The more observant (assuming there is anyone) reading this may have noticed that I've been spending quite a lot of time, recently, attempting to compile videos and creating a new lay-out for this web-site than writing blogs. So, what follows might be considered more 'History' than 'News'.
Earlier blogs about the visit to north Devon seem to have concentrated on the 'reunion' part of the occasion. However, another important aspect of the exercise had been to become reacquainted with the area where our training had taken place. In that respect, the most obvious difference my former tent-mate from Christmas Island, Barry Hands, and I noticed was the width of the roads - and not just the roads; this bridge at Bideford (below), for example, seems to have been widened since we were there in the fifties.....
Speaking of bridges, some hadn't even been built in those days (see below). So far as I can remember, I took the photograph of the new bridge, whilst standing on the old one and, despite the fact I believe the original bridge has been widened, it isn't nearly as wide (nor as high) as the new one.
Another interesting factor was the width of the roads within the town. It seemed to me that those on the east of the bridge (to the right in the first photo) remained as narrow as we recall them to have been - whereas, on the other side of the river, I suspect the wharf may have been extended into the river since we were last there. In any event, after a walk around the town centre, there was plenty of room for a pleasant stroll along the riverside.
Barry and I spent about an hour wandering around Bideford. However, although we used to drive our DUKWs across the bridge and through the town quite often during our training, it wasn't somewhere many of us would go during our free time.........
............That dubious honour belonged to Barnstaple (a town which claims a more worthy distinction of being the oldest borough in the United Kingdom). The photograph (above) was taken from a spot very close to where the old bus station used to be and I was happy to see that what used to be the cinema (the white building) remains where I imagined it was. We also established that the building next to it had been a dance-hall. However, Barry (who led a far more active social life than I did) had recollections of another dance-hall in the town and, after a stroll around the very busy town centre (it was a Saturday), we found it. It's a theatre now.
And so ended a pleasant wander - or, in Barry's case, a waltz - down Memory Lane and we returned to our hotel - where, before the formal dinner, Barry and I presented a slide-show of our Christmas Island experiences to three or four dozen former DUKW drivers and their friends.