Trevor Towers was born in Brighton, England at the end of the

Second World War. As the son of a naval officer, he spent much
of his childhood in Malta, where his father was posted. Trevor
cherishes these memories to this day.
The family later returned to England and settled in Portsmouth.
Trevor attended the Royal Hospital School, also known as
‘Holbrook', near Ipswich. It was a boarding school with a strong
focus on instilling its pupils with the values and skills necessary
for a career in the British Armed Forces.
Trevor subsequently spent many years in the army; his
experiences from those days have a strong influence in his
writing. He has married twice, and has five sons. Much of
Trevor's life has been spent travelling the world or living
overseas. Time spent in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Africa, and Asia has
inspired many of his stories. In 2004, whilst holidaying in Phuket,
Thailand, Trevor and his wife Petra were caught in the Boxing
Day Tsunami. They were swept away by the full force of the
wave that killed so many but, miraculously, they survived.
Despite their terrifying experience, they fell in love with Thailand
and its people, and subsequently settled in Hua-Hin, where they
still reside today.

To Petra Towers

Copyright © Trevor John Towers

The right of Trevor John Towers to be identified as author of this
work has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and
78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the

Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this
publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims
for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British

ISBN 978 184963 726 8

First Published (2014)
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
25 Canada Square
Canary Wharf
E14 5LB

Printed and bound in Great Britain

Chapter One

Portsmouth, England, 1922

It was another busy day in the maternity ward at St Mary’s
Hospital in the naval town of Portsmouth, on the south coast of
As midwives, nurses, and the occasional doctor busied
themselves with their daily task of bringing new life into the
world, a number of first-time fathers anxiously paced up and
down the corridor outside the delivery ward. One man sat
reading a paper, trying to appear unfazed by the sounds of
women groaning or screaming that escaped every time the
door to the ward swung open. His name was Tom Smith. He
was a local man in his late twenties, exactly six foot tall, with
straight brown hair. Tom glanced furtively at the other men
pacing around, then without turning his head, he sized up the
man who was sitting beside him.
Tom remembered how he had felt the first time: the
nerves, the sweating, and worst of all, feeling helpless. Like all
men, Tom hated to feel helpless, and he and the others were
exactly that. They could do nothing but wait. He noticed that
most of the men were chain-smoking. Tom had never smoked,
mainly because he could never afford to waste his meagre
earnings on cigarettes. He folded up his paper, placed it in his
lap, and nodded a friendly ‘hello’ accompanied by a shy grin
to the man sitting beside him. The man stopped frowning
momentarily to return the smile.
“You seem to be calm, mate. Is this your first as well?” he
asked Tom.
“No,” Tom replied, “it’s my second. The first one was a
boy; I’m hoping for a little girl this time.”
“Well, I can tell you I’m in a state; this is my first. I don’t
know why I feel so worried. After all, this goes on every day,

doesn’t it? I guess I feel so helpless - you always think that you
could be the unlucky one, don’t you?”
“Stop worrying, pal, it’ll be all right. Normally if there are
complications, they happen during the pregnancy,” Tom said,
lying just a little bit to help calm the poor man down. Tom’s
mind wandered back to when their first son Michael had been
born, in the exact same hospital and ward on the 4
of January.
Now here he was again on the 19
of October in the same
year. Two babies on one year, he thought with a smile.
The truth was, Tom wasn’t feeling much different this time
either. He had a bunch of roses sitting in his lap as he waited
and waited to hear news of the birth. Every time a nurse came
out of the delivery room, he asked if Inga had delivered yet.
He was concerned at the length of time he had left their
firstborn with the neighbour. “Only for a short while,” he had
told them - that was four hours ago, when Inga’s pains had
started and her water broke. It caught them unawares; she had
seemed fine all morning and the baby wasn’t due for another
week, and then all of a sudden, panic stations.
It had been previously arranged to enlist the help of a
friendly neighbour who lived just up the road and had a car.
Luckily, the neighbours were home having lunch when Tom
came banging on the front door, holding his ten-month old son
in one arm.
“It’s time, it’s time; baby’s coming now,” he said
Tom’s neighbour grabbed his jacket, said goodbye to his
wife as she took the baby, and they drove back to Tom’s. Inga
was waiting by the front gate with her packed holdall. She
climbed into the car somewhat clumsily. Her labour had now
started and she moaned in pain during the half hour drive to
the hospital.
Once there, Tom raced into the hospital reception area
trying to get some help, only to find when he returned to the
car that Inga was already on her way to the delivery room; she
had been collected by a couple of nurses. He made his own
way there by following the signs. After checking that she was
all right, he sat down to wait. Twice he got up to ask how she

