Convalescence & Venice
Eric had previously stayed in Liverpool with Reginald’s great friend, Dr. John Owen (no relation), who was Godfather to Eric’s sister, Elaine. Both Eric and Elaine remembered John very fondly. He always dined in a dj and often took Eric to the theatre but would generally leave for a while to attend one of his clinics, collecting Eric at the end. Sadly, venturing out on a cold, damp evening on a visit to a patient he caught a fatal chill. He had worked at the Royal Infirmary and Eric discovered that staff there regarded him as something of a saint. He also ran two clinics either side of the river, the one for the wealthy subsidising the one for the poor. Eric spent several weeks at the Royal Infirmary - Winifred and Reginald visited him there - and then convalescing. Whilst still on sick leave he and Winifred went down to Cornwall, at Reginald’s request, to look at an interesting castle that was for sale. The train was crowded and, despite his walking stick, he had to stand throughout the journey, only to find when they got there that Lawrence Olivier had just bought the place.
Eric then went to a depot for recently wounded officers until he was fit for service, before joining an infantry division training for the final push on the Japanese. This involved much of the south coast of England with the whole division staying in seaside towns; Eric stayed at St. Leonards on Sea. They were still training when it was announced that the war was over and they were eventually dispersed to different units; Eric was sent to Venice with others to relieve soldiers returning for demobilisation.
The civil administration there had broken down so the army had taken over and Eric was in charge of payment and supplies for over one hundred men - not his cup of tea! He reported to HQ in a palace on the Grand Canal then to an office where all but one man had gone out for the evening! They discovered that all the meat, sugar and other provisions had gone and HQ advised him to notify the civil police. They brought in a bruised and battered elderly couple who had been caught cutting up the meat. They got most of provisions back. After a while he got used to the responsibility and was able to enjoy the beautiful sights and go to the theatre. He also learned to ski; he already played rugby in the army (see pictures). One of his companions there, Bert Whitham, became the Godfather of Eric’s son Peter. After about six months he returned via Vialach in Austria to England and demobilisation.