World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Frank Carr's Story

 

Sheffield During Wartime - A Living History Lesson - Part 1 of 4

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Frank Carr, David Carrigan
Location of story: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

On 6th May 2005, Frank Carr and David Carrigan went to St. Thomas More Primary School to speak to Class 3 about what it was like to be children in Sheffield during the war. Throughout this interview the questions were asked by pupils from Class 3.



 

FC – I was about 7 or 8 when the war started

DC – I was a bit older about 11.

Where did you live during the war?

FC – We lived near the five arches in Herries Road, not far from those at the back of the railway, it was Lamb Road, Parson’s Cross. So the nearest bombs to us fell about half a mile away, down on the Wednesday ground, around that area.

Were you evacuated?

DC – No I wasn’t evacuated, a lot of children were evacuated because the danger of living in a big city like Sheffield, likely to get bombed, so for safety a lot of children were evacuated out into the countryside and stayed with people out there, but no I wasn’t. I stayed at home and looked after my Mum and sister!

Were you a child during the war?

FC – Yes, I was not yet 8 when the war started. At that age we didn’t really understand what it was all about. When the war began, people, our parents and that, were whispering to each other and they were obviously very worried about it, but to me it was all exciting. There were things happening that I’d never seen before – strange objects appearing in the sky, barrage balloons – and then we had this black out when you couldn’t see where you were going, all the lights were off at night. There were no street lights and so on, and it was all exciting at this time. It got less exciting and more frightening as the war went on, but in the early days when I was about your age, it was good I thought!

What was it like in an Anderson shelter?

DC – Oh my word! In an Anderson shelter? I see you’ve been making models of Anderson shelters. I didn’t think you’d know anything about them, but now I see that you do. It was a bit exciting as a child, because you know sometimes when you like to go in the back and stop in a tent or perhaps sleep overnight in a tent, the Anderson shelter was there so that when the sirens went off to warn you that there might be planes coming over, enemy planes, then you were expected to go in the Anderson shelter in the garden and stay there. It was a little bit damp at times, you can imagine because it was half sunk into the ground and you had bunks in there where you could at least lie down. So you used to take some warm clothing in with you and keep wrapped up, and that was it until the siren sounded and it was all clear. Then you knew you could come out and go and live back in a house.

What did your parents do during the war?

FC – Well, my father was in what you called a Reserved Occupation, so he was working and people worked very long hours in the war, he was working from early morning and never got home ‘til about 8 o’clock at night. My mother – I’d got two younger brothers who were two years old when the war started – so she was at home looking after us all the time. People lived differently then, people shopped every day. Nowadays you go shopping perhaps once a week, but you had to go to the shops every day in the war because people had no refrigerators or freezers. Food wouldn’t keep, so you had to go and keep buying it every day, fresh stuff. So that’s one of the jobs I had, going to the shops and fetching the groceries.

DC - Yes, as Frank said your Mum used to have to look after you and provide for you. My Dad went away at the beginning of the war, he had to go down to London to work. I had an elder brother who was in the Army and went straight into France as soon as war broke out, another brother who was too young to go but he was in the Territorial Army and he was on the other side of Sheffield, and then I had a sister. So at the start there was my Mum, sister and myself left at home.

How did you feel when the bombs were dropped?

FC – Frightened! The noise was perhaps the worst thing. The war had been on for some time before the first bombs dropped on Sheffield. The first ones I remember, we were going to the cinema one afternoon when the air raid sirens went and we didn’t know whether to carry on going – it would probably be a false alarm we thought – and then – there were some big anti-aircraft guns at Shirecliffe – and they started firing into the sky so we were frightened then with the noise. We started to run home and then one or two bombs began to fall. I think it was just about one aeroplane that was over dropping its bombs somewhere on Sheffield, it wasn’t the real big blitz that we had.

When we had the two big air raids which lasted all night, we were in the air raid shelters then and it was frightening because you could hear whistling bombs coming down and big explosions, and you thought your house had gone but in fact, the bombs had fallen some distance away. It was scary.

Were you scared?

FC - Yes, as I say, and everybody else in the air raid shelter was scared as well. You wondered whether you were going to survive the night because the noise was so terrible. You could hear buildings falling down and if you popped your head out of the shelter, everything was burning and on fire. When you looked towards the town, you could see all the flames and everything on fire.

Did any of your family fight in the war?

DC – Yes, as I’ve mentioned my eldest brother went to France right at the beginning of the war. In the first week of war he was in France and he fought there and then eventually - you’ve probably heard that there was a big evacuation from Dunkirk when our troops were beaten back by the Germans to the channel, and then they had to escape back across to this country. And certainly for the rest of the war, he was always outside Britain, abroad. He went into North Africa, came up through Italy, and right through Germany when the war was over. So he was out of this country all the time the war was on. That’s a long time.

