A RELUCTANT SEAMAN by Leslie Scrase
In this third autobiographical novel we follow Roger Wallace as he faces the
and culture shock of National Service in the Royal Navy from 1949 to 1951.
To begin with it seems that life is just an endless nightmare of fatigues and
training, but fortunately Roger
’s prowess at cross-country helps him through this stage. He also finds, as in his boarding-school days, that he has a natural capacity to help and side with those who are being ill-treated, even though this causes trouble for himself.
He soon learns to take every opportunity of enjoyment that the Navy offers,
despite misgivings about the Korean War. He also begins to fundamentally doubt
his religious upbringing and finds himself, almost by accident, performing ‘alternative’ ceremonies at a friend’s wedding and an associate’s funeral, both to considerable acclaim.
Romantic and sexual experiences are a continuing influence in Roger’s life, but it seems that a misunderstanding will ruin his chance of happiness
with Gladys, his first love from his school-days, as she plans to marry someone
Finally, helped by a kindly officer, he is able to make preparations for life
beyond National Service, taking the first crucial steps towards his adult life
and a new career.
Again, as in both An Evacuee and A Prized Pupil!, by writing from his own experiences the author evokes the genuine feelings of a
young man in the mid-twentieth century.
The author was born in Addiscombe, East Croydon. He was evacuated in 1939 and
again in 1940, which led to his attendance at Selhurst Grammar School followed
by Shebbear College in North Devon.
His National Service was in the Royal Navy at the time of the Korean War. Our involvement in that war left Leslie with question marks about the UK’s over-eagerness to become involved in fighting all over the world. At the time of the
Suez crisis he actively opposed the Government
’s actions, and since this he has nearly always considered the UK could have found alternatives to the use of military force.
Halfway through his working life Leslie set up his own chauffeur driven car
hire company in Surrey, driving Daimlers and Jaguars
rather than the Rovers of this novel. He regularly drove leading businessmen from firms such as Beecham, Gillette and
Nestlé; politicians such as Nigel Lawson and Edwina Currie; and many celebrities such
as Sue Barker, Bernard Cribbins, Ken Dodd, Adam Faith, Olivia Newton-John,
Cliff Richard and Anthony Valentine.
Throughout his life Leslie has provided ceremonies for people without religious
beliefs, and his work for the British Humanist Association became so demanding
that he eventually had to leave a manager in charge of his business.
Now, with his business life behind him, he continues to conduct ceremonies and
is as busy from his home in Dorset as he was in Surrey.