was doing. Twice he was told everything was all right and not
to worry, it wouldn’t be long now.
Tom sat quietly and started to daydream, thinking about
his work, his house, his life, his friends… all the while
thoughts about Inga kept popping into his head. He recalled the
first time he met her: tall, blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful.
Inga was a twenty-two-year-old German national who had
come to England to work as a nanny for a wealthy family four
years earlier. They met one day out on the Common, where
Tom took his dog for a walk during his one-hour dinner break
from work. Inga took the baby she cared for out for a walk in
its pram at the same time daily.
Tom had noticed her before, as indeed she had noticed
him. After encountering each other at a distance a few times,
day he made sure to walk alongside her so he could start up a
conversation, to which she warmly responded. After meeting a
few times, they had a favourite bench where Inga could rock
the pram gently, keeping the baby quiet, and Tom’s dog Rusty
would run around with other dogs or chase the odd rabbit. On
one occasion, Rusty disappeared. One minute he was at Tom’s
feet, the next he had bolted off after something. Obviously, this
time he had gone too far and become lost. Tom and Inga spent
a couple of hours searching for Rusty, to no avail. Eventually
Inga had to return with the baby for feeding time. Tom spent
another hour searching for Rusty but he just couldn’t find him.
Then when he returned home, there was Rusty on the doorstep,
looking as Tom as if to say, “What took you so long?”
When Tom was with Inga, nothing else really mattered.
They would talk about nothing in particular; the weather, the
area they lived in, Inga’s bosses, their neighbours; just happy
to be chatting. One day, Tom asked Inga why she had decided
to come to England. Apart from Inga, Tom was still not keen
on Germans due to his own experiences during the war as a
very young soldier, only sixteen years of age. He had been a
driver’s assistant in the transport corps, which ran the
ambulances. He blamed them for all the blood and gore he had
seen, although later on he came to accept that Britain had done
just as much damage to the Boche.

Inga smiled knowingly, as if she had been expecting his
question. She replied, “I know all about the war, Tom; it took
my father away from us. He died needlessly. War is stupid…”
Inga seemed upset. She sighed deeply and stared up at the sky.
“You must miss your father. I miss mine. He was killed
Tom was suddenly jolted back from reminiscing by the
sharp click clack of a nurse’s heels as she came walking at a
fast pace down the corridor. As she passed, he asked her about
Inga and he received the same answer he had received from all
the other nurses, “Won’t be long now, sir, you must be
patient.” Tom leaned back and returned to his memories.
Inga turned to Tom and said, “What is ever gained from
war? I don’t understand it. All I know is what is lost. Fathers,
brothers, sons, husbands, not to mention the cost to both sides
in money and collateral. In history, it was always a power
thing, the king or emperor wanted a bigger piece of the land so
he sent his soldiers in to beat the locals into surrender and then
made himself the boss of them. Then there are the holy wars,
the commandment says ‘thou shalt not kill’, but it’s all right to
do so if you believe in a different god to mine. As for our last
war, if you ask a hundred people, German or English, what
was it all about, ninety per cent would not really know.” Inga
suddenly stopped, as if she had realised she was becoming too
Tom thought about what she had said. In many ways, he
agreed with her.
“So you are a pacifist?” he said.
“Very much so, but to get back to why I came to England,
it is because my country started the last war, and Great Britain
came to the aid of the weaker side, so which is the better
country, in your opinion?”
Tom shrugged his shoulders. He had never thought of it all
like that before. He was interested in her philosophy, and
realised in many ways it matched his own. He also saw war as
a waste of lives, money, and buildings, all to no avail. There
were no real ‘winners’. Inga told Tom that her English boss

