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Public Baths, North Shields

I eventually learned to swim in the Suez Canal

Hawkey’s Lane Swimming Baths were the only baths people could swim in. I never ever went into them because at the time I could not swim, but I know those who did go there said it was very cold and you would not want to stay in the water too long.

The only time I had the opportunity to go to a place to swim was when aged about 10, we were marshalled in the schoolyard at Linskill School and marched army style with a teacher in tow to the open-air swimming pool at Tynemouth Long Sands. There we would change and make our way to the pool. Even on a warm sunny day, to take a plunge into the swimming pool was a frightening experience, it was very cold; and another thing, there was no one there in authority to help you learn to swim, we were left to get on with it on our own.

Naturally, some boys already knew how to swim but they were not interested in helping others to learn. As far as I was concerned it was a waste of time, without a tutor it was impossible to learn how to swim. I was just glad when it was time to get out of the water. The only comfort was the brisk march back to Linskill School. You will realise by now that I never learned to swim then.

I think an indoor pool would have been the best place to learn to swim; it was a long time coming.

I eventually learned to swim in the Suez Canal in Egypt 10 years later when stationed there with The Royal Signals Regiment, then later in a real swimming pool in the barracks of The Green Howards located in the citadel of Khartoum in Sudan.

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