Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War a rake of railway wagons
appeared on the sidings next to Winteringham Railway Station. At least thirty ex-service personnel, who were too old to be called up, also arrived in the village and took up their duties of guarding the railway
wagons. Some of them may have been reserves. At least one of them was a former Marine. No-one knew what was in the wagons but the fact that they needed guarding indicated to the villagers that the wagons contained
munitions - stored safely away from any area which may have been bombed. No-one ever knew for certain. In those days you didn't ask questions. Apparently there was one guard assigned to protect two wagons.
The guards, as far as villagers' memory serves, actually lived in some of the wagons. One has to remember that all trains had, at their end, a 'guards van' that was equipped with a coal burning stove to heat the
van and also to brew tea and to cook food on so, if there were several of these vans, conditions wouldn't have been too bad. The guards were soon absorbed into village life and some of them started to frequent The
Ferry Boat. Mary Ellen Field, the widow of Elias William Field (killed in the First World War), was still the licensee although, effectively, her daughter Gertrude ran the pub. However she wasn't known as Gertrude
even to the regulars - it was always 'Mrs. Harrison', her married name.
If the guards were hungry Mrs. Harrison always managed, in spite of rationing, to rustle up some sandwiches for them. She was
asked why one day. Her reply was that she'd hope that strangers would look after her family if they were away from home and in need - so she felt that she should do the same.
Jock Cooper was the
ex-marine who frequented The Ferry Boat along with his pal Max. Jock was from Kirkcaldy in Fife. His daughter, Effie, would write to him every week asking him for news. Jock struggled to keep up the correspondence
and mentioned this in The Ferry Boat to the bar-maid, Gertrude's daughter. Consequently my Mother took over the correspondence, much to Jock's relief.
The war ended but the acquaintance remained. I
remember Effie coming to visit my Mother at Teesside during the 50's and she also made several trips to Winteringham.
Gertrude's concern for her family away from home were well founded. Three of her
sons were to join the Merchant Navy and the fourth joined the Royal Navy. All served during the war, either bringing much needed goods back to Britain or defending the seas - although my Grandfather, Ralph Harrison,
used to shake his head in bewilderment as to how they accomplished the task when he listened to their tales when they returned home on leave.