World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Audrey Thorpe 

Buried Alive

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Audrey Thorpe (nee Staton)
Location of story: Sheffield Blitz
Background to story: Civilian

 Robert and Audrey Staton

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Julie Turner of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Audrey Thorpe.

Buried Alive.
By: Audrey Thorpe (nee Staton)

Location : Sheffield Blitz 15th December, 1940.

How strange fate seemed to work for my brother and I on the night of the blitz in Sheffield on 15th December 1940 when the bomb fell in Hawksley Avenue. Our mother died in 1939. My brother Robert went to live with my Gran in 39, Hawksley Avenue and I went to live in Dart Square with Aunt Gert and Uncle Jim. When the bomb dropped, Robert was sitting on the cellar steps below Gran and Aunt Beaty. Grandad and Uncle Norman were in the kitchen. The only two dug out alive the next morning were Grandad, seriously injured and Robert age six, unharmed. Grandad came out of hospital after two months and was run over by a tram and died two weeks later.

Lucky to be alive:

On the night of the blitz, I, then aged six, was in a house three doors above our home in Dart Square and incendiary bombs were dropping all around. When we got back to Aunt Gert’s, all the windows were broken and part of the roof blown in. Aunt said there had been a miracle, for in the place where I usually slept in the cellar kitchen when there was a raid on, a block of concrete had crushed my pillow, it would surely have killed me had I been there, if my aunt hadn’t decided to go to our neighbour’s house because uncle was at work. My brother is now a priest and I married and had two sons.

After the blitz.

I went to live in a foster home, a terraced house 2 bedrooms, an attic and 2 rooms downstairs. It had no electricity upstairs we used candles. At eight years old I did the washing for eight of us, using a tub with a wooden three leg posher and a large mangle with wooden rollers. There was a cept (a type of boiler) pot in which we boiled water which was fired by coke. There was no fridge, the food was kept on the shelves in tins at the top of the cellar steps to keep mice out and whatever else crawled, like blackclocks and bugs. There was no bathroom, we washed in the sink and when we had spare pennies we went to the slipper baths. There was just a wireless (radio) for entertainment. At school we had ink pots, no biros and always had to carry our gas mask with us every day. Also there was no sanitary towels, cloth was cut up, then boiled for use again.

For toilet paper it was newspaper, cut into squares hung on a nail in the outside toilet. Newspaper was also used as a tablecloth.

We had to stand in long queues for food, it was dark bread, lard, dripping, powdered egg, horsemeat and sometimes we had rabbit which the dogs had caught. The only fruit we got was an apple and orange at Christmas. We were allowed a one pound of sweets (weight) a month, but seldom got them even though it was your ration allowance. My clothes were usually off the rag man except Whitsuntide then we had new and later would go in the pawn shop along with anything else that would bring money in. My shoes were supplied by the boarding out committee, they were always brown lace up.

Before I went to school “the son Joe” and I would have to push a barrow to the gas works to get coke for the fire which was a long trek down Dutton Road, Owlerton.

I use to run errands for neighbours for 1 penny and take bottles back, then treat myself to chips with scraps on. We swam in the River Don along with the rats and sometimes went to the swimming baths for 2p and a bath ticket. For games, we would chalk squares for hopscotch then put oddments, anything we could find for children to throw rings over and charge a cigarette card, it was called fag card a go.
Our once weekly treat was the cinema. I will always remember when the war was over, all the lights came on, on the trams and we went to Bradfield Road flats when all their lights came on and danced in the street. I was eleven years old then.

No more going in the Anderson shelter, which let water in, but if, my grandparents had gone in theirs, which they usually did, they would have lived. Their neighbour’s house (in the same yard) had a direct hit as well but they were in the shelter and just got minor injuries. I suppose a lot of people owe their lives to those shelters.