AUNT GERTIE

Gertrude Hooper (née Rutter) 1884 – 1989

AUNT GERTIE

AUNT GERTIE 1988

GERTRUDE VIOLET was born to William and Lucy Rutter in 1884. These were my great grandparents and so Gertrude was my great aunt. She grew up in the baker’s shop on Queen’s Road, Stradbroke, Suffolk. She married Robert Hooper in 1909. Their eldest son Geoffrey was born a year later by which time the couple had moved to Bury St Edmunds. Their second son Hector (b. 1912) died shortly after birth. Next came the twins Eric and Jack (John) and finally in 1918 Colin (always known by his second name Paul).

From my diary, 1973;  (our family had gone to North Wootton  to visit Uncle Arthur and Aunt Peggy Sansom)….The Sansoms gave us sherry. Jill has had sinusitis. Lunch was tomato soup, ham and tongue, pear chutney, salad etc, and apple pie and cream. Dad snoozed a little after. We had coffee. They have a puppy dog, a labradaniel called Danny, a sweet little creature. Dad was very fond of him. Then Aunt Jean and Uncle Jack Hooper arrived for tea. They had walked from Mill House in Tennyson Avenue,  and Uncle Eric drove  Aunt Gertie round later. We all agreed that Aunt G. is wonderful for her age. [She was a youthful 88 at the time-she would live to be over 105.]

The Rutters are a large family, and they have kept a lot of details of their family life.  This following account is based on the facts of her life recorded by Aunt Gertie at the age of about a hundred years old.

At the age of 15 she became a pupil teacher at Stradroke School, later moving on to Lavenham and a school near Ipswich. As a young school teacher she learnt to play the violin; she was already a pianist and played the American organ (a type of Harmonium) at the Baptist chapel in Stradbroke. Soon after she was 21 she was given a school of her own with a teacher under her. On marrying she had to give up teaching and moved to Bury St Edmunds where her husband was a grocer’s assistant. In 1925 the family moved to Bardwell in Suffolk when her husband took over the grocer’s shop there. After three years they moved again, this time to a larger shop in Haddenham on the Isle of Ely. During their time at Haddenham Aunt Gertie was on the Parish Council.

In 1939 her husband retired aged 57 and they moved to Linton in Cambridgeshire. With the coming of war she joined the billeting committee, dealing with the evacuees from London. In 1941 her husband died suddenly. The war being in progress Gertie moved to Cambridge and went to work as a Civil Servant in Christ’s College, part of which had been taken over by the Government. She was involved with issuing Ration Books to the public, and with the supply of scarce goods to shops. Two of her sons joined the Fire Service and one joined the Pay Corps. The youngest son joined the infantry. She does not record the fate of her youngest son Paul except to say that he was missing believed drowned. In greater detail this is what I have discovered about his end.

Paul Hooper joined up as a Private in the Cambridgeshire Regiment at the beginning of the Second World War. With other members of the Regiment and also men of the Royal Norfolks he was sent to Singapore. With the fall of that city in 1942 he was made a PoW of the Japanese and endured the hardships of that harsh imprisonment with his colleagues. In February of 1944 he was, along with the other prisoners, loaded on the cargo ship Hofuku Maru to be evacuated to Japan. The convoy was carrying 5000 British and Dutch PoWs. In July the ship sailed from Singapore.

They had already been months coped up in the hold and conditions aboard were appalling. These only got worse when the ship left the convoy with engine trouble. For over a month the prisoners were kept on board while the ship docked in Manila. While the engines were repaired the men were suffering from disease, malnutrition, heat and thirst. Eventually the ship resumed its passage to Japan. On 21 September the Hofuku Maru joined a new convoy of eight ships and was 80 miles north of Corregidor (an island in the Philippines) when it was attacked by over 100 planes from American aircraft carriers. The ships were not showing the red cross or any other indication of the nature of their cargo. All the ships in the convoy were sunk and of 1289 PoWs aboard the Hofuku Maru all but 142 were drowned.

After the war Aunt Gertie moved to London to lived with Jack her unmarried son who was a company director. She went with him to live Sheffield where his work had taken him in 1971. They moved to Fornham near Bury St Edmunds in 1975 when Jack retired. His twin brother Eric retired as manager of Lloyds Bank in Stroud in 1976. Jack died  in 1978 soon after retirement. Eric’s wife Kath died in 2003 in Worcester.

In the 1920s and 30s she and her family had several European holidays; Switzerland was her especial favourite. She stated that she enjoyed travel in her younger days.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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