had also lost a son in the war. She was indeed a pacifist and
hated all violence.
“Why can’t countries just let other countries live the way
they want to?” Inga sighed.
Tom couldn’t answer that one. He was impressed by her
attitude. He had expected she might rationalise why Germany
got into war with Britain, but she didn’t seem to support her
country’s past ethics at all.
“The other reason I came to England is because eventually
I want to become a doctor. This country can give me this
chance. It is very well-known for producing the best medical
Tom nodded. It made sense she would want to be a doctor,
to heal people rather than harm them. She is such a warm
person, Tom thought, and so pretty. He felt very attracted to
her. He had never felt like this before about a girl. She seemed
to be on his mind day and night. He found himself wanting to
be with her all the time.
Inga was similarly attracted to this kind Englishman . Even
though they were different nationalities, they were very alike.
They both laughed at the same things, their family
backgrounds were similar - they both came from working class
families. Even their surnames were the same, his was Smith,
and hers was the German version, Schmidt.
Tom treated Inga very well. He would often take her a
little posy of flowers when they met. Fortunately, they both
had Sundays off and were able to spend the whole day
together. From Monday to Friday, Tom worked long, hard
hours as a motor mechanic. Sometimes, Inga was able to get an
evening off once she had bathed and put the baby to bed, and
his parents were home to care for him. They would go to the
cinema, or sit in a bar somewhere and chat. Either way, they
were just happy to be in each other’s company. Inga spoke
very good English so they never had a problem
One bitterly cold Saturday night that winter, Inga had
managed to get the night off as the parents of her charge were

having a night at home. Inga decided she wanted to spend the
evening at Tom’s place, a small bungalow on the edge of town.
Tom lit a cosy fire before he went to meet her so when
they returned it was nice and warm inside. On the table, he had
placed a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. They sat close
together on the settee, holding hands in front of the fire,
listening to music on his crackly radio, and sipped their wine
slowly and contentedly.
“You know, Inga, this is bliss. It is the first time I have had
a girlfriend here, sitting quiet and warm by the fire.”
“It’s the same for me, Tom,” Inga replied. “I have only had
one boyfriend before, and that was at school. It is lovely, isn’t
it? I feel so secure and warm sitting here with you. We must
try to do it more often.”
Tom looked at her lovely face in the glow of the firelight.
He so wanted to kiss her and hold her close. At first, he was
hesitant, worried she might misconstrue any move he made as
being too forward. Then he decided to try anyway. He leant
closer until he was within an inch of her full, pouting lips. At
that moment, Inga also moved forward until their lips touched.
Just a peck at first, to break the ice, then a kiss. Then they
kissed more passionately, and started to explore each other
with their hands. They moved from the settee on to the floor.
Before long, Tom had his hands at the top of Inga’s stockinged
thighs. He could feel the straps of her suspenders. As he gently
caressed her warm skin, Inga breathed harder and made no
attempt to push him away. Soon clothes were shed, and the
two lovers were naked in front of the fire. They were oblivious
to the sound of the radio, the crackle of the fire. All they could
hear were each other’s breathing as they gently fondled one
another. Inga raised her arms above her head, as if to surrender
her whole body to Tom. Her legs parted slightly, and Tom
kissed every part of her, until she was groaning deeply with
pleasure, and her whole body began to shudder in ecstasy.
“I so want to make love to you, Inga,” Tom murmured. He
was so hard now it was beginning to become painful. Inga
pushed him away from her a little so that she could look

directly into his eyes and said in a quiet, soft voice, “Well then,
why don’t you?”
Tom needed no more encouragement. Their first time was
over quickly. Later that night, they made love again, but it was
slower and more satisfying for both of them.
Tom and Inga’s relationship became very serious. They
made love whenever they had the chance to be together.
Before long, Inga was pregnant.
After three months Inga had already started to show. The
family she worked for were unimpressed by her telltale bump,
and Inga lost her job as their nanny. This was disappointing for
Inga, as her position had included accommodation. Tom, on
the other hand, saw it as an opportunity. He asked her to move
into his place so they could be together all the time. Inga
happily agreed and within two days, she was safely ensconced
within Tom’s bungalow.
As Tom had invited Inga to move in with him as his
partner, he raised the subject of marriage. However, Inga was
reluctant to take such a big step so soon. After all, their
relationship was still new, and the pregnancy was unplanned.
One evening, Inga asked Tom if they could speak about
something important after work. They decided to go to their
favourite local, ‘Bert’s Pub’ for a drink and settled into a
private nook in the corner. After getting them both a drink,
Inga began.
“Tom, because of this lovely bump, I have been getting
some funny looks from people. I found out the reason after
asking a woman why she was looking at me strangely. She
said it was because I am not wearing a wedding ring, but I am
having a baby.”
Tom knew that many people in Britain still looked down
on unmarried mothers. It meant they had had sex out of
marriage and this was still frowned upon, particularly by the
older generations.
“It upset me a little bit, Tom. I worry that if everybody
thinks like that, will they be horrible to our baby as well when
it’s born? Will they be horrible to you?” Inga asked.