Now my younger brother who was in the Territorials, because he was only 17 at that time, he wasn’t old enough to go abroad, so when his unit went abroad he stayed behind and thereafter, he was in this country for the whole of the war merely because he was too young to go.

What was school like?

FC – Well there were things in school that you wouldn’t find now. There were buckets of sand all over the place, there were stirrup pumps – this is a sort of pump that you put in a bucket of water and pumped and it would squirt water. This is in case any fire bombs dropped, incendiary bombs that would cause fires. Also you had practices of putting your gas mask on and going into the air raid shelters, as fast as you could. We rather liked going into the air raid shelters in the war. If the sirens went and you had to go into the air raid shelters, they had sweets in there that the Headmaster used to get out and hand around to the children, and you never got sweets in the war, they were on rations you couldn’t get them. So that was one of the bonuses of the sirens going off!

There were a lot of people in classes, they were very big in those days. A lot of the teachers had gone into the Army and were missing, so their wives would come to school in some cases to do the teaching. But otherwise I suppose it was like school is now, we did the normal lessons. Apart from when our school was bombed. The school was badly damaged with bombs and we had to go to Home Service then which was when we went to somebody’s house and a teacher came along to the house – the house was about half a mile away from where I lived – there were probably about 12 or 13 children who went, and a teacher came every day. We were all different ages. But the Home Service lasted for some time, until our school was repaired and was habitable again. I rather liked Home Service though, we didn’t have to stay as long.

Did you like school?

DC – How many of you like going to school? My word! That’s everybody! Yes, we did too. You had to go to school of course, you’d no choice and during the day, generally speaking, the sirens hadn’t gone, so normally during the day, there was never any worry about going out and going to school. One thing is that during the war, everyone, children included, used to have a gas mask just in case the enemy dropped any bomb that included gas. They were in a little square cardboard box and you used to carry that round with you wherever you went. If you went to school, keep it on your desk while you were there, bring it back from school. So wherever you went you always had that with you.

FC – There’s one other thing about school. I went to school on the bus and in the war, all the bus windows were covered with a sticky netting because if a bomb fell anywhere near, the glass wouldn’t fly in and cut everybody – it was to stop the glass breaking all over you. But you couldn’t see through the windows, there was just a little hole cut in the middle and you had to put your eyes right there to see where you were going. So it was hard to find your stop when you got off. We had double summer time – we’ve got summer time now – but in double summer time it used to be very dark in the morning when we were going to school, so it was difficult to find where you were on the buses or trams because of these funny sticky windows. That was a problem.

What did you wear for school?

FC – At primary school we didn’t have a uniform, we wore short trousers, usually a pullover or something to keep you warm. But later on when we went to Grammar School, we had a school blazer and a cap, so it was a school uniform then. We wore short trousers until we were 13, 14 or so even in the winter!

Were you scared when the sirens went off?

FC – At first we weren’t, but after we’d experienced what the bombing and the anti-aircraft gun shelling was like, it was scary. I know that sometimes when we were running up to our air raid shelter, up the garden, there were pieces of shrapnel from these anti-aircraft guns, sort of hitting your slates, knocking slates off and you could hear them whistling around, so that was scary.

What was it like to be at war?

DC – Well I think as children – you just think how old you are now – and you know that even in this day, we have got wars and have had wars in different countries away from here. So as children you don’t really see it as an adult would see it, you don’t realise perhaps how dangerous war can be.

There were certainly exciting things as a child when the war was on. I remember after the Blitz that we had in Sheffield – we had two very big bombing raids – we as children used to go out the following day and start looking around to find shrapnel. Now shrapnel is when a bomb bursts and it all breaks into fragments, so the bits of metal fly all over the place. We used to go out looking for bits and pieces and see who could find most bits of the bomb that was left, so we weren’t that scared as children really. And bear in mind that the sirens went off to warn you that there might be an enemy raid, but they probably went off perhaps 130 or 140 times during the war in Sheffield here to alert you, but there were only two occasions when it was a really bad bombing situation. So when the sirens went off, you were up, you were straight down to the shelter, but eventually you began to think, "Well is there any need to go? Nothing’s happened." Because they weren’t coming to bomb Sheffield, they were going perhaps over Sheffield to go to Liverpool, Manchester and those places. So eventually you didn’t start to worry when the sirens went off.

