, and occasionally we got some kind friend to do the milking while we drove to the midlands for a quick visit. Sometimes Colleen did the milking while I went away for a couple of days, and once Colleen and Thelma drove to Dover for a short visit. All our leisure time was spent on the beach. We both loved the sea and our children did as well. We had some memorable parties on Cap'n Leggan beach, up to twenty friends with a couple of boats and canoes.
I got friendly with some sub-aqua swimmers and joined their club. I got all the gear and did quite a lot of under water exploring. The undersea scenery around the Manacles and even in to Manacle Point and Cap'n Leggan is really outstanding. I never found it necessary to go on exotic diving holidays. With others, I was involved in finding several wrecked ships, of which there are many still under our local seas.
Our whole family got interested in body surfing. Un-fortunately we couldn't do that at our beach, we had to go to Poldhu, Sennen, Portreath or Rock. Surfing is a very safe, exhilarating sport which costs nothing and one can do as much or little as desired.
I started part time fishing with David Nicholls, an established fisherman. We would go out from Porthoustock about 5-30 am to pull crab and lobster pots or haul fishing nets. We got back to Porthoustock about 7-30 for him to go to his work as a builder. By this time Colleen would have our cows in and the milking started.
I took over the milking and C. would go and get the kids off to school. We never made much money fishing, but I bought the 'Dolphin', a converted lifeboat from which we got a lot of pleasure. I also joined the auxiliary coastguard and did night watches at Manacle Point lookout. On one occasion, when they were short of men, I did eight nights from 2-0 am to 6-0am in succession. I also, to fill in the time, did house thatching with an old friend, Johnny Jones,of Mawgan.
Keith became very keen on fishing and had his own boat. He was a good fisherman and went commercial fishing after he opted out of university. Fishing ultimately cost him his life, because one day in January 1984 he went out of Porthoustock in his boat and never returned.
Ian was a keen sportsman, involved with Uncle Bert in running St Keverne Cricket Club from a very early age. St Keverne sometimes found it difficult to raise a full team, and they often had Ian playing for them when only a small boy.Ian went on to Helston Grammar School where he later became Head Boy before teacher training to come back to teach at his old school.
Janice was into Horses. At one time we had four here on the farm belonging to her. Even now, 1997, she has a horse to cosset, although 'Cracker' is nominally Christina's horse.
Sally also had a horse. Sally went to work in Barclay's Bank to look after the family finances which she did very well until she married her keith and then along came Daniel and then Andrew. Sally then turned herself into a farming housewife and mother, again successfully. Sally's Keith now runs the farm.
With Keith and Sally running the farm, Colleen and I now have almost endless leisure time. We go on holidays in our camper van several times a year. A few years ago we started taking some of our grand children on camping holidays to Dartmoor. We slept in the van and they were in tents. At first I was no walker and I would do the research and advise them where to go. They were collectors of 'letter box' stamps which meant tramping across the moors. After a while I got ' moor'interested and started walking. Now, there are very few parts of Dartmoor that Colleen and I haven't visited. There are just a couple of places, miles out across the moors which I feel are out of our range. Dartmoor is a beautiful and fascinating place. Whenever we go up Pork Hill from Tavistock, Colleen says she is reminded of the Bible quotation, " I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my salvation".
I always feel a lift of emotion at sight of the rolling moorland.