“What we do is our business, Inga, but if it makes you feel
better, then by all means I will buy you a ring to wear. I
personally believe people should look at their own lives before
judging others. Nobody is whiter than snow, Inga, so sod them.
Don’t let it upset you. We were unlucky that you fell pregnant
so quickly. Some people can’t have a baby even when they
want to. Others get pregnant and rush into a loveless marriage
just to save their reputation. There again, my love, if you want
to get married, then now would seem a good time, before you
get too far along.”
“We’ve talked about it before, Tom. Neither of us saw the
need for it yet. I am happy to wait if you are.”
Tom and Inga had twice had the conversation about
marriage and both times, they agreed it was not something they
wanted to rush into. Now here they were at the hospital, with
Inga about to give birth to their second child, and they were
still not married.
Tom was still half immersed in his thoughts about the past
when he suddenly realised a young nurse was standing in front
of him.
“Mr Smith? Are you Mr Smith?” Tom looked up at the
nurse; her expression was serious.
“Yes, yes, of course I am. What’s the matter? Is she all
right?” Tom was anxious, as it had taken so long.
“Yes, of course she is, sir. Would you like to come in and
see your new baby?”
Tom quickly stood up, “Oh, yes! Please take me to them!”
“This way, sir,” the nurse said, now smiling. She showed
Tom into a small four-bedded ward. There was Inga, looking
flushed and tired, but beautiful. In her arms wrapped tightly in
a blue blanket was a tiny, fair-haired baby boy. Tom looked at
the baby, but was hesitant to touch him; he seemed so delicate
and small. He bent over, kissed him very gently on his
forehead, and then kissed Inga. He felt tears of happiness sting
his eyes; he was speechless with the joy and love he felt.
Tom and Inga had named their first son Michael after
Tom’s father, who had been killed in France in the First World
War. Inga smiled.

“Tom, meet Franz. I hope you like the name. I named him
after my father, who was killed in the war just as your father
Tom had no objections at all. He was now the proud father
of two boys. How wonderful. He couldn’t stop smiling.
A few days later, Inga returned home with baby Franz and
introduced him to his older brother, Michael, who was only ten
months old. Michael just looked bewildered, wondering
whether this wriggling bundle before him was a new toy.
The family were living in Tom’s small bungalow in the
hills above Portsmouth. It only had two bedrooms, but it
served their needs. Tom had bought it when he first came to
Portsmouth. They had no immediate neighbours but other
people lived further down the street. All of the houses were
detached with a large back garden and a smaller front one.
Tom enjoyed gardening and grew many vegetables, which
helped their budget a lot. When he had been on his own, his
income as a mechanic was sufficient to pay the mortgage, buy
food, and he could still afford some beers at the end of the
week. Now, with four mouths to feed, things were beginning to
get tight. His wages just about kept the family’s heads above
Tom and Inga were so busy raising their boys that the
months flew by. Before they knew it, Franz was about to turn
two. Money was very tight and there was little to spare for
treats and certainly not enough for a holiday. The family rarely
went out with the exception of the odd walk along the downs.
Although Tom was working every available hour he could,
there was still no money to spare. Inga became bored with only
two very young children for company. When Tom came home,
he wolfed down his dinner and was too tired to even talk. He
would promptly fall asleep in his favourite armchair. Tom was
even too tired when Inga tried to make love to him. Their sex
life was almost non-existent and certainly not passionate any
The truth was, the drudgery of daily life and lack of money
had taken its toll. Tom and Inga had grown apart. Inga’s life
was the house, her sons, and Tom; Tom’s life was work, his