FC – At that stage too, a strange thing happened one night, there was a sound like a very loud motorcycle. People looked out of the window and there was a light coming through the sky, and people are saying, "Oh it’s one of our aircraft, it’s lit up." But it was one of these – have you heard of Doodlebugs or flying bombs? They bombed London a lot with flying bombs towards the end of the war. Well this was one of the flying bombs that came over Sheffield and if the engine stopped, if this light went out, the engine stopped and you had to take cover quickly because the thing came down and they were very powerful bombs. But it went right over our houses and I think it went over towards Stocksbridge somewhere, and came down on the moors out there, so it didn’t do any damage. That was one of the later weapons that the Germans had that were very, very scary for the London people.

Did places near you get bombed?

FC - The nearest one was probably about half a mile away. The biggest bomb I remember in the war was a landmine – this came down with a parachute and it fell on Southey Green. It was a few days later before I went up there and saw it, but all the houses around it had disappeared, there was just a big hole left where it had fallen and a lot of people were killed there at Southey Green.

You thought bombs were falling near you when you were in the air raid shelter, but they were quite a long way off some of them you know, they were a mile away, two miles away and yet, they still sounded very loud.


What games did you play during the war?

DC - I don’t think children play these sort of games these days because you’ve got so many distractions perhaps with computers and television – bear in mind, we had no computers, we had no television, all we had really was the radio, so you made your own amusement. You used to play a lot of games in the street, the obvious ones like a game of football in the street, game of cricket in the street, game of rounders. What you’ve got to remember – I lived on the Shiregreen estate then – there wasn’t the traffic about that there is nowadays. If you went on the road to play a game nowadays it would be very dangerous, but then there wasn’t the traffic, perhaps a horse and cart went past now and again, but there wasn’t the petrol during the war to drive cars.

Hopscotch, we used to chalk the hopscotch on the road surface with a piece of brick – how many’s played hopscotch? You must have. Yes, well you know what I’m talking about. Hide and Seek, particularly on an estate because on the Shiregreen estate, every house had gardens and they usually had privet hedges so there were lots of places to hide when we played Hide and Seek. So those sort of things.

We used to make games up that we played indoors. I remember we used to make a game that you played with like tiddlywink counters, but we played it as a game of football. So you had your carpet in the front room and your friends would come in. You’d sort of draw on the carpet with a bit of chalk, a football ground and then you’d have 11 tiddlywinks and a little tiddlywink in the middle, that was the ball, and you took in turns; you had to flick it and try and score in the other net. We even used to cut names out of players and stick them on the back of these tiddlywinks, so we had little individual players, that was before you had Subbuteo – if anybody’s played Subbuteo. So you made your own games up.

FC – We played similar things, Hide and Seek in the street, we played a game, what we called Kick Can, we used to have an old tin can and somebody would kick this away, and while the person who was on had to go and retrieve it, everybody ran and hid, so it was a form of Hide and Seek. We also had roller skates and played, you know we were soldiers skiing down the mountains, or it appeared to be on these. But we also played cricket and football.

We were playing football one day, I think it was in the school holidays. The football match, when we played it, used to start about 9 o’clock in the morning. It went on all day and it never stopped, people left and went home and then they came back and joined in. But we were, I think it was in the afternoon, when a aeroplane came over so low – I‘ve never seen an aeroplane as low and as close in my life as this one – it came right over the field and they were waving to us out of the aeroplane, there were two engines on the aeroplane. We said ‘he’s waving’ and we all waved back at this aeroplane and he went round and came again and it sort of came over very low and we were waving again. We heard the engine misfiring, then we realised it was in trouble, and he turned off from our fields and he went over towards Wadsley Bridge. Actually I found out later, I didn’t know at the time, it crashed at Grenoside just over on some farm fields over in Grenoside. There were two air crew in the plane and apparently they were alright. It landed on a farm and the people in the farm were away at the time. The air crew survived, they were alright, but all the neighbours were running to help, carrying buckets of water and all sorts of things. There were stone walls and one women climbing over one of these stone walls had one of the big blocks of stone fall on her foot. So they rang for the ambulance, the people who were with her and apparently, the ambulance on its way there, knocked somebody down on Penistone Road, so the real casualty of this air crash was someone who was killed on Penistone Road by the ambulance. But to us, we’d never seen an aeroplane as low or as close, if only we’d known he was wanting to land where we were playing football, we’d perhaps have got out of the way, but when it was over, we just carried on playing.

Does anyone know Concorde Park? Well during the war there, one of our own planes, probably coming back from a raid elsewhere, actually crash landed in that park. We went afterwards and – you ask what did we do for excitement as youngsters – we went searching all over the park, it’d been cleared up then, the aircraft had been taken away, but we still looked for these bits of metal from an aircraft. I remember finding a piece of metal, other kids were looking round trying to find bits of bone! Terrible isn’t it? But you know when you’re youngsters you don’t realise the seriousness of it.

