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My Young Life

by Ismail Musa Ahmad

Ismail Musa Ahmad was born in Sitpon, India, in 1929, but grew up in Africa, in Nairobi, with his uncle. He came to Bolton in 1968.

When the war broke out I was of course too young to join up. A year later though, I was allowed to work, starting when I was ten or so. I served an apprenticeship for Lochade and Moore and Company from 1940 to 1943. I joined the British Army as a civilian in 1943. I took a test and passed first class. They gave me a job for six months using machinery, turning and milling. I was then promoted to charge hand. After a year I was made foreman. Because of the war vehicle parts were in short supply and the firm made them for American Jeeps, Land Rovers, Bedford, and Morris vehicles. We also rebored and reconditioned engines. I worked there for twenty-three years.

There were more than 8000 Italian prisoners of war in Nairobi and many of these worked at the factory. I worked with them, and they had an Italian foreman called Carlo. The British army were at Embacasy, and they had another workshop near the Prison Dept., and the number one general workshop was at Kahawa. I worked at Kahawa until I came to England.

When war was declared the British Army piled up sand bags in the street and constructed air raid shelters, which we went in when the sirens sounded. They kept us informed with leaflets whenever things were happening. There were not many air raids but there were often warnings, and when the sirens sounded people would run quickly to the shelters. These were near people's houses and were equipped with food and water supplies. There were shortages but I was a single man so I did not mind.

One day after the war I met Montgomery. He visited the factory and I had a chat with him. He asked me "did we have many spares". I also met John Profumo, who visited in the 1960's when he was Secretary of State For War.

I also remember the Mau Mau emergency of the 1950's, when one day, there were men hanging from a tree outside by the road near our house. We had an armed escort home from work, and at that time often worked from seven in the morning to ten at night.

When Princess Elizabeth visited Kenya my ex boss, Mr Lydon gave the government a new car, a Sunbeam Rapier, for her to use, because of his regard for the Royal Family.

In 1946 I went to India to marry. My wife was from the Seychelles.

In 1968 I came to Bolton to live, leaving my house in Nairobi, which was sold.

Within a week or so I found a job at Gardner's in Eccles, making crankshafts for diesel engines. I also found a house in Great Lever and have lived there ever since.

I worked for Gardner's for 27 years until I retired. I enjoyed working there, and made many friends. Sometimes I go back and visit.

have never been back to Nairobi.