sons, and Inga. After three years, domestic bliss was quickly
turning sour. They argued often, mainly about money. Tom
was already working as many hours as the company could give
him, and Inga couldn’t get a job because the boys were still too
young. Tom suggested that as the boys had her all day; she
could get an evening job in a factory or somewhere. Inga
thought about it, and eventually decided to get a job. She
started working as a cleaner, but it was poorly paid and she
also had to suffer abuse from other workers because of her
nationality, so she soon gave up.
By now, Tom and Inga’s arguing had become more
vitriolic. They would row loudly, spitting out words laced with
hatred until, unable to agree on any matter, they could argue no
more. This was followed by an awkward, frosty silence that
often lasted days. Michael and Franz were completely unaware
anything was wrong because the arguing had gone on for most
of their young lives. To them, it was the normal routine.
Eventually, Tom realised he had to do something about
this unhappy existence. He was coming home from work later
and later, not wanting to walk into yet another row with Inga.
He began to think about the possibility of ending it with her. It
took some time for him to work it out in his mind before he
could proceed with the idea.
One cold wintry night once their sons were asleep, Tom
decided it was time to approach Inga. She made some cocoa,
which Tom sipped slowly. He was deep in thought how to
approach the subject. Once Inga was sitting with him, he began
to talk, as softly and sensitively as he could, fearing another
row would start.
“Darling, there is something that has been bothering me
for the last three or four months. Our relationship, it’s...” He
paused to allow Inga to get in tune with what he was trying to
say. After placing another log on the fire, he continued.
“I think our relationship has deteriorated so much, it’s time
for us to do something about it.” Tom paused again, looking
for a response of some kind from Inga. She said nothing; even
her face was expressionless as she looked at him.

“If it has got this bad in just three years, what it will be like
in five, Inga? I imagine we would hate each other even more,
then I might start looking at other women, you might start
looking at other men. I for one do not want to travel down that
road, more so for the children’s sake. I don’t want them to
have to experience that, do you?”
Inga sat dry eyed, staring into the flames of the fire. Her
elbows were on her knees and her chin lay in her cupped
hands. She understood what Tom was saying; she felt the same
way. During the last few months, she wanted to broach the
subject with Tom, but just could not bring herself around to it.
Tom waited for a response from Inga. She sat in silence for
a while to let his words sink in, and then she whispered, “So
what do you think we should do, Tom?”
Tom replied, “I think we need to split up. I think it would
be the best for the boys as well as us.” Again, he looked for a
reaction but Inga just stared at the floor.
“Because we aren’t married, we can agree everything
verbally without any lawyers or paperwork, which we can’t
afford anyway.”
Inga sat up straight. She realised he was serious; he really
meant what he was saying and he expected a response. Inga
still said nothing, so Tom continued.
“Inga, we’ve been together for over three years, we have
two lovely sons we both adore. Agreed?” Finally, Inga spoke.
“Yes, of course,” Inga replied. “They are the only reason
we are still together. If it wasn’t for them, I would no longer be
here.” The resentment in her voice was barely disguised. Tom
knew he would have to step carefully.
“All right, Inga, I don’t want to fight with you. All I want
is to get ourselves sorted out - to get things on an even keel as
it were.”
She replied, “I’m not looking for a fight either, Tom. I’ve
been thinking the same thing myself for a long time now. Do
you know what it has been like for me these past three years
with two babies to bring up and not enough money to have
anything? On top of that, you are always moaning and
whining. Tell me, Tom, when was the last time we went out

together, just you and me? When was the last time you spent
any money on me?”
“There has never been any spare money available, Inga,”
Tom retorted. “When was the last time I bought something
new for myself? Let’s not argue about money now, let’s talk
about everyone’s future, then we might get somewhere. Let’s
do it in an adult manner without squabbling over what should
have been. What do you say to us separating?”
Inga was shocked at Tom’s forcefulness. She knew their
relationship was bad, but had not thought about the possibility
of splitting up.
“If we can’t manage as a couple now, how do you think we
could as two single parents with the two boys?”
Tom was ready for this question. He had thought long and
hard about what the best solution would be.
“We each take one boy. You can return to Germany to
your mother, and she can help you raise him.”
“Oh! A trade-off? What the hell am I supposed to do in
Germany on my own with a son? How am I supposed to
choose which son?” Inga was clearly upset at the proposition.
“You could get a job over there and earn enough for your
mum to look after him. I will cut my hours to suit the other
son’s school days later on. It should work out better with only
two mouths to feed on my income.”
“I suppose I can see why you think this is a good idea; it
would be better financially. But I want both my boys with me
if I am going back to Germany.”
“No, that’s not going to happen.” Tom stood his ground. “I
would rather carry on as we are than lose both children. Let’s
end this discussion for now so we can each have more time to
think about it.”
Two days later, Inga finally came to accept Tom’s
rationale. She understood that to lose both sons would be
unbearable to both of them. That evening after supper, Inga
told Tom what she had decided.
“Tom, I have given a lot of thought to what we talked
about the other evening. I now realise it is probably the best
idea. I have written to my mother and told her of our

