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John Howard Bradley

A much loved Father.

Life in his own words:-

‘Over the last few years my younger daughter Cari has made a wonderful job of tracing the family history.  It commenced with some very random notes written by my late cousin Eliza, supplemented by Cari`s continual probing of me for my scanty knowledge, consisting of lots of memories mostly coming from my father who was a great raconteur.  It has not always been easy to separate fact from fiction.

Cari is now badgering me to try and write some sort of biography of my own life.  I will do my best but I fear she will be sadly disappointed.  I cannot imagine over ninety years providing a more humdrum existence.

I was born in Southport on 5th May 1910 being then the fourth son of my late father Percy.  He was the seventh son of Frederic Bradley who in fact begat altogether 10 sons and six daughters.  My father went on to have a daughter and another son by my mother and when she died in the World wide flu epidemic in 1918 he remarried in 1922 and produced two more sons.  The younger – John, was then the seventh son of my father, who was of course himself the seventh son.  Seventh of the seventh is a very rare occurrence.

To revert to myself, I was 4 years old when the Great War broke out in 1914.  I have only vague recollections of the war years.  I went to Kintergarden school – Miss Grocotts for a couple of years and then on to Holly Lea preparatory school.  I just remember the lesser hardships of rationing.  I recall farm holidays in Derwen, N. Wales where milk, butter and eggs were plentiful, and of returning with as big a stock of butter and eggs as could be carried.

November 11th 1918 was the signing of the Armistice and I can remember wandering out in the local streets listening to the ringing of church bells, clanging of bells on the trams and above all the constant noise of the ships` sirens blowing off in the Mersey and the docks.

My father and all the family caught the `flu and mother nursed us all through it.  Sadly the strain was too much.  She had two younger brothers both killed in the War who she realized would not be returning after the Armistice.  She herself was again pregnant and the strain was all too much.  She died on 11th December, exactly one month after the Armistice.

Father was left with 6 motherless children aged 13 down to 2.  He was fortunate to have a great domestic staff – 2 sisters who were cook and housemaid, a nursemaid and kitchen maid.  For a year or two he managed with occasional short term help from Mother`s sister Gwen and three of his own spinster sisters.  Finally a longer term solution was found with the engagement of a retired hospital matron – Sister McCool who ran the home in a kindly but highly efficient routine.

Business was good and George, Raymond, Osman and I were sent to Boarding School.  George for a year to Ruthin Grammar School and the other three to St. Lawrence, Ramsgate – Raymond to the senior school, Osman and I to the Junior School.  George left Ruthin and also came to St. Lawrence.

1922, Father remarried – his new wife was only a few months older than George.  Our domestic staff disappeared in a matter of weeks and we left our pleasant suburban home in Liverpool and rented Chorlton Hall near Chester.  The first I knew of the move was on breaking up from school we returned not to Liverpool but to Chester.

George and Raymond left school, George to Liverpool University and Raymond to be apprenticed on the Liverpool Cotton Market.  George later obtained a short service Commission in the RAF.

By 1925 the big slump had set in and family income was drastically reduced.  School fees were hard to come by and I left in September having had my 15th birthday in May.  Osman stayed another year as he was destined for the Medical profession via a University.  Sadly this also became impossible.

My own time at St Lawrence was a little unusual.  Although it was necessary to pass the Common Entrance Examination to get into the Senior School, no one ever failed from the Junior.  It was known as ‘pushing you in through the back door’!  I got 100% in the arithmetic, algebra and geometry, 90% in Latin and the high 80s for French.  English was always my weak subject!  The dire consequence was that having arrived at the Senior School I by-passed the lower, middle and upper fourth, remove and lower and middle fifth, straight into the upper fifth!  I missed the first 6 classes and found myself utterly out of my depth.  Trigonometry and Logarithms of which I had only heard were advanced and having to construe Latin Poets was quite beyond me.  Fortunately, I started Greek from scratch.  Second term I was relegated to the middle fifth, and 3rd and 4th terms to the lower fifth having by then taken no exams.  I then left to be apprenticed on the Liverpool Cotton Market, (Reiss Bros).

