I am sure you'll be aware that our country was in a state of devastation after the war; this
affected Teresa and myself in so much as because of a severe housing shortage in our district we had to live with her parents. Mind you this was no hardship, as they were always a pleasure to be with. My first six weeks at home were granted as leave; four of which we treated as a honeymoon, even though we couldn't afford to go away.
The realisation soon dawned that I'd better look for some form of employment as my gratuity pay for six years service of £76, rapidly began to dwindle. Initially I'd hoped to learn a trade. Although after a couple of week's fruitless searching, I knew the only hope of a regular pay packet would be back down the pit. I had no-problems finding work, as the pits were desperate for men and in a matter of days my life had turned full circle; from a miner to a matelot and back again. For the time being my years at sea became a somewhat distant memory.
We eventually stayed with Teresa's parents for twelve months before securing a place of our own. Initially we only had the barest of essentials necessary for setting up home, subsequently it was a hard struggle. This didn't bother Teresa, she just got on with things and worked miracles with what little we had; I wouldn't have had a clue. My work in the pit was in one of the lowest paid areas and I had to put in a lot of overtime to make ends meet. This continued for a couple of years until the opportunity came my way to change my work duties.
I moved to the 'Pit Face', which was much harder work, but was also far better paid, which in turn meant our standard of living rose dramatically. A short while later our house was a spic and span little home. Many years rolled by and I settled back into life at the pit as though I'd never been away and on May 14 1953, we were blessed with the birth of our daughter (Jane); nothing in the world ever gave us more pleasure.
Time moved on to the 1960's and the next big day for Teresa and myself was our Silver Wedding anniversary, however we weren't able to celebrate it in the manner we so wished. The night before our intended celebration, whilst working on the night shift, I began to have severe chest pains, having no-idea what was wrong I continued working, finishing my shift. By the time I got home early in the morning I was in agony, Teresa knew it was serious and called the Doctor, however before he arrived the pain got the better of me and I collapsed. Unbeknown to me at the time I'd received my first heart attack, in the years to follow I would receive several more of these dreaded attacks. Eventually I returned to something approaching normal health, this was solely down to the tender love and care given by Teresa, she was marvellous.
However despite returning to the pit on light duties my health gradually deteriorated to such a degree that I had to retire at the age of 57. At the time it was quite distressing, but eventually I settled down and got into a routine of life without work. During the following years my health took the odd plunge but whenever this happened Teresa was always there, nursing me till I was back on my feet. We now had many years of happiness even more so with the arrival of our grandchildren and it was a marvellous day when on July 11 1992 we were able to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary. What a wonderful celebration it was, with all our family and friends joining in. I think the only comparable event we ever had, must have been our wedding day, here we were fifty years on; still utterly devoted to each other, what more could a couple ask for.
Two years later our lives were tragically changed forever, Teresa became ill, getting worse as the months rolled by, one memory of that time will never leave me. I was sitting with her holding her hand when she said 'I'm dying Bert' I said 'Don't worry love we'll get you better and go for a good holiday, to get you well again. Tragically she was correct and it was heartbreaking to watch this beautiful woman who'd brought so much love and happiness to all who knew her, endure the pain and suffering of a terminal illness. Eventually she entered hospital; our family constantly prayed for her recovery, but the terrible day came on May 3 1996.
I was in the process of getting ready to go and visit her when my son in law (Graham) walked into our house; he put his arms around me saying, "I'm sorry Ma's passed away". On hearing the dreaded words, the bottom immediately fell out of my world. Teresa who'd been everything to me since my teens and had brought me nothing but joy and happiness had gone. At that moment so much of my own life went with her that I can never find the words to fully express how I felt.
Since that terrible day I've been fighting the greatest battle of all and would go through a thousand wars just to have her back again; nothing I endured during the six years of World War two can match the sense of loss I have felt since her death. Teresa, God bless you lass, I thank you with all my heart for our children Geoffrey and Jane, I could never have carried on without them and our grandchildren. You always wanted me to write my memoirs so here it is dedicated to your memory. I'll love you always and keep you close to my heart.
Whilst contemplating events that have happened in recent years relating to my early life at sea there was one recurring theme; this being the time I spent onboard the finest warship to fly the White Ensign; HMS Repulse. Therefore I feel three incidents that have their origins with this great ship are worthy of mention. Without doubt the strongest of these is in respect of a meeting I had some years ago with a great shipmate.
The man in question is 'Jan' (George) Tucker he was in charge of my mess whilst onboard Repulse; at that time he was a Leading Seaman, although later on in his career he rose to the rank of Petty Officer. In many ways I feel both he and Captain Tennant were very similar in their mannerisms; admittedly at very different scales in naval hierarchy. In addition I'm also certain that men such as these were one of the main reasons for the tremendous atmosphere onboard the battlecruiser.
