Liz Seiker, Fred's Journey

Coming home

The arrival at IJmuiden (port for Amsterdam) was a complete anti-climax with regard to the reception Fred and his comrades received from the authorities. When the ship arrived in Dutch waters it reduced speed in order to arrive in port during night hours. There were no officials to welcome their countrymen home. No brassband playing. No relatives on the quayside. The military were put into buses and driven to the Harskamp, a military encampment in the centre of Holland, where they were billeted in army tents with room for four persons in each.

Several days later they were told that all military personnel would be demobbed. After receiving the outstanding back pay from the army there was a table to the right of the paymaster where a man in a grey suit declared that Fred owed him 10% of his back pay for income tax. At that moment Fred made up his mind that he wanted to leave Holland as soon as possible. Following the pay he was given a set of second-hand clothing in exchange for his military uniform.

Although Fred's parents had been informed by the authorities of their son's arrival in Holland they were not told when to expect him. He was taken by coach to his home town, Rotterdam, not outside his parent's home but some streets away. He remembered After leaving the coach he felt like a stranger in a foreign place. He even had to ask a passerby where the street of his parent's home was located.

His welcome at his home from his parents and eldest sister was not what he had hoped for after an absence of 7 years, since going back to sea in 1938. The welcoming situation was one of disappointment and bewilderment on both sides. Fred learnt that his parents had not received the one card he was allowed to send whilst a POW in Thailand. In the absence of any news during all those years his family had come to believe that he had perished, either at sea or as a POW. From the moment he entered his parent ' s home he felt uncomfortable and claustrophobic. He immediately began the difficult process of travelling to England with the view of finding a sui table occupation and beginning a new life. Six weeks After his arrival in Holland Fred was united with his fiancť in England. The welcome he received from her was a shock although he did not realize it at the time and it would only become clear in years to come.

Fred settled in Grays, Essex, not quite knowing what the future for him would hold. He had a letter from a doctor in Holland to hand to an English doctor. This said he should under no circumstances seek work for at least a year and that he should report to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London, which he attended at three monthly intervals during that year.

Fred was married to Edna in August 1946. None of his family or friends were present at the wedding. Edna worked full time as a manageress of a local catering company and as such was the only earner. Her job demanded that she was in the office during daytime and working most evenings supervising functions. It was painful for him to realize that his wife was keeping him. Because of the home situation he soon began to feel lonely and isolated.

In time Fred began to make friends who became concerned about his well-being as he had problems in returning to civilized living. He had inexplicable bouts of anger and became visibly frightened when meeting strangers. After seeking medical advice ne attended a psychiatrist in London for a year after which he was ready to go forward with his life.†

The main reason for him being allowed by the British authorities to settle and work in England was because of his engineering qualifications. He was given to understand that he would have no problem in finding sui table employment. This, however, was far from what actually followed. Any job that Fred considered suitable and he applied for always ended at the interview "By the way, what is your accent?". And then "Sorry, British only". Fred eventually found a job as a ships' fitter. In 1949 their daughter Melanie was born.

A period now began when Fred faced the experience of being an immigrant. Because of his training as a marine engineer he soon became popular with the company's management. This resulted in hostilities from his workmates and culminated in unacceptable abuse from a Union spokesman. He left the job to start work as a maintenance fitter at a large oil storage establishment at Thames Haven (Essex).


Prisoner of War.

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