After he was demobilised Hob returned to Wm Cory and Son. By then my grandfather, Allan Ninnis, had been killed near Dickebusch in Belgium on 2nd August 1918 whilst serving as a Private with 1st Battalion, The East Kent Regiment (The Buffs), leaving my grandmother with a five-year old daughter. Hob continued to visit my grandmother after the war, but it was not until 1932 and my mother had left home, that he and my grandmother married and went to live in Bexleyheath.
It was there that I accompanied my mother on various but all-to-infrequent occasions between 1942 (when I was born) until 1959 when they moved to Northamptonshire. By then my grandmother was becoming far less mobile, but their bungalow was hardly five minutes walk away and I could wander down and see them both during school holidays when the mood took me. As always, in retrospect, the mood did not take me often enough, and I sailed through my last two years at school and into my first year at university without any conscious thought that, behind that walrus moustache and ever-present pipe, fussing about my grandmother upon whom he doted, was a whole life that I knew nothing about but would one day reach out to explore.
My grandmother died in July 1962 with Hob at her bedside. He survived without her for only four months, but my mother told me afterwards that he just became a recluse, pottering about the empty bungalow with no further real interest in life. My mother found him collapsed on the kitchen floor one November morning when she made her daily visit to see that he was alright. He had just reached the end of the first page of the first letter that he had ever written to me when he suffered a massive haemorrhage. He had written that my grandmother would have been so proud, as indeed he was, that I had succeeded in reading for an engineering degree at Cambridge.
‘You know, your Uncle Hob was always so interested in everything you did’, my mother said to me when she gave me the unfinished letter. I still have it.