I spent the eleventh hour of the eleventh month with my dear 93 year old friend George Rough. One time maintenance manager at Wandsworth Town Hall. He had spent the night before sleepless and shivering with images of all the young men he had served with in Italy 1943-5. One in particular , co driver James Gallagher .
One day on the road to Monte Cassino they had argued about who was to drive their Royal Artillery lorry. James won the argument , but when they arrived it was he who stepped onto a mine and died in George’s arms. There were other near misses, George earned the nickname Lucky Roughey.
George who has lived all his life in and around Putney had in November 1942 gone to the Cinderella Dance Club, upstairs on the corner of the High Street and Putney Bridge Road with his fiancé Mary. Two of his mates had to leave early to get back to their ships in Chatham. George went out to have a farewell drink with his pals. It was at 9.02 the Strabo bomb fell and Mary was one of the 81(46 females) who died.
A few months later George married Nellie one of Mary’s great friends. He would not see his daughter until she was three. But George’s large family were also affected.
Sally the eldest sister had qualified as a nurse in 1932. She married a surgeon at Broomfield Hospital. In 1941 they were both posted to Singapore. Before the surrender Sally was on one of the last boats out. It was hit by Japanese bombers. 2000 drowned.
Sister Maude had married Peter who was in the RAF. He was posted to Malta where he met his death March l941 during the three year siege. Maude never married again.
Brother Jack had seen service in Norway, Dunkirk and in the Low Countries. By the end of the war he was completely shot. As George says,”He never recovered I often had to go round and calm him down. He lived till he was 77 but he never got over the War. It wasn’t easy for any one.For six months after coming back in 1946 I shivered and sweated every night. Nellie had to change the sheets every day.The doctors said I had influenza I think today it would have been diagnosed as post traumatic stress. Which wasn’t made any better by coming back without a house or a job to go to.”