intentions. We won’t get a reply for at least two weeks of
course, but I’m sure it would be all right for me and Franz to
move in with her. Since my father was killed, she has been
very lonely. Having Franz and I to keep her company will be
good for her.”
“Wait,” Tom interrupted, “when did we agree which son
we should keep?”
“I thought I would take Franz; he is younger, and because
he had a German name – my father’s name – it would be easier
in the future for him. Also, he is only just learning to speak, so
he will be able to pick up the language over there more easily
than Michael.”
“So let’s be clear, if I agree to you taking Franz, you will
go to join your mother in Berlin?”
“Yes,” Inga said quietly.
It took two months and plenty of overtime for Tom to
accumulate enough money to purchase two tickets for the
cross-Channel boat to Germany. One evening after work, Tom
went to purchase the tickets. That evening while the family
were having dinner, he handed them to Inga. There was a
short, awkward silence, and then Inga said, “Well, I guess
that’s it, isn’t it? After three years and two children, it all
comes down to this.” She looked miserably at the tickets in her
“Look, Inga, neither of us is to blame. It just stopped
working for us. We had such a fantastic time in the beginning,
but you know as well as I do we have fallen out of love. It’s as
simple as that.”
Inga said nothing. The sadness on her face said it all. She
looked at her two sons and tears welled in her eyes. It became
too much to hold back, so she quickly excused herself and ran
to the bathroom. Tom could hear her sobbing from the kitchen.
The atmosphere in the house was very strained over the
following two weeks. The evening before her departure, the
boys were playing outside in the garden. Inga and Tom were
sitting by the fire as usual, listening to music. Tom finally
broke the awkward silence.

“We must keep the communication channels open, Inga. I
promise I will make sure I let you know how Michael is
getting on. Once he is able to write, he can also send you a
letter each week and tell you his news. The same for Franz.
We might be parting ways, but there’s no need for the boys to
suffer too much, is there?”
“No, oh no, definitely not. We must stay in touch and the
boys should write to each other too. I will also write to you
every now and again.” Inga’s reply lifted Tom’s spirits a little.
“You do know I won’t be able to send you any money
after you leave? There is not even enough now, but I have
saved fifty pounds to help you along to begin with. You will
have to get a job quite quickly though.” He handed her an
envelope with the cash in it and she just nodded thank you, as
she was too choked with emotion to speak. What she did not
know was that he had borrowed some of it from a work
colleague and some from a friend.
Eventually, she said, “Thank you, Tom. I don’t have any
money to travel with; I was wondering how I was going to
“Have you packed everything that you want to take? I
hope you’ve left me the family silver,” he said with a smile,
trying to lighten the sombre mood.
Inga managed a smile in return. “Yes, I have packed that
one silver spoon of yours and I will seek my fortune with it.”
Inga went outside into the garden to play ‘ships’ with her
two sons. The boys were so close in age they could almost be
mistaken for twins, but Michael had dark hair and eyes like his
father, and Franz was fair and blue-eyed, like his mother. They
had a tub of water on the lawn and each had a small toy ship.
They were splashing the ships about and sailing them all over
the top of the water, thoroughly enjoying themselves. Inga
joined in, thinking that this would probably be the last time
they would ever play together as a family. Tears began to roll
down her cheeks. Tom was watching from the kitchen
window, and although he was having the same sad thoughts,
he was a little more optimistic for all their futures.

