Hi, I am Ray.
In the early hours of a morning in March in 1937 I was born; my mother told me that I was a breech baby, awkward, and have been awkward ever since.
During the Second World War when the bombing became heavy in London, I was evacuated to Cox Green near Maidenhead where, after a short period, my mother joined me and she rented a small cottage. My father had been called up into the army and took part in the D-Day landings. We stayed in Cox Green until 1944 when mum, Jennifer (my sister) and I returned to London
I then went to Marlborough School, Sloane Avenue, Chelsea. Then at the age of eleven I went to Kingsley School, Glebe Place, Chelsea
My final year was at the Caldwainers College, Mare Street, Hackney, where I spent a year learning the leather manufacturing trade.
At the age of sixteen I started an apprenticeship with Clark Bros in Clerkenwell, staying there for two years. At the age of eighteen I broke my apprenticeship to complete my National Service in RASC from September 1955 to 1957. During that time I was promoted to a transport NCO having six lorries and drivers under my command. I was involved in the Suez crisis in 1956, boarding ship in Cardiff with our lorries, 25 pounder guns and shells, and returning to Southampton two days later with our vehicles, guns and ammunition as invasion with Suez was aborted. The basic salary as a National Service man was £1.7.6 (one pound, seven shillings and sixpence) per week. I received extra pay as an NCO.
After completing my National Service, which I really enjoyed, and after getting over the initial shock whilst in training, I returned to my old job. After two weeks I walked out as I found life boring in a factory after the army.
I then joined the Merchant Navy with a colleague of mine as we decided to see the world. My sea experience took me to home ports, continental ports and South Africa. We transported cars to South Africa and brought fruit back. In August 1959, whilst in Liverpool, I met my future wife in a dance hall. On returning to Liverpool on leave, I asked my future father in law if I could marry his daughter. He had no problem except that I should give up going to sea (he was in the Merchant Navy for many years). So in the January, six months after meeting Lesley, we were married. By then I had returned to the leather trade and was living in London where we set up home. Some of my mates thought it was a shotgun wedding because we had only met up for very short periods.
As we were considering starting a family, I could see no future in the leather trade and applied to join the Metropolitan Police. On speaking with a friend of mine, he suggested that I join the London Fire Brigade as he had just enrolled. He said to me "what do you want to be a copper for? - you get beaten up every Friday and Saturday night". I took his advice. A few months later, in 1962, I enrolled with the London Fire Brigade.
On completion of my training, I was posted to A8 Brompton Fire Station. This was located in South Parade at the bottom of Chelsea Square. It was a very old LCC fire station. In the mid-sixties the station was closed and we moved to a brand new station on the Kings Road, Chelsea, later to become A27 Chelsea. Whilst stationed there I became a Brigade driver and a turntable ladder operator. In 1965, whilst at Soho, I was involved in a considerable number of small fires and large fires and took part in several rescues. My second night duty was the rescue of a person from a roof in Oxford Street. I was the turntable ladder operator and leading fireman Terry Spindlow was at the head of the ladder when it was extended and elevated him into the building to carry out the rescue. In 1969 I was involved in another rescue at the Leicester Towers Hotel, for which I received a commendation. After many happy years, and gaining a considerable amount of experience on the red watch, I finally moved to H23 Sidcup in the late seventies and saw out my remaining days in the Brigade there.
On retirement from the Fire Brigade I became the managing director of Sidcup Plant Hire. Within nine years I expanded the company to six depots in South East London and Kent, turned it into a plc company and finally sold it to a multi-national hire company.
I am now retired with three children and seven grandchildren, three of whom now live in Brisbane, Australia with my daughter and son in law.
I have recently had a complete left knee replacement which has completely p***** me off, but if I had not had this operation, I would never have sat down or had the time to write this blog.