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Former Great Hallingbury publican recalls teenage adventures on the high seas

A former Great Hallingbury publican has penned a brief memoir of how he ran away to sea aged just 14.

Peter Cullen, who ran the Hop Poles with wife Jean for many years, has titled his 16-page work A Flight of Youthful Fancy.

His voyage of discovery begins in 1940 when he was living in a two-bed maisonette in Woodford Bridge in Essex with his parents Victoria and Arthur.

A Flight of Youthful Fancy by Peter Cullen (45621342)
A Flight of Youthful Fancy by Peter Cullen (45621342)

The arrival of orders for his father to report to Colchester barracks before being sent to Burma to fight in the Second World War was the catalyst which turned young Peter's life upside down.

As air raids began, his mother sent him to live with an aunt and uncle and three cousins near Sudbury in Suffolk. It was there he made the impulse decision to concoct a cover story and run away to Dublin with a friendly lorry driver, bound for a seafaring adventure.

Once in Ireland, he signed on as a crew member of the Cork Explorer and was soon on his way to Vladivostok, Russia's Pacific port city, near the borders with China and North Korea.

Before he finally returned home in 1945 – to the aftermath of tragedy and shocking trauma suffered by his family in his absence – he had voyaged to Alaska, its neighbour Canada, Costa Rica and Norway.

Peter's memoir covers a lot of ground in just a few pages and ends with his first foray into the world of running a pub with his Uncle Derek and the promise of another instalment of his musings on an eventful life.

* A Flight of Youthful Fancy will be published by Arthur H Stockwell Ltd on April 21. It is available, price £3.95, from online book shops including Waterstones and as an e-book on all major platforms.

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