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THIS CALL’S COSTING ME.’ By Desmond Zwar Back 40 years ago, the brothers Killingback lost touch with one another. Young Alan had packed his bags for Australia in 1956, and he’d gone to Honeypot Lane, Stanmore, one night, to say goodbye to Eric who was two years older. That was the last time contact they had of each other... ‘To be honest,’ admits Alan, 68, now living in the Queensland sunshine, ‘I expected Eric was dead.’ Eric, now 70, and very much alive, retired as a Scotland Yard police superintendent. He says: ’For 40 years I didn’t know whether Alan was alive either.’ On Christmas Eve a cousin came to visit Alan on the Gold Coast and casually asked him if he’d ever heard of his brother. ‘No. I’ve no idea where I’d find him,’ said Alan, whose main enjoyment in life is battling the golf course. ‘Why not try London Directories?’ Ken Ayres persisted. ‘Nah,’ said Alan. ‘I’ve no idea where he’d be living.’ If indeed he was living... But cousin Ken from Tasmania didn’t give up. He dialled international directories and he got a number in London. It took ages to persuade Alan to dial it himself. ‘I’ll get around to it,’ he promised. Finally he gave in. And dialled 00114471 and the number. Over to Eric, ever the suspicious police officer. ‘I was surprised and shocked when this thick Australian accent came over the phone. It alleged that he was my brother. I was just packing up to go down to Dorset to visit my daughter and the fellow who said he was Alan said: "I thought I’d call to wish you a happy birthday." He got it wrong. It wasn‘t my birthday. He got it mixed up with my marriage on Christmas Eve; he’d been at my wedding. Senility had obviously set in; or it was somebody pulling my leg.’ Said Alan: ‘When Eric answered the phone he kept saying:"My God! Oh, my God!" And I said : "Can’t you say anything else? This call’s costing me a lot of money." His accent was different - a bit "plus fours". [You know, plus fours as worn by the landed gentry.’] Eventually Eric was convinced the caller was Alan, who had never been back to Britain since his departure in 1956. ‘We’d only seen each other when I called in to say goodbye,’ remembers Alan. ‘Ten years before that, straight after the war ended, my ship, the "Suffolk" called in to Hong Kong and Eric, who was with the police there, had a list of all the ships and who was on them. I was standing on the dock and the first thing I knew was somebody belting me around the neck and saying:"You keep out of the red light district." It was him.’ The phone-call Alan complained was costing him a fortune, led to others and an exchange of letters. And now he found himself at 5 AM standing in the freezing cold at Brisbane Airport, watching passengers emerge from Customs. ‘What I was going to do was wait in the background until some lost soul stood by himself carrying a suitcase when everybody else had gone. It would be him.’ But the brothers Killingback recognised each other immediately. On the hour’s drive to Alan’s home, the talk was of the East End, Mum and Dad; the wife Eric had recently lost. ‘And the shameful things we did as youngsters, running with the pack,’ laughs Alan. ‘Eric hasn’t changed much. He’s basically the same. Our sister, Pat, an ex-WAAF, was going to come out too, but her doctor wouldn’t let her.’ Ex-Marine Alan is taking his brother to meet mates from the Royal Marines Association. But they won’t play golf. ‘He’s a real couch potato,’ scoffs Alan. Would he take his first trip back to the UK in 40 years to visit his brother and sister? ‘I haven’t been back because it’s something I’ve never craved to do. From what I’ve heard, and seen on the box, my memories are preferable to what I’d see if I went back. Eric tells me English people feel like strangers in their own country.’ Eric, who says he can’t afford to fly again to Australia, thinks he might still be able to persuade the stubborn Alan. ‘He is toying with the idea,’ he confided.. In the meantime the two beaming Killingbacks are enjoying being together and exclaiming, often simultaneously: "D’you remember when....?"