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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

15. Demobilisation,

The process of demobilisation of Bert’s battalion is not well documented. It took until February 1919 to get soldiers back to England and demobilised. Each left with a Certificate of Employment During the War, as a reference. The most interesting thing about Bert’s is the inclusion of ‘Regimental barber’ amongst his special skills. It seems he spent the last month of his service – January 1919, trimming up the regiment for civilian life.

He immediately wrote to Captain Bailhache, requesting a reference and got one very promptly. "Turning his hand to anything that is to be done" remained one of Bert's characteristics throughout his life.

The letter that accompanies the reference  indicates that Clement Bailhache was engaged to be married, and occupied trying to restore his fruit farm in Berkhamsted to productivity. 
It also refers to Bert's intention to  go into the 'engineering trade'.

Supported by his references, Bert got a job with the Hoffmann Manufacturing Company in Chelmsford. Hoffmann was the first ball-bearing  manufacturer in Britain, set up in 1898 by Geoffrey and Charles Barrett and financed by the American Ernst Gustav Hoffmann. It manufactured the bearings for the first transatlantic flights and much of the machinery used in WWI. In 1920 it employed 4750 people.

Bert's medals - not in the sequence they were worn.

 When they were issued in 1920, he collected the engraved medals to which he was entitled - Pip, Squeek and Wilfred -  the 1914-15 star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal .

Bert's son was six and a half and his daughter nearly five when he resumed civilian life. He liked children, and they liked him, so he must have looked forward to a new decade, productive work and a growing family. His sister, Doll, was married with a child. His mother was supporting herself as a housekeeper. The Spring of 1919 would have been an optimistic one for Bert and his family, as well as for thousands of others who had survived the Great War.

He kept, throughout his life, a battered tin on War souvenirs - his medals in a calico bag, his Royal Fusiliers insignia, and insignia he had acquired from other soldiers - the Buffs, South Lancashire, Middlesex Regiment, Australian and Canadian - his postcards and the Balkan News.

Somewhere along the way, he had also had his arms tattooed a number of times. A mermaid ran along one arm, wriggling when he flexed his muscle. There was also "Nell" in a heart, surrounded by flowers.

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