Never a dull moment

Mister Lucky tells the life story of Ivan Potter who was born into a typical Suffolk farming family in Belstead, South of Ipswich. His first weeks of life started with a near miss, when he was wrapped up in a tin bath on the shaft of a horse-drawn seed drill. The horses spooked and he was tossed out under the drill, but his father managed to hold back the horses so he was unharmed, and ready for his next near-death experience!

The book flags up Ivan’s lucky escapades throughout the book with a clover leaf in the text. Not all his lucky events were near catastrophes, as it includes the happy time when he met his wife to be.

Mister Lucky starts with Ivan’s rural childhood and schooling where he had various changes of school as his father moved around to find work on farms and as a building labourer on Holbrook Hospital School.

He left school a bit early, as his teachers decided a few more weeks of school wouldn’t help anything else to sink in, when he began work as a fruit and poultry farm hand and the village telegram boy.

After the Second World War came, Ivan joined the Air Training Corps. He also volunteered to join the Home Guard in Belstead. It was there that he became one of six young men who volunteered for a mobile squad with special training and a secret hideout in Bentley Woods, which was associated with Churchill’s Secret Army.

He wanted to do war work, so he left the farm and began working as a plater in Ransomes & Rapier factory on Ipswich Docks. He tells how the workers didn’t bother to go to the shelters for a normal air raid warning, until they heard a secondary siren which meant enemy had been sighted on course, in which case they did stop work and take cover. Ivan was very glad of this one morning when a Fokke-Wulf engine came through the roof and landed right next to his work bench! He also tells how he watched the huge Hermann bomb drop in Holywells Park.

Despite hearing of older friends dying at war, Ivan volunteered for the RAF and trained as a wireless operator/air gunner on Lancaster bombers, having a crash landing in a Wellington along the way. He had a few issues with RAF discipline which meant he had to spend time in ‘the glasshouse’. While he was away, his crew replacement was killed over the Wash. The end of the war meant that Ivan was lucky enough to never go on Operations himself, and obviously survived the war.

Ivan wanted to join the Suffolk police, but they had just put the height requirement up by an inch which excluded him. Instead he went to work on the railways, and so began a long career where he said he enjoyed every single day, despite the major incident on the bombs train and other near misses for him and deaths on the tracks.

The story is well told with plenty of humour making it easily readable and most enjoyable. His recollections are not detailed for railway or aeroplane buffs, but rather concentrate on the social history and personal side. When I noted that Ivan had been on the railways for many years, I wondered if that part might be of no interest to me, but there really isn’t a dull moment in the whole book.

A.S. December 2017