Born at Pond Hall in 1921, Tony was the eldest of the three children born to Lawrance and Hettie Billing. Hettie had presumably wanted to be with her mother rather than with her in-laws in Derby for the birth of her first child. It was probably out of financial necessity, however, that Tony later lived at Pond Hall and went to the same Hadleigh school as his contemporary, his aunt Diana (born 1919). They are pictured together, left. Tony enjoyed the humour of the situation and was very fond of his young aunt; Diana returned the affection but was rather put out at being hailed as 'Auntie' across the playground.
He was very disappointed to miss out on going to grammar school - by just one place - and always felt that the course of his life would have been changed for the better if he had gone there.
By the time this 1934(ish) photo of him was taken, he had joined the Royal Artillery at Woolwich Arsenal as a boy soldier. He did well there and went on to become an artificer - a top technician - looking after the guns, such as 25 pounders and howitzers, in the artillery. He claimed to have chosen that trade because you were made sergeant on completion of the course and staff sergeant soon after that.
He was transferred into the REME at their inception in 1942. His first post after training was in Ceylon, in charge of mostly locally recruited men in base workshops. His sister Christine, serving with the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, was posted there at the same time. All 'QA's had officer status and although it seems they met, she would or could not allow him into the officer's mess which, understandably, rankled with him.
Tony's story will return, with some amendments, in due course.