Monday, 8 December 2014

A Wartime Wedding and a life on the waves.

Last time I talked about the ancestors on my granddads' side of the family (the Connolly's) and the hard life they had.  This week I want to tell you about my fathers side, the Bennett's. 

My dad, George Alfred Bennett was born in 1920 into a fishing
An early photo of my stood outside
"Granny Bennett's house in Hildyard Street.
family and lived in Hildyard Street in Grimsby.  He had a poor upbringing, his father deserted the family to live with another woman in Hull and was never seen again.  This left my dad and his mum, who we always called "Granny Bennett" to fend for themselves.  He had a sister called Gertrude (Gertie) and to help out my dad did various jobs, before going to school, to supplement their income.

He would go to the local bakery at 5AM to collect bread to be delivered to houses around the area.  This was probably as a delivery boy but he also had his own firewood round where he sold firewood to regular customers.
One of the house he would make deliveries to was my grand
My dad (on left sat crossed legged) with workmates
outside the Service Farm Foods garage.
parents who were living on Albert Street in Grimsby.  He met my mother there and they became friends, later to marry.

When he left school, instead of going fishing as most lads did he started work at a farm delivery company and later became one of their drivers delivering food stuffs to farms all over Lincolnshire.
He joined the Territorial Army and went away most summers to the annual summer camp.  While in the territorials he learned to work repair and drive all manner of lorrys.  
 When WW2 broke out dad was on a summer camp and was in the
first wave of men called up to fight.  He went into the Royal Artillery ("The Gunners")  and, as he was a trained driver of military vehicles became a driver.  He was posted to India and Egypt and drove a variety of vehicles including tanks.

Like many young couples during the war my parents didn't know what the future had in store for them so in 1940 they got married.
Mam & dad on their wedding day, "Little Gran" on the right and "Granny Bennett" on the left.
They are stood outside Little Grans house I believe, see the tape on the bedroom windows.  This
was to stop glass flying into the room in the event of a nearby bomb burst!
 My dad was one of the lucky men who returned home safely after hostilities ceased but, like most men who served in WW2, never spoke about what he saw or experienced.  Any details I know came from my mam. 

A bit now about my mother, Kathleen, Rachel Connolly.  She was
My mam aged 18 in 1939.
born in 1921 in Albert Street Grimsby. 
On leaving school she had one or two jobs but a couple of those I remember her telling me about were at at a local bird/animal food firm called The Liverine.
She also tried her hand at Brading, that's the process of making trawl nets for the trawlers that sailed out of Grimsby.  When she married though she stayed home to help her mother with the house work which, as described in a previous blog entry, was a very full time job.  Remember, my dad would be away in the war for another five years so my mam continued living at home with her parents which was the usual thing for a war-time bride to do.  No point setting up home just yet!

After the war my dad was restless, I don't know if he returned to his former job driving the farm deliveries.  All I do know is that like a lot of men in Grimsby he "signed on" to become a fisherman on a Grimsby trawler.  He was always a bit of a joker so when he came home one day to say to my mam "I've signed on and I'm going to sea" she didn't take him seriously but soon realised he was telling the truth!  He sailed in a variety of boats doing different jobs and sailed to most of the destinations that Grimsby boats fished at.  His first job was as a "decky learner" learning the skills required for working on deck and handling the catch.  This was very hard work in all weathers.  The trawlers were coal fired steam driven boats and needed huge quantities of coal to keep them going, this meant somebody had to keep the huge boilers fed with coal and my dad became a fireman, shovelling coal into the boiler furnaces. 
Later on he decided to try to get his engineers "ticket" so trained and went on the course at Rushden Bucyrus engineering works at Lincoln where the huge trawler's engines where mostly built.  He got his ticket and became a 2nd engineer on steam driven boats.  In the following years diesel engines replaced steam and he retrained to get his "diesel ticket", 2nd engineer.  Finally he trained again and successfully got his 1st engineers ticket, known locally as "Chief Engineer" and got his own posting and his own engine room!
He sailed out of Grimsby until the late 1970's.  
In those boom times for the fishing industry fishermen had guaranteed employment and could pick and choose which boats to sail on and have a trip off if it suited them!  They could earn a lot of money but were only in port for two, sometimes three days so had to spend it quickly.  The fishing trips lasted for up to three weeks at sea with only two clear days at home before having to set sail back to the fishing grounds!  While at sea they worked continuous shifts of 4 hours on and 4 hours off, around the clock, for the whole of the time away! Hence the need to make merry while they could, they earned the nickname "3 day millionaires"!  It wasn't always profitable though, if the weather was rough or the fishing simply poor then the catch might not make enough money to cover the costs of the trip.  The crew might not get paid for that trip, or could even end up owing the company money, as they would be charged for the food they ate during the trip! 
For the most part my dad sailed for the same fishing company, H & L Taylors and spent the last twenty or so years in the same boat, the "Yesso".

The Yesso, entering the lock-pit after returning from it's latest fishing trip.
Most of the crew are on the bow, looking to see if relatives are waiting for them.
My dad however would be down below tending the engines for the last part of the voyage.  

Any fisherman had to be registered with the Port Authorities and undergo an annual medical to show they were fit for work.  They would be issued with a Port Record Book to allow them to sign on for service and all the boats they sailed on would be recorded in this book. Below is one of my dad's Port Record Books.


One perk they had was the "Bonded Stores".  This was quantities of tobacco, cigarettes, soap and other items that were bought duty free ashore, similar to airports, and sold to the crew at sea, beyond the coastal limits.  Most of it was brought back home as duty free and shared out amongst family.  One of the items was large tins of Quality Street Chocolates so my sister & I always wanted to know what was in dads' sea-bag when he came back from sea!  The other item dad brought home was FISH...LOTS OF IT !  When the fishermen went to get their pay for the trip they would also be given a generous allowance of fish to take home to their families.

Deep sea fishing was officially the most dangerous job in the world resulting in more loss of life and serious injury than any other industry, including coal mining!  
I will have another story to relate to you regarding the dangers of deep sea fishing but I'll tell that in a future blog entry.

This is the last part of my family history, the next few entries will be more of my own memories from my early life.