Our Kind of People by Frank Lennigan
Born in Salford, Lancashire I grew up in what might be called a middle class area. My father was a wood carver and most of his work was done for Church use, pulpits, altars etc. He never went to church on Sundays as he said he spent so much time in them during the week and the Good Lord excused him on Sundays and gave him the day off. My Mother died when I was 8 years old - she was a wonderful person whom I loved dearly in my childish way and my life was turned upside down. My father did his best to look after me engaging a housekeeper and daily help but when I reached 12 years old I went to live with a family who ran an outfitting and tailoring business. In those days schooling ended at the age of 14. It was not a very happy life and I decided that I wanted to leave England but that would cost money which I did not have. I was tied until attaining the age of 21 and it took me three years to save enough money to buy a ticket on the Dunluce Castle, a coal burner which took 27 days to reach Cape Town.
There were quite a few Rhodesians on board and they encouraged me to go to Bulawayo which I did and promptly got a job with Haddon & Sly (1936). After a few months I moved to Salisbury which became my base for the next 45 years apart from the four and a half years served in the Royal Navy.
In 1967 I was asked to meet a gentleman at Meikles who was interested in buying several hundred Union Jack flags from the Government Central Stores. The price was agreed but they all had stamped on the canvas side strip "Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland". This had to be removed and replaced with a plain canvas strip and they were then all railed to Cape Town, placed in cartons marked "Made in S.A." and shipped to Holland then trucked to a London warehouse. The Rhodesian flags which had been a gift from the British Government at the time of Federation in about 1953 were then sold to the labour Government of Harold Wilson!!!.
My time in the Navy certainly changed my outlook on life. As I was RNVR, I joined in Cape Town in July 1941 and in September I was drafted to a small ship arriving in Alexandria in the October. The ship was equipped to sweep mines, acoustic and magnetic and was far from comfortable. I was later drafted on to an escort vessel.
After serving 2 years in the Mediterranean I was transferred to Durban and spent some time in the Indian Ocean until demobbed in November 1945.
The Christmas I shall never forget was in 1941. Jerry came over promptly at 6am and dropped his presents (500 & 1000 lbs) and wished us all a Happy Christmas and we returned his compliments with all our love. Arriving in Tobruk early on Christmas Day, I was sent ashore to collect signals from Navy House - a bombed out ruin. On my way back to the ship I met 2 soldiers on the jetty who had been in the desert for six months, cooking a bit of bully beef and some rice in a pot. We pointed out our ship and after obtaining permission, invited them to join us for Christmas dinner on board. "Up Spirits" was being piped so the Bosun poured them a couple of tots of rum (neaters) and then it was down to the mess deck for dinner. The expression on their faces when they saw roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was a joy to behold! One chap put his finger on the roast and cried "Its' real !!!!meat". They ate enough for about 6 people and when dinner was over we poured them into hammocks to sleep it off as they were well under the weather. They went ashore at about 5pm and we set sail for Benghazi at 7pm.
Early 1943 saw us in a convoy to Malta, losing some ships on the way but managing to get a couple of ships through to supply the Maltese with food, ammunition and petrol. When we were told that our destination was Malta the whole crew opted for half rations - even used tea leaves were dried for reuse. On tying up to an old wreck the Maltese came along and we took all the children down to the mess deck for feeding and treating them to sweets from Naffi. When they had finished it was the parents turn. In 1993 I met one of those children, now in his fifties at a meeting of PROBUS in Greenwood and he said how grateful they were when they saw the ships coming into the Grand Harbour.
Our task for the landings in Sicily in July 1943 was to take about 800 troop landing craft from Tripoli to Catania. Arriving on time, we patrolled the beaches about 10 miles out and found about 8 or 10 more American landing craft who had got lost - they were then redirected to their landing beaches but were about 2 hours late!
At Bulawayo Station I spotted a girl travelling on my train to Durban where I was to finalise my demob. The Immigration Officer being an old friend of mine, gave me a first class berth and then found out who the lady was. She was unfortunate to be travelling in a compartment with five Italian women so naturally I suggested that she be upgraded to my coach which I had to myself. At dinner Rhoda who was from the Red Cross in Johannesburg was brought to our table - well, we were married in 1947 and what a wonderful wife she is! No man could wish for better. We have twin sons and four grandchildren. One son, David is still in Zimbabwe and the other, Charles, has a senior position at a large coal complex in Queensland. Throughout our married life Rhoda has maintained her association with the Red Cross and has taken a very active part, particularly during the troubles of the seventies, spending nights and weekends at the Salisbury Hospital.
As soon as we arrived in Perth Rhoda joined the Red Cross, the Duncraig/Sorrento unit and last year she was awarded the laurel Wreath for completing 50 years service. Rhoda also has a long service award from Lever Brothers Limited where she was the Manager of the Credit Control completing 43 years of service with them.
We joined the Rhodesian Association in 1983 and I later took over the Administrators position which I really enjoyed meeting many people and catching up on old friends. After about five years, old age began to change from a trot to a gallop, my eyesight and hearing giving me trouble and I resigned. Upon my retirement from the Association your committee made me an honorary member, a gesture I very much appreciated - thank you.