We used to swap bits of aeroplane, swap bits of metal you know – I’ve got a bigger piece of shrapnel! We had drawers full of shrapnel and bits of aircraft and all sorts. Of course, there was a big air crash in Endcliffe Park, a Flying Fortress came down there and there were ten people killed on that.

There was another aeroplane I remember, that used to come over. This was right early in the war, and it was a Spitfire, and he came over and went very low over the fields at the back, and all the men thought he’d crashed, and they all climbed over some railings and ran up, but he came up and he went round again, and came back round. Now we found out later that he was the son of the man who owned a big house which was down near Herries Road - they called the family Oxspring, down there, is a road called Oxspring Bank and it’s named after that family. Well the son of Mr. Oxspring was this pilot who was a Battle of Britain pilot in the war and he used to come over every Sunday morning in his Spitfire to practice low flying, and it was very entertaining for us!

DC – Anyone know Longley Park? Well, during the war there was a plane – actually it was a very old plane, that we called a Tigermoth. One of these planes has two sets of wings – and the pilot, a Polish pilot who was fighting with us, he’d run out of fuel and he had to make a forced landing and landed in Longley Park. If you know the park’s really a big hollow, the main part – anyway we as youngsters got to know about this and we went hot foot, crowds of us running into the park to see this plane that’d landed – it was only a small plane – and they decided it was going to refuel and take off again. There were hundreds of us, kids sat round on the slope waiting for this plane to take off, and just wondering how it would do it because there’s not a lot of space in Longley Park for landing and take off. But it was only a small plane and sure enough it got off safely and took off. That was exciting from our point of view!

What was your first air raid like?

The first air raid wasn’t actually an air raid, it was a practice but we’d been issued with instructions. If bells rang, there were parachutists coming down so you had to get pitchforks or whatever you could and try and defend yourself. If whistles blew, they were dropping gas and there were square boards all over the place, and if these changed colour, you knew there was gas around. If there was gas you were to put your gas masks on. There were other things, all these instructions had been given to people and a lot of people had forgotten these and the first time the sirens went, people didn’t know whether to put gas masks on, and they were doing all sorts of silly things – putting gas masks on and trying to run to the air raid shelter and your gas mask steamed up inside, you couldn’t see where you were going. To be honest it made me laugh seeing all these people running about in gas masks and trying to get into the air raid shelters. When we went to get in our air raid shelter, it was full of all the neighbours! Their shelter wasn’t ready, so they’d all got in our air raid shelter! But it was only a practice then, so that was my first experience of an air raid warning going.

Did you have to wear a gas mask?

DC – I never had to wear a gas mask because they never dropped gas, but when we were issued with these gas masks at the beginning of war - I said if you remember you had to carry them everywhere with you – you were shown at the start how to put them on and how to wear them and test whether they were effective. But I was never aware of gas ever being dropped and therefore never had to wear it in order to protect myself. But nevertheless you had to have it with you all the time. I notice you have a small gas mask on this display. That was issued to small children. For bigger children, there were slightly bigger masks, and for babies – I don’t know whether you have had an opportunity to see a gas mask that was provided for babies – it was like a big sleeping bag with a plastic viewfinder on it if you like. You'd put the baby inside and zip it up, and then you used to pump air into it. If there was an attack and you had to put a baby in there, you pumped air in so the baby could breathe. But no, I never had to wear one, fortunately, apart from practising.

What did a gas mask feel like?

FC – Very uncomfortable, you could breathe but you didn’t seem to get enough air when you were breathing, and they steamed up inside and it was very hot and uncomfortable to wear. We were fortunate that we did not have to wear them for very long, apart from the practices we had.

DC – There was always a rubbery smell to it as well and that wasn’t very pleasant, the smell of rubber close to your nose.


What did you get for your rations?

DC – Oh my word, rations! Well you had to have rationing during the war because as you know this country, we are an island, a very big island and therefore the only way you could bring food into this country was by boat, from America or elsewhere. Now the Germans had U-Boats that went underneath the water, as you know, and they could attack shipping, so food was very scarce. So you had to have the essential food rationed. I mean a small half a pack of margarine had to last you all week, that was per person. Now if you put butter on your bread, I bet you like putting a lot of butter on, but you couldn’t in the war. You had to scrape it on and scrape it off to make it last. Tea was rationed, so what happened is – you know nowadays we use teabags, you just put a teabag in the pot and don’t think about it, in those days we didn’t have teabags. The tea was loose, so you put a spoonful of tea in, and what’s more, if there was any tea left in the pot afterwards you saved that and you used to warm it up. Not very pleasant, but you used to warm it up to make your tea go further.

