Bob King was born in 1923. He and his siblings emerged into a poverty-stricken family in which love for them was noticeably absent. They did not themselves feel deprived, being too young to realize that the state in which they lived was not the universal pattern. In December 1934, Bob, aged 11, together with a younger brother of 4 and sister of 8, were abandoned in the most heart-rending circumstances. Self-preservation was now the characteristic most needed by them if they were to survive the consequences of the desperate life into which they were born.
An immature bond developed between these three young, abandoned children who had shared the most severe consequences of deprivation, the nearest they came to experiencing love or affection.
The reminiscences of Bob, the elder of the three, are prompted by the inquisitiveness of his own children, grandchildren and friends with whom he had always been evasive about the details of his early life, feeling too ashamed to reveal them. Advancing years has given him a greater sense of freedom to speak and record them which has proved to be a cathartic experience, releasing him from the imprisonment of perpetual deception about episodes in his life over which he had no control or responsibility.
He recalls, in extraordinary detail, pathos and humour, how he strived to overcome the disadvantages of his birth and the profound changes wrought upon him by joining the Royal Navy in January 1940, aged 16, at the beginning of World War II.
He was recruited as a Boy seaman, 2nd Class and without reservation, credits the training received and disciplines practiced in The Royal Navy, as the cornerstones upon which he was to develop and advance in life, to an extent that seemed very unlikely, given his beginnings. He presents a fascinating insight into a young man’s life in the Navy during the war and beyond.
If his brother, Alec, and his sister, Joan, were to record their own life stories, they would reveal a similar struggle to overcome disadvantage and emerge from it to preside over large, loving and caring families, and he remains in awe of their success.
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About the Author
Lieutenant Commander M.F. (Bob) King R.N., retired from the Royal Navy in 1960, for family reasons; to be more involved in the life of his family, especially to help his wife and to be influential in the raising and development of their three sons. He joined the Steel Industry in a lowly position at the start, but prospered to become the General Manager of Skinningrove Steel works, near Teesside and later, a senior director in the Yorkshire Region of the industry which was, at the time, a huge conglomerate of iron and steel producers. He became part of the Teesside social scene; belonged to a famous golf club, of which he served as Captain and later as President. A casual acquaintance would be forgiven for concluding, from his manner and positon in life, that he was from a privileged background, with a good education, including a University Degree. Indeed this was the impression he had long since tried to impart, not by untruths, but by evasiveness about the truth of his origins, of which he carried an agonising shame. He was brought up in an era when family background, education and class, constituted an important factor in the perception of a person’s character, suitability for certain level of work and social acceptability. Bob had experienced from early school age how cruel and friendless the world could be, to a boy poorly clothed and shod; fair game for jibes and insults. He gradually devised a frightening skill, to protect himself from discrimination, by an ability to evade questions or discussion on the subject of his past. After a miserable childhood and a neglected education, he joined The Royal Navy at the outbreak of World War II. He was recruited as a Boy Seaman and his eyes were opened to many things especially Christianity, a word that had not featured in the King vocabulary. The recollection of his war experiences offers an unusual insight into life at sea. His education, development and exposure to discipline is fascinatingly told with great candour, pathos and humour. He pays enormous tribute to the Navy for rescuing him from disadvantage and penury and preparing him for promotion, a place in society and business, previously considered inconceivable. He continued to keep secret, details of his macabre and shameful childhood from the world, even from his own children. But in advanced age he felt the urge to free himself from what had become a burdensome and lifelong deception and, with nothing to lose, except perhaps respect and the odd friend, he decided to record his life story. The original expectation was to leave a scruffy manuscript hidden in a drawer to be discovered on his demise. Things did not quite turn out as planned; instead his book “To Tell You The Truth” is published with a title that tells it all.