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Monday, 2 July 2012

27. News from Les

In October 1946 Bert had a letter from an old school friend in Hounslow, Ed Button. Ed had obtained the address from Bert's brother Les, who had visited been visiting his cousins in Hounslow. Ed had been working for Mr Sparrow, owner of a paint and glass merchant business, since 1918, and had taken over the business when Mr Sparrow retired. Bert's aunt, Alice Chitty, was a regular customer of Sparrow's.

Ed sent Bert a photo of the wedding of his only child. The crosses on the bottom mark Ed with his wife, Ed's son and his bride. The cross at the side marks Ed's brother.

In March 1947 Les wrote to Bert from New Zealand to give his new address and news of his family's move from England.

His letter says, in part: Well, old chap, we only stopped at Fremantle for  few hours, it was sure grand seeing Australia once more. I came out as 2nd cook on the T.E.V. Hinemoa, a new ship for the Union Steam ship Co. for ferry service between the two islands here. My wife May and daughter Barbara came out last May. All her people are here. We had been living with May's sister, had been trying to get a house around Wellington but impossible, housing shortage is as bad here as in England, so have taken on the job as gardener and caretaker to Sir James Elliott, at his weekend home. We are rally lucky to get this, its a grand place. He has a nice house set in eight acres of grounds with several lawns and lots of flower borders. We have our own cottage, well away from Sir James' house. There's fowls, one sow and a fine large vegetable garden. Our cottage is furnished and I get five pounds per week. You can bet I find plenty to do, but suits me OK for the time being anyway, but I still have hopes of starting my own nursery sometime. There's money in it here. One thing here, I'm my own boss, as Sir James and Lady Elliott only come out weekends. He is the leading doctor in Wellington, but is getting on in years now.

Les says that he is 'as good at writing as the rest of the family'  meaning not good at all, and exhorts Bert to write to their mother. He goes on:  I never expected to see this side of the world again. We were lucky to come out alive, had some pretty close calls during the war, feel none the worse for it now, only some older. Mother stuck it wonderful. She was very well when I left, but worries a lot over not hearing from you or Fred. A few lines would make her really happy. So do just write her an airletter,her one hope day by day that she might hear from you. She was overjoyed to  hear from Grace, and for her parcels. She is living with Stan now, I will give you the address in case you haven't it.

Les was the one who tried hardest to communicate and keep the family connected by mail.

In 1954, when working as a carpenter on the Napier wharves, Les lost one hand in an accident with a circular saw. He had a claw-like device fitted and got on with his life. He could roll a cigarette with his missing hand, using a mechanical roller.

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