Nothing of great moment occurred except that in my last year when I was just 21 I was sent to our Manchester office to take charge.  It was only a small office consisting of a Manager, typist and office boy and was rally only an order collecting office for Liverpool.  The Manager had been taken ill and the typist was on holiday!  In those days we worked Saturday mornings and I duly arrived by train and opened the office at 9am.  At about 9.30 a client came in and said he wanted to buy 1000 bales of May delivery that morning and to sell 1000 bales May delivery in New York in the afternoon.  Being a polite young man, I explained to him that by so doing he would have to pay full commission on both transactions.  If he liked to wait until between 3 and 4 o’clock on Monday when, with the time difference the markets were both open together, I could do it for ¾ of the total commission.  He said never mind the commission I want to deal today.  I thought foolish man and duly carried out his instructions.  On Sunday the Government, out of the blue, announced the decision for Britain to come off the Gold Standard.  With the devaluation of the pound there was little difference in the New York price but the Liverpool price automatically increased by over a third.  Monday he came in and sold his Liverpool purchase at a profit of some £3,000 and bought back his New York sale at no loss.  His name was Scott.  I believe he was a relative of the famous C P Scott – editor of the Manchester Guardian.  On Tuesday the leading article of the Manchester Guardian referred to the ‘Evils of Gambling on the Liverpool Cotton Market’!

My apprenticeship completed, I was offered a job in the Accounts Dept. at £250 a year, quite a reasonable salary then.

George by then was in the RAF and Osman had got a job in Bombay.  Raymond and I were still at home but by mutual agreement we left home and went into digs.  Nora and Dick were still at home and of course my 2 half brothers Jim and John.  A few months later, Raymond who had had surgery for an unknown complaint was not picking up and after a while the Doctor told me Raymond had advanced cancer and would not be alive in 3 months time.  He in fact died exactly 3 months later.

I continued in the same digs.  Our landlady, an elderly spinster,  kept us there – her only lodgers, until he died.  I then met Dilys and we became engaged.  £250 was not a salary for a married person but requests for an increase were turned down because it was the rate for the job and no other job was available.  So I looked outside and was offered a job as a Rep for Crawfords Biscuits.  I handed in my notice and was promptly offered double salary if I would stay.  To this day I am not sure if I was wise to accept but I did and was able to get married immediately.  That was 1936, Joanna arrived June 1939 and war broke out September 1939.  I don`t think there was any connection!

Early in 1940 I received my calling up papers and opted for the RAF.  I was duly interviewed by a very young and very pompous Pilot Officer.  He was very far back and asked me ‘what would you like to do in the RAF Bradley?’  When I asked him whether there were any vacancies for Air Marshals he was somewhat taken aback and I was duly enrolled as Clerk G.D., U.T (General Duties – under training).  I did my square bashing at Padgate in May.  It was the time of the first heavy air-raids on Liverpool, but happily Dilys and Joanna had gone to stay with Dilys` sister Edna in Corwen.

On leaving Reiss Bros. to join the RAF I was called in to a partners` meeting.  It was the middle of April and I was told in recognition of my 16 years service they would pay my salary right up to the end of the month and not just 15/30ths of it – most generous!  Nearly all the firms on the market made up the Service pay to what the staff had been receiving.

Life in the RAF commenced and four of the recruits all Clerks G.D. had chummed up together.  At the end of the course, everyone received posting notices to their new Units.  We four were all posted to RAF Sydenham, much to the delight of two who were Londoners.  They were less pleased the following day when we received our travel warrants.  RAF Sydenham was in Belfast!  We duly arrived and stayed in the Orderly room awaiting assignment to various duties.  At the time they were looking for a Clerk for the Officers Mess.  I was the last to be interviewed by the Mess Secretary, a Flight Lieutenant.  He was as lost as I was but had to ask some questions.  He was glad to find I knew something about bookkeeping.  He then asked me if I was asked to covert 17/9 into the decimal of a pound, how would I go about it.  I said ‘.8875 Sir’.  He said ‘I didn`t ask for a guess, I asked how would you go about it’.  I could not help replying that 17/9 was 213 pence.  There 240 pence in a pound, 213 divided by 240 was .8875.  After about five minutes writing on a piece of paper he found my figure was right and tried me with a couple more to which I gave him an immediate answer.  Again after much scribbling he found I was right.  He said ‘I don`t think that`s how you do it but you will do for the job’.  I did not tell him that for some years I had been doing dozens of foreign exchange calculations every day – dollars, francs, marks, pesetas into sterling and I knew at a glance what shillings and pence were in decimals.

