North Staffordshire lad’s first trip to London was to wave his sister and brother-in-law off to Australia


I was born in April 1939, being delivered at home by the Hanford village midwife Nurse Barlow. As well as having a mum and dad I joined a family of two sisters, one nearly 15 and one nine-and-a-half.

In the early 1940s my elder sister and I ended up in Bucknall Isolation Hospital with scarlet fever.

Bob as a baby with his Dad, Mum, sister Joyce and Uncle Charlie Scrimshaw

My memories of the war years are having chickens and an air raid shelter in the back garden and not seeing much of my dad, who as well as working his shift at the Michelin did another at his brother’s engineering works at the end of Fielding Street, not far from Stoke’s Victoria ground.

 Then there was my dad’s moped (in those days they were called auto-cycles) and the VE Day street party and celebrations when the huge bonfire burnt a crater in the road surface.

 I have no recollections of if or where my oldest sister worked at that time, but when I first went to the infants’ school in Oakhill my youngest sister was in the seniors there.

The infants finished half an hour before the seniors, and therefore I had to sit in the back of my sister’s senior class until the home-time bell. We then would walk home to Hanford together.

One day as we got to the end of Rookery Lane, the A34 down to Hanford and beyond was chock-a-block with American tanks and soldiers. D-Day was looming.

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The Way We Were

I was hoisted up to the turret of one tank and lowered inside. My sister and I ended up with chewing gum and huge circular ‘cookies’.

This same sister, on leaving school, went to work for Martin’s Bank at the clearing house at Trentham Gardens and subsequently was invited to join them when they returned to London.

For the time she was there, she was billeted in the Richmond area and learned to ice skate.

It is funny what leaves an impression on one at that age, such as welfare orange juice and sweetened chocolate powder and, from the tuck shop opposite the senior school, penny drinks and tiny concentrated fruit flavour tablets.

In 1946 my eldest sister married. She had met a young man of her own age who hailed from Devon and who had joined the Fleet Air Arm and undertaken his training at HMS Daedalus II, based at Clayton Hall and the area surrounding it.

My brother-in-law took me from Hanford to Clayton, over the River Trent, across the meadows, and up what was known as Hill 60 to some giant hangars.

There I saw a host of aeroplanes that were the basis of his training.

Bob in shorts at his sister’s wedding

In 1947 my nephew was born in the same house where I had been born. He was delivered by the same midwife, Nurse Barlow.

He would later become a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, much to the nurse’s delight.

In 1948 my brother-in-law signed on for two years with the Royal Australian Navy and sailed out there to deliver an ex-Royal Navy aircraft carrier, newly renamed the Sydney.

They actually sailed to Sydney and my brother-in-law’s name was Sidney. My sister and nephew were to follow, sailing from Tilbury on a P&O liner. We all went down to London to see them off.

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The Way We Were: Tales from around the region

This was my first time visiting the capital and we stayed in a small hotel in Gower Street close to Euston station.

While I vaguely knew of some bomb damage done in Stoke and the surrounding area, I have no recollection of ever having seen any.

In London, however, I recall vividly whole areas of the city that were blighted and flattened, leaving only rubble.

We did manage a bit of sight-seeing, Trafalgar Square in particular.

Bob standing infront of his Dad, Mum, Joyce, Sid and Phyllis at Regents Park

I was also enthralled by the London Underground and at some stations the very long wooden escalators. We had nothing like this in Stoke.

The departure from Tilbury was a tearful affair with a brass band playing “Now is the hour, that we must say goodbye ….” as the huge vessel pulled away from the dock.

Two and a bit years later we were back in London for the return from Australia.

I was now at Longton High School and had an interest in foreign stamps, all sparked off by letters and postcards from some of the exotic places visited by my sister on her way to and from Australia as well as two years worth of stamps from Australia itself.

Do you know Bob Robinson or have memories of the clearing banks at Trentham, or the Second World War? If so please get in touch with Adam Gratton at The Way We Were, Sentinel House, Bethesda Street, Hanley, ST1 3GN or call 01782 864255 or email: adam.gratton@reachplc.com





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