Frank Gomersall

Father tells his own stories   Chapter 1       Chapter 2        Chapter 3

Sadly, my father died on 3rd November 2000, aged 87, of a severe stroke. Following is the text of the eulogy given by his son Victor.

Although our purpose on this occasion is to celebrate the life of my father, it is only human to feel intense grief on his death. Heather, my brothers and I already miss his love and support, his warm and kind advice, and his alert and lively humour. We cannot but be sad having lost him so suddenly.

However, we also have an infinity of reasons to be happy for him. Father was at the joyful occasion of his grandson Chris’s wedding only just over one week ago. As well as witnessing my son’s wedding to Angie, the occasion enabled him to be with his youngest son - my brother Alan - and his wife Carole, who live in Sydney. Right here in this church, we have a happy photograph of my Father taken on that occasion last week, with his beaming, impish smile.

Unfortunately, my brother Robert is not able to be here. He is sailing in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Italy. We made intense efforts to contact him via mobile phone and e-mail, but he only received our e-mail last night, as he had been at sea in severe storms for the past 5 days. He arrived in port and checked e-mail immediately, only to be confronted with the devastating news. He phoned us straight away. Robert wants me to express on his behalf, the loss that we all feel, and his sadness at not being able to be present. He has sent a wreath from himself, Wendy and Annalise, which is on the coffin now.

Also absent today, but for a splendid reason, is his grandson Chris, who is now on his honeymoon in Bali. We spoke to Chris on the telephone, and he wishes to send his and Angie’s respects and deepest condolences.

Father had a great deal of experience of funerals in his childhood. He was born in Urmston, near Manchester, in 1913. The street on which he lived led to Urmston Parish Church, and in those days, horses drew all the funeral hearses. As a ten-year old, his duty was to follow behind the procession with a bucket and spade, and collect the horse manure for his Father’s rose garden.

At school, he was captain of the under 14 football team, and his team won every match except one. He subsequently played in the first eleven both in football and in cricket. He left school at the age of 16, to join the Midland Bank. These were the 1930 depression years, when jobs and money were scarce. To make life more difficult, his father Hubert died in 1936, when my father was only 22. As the youngest of the family, my father was the only child still home at that time. His father’s pension died with him, leaving my father to take care of his mother. They moved to West Yorkshire to live in more economical country accommodation.

My father was 26 in 1939 at the outbreak of war, and he immediately volunteered for the navy. He started as an ordinary seaman and trained at Chatham, during which time he swept roads around the base, and other fairly menial tasks. Then he joined a destroyer "HMS Valorous" on convoy work in the North Sea. Soon after this he was sent to Hove near Brighton on officer training and was subsequently promoted to the rank of Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant. He was granted one month leave in 1941, immediately prior to his first posting to Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa.

He married my Mother, Eileen, during this leave, in the Congregational Church in Woodford Green, Essex. This church was later totally destroyed by German bombs. He then served for two years (without leave) in West Africa, which in those days was called "the white man’s grave" mainly because of the risk of malaria. At first he was engaged in ciphering at the shore base in Freetown, then later on board the depot ship "Edinburgh Castle". He was relieved in August 1943 and sailed home to England calling at Gibraltar en route.

After being re-united with my mother on one month leave, he was posted as Paymaster at the new Naval base at HMS Wolverston, in Suffolk, near Ipswich. Fortunately, here Mother and Father were able to live in a rented cottage near the base, in a pretty village called Chelmondiston. This is where I was born.

At Wolverstone the Navy was preparing landing craft, on the nearby River Orwell, for the planned and highly secret allied ‘D’ day crossing to France. On one memorable occasion early in 1944, my father visited Chatham to attend a conference regarding ‘D’ day, with the Paymaster Commander from Harwich, and went to lunch with the Rear Admiral. The ordinary seamen, who were sweeping the roads at the time, just as my father had done himself only four years earlier, all stood to attention and saluted as the official car swept past.

Around this time, My father, mother and I (a tiny baby) were in the cottage when a German doodlebug (or flying bomb, a sort of un-guided missile) fell on the church next door, totally destroying it. The roof of the cottage partly fell in and all the windows shattered, but luckily, none of us was injured.

In 1946 Father was posted as acting Commander, to HMS Pepys, a shore base on Manus Island in the Admiralty islands, just North of Papua New Guinea. This was a short posting to close down the base, salvage remaining stores, and carry personnel and stores to Sydney. On his way out by sea Father saw Suez, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Singapore, then by plane via Darwin and Brisbane to Sydney. He sailed from Manus to Sydney in HMS Newfoundland. So he saw quite a lot of Australia at that time, and liked what he saw. He returned home to England in May 1946, just two months after my brother Robert was born.

Back in ‘civvy street’, Father resumed his career in the Midland Bank, taking up an appointment in Bradford, Yorkshire. In 1949 he transferred to Head Office in London, and we moved to Highams Park. Here in 1951 was born my brother Alan, who just spoke a few moments ago. I have happy memories of our warm family life in that Edwardian/Victorian red brick house. Robert and I played in the large garden and climbed our enormous pear tree. Father organised Robert and me to pick apples and pears and wrap them up in newspaper and stack them in the garage. This way they were well preserved for up to a year, and Mother had a continuous supply of fruit for cooking pies, stews and tarts.

In 1954 we moved to Preston in Lancashire where father was appointed Assistant Manager of the Midland, and we stayed there for 8 years. I remember Father coming home from work always immaculately dressed in his suit and tie, and de-briefing Alan, Robert and myself about our day at school. Then Mother would call us all together for our evening meal, and then every evening Father would settle down to more bank work, which he carried back and forth every day in his well-worn leather briefcase.

In 1962 Father was promoted to Manager at Deansgate Branch in Manchester, and he chose to live in Macclesfield in Cheshire. We lived in a lovely large old house called "The Homestead", surrounded by a public park and fronting onto a pleasant lake. Father was a very keen gardener and was justly very proud of the landscaping improvements and numerous new plantings he made, in addition to maintaining ¾ acre of existing gardens. I think it was 1967 or 1968 when he was promoted to his last bank posting, in Hanley, near Stoke-on-Trent. Father was able to travel to work by fast electric train South from Macclesfield to Hanley, just as previously he had travelled North to Manchester, and so luckily we did not need to move house.

Father retired from the bank in 1973, and was able to enjoy an active life especially in the garden at the Homestead. Mother was a very active member of the Congregational Church in Macclesfield, and I well remember the Church garden-parties held at the Homestead.

By this time Robert and I were both overseas, and Alan was in London. In 1980 Mother and Father decided to come out to Australia where Robert was in Queensland, and my family and I were in Victoria. Father had always fondly remembered Australia from his visits whilst in the Navy, and Mother needed to move to a warmer drier climate because of her severe arthritis. They eventually settled here in Leopold, at 20 Nathan Court. Mother was extremely happy to be welcomed into this Uniting Church, and Father enjoyed working in their much smaller but delightful garden there. It was fabulous that my Mother and Father were so close to my family and me, after we had been so far apart in foreign lands for many long years.

Tragically, Mother died in 1987 after a prolonged stroke.

I believe Don will talk to you about events in Father’s life since then. The wonderful truth is that Father and Heather have enjoyed 13 fabulous years together. During this time they have travelled extensively, and led a full and rewarding life here in Leopold, together with their many friends who are here today. It is fitting that you who knew him are all here to celebrate the happiness that my father experienced in these recent years.

My brothers and I could not have had a better father. His help and encouragement to us all whilst we were growing up are vital factors in giving us the confidence we have today, and I believe we have also learned from him to take the optimistic view of life that he did.