The next morning, Tom had arranged to take half a day off
work to see Inga and Franz set off on their long journey to
Germany. First, they had to catch the train to Southampton,
from where the ship would sail. Inga picked Michael up in her
arms and carried him to the neighbour up the road who had
minded him when she gave birth to Franz. Before handing him
over, she hugged him so tightly he could barely breathe, and
covered him in kisses. Her tears and kisses made his little face
all wet.
“Goodbye, my darling little Michael. Take care of yourself
and your daddy,” Inga said quietly. Then she thanked her
neighbour, saying that Tom would be back to collect the little
boy at five thirty. She then turned abruptly and walked away
without looking back, but as she heard the door close, her heart
felt like it was cut in two. She took a deep breath and walked
back to the bungalow.
“Right. All ready to go?” Tom said, wise enough not to ask
her if she was all right as he knew she wasn’t. Tom had the
cases by the door and Franz was ready with his coat on. Tom
had given Franz two little toy ships to play with on the
The three of them walked to the bus stop for the half hour
ride to the train station. Inga boarded the train first, and then
Tom lifted Franz up into her arms. Inga lowered the window in
the carriage and held Franz up so Tom could reach him to give
his toddler son a kiss.
“Goodbye, my little Franz,” he said. The lump in his throat
made it hard for him to get the words out. Inga then placed
Franz on the seat and leant out of the window to take one last
look at Tom.
“I am so sorry it didn’t work for us, Inga. Please don’t
think I hate you. I don’t - you are the mother of our two
wonderful sons and for that, I will always love you...” Tom’s
voice was drowned out by a sudden long, loud blast of the
conductor’s whistle.
“All aboard!” came the order, followed by the sound of
carriage doors being slammed shut and people calling out to
each other from the carriages and the platform. Then another

piercing whistle, couplings clanging together, and the train
started to chug forward. Tom stood watching as it moved
slowly along the platform. He waved at Inga and Franz as they
leant out of the window and waved back. Franz was much too
young to understand what was going on.
Tom returned to work and finished at five o’clock,
hurrying off to pick up Michael from his neighbour. When he
arrived home, he found a letter Inga had left for him. She
wrote how sorry she was how things had turned out, and said
that by the time Tom read the letter, she would be at sea with
As a single parent, Tom now had to devote as much time
as he could to Michael. Each week day, he dropped Michael
off to his neighbour to mind him, and picked him up straight
after work. On Saturdays, he sometimes managed to arrange
for the boy to go to one of his friends’ homes for a small fee,
to enable him to work a little overtime. In the beginning,
Michael asked where his brother was every day. He missed his
little playmate. Each time, Tom would just say, “You’ll see
him again soon,” feeling guilty for his lie.
All of Tom’s spare time was spent with his son. On the
odd occasion Tom managed to spare a little money, he would
take Michael into Portsmouth, then on to Southsea, a nearby
seaside resort. Michael enjoyed these little excursions to the
seaside. Most of all he enjoyed watching the big Navy ships
coming back and forth in the harbour. Boats seemed to
fascinate Michael and Tom indulged in a dream that maybe
one day his little boy would become a ship’s captain.
Michael soon turned four years of age. Christmas had
passed quietly with just the two of them. Nothing came from
Inga in the way of a card. In fact, she had not been in touch
since she and Franz had left. All he had was her goodbye
letter. In some ways it did not surprise Tom; he knew in his
heart that she would close her heart and her mind to them both,
as she had done for the last six months. Michael often asked
about mummy and Franz, and Tom could only say they had
gone away for a while. As time passed, Michael asked about

them less and less; he had become accustomed to having
Tom’s undivided attention.
Michael’s obsession with ships seemed to grow, even at
such an early age. He would spend hours just leaning on their
front fence, gazing down into the harbour below. He often
asked his daddy to get the galvanised bathtub out and fill it
with water so he could play boats with some different sized
pieces of wood. Some had nails sticking out of the top, which
in Michael’s mind represented a funnel. He would emulate the
ships he saw in the harbour, moving them around on the water
making ‘broom broom’ noises to represent the engines.
Fortunately for Tom, Michael did not want the same toys other
children wanted and was happy playing with his little wooden
‘fleet’, which was now all his own as he no longer had to share
with his brother.
Soon the day came for Michael to start ‘big’ school. Tom
managed to get Michael into a local infant school that had a
good reputation. Fortunately for Tom, his neighbour’s children
also attended there, so for two shillings a week they agreed to
take Michael along to ensure he got there and back safely and
he could play with them until Tom arrived home from work.
This routine worked very well for the first six months, after
which time Michael was able to manage the short walk to
school and back on his own.
Over the next five years, Michael excelled at his
schoolwork, passing all his tests and exams with high marks.
He was now ready to progress to primary grade. One day, a
formal-looking letter arrived at Tom’s home. Somewhat
surprised, Tom opened it and on a very nice piece of headed
notepaper with a fancy crest at the top was a formal invitation
for Tom to consider a scholarship for his son at a naval
boarding school located near Ipswich in Suffolk. The letter
also came with a brochure giving more information and
included photographs of the school. He later found out that a
teacher at Michael’s school had a son who attended there, and
noticing how bright Michael was, he had phoned the school
and asked them to send the information to Tom.

