I’m Dennis Kalahar. I’m 74. I was born and brought up in Newport. I lived with my mother, father, two younger sisters, two older sisters and two older brothers. I have two older brothers served in the war. Daniel served in the Navy, Donald was a gunner in the artillery. Donald was just 18 when he joined up.
Whilst my brothers were away, my father was working in the Newport Docks. The Dockers’ jobs were very important because they were loading ships with tanks, guns, equipment and food for the troops serving abroad. His job was discharging and loading ships. Most of it in the war was tanks, food, ammunition for the soldiers. Some of the boats didn’t come back. Some of them was lost in the channel on the way out. My father was a member of the Army Response Party. He worked on rota when he wasn’t working at the docks. I used to watch them practising and they’d be two lying down with a hose in their hand and one commander in front of them and farther down the road at the end there’d be a gentleman with a bucket of sand and a bucket of water with a stirrer pump inside it and he’d be pumping the water around the hose so that number one or the number two, who were lying down, would put out the fire, which was a bit of oily rag alight, just for practising. When he went to work, you didn’t know when he was gonna come home.
We had many allotments between our families in our street. We dug for victory. Our back garden was full of chickens, which fed our neighbours. They in return helped feed the chickens with peelings from their allotments. Everyone helped everyone else.
When the air raid siren sounded the whole family would run to the shelter at the bottom of the garden. I can remember watching the horse and cart bringing the shelters into our street and putting them into the garden. I can also remember rationing in school. We had our feet measured, for the bigger your feet the more ration tickets you got. Food was still limited. Everything we needed we had a value and a worth of different number of ration tokens. If you wanted something worth a lot of tokens we had to miss out on something else.
From our shelter, we had a good view. Sometimes, when we were there, my father would open the door a little and we could see the flared lighting up the sky across the Bristol Channel. We would squash into the shelter night after night.
I can remember Donald’s body coming home, he had a full military escort, the Union Jack was covering his coffin.
In 1954 I joined the army as an 18 year old. Done 6 months training in Brecon. Then I was shipped out to Brunswick then where I done 18 months service with the South Wales Borders in Brunswick, in Germany. I had various jobs when I was in the army looking after the soldiers who come in for different scratches and bruises and breaks. If it was very serious we used to send them by ambulance to Hannover, to the main hospital. The driver was German; he had to do what we told him, very obedient. He was very good workers for us really.