Colin Cross arrived home from work to discover the hallway of his house full of cardboard boxes, large plastic bags and assorted household detritus, the under stairs cupboard door was open and he could hear Mrs Cross chuntering away to herself.
“Now then Mrs Cross” Colin said “What are you up to”?
“You know the girls are up this weekend, well Kate asked if I could dig out her old Button Moon books, she wants to give them to Theresa’s kids”. “Fair enough” said Colin, “Owt else of any interest under there”? His wife came out of the cupboard with an old Jacobs Cream Cracker tin which she handed to him, “have a look in there” she said.
Colin opened the tin and surveyed the contents. Memories of his childhood, long consigned to the back of his mind, came flooding back, in amongst the old coins, photographs and various knick knacks was a set of jacks and a ball, a couple of his dads Cheltenham badges from his days as a bookies clerk and the dull brass casing of a .303 bullet.
A Day at the Seaside
Colin and his cousin Stephen used their elbows to stealthily climb up the sand dune. Once they reached the top they carefully peered over the edge, wary in case any German sentries might be looking their way.
About 300 yards behind them and to their left the guard tower, its red flag not fully raised, was gently flapping in the mild sea breeze. If they squinted their eyes they could just make out the tower guards, talking together in their guttural language and smoking cigarettes.
Over to their right they could hear the rest of their family chatting and laughing as they opened the biscuit tins, bottles and flasks in preparation for the picnic. If only they knew how dangerous things were, thought Colin, as he peered seaward across what seemed to be miles of sand.
Stephen and Colin had just escaped from the German POW camp on Theddlethorpe beach and were making their way, as quietly as possible, to where the dinghy was waiting to take them out to the submarine which was waiting offshore.
Stephen said, almost in a whisper “Crikey Colin, the tides right out, we’ll never make it across all that open space”. “Nay Steve, we’ll be fine, once we get on to beach proper we’ll just have to pretend we belong here and hope false papers fool t’ guards”.
Stephen smiled, even though he was only 3 months younger than Colin the age difference made Colin the natural leader in their games, whether they were soldiers, escaped POW’s, cowboys or even Indians. “Come on Steve, once we get over next hill we’ll be on beach proper and we can have a race out to water’s edge, I bet thee I’ll win an all”.
With that all pretence of being escaped POW’s was done with, the pair of boys, both barefooted and dressed alike in short trousers, short sleeved open necked shirts and v- necked sleeveless pullovers jumped feet first down the side of the dune, eager to get a head start in the race to the sea.
“Here, what’s this”? Stephen said, in his hand was a brass cylinder, a couple of inches long and vaguely bottle shaped. Colin grabbed it from him and examined it closely; there was a raised dot on the bottom of the object and some writing. “I think it’s a bullet” Colin said, “Let’s have a dig around and see if there’s any more”. The boys quickly found another casing, almost exactly the same and now, having one each, the search for more didn’t seem quite so important. “I wonder how they got here” Stephen said “I don’t know our kid, but I’ll bet me dad does” said Colin.
Just then Colin’s mums voice could be heard shouting, “Ayup you two little devils, come and get some snap before it’s all gone, there’s baps and cake ere for you both, lemonade an ‘all”. The two boys ran laughing towards the family, playfully trying to pull each other back. Whatever they did, and as close as they were, one of them always had to win.
“Here Dad, what’s this” said Colin, holding out the small brass casing. “Its bottom off a bullet from an army rifle” said Charlie Cross “Theddlethorpe beach used to be army firing range in t’war, tha sees that tower wi’t red flag yonder, that’s to warn if Army or Air Force are using beach so people don’t come on and maybe get shot”. This was fascinating information for two 7 1/2 year old boys, who looked at each other in wonder, both of them tightly holding their finds, no doubt already planning how they could be shown off to pals or used in a game.
Colin was snapped out of his reverie by his wife’s voice “Hey” she said, “where has your mind wandered off to now”.
The bullet casings had been found in August 1959 and had lived on Colin’s nanas mantle shelf with the rest of her brass, lovingly polished every Friday for years until she passed away. Stephen had died suddenly in 1978 just days after his 26th birthday, he had been Colin’s best friend for the whole of his short life and even now he was deeply missed. Nana had died in 1982 and the bullet casings were separated, one to Stephens widow and one to Colin and now, here it was in August 2016, not lost, but found again to become a window into a past that was a different, simpler world.
“Oh, nowhere really” said Colin, “I’ll make a cup of tea and give you a hand to put all this stuff back under the stairs”.