Living in Very Sheltered Flats since: 2000
1. Where did you live before coming to the Almshouses?
I lived in Grundisburgh with my wife.
2. What made you decide you wanted to live in very sheltered accommodation?
I was beginning to suffer significant health problems around the age of 70 and my wife also became very poorly. I put my name down for the Seckford Almshouses and eventually we got a flat in which my wife and I lived for two years until sadly, she died.
3. Why did you choose the Almshouses?
Because they are quite simply the best. My wife used to visit people living in the Almshouses so when we moved in we knew a lot of people – staff and residents.
4. What did you think when you first saw the Very Sheltered Flats?
We moved here before the beautiful refurbishment in 2005. It looked good then and it’s just got better. It’s a palace compared with other places.
5. How long did you have to wait for a place?
We waited seven years from when we first put our names down.
6. What was your first day/night like?
We slept very well – it felt like we were part of a family. Our flat was near the main entrance and at the beginning I did odd jobs to help out.
7. What do you value and enjoy most about the Almshouses?
I appreciate the carers and all the staff – they’re magnificent.
I enjoy the company, the people, the convenience and the quality of everything, especially the quality of the care. I go to some of the coffee mornings, the church services and the celebratory meals and I go shopping in Woodbridge every Tuesday using the Almshouses’ own bus. Every week my son takes me to the cemetery to put flowers on my wife’s grave.
8. What would you say to someone thinking of coming to visit or to move in here?
“Don’t give it a second thought. You’ll never find a better place.”
8. What changes have you seen at the Almshouses?
Massive changes – a lot money has been invested in the place and it’s glorious. When I came to the Almshouses as a boy, the nurses wore uniforms and so did the people who lived here! I feel amused even now to think of it because as a boy, I used to help the old people who lived in the Almshouses and now I am one of the old people myself!
10. Could you tell us about your life story?
I was one of seven children and my father was a feed merchant in Ipswich supplying hay and other foodstuff to war horses during the First World War. Horses were replaced by cars and lorries when the war ended and my father went out of business. The family had to leave Ipswich and move in with my granny in Woodbridge which was very hard on my father.
I left school at 14 and worked as a plumber for Ingham Smith in Woodbridge. Then the Second World War broke out and although all my friends joined the Army, I fancied the blue uniform so I joined the Royal Navy. My first posting was with the Mediterranean Fleet at Gibraltar. I spent most of 1940 escorting the Ark Royal along with five or six other escort ships. The Ark Royal was a massive aircraft carrier carrying heavy weapons, military aircraft and about 3000 men, so it was crucial to escort her safely – a great deal was at stake.
When Malta was seized I worked on the destroyers that guarded regular convoys bringing in supplies – without these convoys the Maltese people would have starved to death. After Malta, I was sent to guard Russian convoys in the Arctic Circle. This was very harsh work and the allies lost 66,000 men in total. Of those who survived, only 250 are left and I am one of them. After the war the Russians gave us all a medal for bringing food and supplies to them.
After my duty in the Arctic Circle ended, I was assigned to a secret mission to sink the Bismarck. At the time I had no idea where we were going but I was witness to this historic event. After the Bismarck was sunk, I was sent to Alexandria (with Rommel only15 miles away) finally ending up with the Pacific Fleet in Japan and Hong Kong.
During the course of the war, I was awarded nine medals for fighting the enemy in the Battle of the Atlantic, North Africa, Burma, Italy and the Pacific in addition to the Russian Convoy Medal and the Malta Medal.
I wrote to my girlfriend throughout my years in the Royal Navy – she was my childhood sweetheart, I’d known her since I was 17. She worked at Ransomes during the war, in munitions. We got married in 1943, our son was born on 5 August 1945 and the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima the next day.
After the war, my wife, son and I lived with my wife’s parents for seven years in Great Bealings. I went back to plumbing for my old boss in Woodbridge. We eventually got a council house in Woodbridge before buying a house of our own in Grundisburgh where we lived for 30 years until we got too old to deal with the repairs and the garden became too much.