‘It made such an impact on my life’ Man relives national service through letters
PUBLISHED: 17:04 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:04 12 March 2019
A Beccles man has relived his period of national service in the navy, by recreating 67-year-old letters and publishing them for the world to read.
David Woodward, now 89, was on the cusp of adulthood when he joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1948.
At the age of 18, Mr Woodward left his farm work on the Waveney Valley to embark on a life-changing journey on one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy.
“Like so many other 18-year-old at the time, I had never spent a night away from home, I had rarely seen any other part of the country or met people from outside East Anglia,” Mr Woodward said.
At the time, Mr Woodward said only one in 10 men would be accepted into the Navy, and the majority of them were school educated.
In his book, An Illustrious National Service, Mr Woodward recalled: “The petty officers in charge of us understood we were suffering from homesickness, they would say ‘you’re missing your mum and dad aren’t you, son’ and they knew how to get us over it.
“In my case, scrumpy cider helped,” Mr Woodward said.
During his time on the ship, he said there were “other periods of inactivity” on the HMS Illustrious.
“With no interest in playing tombola, or spending time in a pub ashore, I took to writing letters, reading or walking around the local countryside,” he said.
In his letters, he documents his experiences and the effect they had on him, and reports back to loved ones from his home town.
After six years of writing, the book has been published by Mousehold Press in Norwich, and £1 will be donated to the sea cadets for every copy sold.
The writer said he “doesn’t think it would be a bad thing for national service to come back.
“One thing that surprised and pleased me over the years is that although my time in the Navy was short, it was a period of my life I have never forgotten.
“It made such an impact on my life,” he said.