My Dad ( on the right) passed away when I was quite young. This is one of my favourite photos of him when he was about 19, just before he went off to do his National Service in the RAF. I never knew the other two lads or the story behind the photo – so here’s my story in 15 minutes. God bless you Dad , I think of you every day.
P.S – he loved his Cricket
Billy headed straight for the bar as he usually did. He was always the first to put his hand in his pocket. Good lad was Billy, we’d been mates since our first day at school when he had decided that I was going to be his mate for no other reason than he liked my lunchbox , or rather the cheese and pickle sandwiches my Mum had packed into it. We’d been best buddies ever since.Inseparable, people said, like Laker and Bedser the Surrey spin twins.
Jack and I headed for the nearest table, threw our bags on the floor and flopped onto the chairs exhausted.
‘Flash the ash Jack it’s your shout’ I was desperate for a fag after two hours on the train back from London.
Jack threw me the packet and dropped his lighter on the table then stood up and headed for the gents.
‘You’re back then’ said old John sitting on his usual stool at the bar.
‘Didn’t expect to see you lads back so soon’. Old John took a swallow of his pint and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
We’re in John, we’ll be off next week, just waiting for the posting to be be sent to us’. Said Billy , as he carried three pints of best back to the table.
‘Here you go Mike’ get that down you’. Billy was smiling, that broad toothy grin that had earned him his nickname of ‘smiler’ by which he was commonly known in the village.
I took a good swallow of my pint and felt myself relax. It had been a long day. The early train was crowded and London was mobbed. I was glad to be back in the village, in our local with old John.
Jack sat down and had a drink of his pint. ‘ I’m glad it’s the RAF, can’t be doing with all that drilling and shouting those army lads do’.
I drew on my fag and blew the smoke up towards the ceiling. It was time to say the one thing the three of us had deliberately not talked about ever since the papers had dropped through our letterboxes.
‘ We need to make a promise to each other that we will meet here again the day we finish. Same table, same beers, same fags. The three of us. What do you say’ .
Billy pulled his old camera from his bag and grinned even more widely than usual. ‘ Of course we will, I’m not one for writing letters but the day we all finish we’ll meet back here, John take a snap for us will you , just to remind us, two years is a bloody long time’.
‘ I won’t miss this warm beer or Old Johns moaning , but I will miss you two tossers’ said Jack , as he moved onto the bench the other side of Billy.
‘Just point it and shoot, even you can’t fuck that up’, although I wasn’t so sure that the snap would come out OK.
So there we sat the three of us. Three mates waiting to head off to do our National Service, knowing we would not see each other for two years from the day we went in. Knowing that when we were done, life would be different, we would be different.
Billy, Jack and Mike. The village kids off to serve Her Majesty.