What you were encouraged to do during the war as well is, because we couldn’t get food very easily, you were encouraged to dig your gardens up at the back. If you had a nice lawn, dig your lawn up and grow food. Now what food do you think you might grow that you would need in your back garden? Carrots, potatoes, cabbage, sprouts, turnips, radishes, tomatoes. You were encouraged to do that and lots of people did that, so you always had something to fall back on. Bread was rationed, there used to be queues outside shops. If there was a queue there you could guarantee that they were selling something that you were short of, so you went and joined the queue, often not knowing what you were going to buy! But you’d buy it because it was scarce.

FC – Yes, everything was very scarce and sweets, you couldn’t get sweets in the war. You’d sometimes hear a rumour that sweet shop so and so had got some toffees, and we’d get on our bikes and cycle down there, and there’d be a queue about half a mile long outside the shop which you got in and waited, and then you got a quarter of toffees. If you’d time, you went and got in the queue again and went round and got some more toffees!

Even soap was on rations in the war, you took your ration books and they’d just allow you the little bit of stuff that you got and put a tick on your ration book to let you know that you’d had that. People kept hens, so they could eggs in the war. A lot of people bred rabbits and they were going to kill the rabbits and eat them. Most people whom I knew who bred rabbits though, hadn’t got the heart to kill them, and they finished up as pets, hundreds of rabbits were all over the place as pets!

You did everything to make the food go further, I mean you had strange foods as well – potatoes came as powder at one time. We had powdered potatoes, powdered eggs these came from America, one of the few things that were getting over by ships. When you had flour – a lot a people made their own bread because it was difficult to get – and the flour was a very dark coloured, you weren’t allowed to sieve it to make it white; it had to have all this dark stuff in, whatever it was, so it didn’t look very nice. But to be honest the rationing was there, but I never noticed it all that much. I think as children you got enough of all sorts of odd things that your parents used to concoct for you and make the food go further.

DC - I never saw a banana in the war. Yes, as a child I remember no bananas. It’s difficult to remember when I saw one for the first time after the war, because even after the war had actually finished and the fighting had finished, you were still very short on things, so rationing went on for some time after the war had stopped, so I wouldn’t like to put a date on it but if war finished in ’45, it was probably at least 12 months afterwards before we saw bananas. Of course we don’t grow bananas in this country do we? They grow in hot climates, so they had to come from the Caribbean, and such places, and you just couldn’t get them here during the war. But that was the thing I missed and it’s strange that Frank feels the same way.

FC – Another thing, does anyone like mince pies? You have those at Christmas time don’t you? Well during the war, I had a job at a bakery in the school holidays and when it was near Christmas, they were making mince pies and they sent me out for carrots. I brought all these carrots back and they chopped them all up and put all this in with the mince meat to make it go a lot further, so you got mince pies with carrots in!

How did you use the ration book?

FC – Well everybody had a ration book, so in our family, we had five ration books and kept them all in a case, and it was my mother mainly, who when she did the shopping, used to take the ration books with her and you’d have the ration book ticked for everything you got. You could get oranges at one time, I think if you’d got young babies, you got orange juice allowed or oranges. But every time you bought any food, it was marked off on your ration book and you couldn’t get any more. Also, you had to have coupons to buy clothes – clothing coupons they called these – and as a boy, if I wanted a pair of football boots, you couldn’t go and buy football boots ‘cos you needed coupons to buy them. A pair of socks would cost you clothing coupons, if you had a new coat, you had to spend coupons. So people had to mend everything and keep repairing all their garments and make them last a long time, hand them down from sisters to brothers almost and buy second hand stuff. There was a man who used to come round with a horse and cart on a Friday night and he always had government surplus, but it was like from the First World War and I had a pair of boots bought me – oh they were horrible! They were great big, tall, long boots full of hobnails at the bottom and I was almost ashamed to go to school, but when I got to school, everybody admired these. They all wanted some of these boots ‘cos I bet they were from the First World War – First World War army boots! You could get things like that that weren’t on coupons, but any other clothes, you had to use the clothing coupons.

Was the food nice?

DC – You didn’t have the choice of food then that you have now, but it was nice and it was healthy, because then you had to eat a lot of the natural foods, whether you liked it or not, you ate carrots and you ate cabbage and you ate sprouts. Probably if you had a choice as children, you wouldn’t necessarily want to have that but you did have that. Another thing, Frank mentioned that you used to get dried eggs if you couldn’t get real eggs. Dried eggs were American, that used to come in small packets, it was like a waxy packet and they were just like a yellow powder. You used to mix that and it made like scrambled egg. But there were all sorts of things you could make with that and mix it in with, so you got all different dishes. Nowadays of course you just go to the supermarket, and you look and there’s all these ready meals you can have, but then you had to kind of invent what kind of meals to have. Anybody know bubble and squeak; mixing in your cabbage and potato? So it was adequate, but it wasn’t as exciting perhaps and as tasty as some of the foods these days, but it was very good for you. They do say that during the war years we were all a lot healthier, because we didn’t over-eat and because we ate the right kind of things, we were a lot healthier than we are nowadays with all the processed food that we get.

