Wartime book is a tribute to Alf’s parents

Alf Cartwright with his book KeepThe Home Fire Burning

Alf Cartwright with his book KeepThe Home Fire Burning

Few people could have been prouder than his father the day Alf Cartwright signed up to join the army. It was 1956 and he was just 18.

Sid Cartwright served in the Royal Army Service Corps in the Second World War and that was where his son was headed.

But tragedy befell the Cartwright family just six months later when Alf was called to see his commanding officer and informed his dad had been killed working on a railway line near Salterhebble in Halifax.

It was all the more sad as Alf had only truly known his dad for 10 years. Sid had been conscripted in the early part of the war when Alf was just two and had only returned home for good another six years later.

The bond between the two however had grown strong in the intervening years yet suddenly it was snatched away.

“He wasn’t just my dad, he was my best friend,” said Alf who is now 78 and lives with his wife Maureen in Exley.

When he retired, Alf, for want of something to “occupy his mind”, penned his first book, an account of his years in the armed forces called The Queen’s Shilling.

Now eight years later in his second offering Keep The Home Fires Burning he pays homage to his father with an account of his time serving with 138 Field Ambulance Company coupled with a vivid description of the struggle his mother Ivy faced back home in Lee Mount bringing up three young children with work scarce and the privations of rationing.

Even now the pain of losing his father is obvious.

“I can remember the morning I left home. My dad got up early. We had a good breakfast and chatted. As I left he said ‘Alf, be a good soldier’. That always drove me on.”

Sid’s story is based on tales he shared with Alf, from the rigours of training to the horrors of the front line. From El Alamein to the push through Italy.

“I had the stories but I needed to go to the library to match them up with dates and places. I quite enjoyed that,” he said.

His account of life in Halifax reminds us just how tough things were. Alf remembers his mother juggling work as a cleaner at the Old Cock pub with raising him and his sisters, of her constantly rushing them into air raid shelters and of the horrific night of November 22, 1940 when a German bomb dropped at the end of Hanson Lane killing 11 people.

Keep the Home Fires Burning costs £8.99. Quote ISBN number 978-1-78507-762-3 in any book store.