Jan was like a father figure, being almost ten years older than most of us and with vastly superior knowledge of seaboard life; he was always a great listener whenever our morale took a plunge. Moreover, I have to say that I don't remember him ever lining any lads up (putting them on report) for committing petty offences. However make no-mistake he was no ones fool and you crossed him at your peril.
It was some years after the war ended that I was in Plymouth attending a reunion. I noticed Jan's name and address on a list of survivor's from our ship, so I decided to look him up. On knocking his door, I was invited in by his lovely wife (Irene), I had a photograph of the pair of us in my hand and enquired was this her husband, she said "Oh yes that's George, come through". We walked into their back garden and there he was, enjoying a cuppa. I pushed the photograph into his hand asking, "did he know anyone in the picture". In an instant he turned grabbing my hand whilst balling "Yorky" this was followed by the pair of us hugging each other for several minutes, he was overjoyed to see me again.
Irene and Jan have a wonderful family and I was honoured when they invited me to attend a surprise Diamond Wedding Anniversary for the couple on May 28 1997. This was held nearby to where Irene and Jan first met in 1932; the Field Guns crew bar at HMS Drake. Whilst awaiting the arrival of the couple I glanced across the room, immediately recognising another face from days gone by. I had no-doubts that it was Jim Nicholson another old shipmate from Repulse. I went over tapping him on the shoulder, whilst saying "Hello Jim, its Yorky Wynn" he turned and immediately grabbed my hand; almost breaking it in two.
On calming down he introduced me to his wife and family and we spent the remainder of our time until the arrival of Jan talking of days gone by. I have to add that we had a lot to talk about not having seen each other for 56 years. After the surprise had been sprung on the unsuspecting couple we waited until Jan's daughter gave us the nod then approached our old shipmate and what a night we had. God willing in May of this year (98) I'll be in Plymouth for our annual reunion and I'll make a special point of seeing my old friend, he's one in a million. No man ever had a finer shipmate.
Since the end of World War two I have always made a point of going for a 'tot' of rum on the anniversary of the sinking of Repulse (December 10) in memory of the great lads who never survived. On one such occasion I was able to offer some solace to the brother of a good friend of mine off the battlecruiser who also came from Thurnscoe.
The name of my shipmate was Tommy Farley he was a P/O stoker and his family lived 100 yards from mine. During the early part of the war I frequently travelled home on leave with Tommy and two other lads from our locality namely, Stan Hayward and a lad called Ginger from Mexborough.
A few days after the tragic loss of our ship I met up with Ginger and as I hadn't seen anything of Tommy I enquired as to his whereabouts he went on to say that he'd gone down with the ship, giving me the full circumstances of his death. This really hit me hard and my thoughts immediately went out to all his family whom I knew so well.
During the post war years I met up with many of Tommy's family on numerous occasions although the subject of his sad death was never brought into the conversation. This all changed about eight years ago on the anniversary of the sinking, I'd gone down to the local pub for my 'tot' and on glancing across the room, I noticed one of Tommy's brothers (Sam). I went to the bar, ordering two glasses of rum, then went and sat beside him.
He said 'Hello Yorky' enquiring as to what was the 'tot' for I said 'don't you know what day it is'. He thought for a moment and replied 'Aye its 10th of December, the date our Tom's ship went down'. Then a look of immense sadness came over his face as he went on to say ' We often wondered what happened to our Tommy, we know he went down with the ship, but never knew the circumstances of his death'. I thought for a moment then asked him would he like to know exactly what happened to him; he replied 'yes'. So I began to recall the story of the sinking to Sam and in particular the story of his brother's death told to me by Ginger almost fifty years earlier on the island of Singapore.
At the height of the battle Tommy was in charge of a 'Fire Party' and was passing through the stokers mess deck with a hose, presumably to tend to a fire somewhere in the vicinity. By this time in the action Repulse had a very severe list and as Tommy passed the kit lockers, they broke loose from their anchorage points, pinning him underneath. There was no hope of rescuing him; its also very doubtful if he'd have survived the accident as the lockers were extremely heavy and would most probably have killed him on impact.
There was nothing else I could tell Sam and although deeply saddened by my tale he replied by saying 'Hey Bert I'm so grateful for what you've told me and I can go home and tell the rest of my family, it will put all their minds at rest'. Since his death we've all been tormented not-knowing exactly how he died; now we can all have some piece of mind.
I often sit and contemplate how many other relatives of those brave lads who died that day are still suffering, never knowing how their loved ones perished.