Ralph Brook's Story

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I was born on 22nd December 1928 at Gildersome Street, Woolwich,

which was adjacent to Woolwich Common. I had two brothers and two

sisters, all older than I, although my eldest sister died last year.

Unfortunately, my father died when I was six years old, leaving my

mother to bring up five children, the eldest being fourteen at that

time. I remember that things were tough then, but I do not remember

ever being particularly unhappy. I mention this only because I think

that it had a bearing on my life as an evacuee, and later.

At the outbreak of war I was evacuated with my school (Woodhill

Junior Mixed), to an idyllic village in Kent called Goudhurst. When I

arrived, it had everything a village should have. A village green with

a duck pond, and a village hall. A fire station complete with a horse

drawn fire engine, and a smithy complete with a horse chestnut tree.

(see www.goudhurst.co.uk).

I spent a year at Goudhurst and then, having passed the equivalent of

the 11-plus, I moved to Tonbridge in Kent to be with my brother who

had been evacuated there with his school, Charlton Central School for

Boys. My brother had returned home as soon as he was fourteen and was

working as an apprentice in the Woolwich Arsenal. I was sixteen

months younger than my brother, but although I was not particularly

unhappy as an evacuee, I also decided to return to Woolwich after my

fourteenth birthday. After a short spell as an office boy with a

company called British Ropes, I also ended up in the Woolwich

Arsenal, first on munitions work and then as an apprentice engineer.

After about a year I gave up the apprenticeship and worked as a

labourer repairing bomb damage to buildings. I then went into the

army for my two years National Service, which I served as a fitter

and turner in the Royal Army Service Corps. I went to Scotland and

then to the Canal Zone in Egypt. On demob from the army, I worked as

a painter and decorator. I married my wife Betty in October 1951, and

my eldest son was born in April the following year. (Yes, you got

that right didn't you, so did my mother-in-law, she refused to come

to the wedding). My next son was born eleven months later, and we

ended up living with my sister, in one room, with two babies and an

American ex-army Indian motorbike in pieces under the bed. Money was

very tight so I changed jobs again, working as an engineer for Molins

Machine Co. at Deptford. This was shift work with two weeks days and

then two weeks nights. At that time the London County Council gave us

a flat (apartment to most of you guys), in a new block in Peckham

Park Road, which is a turning off the Old Kent Road. Our finances

improved a lot, but it took the imminent arrival of  our third son to

get us to buy our own house in Belvedere, Kent, the place where my

wife was born and a lot of her twelve brothers and sisters still


In 1965 Molins bought a computer and advertised internally for staff.

I was lucky enough to pass the aptitude test and changed jobs again

to Systems Analyst. In 1969 I was headhunted by a computer bureau in

Croydon, who required someone with experience of manufacturing

systems. At that time the bureau was owned by a bank,  where the

working conditions were good and included a retirement age of sixty!

I moved to South Croydon in 1970 and have lived in the same house

ever since. I duly retired in December 1988 and have enjoyed my time

since then. My wife has a sister in Melbourne, and we have been over

to see her five times, going on elsewhere on each visit. I have a

brother in Grand Forks, B.C. Canada, and we have visited there twice.

Unfortunately, my wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 1998

and, although she was not too bad in the beginning, she has

deteriorated badly over the last 18 &endash; 24 months and now requires 24/7


I know this is meant to be a brief bio, but I just get carried away.

I should however mention that we have three sons, five grandchildren,

and two great- grandchildren.




Updated 8/6/04