So for some months I led a very comfortable life living in the Officers Mess, feeding there and a nice little private office.  Excused all parades and guard duties and sitting there arranging the supply of cigarettes, drinks etc. for the Mess and billing the Officers for what they bought.  After a few weeks the Station CO came in and asked if I was coping and was I sticking to RAF Officers Mess rules.  I said I didn`t know there were any.  A few days later he bought me a publication saying precisely what had to be done.  Another few days he came again and again asked if I was sticking to the rules and was taken aback when I said ‘No Sir’.  He asked why and I said that apart from how to keep the accounts it was emphasized throughout that no ‘other ranks’ except Officers should have any access to Mess funds.  I said there is the safe in which there is a couple of hundred pounds.  I hold the keys.  In addition we have a few thousand pounds in the bank – the Mess Secretary is away on leave and he has left me 3 signed cheques in case money is wanted while he is away.  He simply said, when you have been in the Air Force as long as I have you will learn that all rules are made to protect the fellow above you.  The only successful Officers are those who know how to break them!

Pleasant life continued and I had managed to find rooms for Mum and Jo.  A few weeks later however, the landlady stormed in and gave us 24 hours to get out.  She had 3 young children and we were appalled at her treatment of them.  She would sit at the table literally baiting them until one of them answered back or did something wrong.  She would then lay into them with a leather strap she kept constantly by her.  She could not understand why we did not do likewise with Joanna.  Anyway it seems we were dirty people and she wanted our room.  I was lucky enough to have made some local friends who took us in.  The upheaval upset Mum.  She was then 3 or 4 months pregnant and had a miscarriage.  The old lady – about 70 – looked after Mum.  For a week or so Jo came with me on my bike and spent the day in my Office.  Some while later when Mum was fully recovered the old lady had a heart attack and Mum was able to look after her and repay her kindness.

Some months later the CO came to see me again.  There was no flying at the station and it had been built as a Reserve for use in case of stations in England being bombed out of use.  The Air Ministry had decided to open up the use of the Station mainly for resting squadrons who had been in the thick of the fighting.  The new squadron would arrive in a couple of weeks.  They would bring their own Mess Secretary and Mess Clerk and would take over all the Mess Accounts.  We had built up a nice little surplus of nearly £2000 which would be lost.  Would I work out exactly how much we had and we would blow it all on a welcoming party.  There was a marvelous ‘do’ but I had to go and duly handed everything over to the incoming clerk.  I departed and was posted to a newly formed RAF Regiment squadron which needed an Orderly Room Clerk.  It was much harder work but I managed quite well.  One morning some weeks later I was walking to work when the CO came past and he received a very smart salute.  He stopped and got off his bike and said he was sorry I had made such a mess of the accounts.  Apparently we did not have any such surplus.  The money spent on the party had to be made good by the old officers on the station.  The Accountant Officer had confirmed my figures were wrong and that was it.  Although no liability was on me I told the CO I had kept accounts too long and would like to see what mistake I was supposed to have made.  The CO thought it was hopeless but he would try and get an enquiry.  I was called to a meeting consisting of the CO, the Squadron Commander, the new Mess Secretary and the old one and an Accountant Officer from Headquarters in Northern Ireland.  After that I was told nothing officially but off the record the CO told me that as a result of a further enquiry the clerk had been courtmartialled and convicted of fraud.  He went to jail and was dismissed the Service.  Apparently he tried to cover up his ill gotten gains and blamed it on a deficiency when he took over.

In due time I was recommended for a Commission and after an 8 week course at Cosford I was duly commissioned.  Not that it made the slightest difference.  All the new officers were asked their preferences.  Would they like home or abroad; prefer Squadron or Station life; large or small units etc., etc.  I expressed no preference and my first posting was to a Radar station at Dalby, Isle of Man.  I was billeted with a 95 year old widow and her 70 year old daughter.  When I wrote to my father giving him my new address, he wrote me saying Grandfather Young had a holiday cottage in Dalby and indeed I had stayed there before I was a year old.  I asked the old lady, Mrs Claque, if she had ever known of a Dr Young with a cottage in the district.  Whow!  I was home from home – she had been his housekeeper and looked after the place when he was not there.  Her husband had had a small boat and took my grandfather out fishing in the bay.  In her eyes there was no-one like Dr Young.  I could do no wrong and shortly after, Mum and Jo joined and we all lived together.

