Living in Hardwick, 1948-1955

Ed Deak

The information on this page has been contributed by Ed Deak, who now lives in Big Lake, British Columbia. Ed was born in Szeged, Hungary, in 1927. He was in Vlll gymnasium when the Russians reached their suburb, NE of Budapest. The school was closed and he joined the army at 17 and ended up wounded in a German hospital in Austria. In Dec. 1945 he refused repatriation and stayed in Austria. In 1948, when the Cold War started the British government recruited a lot of young refugees, especially with military experience, and he ended up at Hardwick with 5 ethnic Germans, 4 of whom were ex-SS, albeit not war criminals. They lived in an ex Canadian Army hut built near Red Brick Farm, built on the concrete slab shown in the photo as a light coloured oblong patch near the drive way, in the triangular meadow across the road from the church. By 1951 there were only 2 of them left and Ed asked the manager, William Taylor, if he could get the hut so that he could get married. They rebuilt it into a bungalow and Ed and his wife lived there until 1955, when they went to Canada.

The gang Ed was with in 1948 when he arrived in Hardwick. It was taken in the autumn of 1948, by the water tower in the lower orchard off the Toft road.
Ed Deak's group
Left to right, standing row:
Ed Deak. Hungarian. 21 at the time
Hans Bucholzer. German from Transylvania, About 20. Ex SS.
Sid Badcock from Toft. Retired Navy man.
Reinhold Daum. German from Poland. 30. Served with the Luftwaffe searchlights, then transferred to the SS.
Bottom row: Franz Herfort. German from Sudetenland. 22 or 23. Ex SS
Franz Huhn German from Hungary, 21 ,Civilian. He was their cook.
The photo was taken by Dieter Goepfert, German from Sudetenland, 22 or 23, Ex SS. (more)

Photography was a big deal in those days, with very few people owning cameras. It took us years to buy a small box camera we still have. I don't have landscapes to speak of, and only a relatively small number on people. We could never afford our own radio and were renting one in town. 10" TV sets used to cost 10 weeks wages. My 1951 Douglas motorbike was 200 Pounds, about 2/3 of a year's wages. I bought it in London on Jan 2/51 with 545 miles on the clock. It was registered in Holyhead and somebody must have gone to London on it and had to sell it.

We enjoyed looking at the photos of your walk. There was no such thing in our days, although some hiking club members from Cambridge walked the footpaths every year to maintain their legality. There was no social life at all that we could recall. This may come as a surprise, but we don't even know where the village hall was, if there was any such thing in those days. There was no council, or any form of local government. The street names must have been established long after we were gone, as the village only had one street.

At the time we were there, the farm was made up of 4 formerly privately owned farms, more or less forcibly collectivized during the war. One of the former owners, Len Hobson and his wife and daughter were still living and working on the farm, for a while in the house they formerly owned across the driveway from us. See Life on the farm.

The Shell garage was on the corner of the main road and the road to Hardwick; it was the only one between Cambridge and Caxton Gibbet, and for a long distance past that on the road to Bedford, or on the Great North Road in either direction. A friend from Cambridge sent us some photos last year and there's some kind of a building on the location now. It was run by two partners and they had an apprentice. Very nice people, did excellent work. As we were going down to the village, one of the first houses, on the right was a very small one, owned by a Mr. Tatt (I'm not certain about the correct spelling), who was running a nursery. My wife used to go there quite often and he gave her a lot of very good advice. I think his son was the apprentice at the Shell station.

Coming down to the village, on the left side were 2 or 3 houses, close to, but not at the top road, still showing in the 1980 aerial photo. I think the postman was living in the first, or the second one. He was a retired cabinet, or piano maker. A very nice older man, always a big smile on his face. He had a very bad accident in1954. Across from the driveway leading to our farm yard and bungalow, was originally Charlie Ford's farm. The farm house was also some distance from the road. In the latter years he built a small bungalow in Canadian style, close to the vicarage driveway and moved there. When my eldest daughter Mary visited Hardwick in 1975 the bungalow was occupied by Beatrice Kester, George's widow. Charlie didn't feel like going into the army during WW1 and came to Canada, but didn't stay very long. "Too bloody cold!" he used to say, but he liked Canadian houses.

One day our postman was coming out from Charlie's farm on his bicycle when his right pedal caught on a clump of grass, or something, and he fell on the road, throwing his left arm out, just as a large lorry was passing. The front wheel of the lorry ran over his hand, it may have been braking, which made it worse, and his hand was smashed to pulp. It is a miracle that they could save the hand at all, but they did it somehow, albeit we seem to remember that when we left, he was still carrying his arm in a sling, walking around, still with a big smile on his face.

The vicar was a very quiet, shy, friendly man, who must have had the smallest congregation in England. Himself. Living across the church, we could see him going regularly to perform the services, but there was nobody in the church. He was preaching to empty pews. We felt really sorry for him, but he performed his duties to the letter. They also had a son, who went to some public school and we saw him in his uniform. I went to the vicarage, I believe, only once to ask him to sign our passport papers and we had a chat about our plans in Canada.

Ernie Ashford
Ernie Ashford

We were in the church only once through those years, when we buried Ernie Ashford (he came down with cancer and died in the winter of 54-55). Ernie was the pig man on the farm and lived in the farm house formerly occupied by Len Hobson, or Hodson, across our lane. Ernie was also a very cheerful, friendly man, always ready for a laugh. I can't remember his wife's name, as most people were called Mr. and Mrs. in those days, except the ones we were working with, but their daughters were Margaret and Jean. Margaret was married just before we came away.

If you look at the 1980 aerial photo of the village, it shows a straight concrete road, starting between the church and the old school, leading to a cattle yard. We built that road with considerable outside help at around 1952-53. The concrete mixer was set up near the school and we had a couple of small dumpsters carrying the mix into the forms. I was working on filliing the mixer.

The concrete walls of the cattle yard were built by Percy Brown from Caldecote, Basil Harper from Drayton and myself. Basil served in armoured cars in the European theatre in WW2.

English cooking was still very conservative and restricted in those days, so when Basil asked me one day, whether we had some green peas already and I told him that my wife, Marta, made a lovely soup of them the other day, he shouted over to Brown: " Hey Percy! You ever heard of green peas soup?", he replied " No, and I bloody well don't want to either!".

Ed Deak and his wife leaving Hardwick on 15 April 1955
Leaving Hardwick

The photo above shows our departure from Hardwick on April 15, 1955. We had a last cup of tea with George and Beatrice Kester and off we went, first to London, then to Southampton. We arrived in Montreal on the 27th April 1955and started off on our 4000 mile cross country trip to Vancouver on the 30th, my 28th birthday. The trip took us 4 weeks and remains one of our most unforgettable experiences, although I crossed Canada 5 more times in Rally cars later, 3 of them as the captain of the Nissan factory team.

The Trans Canada Hwy was not yet completed at the time and to go over Lake Superior, without crossing into the USA, we had to take a long detour into the forests of Northern Ontario. There was a stretch between Hearst and Longlac, where we had no settlement, fuel station, or anything, only a gravel road for 137 miles. At some places the road was so rough that I couldn't keep the bike upright with the two of us and Marta had to walk . I would ride up the road and then waited for her to catch up. The photo below shows one of those places of deep sand, near Longlac.

Near Longlac, Canada
Near Longlac

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