Tom sat down with Michael to talk about it, and soon
realised Michael was not opposed to the idea in any way. Once
he saw the pictures of pupils in their sailor uniforms, he was
convinced, even when Tom explained he would have to sleep
there and stay there for many weeks at a time without seeing
his father. This did not perplex Michael in any way. He was so
keen on the idea, it made Tom wonder if he was happy at
home, but Tom knew the attraction was the sailor uniform, and
he could see many advantages of Michael going to boarding
Tom had always considered that a child needed both
parents around, not just one. At boarding school, on the other
hand, he would be well cared for and Michael would receive a
very good education. It also meant that Tom could get on with
his life and his work without the encumbrance of having a
young child to look after. By far the most attractive aspect for
Tom was the knowledge that Michael would be mixing with
boys his own age. Tom knew that if Michael stayed at home
with him, he could become a spoiled only child, and might end
up just finishing the required amount of schooling, then hang
around Portsmouth getting a mundane job somewhere, just as
he had done. This way, a world of opportunity would be open
to him. Tom quickly completed the scholarship application
forms and sent them off. A few weeks later, he received
confirmation his son had a place.
Every evening, Michael would ask his dad questions,
mainly about the boarding school. Where would he sleep?
What meals would they get and how often? Every day when he
returned from school, there were more questions. He looked at
the brochure over and over until it was almost worn out. There
was a picture of pupils marching on parade, and some evenings
he would practice marching around the garden.
The new school year and time for the next intake were
quickly approaching. Tom had received instructions regarding
the handover and what his son needed to bring. He arranged a
day off work for the trip to Ipswich to take Michael to his new
school. The weekend before Michael was due to leave, they
went into Portsmouth town to buy him some going away

clothes. Tom even treated himself to a new suit. He had also
organised a going away party for Michael with six of his
friends. Michael loved all the attention; it made him feel
exceptionally important.

Chapter Two

The journey by steam train to Southampton was very enjoyable
for Franz. He loved the huffing and puffing of the engine, and
the sound of the whistle blowing every now and again. The
train journey was not long; he stood all the way, looking out of
the window, watching the passing fields with cows or sheep
quietly grazing. After about three quarters of an hour, they
reached Southampton. Once the train had come to a halt and
the doors were flung open, a kindly porter helped Inga down
on to the platform with her son and her two suitcases.
“Excuse me, porter, we have a ship to board that is sailing
late this afternoon. Do you know where we must go now?”
Inga asked.
“Oh, that would be the Empress of Britain, ma’am. It’s that
ship over there,” he said, pointing towards the only ship
moored at the dock. He could see Inga was travelling alone
with her luggage and her toddler son. “If you come with me, I
can take you via a shortcut across the tracks. That way it will
save you quite a bit of walking rather than going the long way
around. Is that all right?” the porter asked.
“Oh, thank you so much, that would be a big help. I will
carry my child if you can carry these two cases.” Inga was
relieved to have someone helping her. She was already feeling
physically and emotionally drained from the farewells and
their journey thus far.
Inga gathered up Franz in her arms and they began to walk
across the railway lines. She assumed the porter knew it was
safe for them to cross here, although she couldn’t help feel a
little nervous in case a train should come flying along at any
moment. She felt relieved when they stepped off the tracks and
the porter indicated a white brick building just ahead of them.
They walked over to it and the porter said, “Here yer go,
ma’am, this is the office of the shipping line you need to report
to.” He placed her cases down at the main entrance.

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