Radar was still very secret and although I was Officer in charge for the station I was not allowed in the operations block.  We had some amusing times but nothing of great import.  After a couple of months I was sent on an Administration course to Stannington in Northumberland.  It lasted 6 weeks and I left Mum and Jo in the care of the Claques.  In fact I never went back to the Island except to collect my belongings.  I had been posted to St Bees in Cumberland.  Again I was fortunate enough to find lodgings for Mum and Jo although I had to sleep in a Nissan Hut on the station.  Again nothing of significance except a visit from the CO of our Wing Headquarters which were in Liverpool.  Under his Command there were 16 Radar Stations ranging on the Coast from St Bees down to Aberystwyth including 4 stations in IOM and 2 in Northern Ireland.  He told me all the Officers in charge of stations were rookies like myself but that all the stations were in constant trouble for some major or minor breakdown in administration but somehow nothing seemed to go wrong on my Station!  He had decided to hold a conference in Liverpool and I was to address the conference on how a station should be run.  I was able to show him my mail waiting attention that had arrived that morning.  There were at least a dozen letters from different sections at Wing Headquarters plus a few from Group and direct from Air Ministry plus sundries from locals about billeting arrangements for personnel and local purchases, use of land which we occupied etc.  I said it was utterly impossible to take action on every letter so my first priority was to sort them out – take action on what I thought mattered and simply file the rest.  He said I probably had the secret but he decided to scrap the conference.

Not long afterwards I had a posting out of the Group altogether to a Flight Lieutenant post.  Our CO could move his officers around his own Wing as he liked but had no control outside.  But he did have influence.  One of the officers in the Wing was completely thick and never seemed to do anything right.  The CO decided that he should get this promotion and persuaded RAF Records to substitute his name for mine.  Records agreed and the other officer went and the CO promised he would find me a Flight Lieutenant`s post very quickly.  Sadly the CO himself was posted overseas a few days later and that was the last I heard of my promotion.

Soon after I was taken into Headquarters for an organizing job.  This was in Liverpool where I remained for about a year.  We got a furnished house in Queens Drive and shortly after, Gwlad and Raymond (Dyl`s cousin and son) joined us.  Alan was overseas and Gwlad was near London which was being very badly bombed.

It was then decided to merge 77 Wing with another and Liverpool was closed down.  I was then posted to Happisburg (pronounced Haysboro) in Norfolk and Mum and Gwlad continued to live in Queens Drive.  Sometime later I was posted to a very secret mobile Unit.  We went to Belgium then France and finally Germany wandering around the continent generally and I was still in Germany when the war ended.

Back to civilian life with a ‘redundancy’ payment from the RAF of £78 and an outfit of civilian clothes.  My first call was on my old employers.  From a staff of over one hundred when I left, they now had four, so clearly there were no prospects there.  I was now 36 years old and I thought if I could find employment in an Accountants` office there was always the chance of being given an opportunity with one of their clients.  With this in mind I knocked on the door of Glass & Edwards, a firm quite unknown to me.  After a short interview I was surprised at their suggestion that I should take Articles.  The thought of this was very attractive but I put forward certain problems:

  1.  Having left school at 15 and no exam qualification it would be necessary for me to take the Institute`s own preliminary exam which was the equivalent of getting 5 ‘O’ levels at one sitting.
  2. Articled Clerks were not paid and I had a wife and two children to keep.
  3. Premiums were then normal at anything between 300 and 500 guineas.
  4. Articles were for 5 years.

They answered:

  1. The Institute had a scheme to waive the preliminary exam for ex-servicemen.
  2. I should try for a government training grant.
  3. The firm would waive any premium.
  4. Period of Articles for ex-servicemen was reduced from 5 to 3 years, although the full exams had to be taken.

I agreed but had difficulty in getting the maintenance grant.  The official explained to me that the grants were for ‘people who by reason of their war service could not go back to the previous occupations’.  He said it was nothing to do with my war service.  It was simply that the occupation was not there.  On appeal I was given a grant of £4 a week for self, wife and 1 child plus an extra 5/- for the second child.

Sometime later the Labour government brought in a scheme for giving parents 5/- a week for every child after the first.  I thought this was great until my maintenance was reduced by 5/- because I would be getting that amount in child allowance.

Things went well except that I was given some interesting new assignments in my work.  This entailed a considerable amount of taking office work home – both evenings and weekends, which I found much more interesting than exam swatting – to the detriment of the latter.  However, although I failed the final exam at the first attempt I passed at the second and so I qualified within 3 ½  years compared with the basic 5 years articles.  As a matter of interest the Firm asked me if I would consider my long term career with them and in fact offered me a partnership when I qualified even before I had taken the intermediate.

I found life very interesting and my work ranged from a High Court tax case, through many arguments with the Revenue, and Audits of large multi company concerns, to small individual traders and many annual tax returns and claims on behalf of individuals, many of them elderly ladies.