Was it dangerous where you lived?

FC – Only at odd times, like when we had the Blitz that we’ve spoken about. I think the biggest danger around our houses was from the guns that were up on Shirecliffe, that used to fire up at the aeroplanes – the shrapnel from those knocked all our slates off and this was the stuff we used to go round picking up as David said. So, we never really thought it was dangerous.

DC – As Frank says, the nearest bombs that actually dropped during the Blitz were probably about quarter of a mile away. I lived up on the Shiregreeen estate then, so you weren’t aware of that. But just as a matter of interest, my wife – she’s younger than me, so would have been about 5 or 6 – lived down Attercliffe, the East End where all the steelworks were, and the sirens went one night and her Mum and Dad brought her downstairs with her brother. There was a petrol store just near there and two bombs dropped outside, and when they went back upstairs, one of these edging stones at the side of the road had been blown out and it’d gone straight through her roof and landed on her bed, so she was rather lucky that she was downstairs. But from my point of view, nothing got near enough me to start me getting worried.

FC – They used to drop bombs with delayed action, so the bomb didn’t explode, it used to go into the floor and leave a big hole. These were a bit scary because the bomb might blow up two or three days later. They’d block up the street, you couldn’t go up that street because there was an unexploded bomb. I remember my father telling me that one had dropped near his works in St. Philip’s Road, and they covered the hole up with big stones. Of course this bomb went off and when it went off, all these big stones went flying through the air and they saw a boulder coming towards the window in the place where he worked, and it hit the wall, just underneath the window. He said that these stones were more dangerous than the bomb and these were the things they’d put on to try and make the explosion less, but it didn’t, it caused it to be dangerous. So the unexploded bombs were a little bit frightening, because you never knew when they were going to go off.

Did you experience any water shortages or power cuts?

DC – No, personally I was never aware that we were short of water. You had to save water and sometimes, in case you were bombed, you were encouraged to keep spare water for drinking purposes just in case the main water went off. The other thing, power cuts, I can’t specifically remember but when you talk about power cuts, have you ever been outside nowadays yourselves when there’s been a power cut? Your tele goes off, the lights go off, you look outside and everything’s in pitch darkness.

Well, during the war, there was what’s known as blackouts where you had to make sure that no light shone out of your house once it got dark, because if planes were coming over, they could see. So everything, every house had to be completely blacked out so that you couldn’t see any light from that house. The street lights were blanked out so it just left a little light shining down onto the road, cars – there weren’t many cars then driving around – but they couldn’t have their main headlights on, they had to have a mask on the front of the headlights which just allowed a little bit of light to shine through, they couldn’t really see. The curb edges in a lot of places were painted white, so that in darkness you could see the curb edge.

FC – We used to wear luminous badges to go to school, so that people could see this little bit of luminous badge coming towards them in the dark.

But, what they did in the war in case there was a water shortage, they built water tanks all around, wherever there was a bit of spare ground, they put what they called a static water tank. This was so that the fire brigade could use the water in case of any bombs falling and fires. So all around the estates were these water tanks and what happened at first was that quite a few children were drowned because they were messing around and hanging over. The tanks were all fenced off, they had fences put round, so people couldn’t get in them as easily.

We had to boil water after the air raids and so on because water mains were burst all over the place, but I don’t remember any other real water shortages or power cuts. But we didn’t use power then like we do now – there were no televisions and so on. In fact, the electricity in Sheffield was about the cheapest in the country in those days ‘cos we had a few power stations around that provided the power for us here.


Would Britain have won if the USA didn’t help?

DC - Probably, if one is honest and looking back now, we didn’t realise it at the time, it was a very important thing that America did come into the war when they did. I think we would have liked them to have come in a lot earlier, because when war broke out in ’39, this country, stood alone against the forces that were attacking from Germany and going all over Europe. So I think so, that’s my opinion now anyhow looking back – that they had to come into the war at some stage, the sooner the better. Eventually they did come in. But even so, before they came into the war, what you have to remember as well, is that they were providing us with food and all sorts of things, although they weren’t directly involved in the war.

FC – Yes, we had this lend lease where they were providing us with destroyers and ships, because we had very little equipment left in the early part of the war. We hadn’t got many aircraft, we hadn’t got many ships and America was providing us with this sort of equipment. Then at the end of the war, when all their forces came over here – oh I’ve never seen the like – one day I remember seeing, going up Herries Road, hundreds and hundreds of tanks and they were mainly American tanks. They must have been on the way for the invasion, they were going up all day, tank after tank after tank – the road was a mess after they’d done this with it, but this was the sort of equipment that America provided us with.

