Hearsay 1 The First Tale

Get Compton Castle’s crew together and they will be sure at sometime to talk of their world of the Dart and the world of war. Some of the tales may not stand up to to close inspection but truth and fable will blend quite comfortably.

Captain Steer will remember when Agatha Christie journeyed on the Compton.

"She had with her one time a small man, pale suit, waxed moustache. He kept pacing up and down, wouldn't sit still. He was looking for her and she were avoiding him as if deliberate like. She kept writing bits on a notebook. I ‘eard them speak. He was foreign, French maybe. They left the boat at Dittisham. He was in front and as she passed me she said, ‘ isn't he wonderful what a character he will make? Yes, Death on the Dart might be a good title.’ “

Harold Rundle liked talking about his other boat HMS Furious.

"She’d a crew of 1400. Was a cruiser till they shoved a new deck on ‘er, and lo and behold aircraft carrier Furious was born. I was a batman. We met the convoy carrying food and stores to Malta. Saw Ohio with the fuel. And I saw those Spitfires off safe that flew to Malta. There weren’t many planes left."

Tom would tease Harold.

"It was us in submarines that--------”

Harold would intervene.

“ Oh ‘ere we go again. Churchill should never ‘ave said what ‘e did. You lot Tom just got too cocky."

And then came Tom’s Churchill impersonation with a distinct Devon twang. " --of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariner."

"Give it a rest."

“ I ain't finished. Great deeds are done in the air and on land nevertheless, he said, nothing surpasses our efforts."

When the war was over the Dart and its paddlers gave employment once more to the men who returned. They soon settled back into to a way of life they had yearned for during those dark years.

To thousands of holidaymakers as well the Dart was an escape for a week or so each year.

The men who once again worked on the river day-in day-out, were back. When away they thought often of this place. It was their solace when they were afraid. Now, home and safe they could let their minds wander back to those uncertain days.

As Compton Castle paddled up and down, there and back, the crew might be physically present but often mentally they were elsewhere. From a safe refuge of a paddle steamer they allowed themselves to occasionally step back into wartime memory knowing they could return again when recollections become too raw. The sound of laughter, splashing water, the colours and reflections of sky and land on their river pulled them to safety. This and other boats became a sanctuary, a precious place to value and treasure. The association of these men and their boats had an almost religious quality. They grew to revere them.

Yet too much contentment could lead to boredom, so the men of the paddlers often slipped back into wartime recollection.

" We . We ! How I won the war single-handed! Bollocks!” muttered Harold Rundle.

"You're just jealous ‘Arold that Winston never mentioned you," Tom responded.