ON his 18th birthday (March 13, 1943) my then boyfriend was called up to the Services in the Second World War.
He would have chosen the Royal Navy.
But he was sent to Aldershot Barracks to train as a medical orderly in the R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps).
Fortunately, he loved the work even though he had not been associated very much with hospitals.
After three months' training he was sent out to India where he was directed to a hospital ship called "Karoa" (not far away from the Royal Navy).
That was in 1943. He had wonderful training and saw some terrible injuries when the wounded from Burma were brought back to the ship.
He had to assist in the operating theatre and the morgue but he didn't mind.
He was still out there on his 21st birthday and I have a photograph taken on that day in full tropical kit.
He saw many places taking wounded servicemen and later prisoners of war from the Japanese concentration camps.
It was a huge ship and carried many patients.
He sent me a photo of him and one or two more soldiers standing on the rubble in Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped.
Because my letters were held up at times, one day 21 came together and the flap from the letterbox was also lying on the mat. The ship did come to England together with wounded and released prisoners of war in 1946.
They were granted two weeks' leave while the hospital ship was serviced before returning to India.
During that wonderful fortnight we got engaged (my ring cost £16).
I still have it, of course, but I couldn't wear it with my fingers being swollen – I am 88 years old now.
He carried on in the Far East until he was demobbed in 1947 when we were married at St Paul's Church, Blackheath.
We were married nearly 64 years when he died but those years were so happy for us after being apart.
He would have loved hospital work when he came out of the Army and did make inquiries.
But the pay was so low and we had not been able to save but we lived with my mom and dad (very happily) altogether and after four years a daughter was born to us so that was a real joy. She now makes sure I am all right.
I often wondered if anybody who reads The Bugle came home on the hospital ship 'Karoa' either after being wounded or as a prisoner of the Japanese.
By the way, I received a letter from a lady in Walsall who saw the T.W. Lench boat trip on the Thames in The Bugle (May 8 edition). Some of her relatives were on the boat.
Mrs Mary Hackett,
11 St Giles Close,
Was your engagement ring cheaper than Mary's at £16? If so email editor@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.