Did you see any German soldiers?

FC – We saw German prisoners of war. There was a prison camp at Redmires, that’s up near Lodge Moor, and there were prisoners of war up there. At one time, there were Italians and then later on in the war, there were Germans. They used the prisoners of war to build some of the roads on Parsons Cross, some of the concrete roads around where St. Thomas More’s Church is. They used to wear, a big cross on their back, either yellow or white, so you could tell that they were prisoners of war. But I mean they were nice people some of these prisoners of war, people became friendly with them, especially the Italians. There were prisoners of war who made very good for themselves, Manchester City had a great goalkeeper who was a German prisoner of war, Burt Trautmann.

DC – I didn’t see any, because of course, fortunately 20 miles of water stopped the Germans invading this country. If you know about Dunkirk, from where all the British troops came back from France when they were in retreat and coming back to the home country, that 20 odd miles of water prevented the Germans coming over here, so we were never invaded as such by German forces. So, civilians didn’t see Germans, but anybody who was fighting in the war of course would see them.

What kind of bombs were dropped?

FC – There were incendiary bombs, these were bombs which started fires, they had some magnesium in that burns very fiercely. Every few houses has a stirrup pump, to try and put these things out if they landed on your house, or fire buckets. Anybody who had a stirrup pump had SP painted on the front of their house, so that any neighbour knew where they could go to get the stirrup pump. The fire bombs were small ones, but they caused a lot of damage.

Then there were the heavier explosive bombs that caused a lot of damage. The biggest bombs of all were the landmines. Normally when a bomb drops it goes into the ground, it’s under the ground when it explodes. But landmines came down and exploded as soon as they were at ground level and caused a lot more damage, they were devastating.

What sort of things were in the bombs?

FC – I don’t really know, it was just high explosive. They had some sort of detonator which was a minor explosive that then set off the big explosive material that was in the bomb, but I don’t know what it was.

DC – Well you know what you have on November 5th, fireworks, they are explosives. They’re controlled so they are not supposed to cause much danger, but they can be very dangerous and they’re only fireworks. Now if you imagine the increasing scale on the explosive and that explosive is in a metal container, some bombs were very big, and when that exploded, it broke open the case and that metal broke into fragments, then there was a blast effect like a very high wind, it could blast windows out, blast buildings down and the metal shrapnel from the bombs would kill, go through buildings and set fire.

FC – It was bit like thunder and lightning, you know when you see lightning, you hear the thunder some time later, it takes time for the sound to travel. The bombs were a bit like that. The one that fell on Southey Green that we spoke about earlier, wasn’t during the main Blitz, it was sometime later, but it was a very bright flash in the sky. My father said ‘Wow! That’s a bright flash,’ and we had a door on the shelter and he opened it and popped his head out to have a look round to see if he could see anything, and nothing happened for probably 7 or 8 seconds. Then all of a sudden the blast arrived and it blew the door back on his head, knocked him flying back in the shelter and the noise came with that, it was a terrible noise – you imagine like we said the fireworks, but about 20,000 times bigger!

Did children have to leave on trains when the war was on?

DC – Yes, some children were evacuated, as we called it, and they were taken out into the country to really live with strangers, but they were out in the country and deemed to be in a safe environment where bombs wouldn’t drop. And they had to go, invariably if they were going any distance, on trains. But trains in those days were not like the trains we see now, in those days they were steam engines and they were rather slow.

During the war, you didn’t travel a lot, not like nowadays in peace time, you go on holidays and go everywhere, but in those days you didn’t. It was very much a case of staying at home.

Did anyone you know get evacuated?

FC – Yes, my best friend at school was evacuated. He came one day and said, ‘I’m leaving.’ I said, ‘Why?’ and he said, 'We’re being evacuated,' and he and his sister went off somewhere. They were away for about 7 or 8 months and then they came back because no bombs had fallen then in this part of the country, and they thought it was safe to go back. But they went to a different school, so I lost contact with him then and that was rather sad for us.

DC – I had 2 cousins who lived in Liverpool, which was a major port, and still is, and because they were getting more bombing than we were, they came to live with us here in Sheffield for quite a bit of time. So they were evacuees coming to live with us if you like. But there was another thing opposite to evacuees really. There was a time in the war, after Dunkirk when all the troops came back, when we had to find somewhere to look after them and care for them. One day there was this troop of soldiers being marched down our road on the Shiregreen estate, and they were billeted out. In other words, anyone who had a spare bedroom was asked to look after, depending how big the room was, 1 or 2 soldiers for a period of time and feed them. We got 2, and that was exciting as a youngster, because they came and they’d got all the rifles on their back, and they stayed with you and lived with you until they went back as a fighting force. So that was like evacuation in reverse, they came to live with us. They were both very nice, but one of them couldn’t read or write, he hadn’t had that kind of education, so the other one had to do everything for him. I thought that was very nice that the one who could read and write, used to look after him and do all sorts of things for him. But it was exciting because of the army kit that they had with them, especially the rifle. I thought it was great to look at that.

