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I Remember

by Barry Reynolds

Barry was born in Negril Jamaica. He told me he grew up in Jamaica and went to a government school then, onto a college in Kingston where he was asked if he would like to come to England. He never went back to live in Jamaica and has been in this country for fifty-five years.

My father and family were fishermen and my mother was a seamstress. Both my parents are now dead but I think my stepmother could be alive. I came from a large family who all stayed in Jamaica but some of my cousins came over to England to live. Most of them came to Bolton but some settled in Coventry and London. I've occasionally seen my family in Jamaica but not many of them know me now because I have lived in England for so many years.

The government school that I used to go to is not there anymore, there's one in the same place but not the one I went to. Some of the lads I grew up with also left Jamaica and a few settled in America but two of them live here.

MPs came to the college at Kingston and one of them asked if I would like to go to England. They were looking for munitions workers or people to join the Air Force. I was one of them from the Air Force and was nineteen when I came over. A troop ship brought a lot of us over. I was in college before I left and I had to run to see the headmaster to ask his permission. I just left college and came. It was a complete change.

The train took us to Filey, there was an Air Force camp there then. What surprised me most was smoke coming out of chimneys. It was a real surprise. Nobody told us what it was, we knew nothing about it at all. We didn't have a real fire at home to keep us warm. A strange experience. I thought something was on fire. There was nothing like chimneys at home. It was so hot out there.

We went to a training camp in Filey and then I got posted to Morton in the Marsh in Gloucester. We had to do as we were told. Some were from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, all young men. Some were munitions workers and some Air Force. I was a bit scared.

We had bomber planes and fighter planes. I wasn't taught to fly, some of the lads were but I went into the office, flying control. I talked to the men in the planes. Sometimes when they came back they couldn't land, you had to send them to another camp. Sometimes, the plane was smashed up, you know, sometimes they had dead bodies in them. We had to put the bodies in coffins in the train to go to where they had to be buried. Some of the people were people I knew. Sometimes when they came back the plane was shot to pieces. Some planes were repaired, it just depended how bad they were. They were repaired at the airfield. It was upsetting but I got used to it. Some friends worked in the wireless department in control on the ground.

I had a good time I don't regret it. If I had my time over again I'd do it again. I don't regret going in the Air Force although my family weren't pleased though, because I'd left college. But I didn't know that until years after through letters. I don't regret coming to England. I consider England my home. The people out there that I knew have died, the young I don't know at all. I've been over for holidays a few times to see some of my family but, to go to live, no, I'd have nowhere to live. If I lived there I'd have to take all of the family.

I met my wife when I was in the Air Force. At a dance hall in Bolton called Aspinall. I had just come over to Manchester and two lads I knew said they would take me to Bolton. She lived at Daubhill, she's an English girl. I took her with me back to Negril when I went for a holiday and my family met her. The war was still going on when we were courting. We were married in Bolton in the Registry Office because I didn't know much about the Church at that time. She was a local girl and used to live in Bamber Street years ago, it's changed now. When I got leave I came to see her. We got married during the war. I had to leave he in Bolton. We've always lived in Bolton. I've got two girls and two boys, the youngest daughter a boy and a girl. The oldest son is married with a grown up son, who is an architect. They've married local people. I've got five grandchildren altogether. I see my own family quite often they call when they want.

I've brought my wife to the day centre a few times when there's a function. Last year was our fiftieth year anniversary. I'm retired now.

When I came out of the Air Force I started at a mill in High Street but I didn't stop there. I worked for the Little Lever United Loival Evniot Plastics firm for thirty years. I do nothing now I'm retired - just take it easy.