Partnership arrangements were a little unusual.  Incoming partners were not asked to pay anything for Goodwill but for the first five years received a small share of the profits.  Similarly when a partner retired or died he or his estate received no payment for Goodwill but were given a further year`s profit in 5 annual instalments.

In the event Alf Glass died, John Glass retired, Fred Williams died and Cyril Boase died all within a space of about 10 years.  So, although with still limited experience, I found myself senior partner!  There were no real problems but a year or two later I had a chance meeting with another friend of mine in Practice.  I asked him if he had ever thought of amalgamating and he said that he had had a partners` meeting only the day before when they discussed the very question.  They had in fact listed 3 firms that they might approach and ours was at the top of the list.  Within a month we had joined and we initialed some heads of agreement.  I was given the job of drawing up a Partnership agreement.   This was over 30 years ago and until I retired I never found time to do anything about it.

I had always taken an interest in the affairs of the Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants.  This covered an area of Liverpool, South West Lancashire, the Wirral, parts of Cheshire and all of North Wales.  In all over 100 practising firms and well over 1000 members of the Institute, either practicing or in employment.  It took a lot of time.  Also I was on the Committee of the Students Association.  Within 7 years of qualifying I was elected Student`s President and I was also asked to join the Committee of the Liverpool Society and in 1963 was elected President, having been unpaid Secretary for a couple of years.

Amongst my sidelines I was invited on to the board of the Liverpool College of Commerce.  There were about 20 members, half of which were appointed by the City Council and the other half by various local societies such as our own, the Liverpool Law Society, Bankers Institute, Building societies Association, Dock & Harbour Board, Chamber of Commerce etc.  In my first year I was appointed Chairman of the Board.  It was all quite interesting but I learnt a great deal from the machinations of the City Council nominees all jockeying for personal advantage plus do-gooders of various sorts.  I could tell some tales!

I finally resigned when the College of Commerce, College of Law, College of Building, College of Art were all amalgamated into one to form a faculty in the New John Moores University.  I was asked to continue but I had had enough.

Having written so much about myself and happenings over the years I realise I have made little mention of the most important thing of all.  I married Dilys on 5th December 1936.  She married a man with not a single penny of Capital and a small monthly salary.  I gave her thirty shillings (£1.50) a week out of which she fed us and paid the gas, coal and electric.  Also somehow she managed to save a shilling or two to save up for holidays.  Joanna arrived in 1939 and then 3 months later war broke out.  Our quiet existence was turned upside down.

In the war years she carried the responsibility and loyally supported me all the time of my call up and thereafter when possible joined me in my various postings.  Robert arrived in 1943 to add to her problems!  Transition from ‘other ranks’ to Commissioned Officer eased financial difficulties a little although constant anxiety as to the future continued.  With the end of the war we were faced with no job prospects but she constantly encouraged me through the hard times of working for examinations and ‘minding the family’.  She was even more proud than I when the day finally came when I became a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.  Finances were a little easier but she still shared with me and encouraged me in the problems of bringing up and educating our family.  She and I were both 40 when Cari (Carolyn) arrived to make up the first phase of our family.

We had been married for 62 years when she finally left us.  Sad that she did not survive to see the arrival of our first great grandchild.  What joy it would have been to her.  All I can do is to thank God for the blessings she bestowed on me.

Holly Lea Prep School, Wavertree, Liverpool c. 1916

Back Row left to right: John Clayton, ?, Cyril Porter, Osman Bradley, Harger, Raymond Bradley, Laddy Bramley, Wilfred Stoddart, Downes

Second to back row: ?, Howard Bradley, Frank Bartlett, Philip Thompson, ?, Hector D’Ayala, Jock Bartlett, John Petroiulo, ?, ?, George Verburgh

Second from front row: Jack Temple, ?, ?, H. Leigh Lye, Miss Leigh Lye, Mrs Matthews, Mrs Leigh Lye, A W Fletcher, Victor Acrotopulo

Front row: ?, Murray Gladstone, Alan Temple, ?, ?, ?, George Walford, ?, ?, ?

Names in italics are only possibles.

Flying Officer Bradley (photo taken by Trabert Hilders (Rhon) Germany
Unknown apart from Howard back row on the right.
Howard 2nd row from front, 4th from the right.
THE 10 Shilling note given by Howard to Dilys on their wedding day 5/12/36. This is now in my possession.