The Cautious Revolution: Britain Today and Tomorrow

By Ernest Watkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
Unemployment and Rehabilitation

Here are four cases from the records of the Reading Labour Exchange, Reading being a town in Berkshire some 40 miles west of London, with a prewar population of about 100,000 people.

One Friday evening in September, 1943, four Canadian soldiers, waiting outside a military camp, stopped a passing taxi driven by a man called Tom Peyton. They said they had 48 hours leave, and that they wanted to spend the weekend at Brighton on the South Coast, a favorite resort of Canadians, and a run of some 45 miles. There was nothing unusual in the request. Peyton quoted them a figure; they agreed and got inside. When they were nearly there, and passing through a wood, the four men signaled Peyton to stop. As he drew up, his passengers sprang out, grabbed him and carried him bodily into the wood. There they beat him up, left him unconscious and drove off in the taxi. Later, the four men were traced and sentenced to long prison terms. But what of the taxi driver?

They had disposed of Peyton, so they thought, by kicking him. They wore heavy army boots with steel toe-plates and cleats. It is hard to say if they intended to kill him outright or merely leave him unconscious and unable to do anything in time to interrupt their weekend. Whatever their intention, the injuries kept Peyton in hospital for eighteen months and left him permanently crippled. He was 35 and a healthy man, which is probably why he survived.

When he came out of hospital, he had a permanently injured spine; he was in constant pain and, when walking, he was only able to move his feet six inches at a time, and that with the aid of two canes. In a sense, he was a war casualty. In a sense, it was just bad luck that he happened to have encountered these four savages who

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