They didn’t tell us anything about what they’d done or seen, but my eldest brother actually came back from Dunkirk, where they were very much under fire leaving the beaches to get back to this country. He told us about how he’d come back in the bottom of a coal bunker. They were ships that were just big holds that coal was loaded into to transport it. But any ships that were available had gone across to France to bring the troops back, even little pleasure craft. I remember he came back on the bottom of a coal bunker, he was very grateful for it, a bit dirty coming back that way, but at least he was coming back to safety

Did you see any people living in trenches?

FC – No, they didn’t live in trenches here, the trench warfare happened where the soldiers were on the front line and they dug the trenches so they could get down and keep out of the gunfire.

What was it like in the blackout?

DC – Dark! But it was strange, if you think about now when you look outside after it goes dark, and the number of lights you can see over Sheffield and the surrounding area, it’s all a mass of lights. But when the blackout was on, you could go outside your house when it was dark and you could see nothing. It was completely black. Come to think of it, I don’t think there was a lot of crime in those days, despite the fact that it was dark. I suppose most people, certainly over 18, were involved with fighting in the war.

Another thing they had in the war was barrage balloons, which were massive balloons like an airship, like you see on television sometimes where they have an airship floating up in the air with a camera looking down on sporting events. Well barrage balloons were big rubberised balloons, they would be probably half as big as this classroom and they were inflated with air and rose up. There was a big metal cable attached to it and when the balloon went up probably to a thousand feet or more, it was attached to a vehicle on the ground with a winch. The reason why we had them was to stop low-flying aircraft coming down and dropping bombs from a low level. If they did do that, they would catch their wings on these metal cables and it would bring the plane down. These were all over the place and exciting for kids. We used to run around finding out where they were and watch them being operated.

But one interesting point was, once when my Dad was back home, there was a blackout and there was a raid on and we were in the shelter, and my Dad was late home and he eventually came in all hot and bothered. What had happened was, he was coming down and because it was the blackout, he couldn’t see anything, he heard this scraping noise and he was walking down our road, he looked up and he saw this shape in the sky, and of course he thought it was a German parachutist coming down. So, he moved backwards in a different direction and this thing seemed to follow him. But really what it was, was a barrage balloon that’d broken away from the vehicle it was attached to and it was floating along with this big cable dangling and scraping along the road, but because of the blackout he couldn’t really see it for a long time or decide what it was.

FC – During the blackout you couldn’t even strike matches, and every window in your house had to be covered so that no light escaped at all. In fact, one night, my father was coming home from work, we lived on Lamb Road and next to it was Lamb Drive. They were both very similar, and he went up the wrong road and into a house up Lamb Drive – looked round when he got in and he was in the wrong house! So it was difficult to find your way round in the blackout!

DC – What they used to have is somebody delegated on probably each road, or every two roads, who was called a Warden, the Air Raid Wardens, and during the blackout, certainly if the sirens went off, they were patrolling the area making sure everything was safe, and if they saw a light from a house, guess what they shouted – ‘Put that light out!’ in a very loud voice, because of course it could have been dangerous. So every light had to be out and every window had to be blacked out. If you opened the door to go outside, you had to make sure that the light was out before you opened the door, so you didn’t let any light go outside at all. So it was very, very dark!

Was it nice living with strangers?

FC – Do you mean when they came to stay at our house? Well, we didn’t have so many strangers, but what we did have was another family come and stay with us because they were bombed out. They were cousins of mine and after the Blitz, this character appeared at our door covered in soot, he was black as night and he said, ‘Can we come and live with you? – We’ve got bombed out.’ I went back with him to their house at Walkley and we carried as much stuff as we could. No trams were running then, nor buses, because the wires were all down. We carried stuff from their house back to ours and they came to stay with us until they got their house repaired again, which took 6 or 7 months. So although they weren’t strangers, we had a house full – 2 cousins, their mother and father and a lot of their furniture! There was also a dog that they lost in the Blitz and we went back to look for the dog, but couldn’t find it anywhere. And strangely enough, it turned up at our house, so somehow that dog had found its way from Walkley right over to Parson’s Cross, I still don’t know how it found its way! Tim they called him and he turned up somehow.

PR -BR