THIS week, Nostalgia columnist Mark Muller pays tribute to the late Bill Jenkins, who died in May 2012, aged 99.

I had the good fortune to know Bill for a dozen or so years and spent many hours mining the gold of 100 years of social history out of him.

A born raconteur who started life in Croesgoch, his stories of life in the county just begged to be shared.

Here is one of his earliest memories, of when soldiers were sent home at the end of the First World War, told to me when he was 95:

“I had an uncle who had served throughout the war. Five whole years without coming home and during that time the family heard not one single word from him and do you know what the reason was? The reason was that he couldn’t write you see.

“I suppose that that was how it was in all the wars of the 19th century – if you never saw your man again then it must have meant that he’d been killed; very difficult for the people back home.”

Bill said he remembered his father pointing out a woman who lived in a cottage by what is now Haverfordwest Golf Club.

“She would sit just outside the front door of the cottage just looking up the road, and she was waiting for her son to come walking down the road and of course he never did.

“And one day she was found dead in the cottage. It’s very sad isn’t it?

“I suppose there were many who were relieved if some unpleasant character who had been making their life a misery never came back but that certainly wasn’t the case with my relative, my uncle, oh no there was huge joy when he appeared.

“What happened is that this ship came into Pembroke Dock with hundreds of them on board and they were all marched over to Castlemartin where there was a small base... mind you, nothing like it became during the Second World War you understand... and they were all demobilised there then.

“And once that had been done they were told, ‘right, there you are, you can go home now.’

“And no transport or anything laid on, so he had to walk from Castlemartin to Croesgoch. Do you know how far that is? That’s over 30 miles that is, and with all your kit...well you know, your clothes and whatever else made up the kit...except for the rifle, they didn’t have to carry that any more.

“And I can remember the family all standing outside the house as he came into view.

“In my mind it really is like one of those films, you know, one of those tear-jerkers and the hero has been through the whole war and then there’s the family right at the end all waiting for him and there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

“Now come to think of it, is it one of those films that has put that picture into my mind? I don’t think so, it seems very real to me.

“Either way, it was both extremely poignant and happy at the same time. And do you know what his reward was for all that he’d done for all that time? He was allowed to keep the uniform.”

More interviews with Bill will be part of a talk I'm giving for the Civic Society in the Picton Centre, Haverfordwest, on Wednesday, March 26, at 7.30pm.

These unique stories will also soon be published as ‘History in The Raw’ - with proceeds from the book going to Adam’s Bucketful of Hope charity shop on Dew Street.