World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                 Raymond McElvenney 

Recollections of an Evacuee.

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: : Raymond McElvenney.Lillian McElvenney (Mother), Joseph Joseph McElvenney (FatherRaymond, Gloria, Joseph McElvenney, Mr. & Mrs. Hacket and their son Arthur.
Location of story: Location: Notting Hill, London. Broomhall, Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

 

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

Recollections of an Evacuee.

By : Raymond McElvenney.

Lillian McElvenney (Mother), Joseph McElvenney (Father)
Raymond, Gloria, Joseph McElvenney, Mr. & Mrs. Hacket and their son Arthur.

Location: Notting Hill, London. Broomhall, Sheffield

At the outbreak of the second world war I was living with my parents, sister and baby brother in the Notting Hill area of London. Because of the possibility of danger to life and property the authorities decided to evacuate school children from central London to the outskirts. My sister and I were told to attend our school, complete with gas mask and a few personal belongings, where we were given a brown label with our name on. We were then duly put on board a train and eventually arrived in a place called Wraysbury which was near to Windsor. We were all taken to a wooden building which I now assume was either a local village hall or a Church building. We were then allocated to local families to be boarded. My sister was placed with a Salvation Army family and I was taken to a bungalow in which lived a couple of, to me, elderly people. The man of the house was a gardener who worked for a Doctor. There are a number of things arising from my evacuation which stick in my memory and are as real to me as they were then. The first one was when I was taken next door to see what to me the biggest Christmas tree that I had ever seen. It was laden with all sorts of wonderful decorations and a large star at the top. There were no tree lights, electrical, on it but a great many candles all of different colours and as a treat they lit all the candles for me to see. For me it was the biggest tree imaginable and was quite magical. As I was leaving I was give a large tin box of toffees. I had never had anything like this before.

I was walking to school one day when I saw the gardener walking towards me pushing his bike and he called to me and said “I have something to show you hold out your hands”. He then placed in my hands the biggest apple imaginable. To my mind it was as big as a pumpkin. It was of course a large bramley apple.

The other incident was when we heard that a land mine had dropped nearby. A friend of mine and I decided to play truant from school and go to see where the bomb had fallen. It had fallen in a local field and when we got there, there were still a number of dead cows there. This did not bother us, we spent our time looking for shrapnel.

One other thing that sticks in my mind that some of the houses did not have running water in their houses. They had to get their water from a pump in the street. There was always a jam jar of water left there by the pump for people to “prime the pump” before they drew what water they required.

One other thing that I remember quite clearly was being taken to see a new film in glorious colour, “Pinocchio” which had just been released.

My parents were musical artists and found themselves without work as all the London Theatres were closed “for the duration”. They took the decision to leave London and move north to work the Pubs and Clubs circuit. They eventually came to live in the Broomhall area in a large Victorian house and having got here started to make moves to get us returned from evacuation, but they were meeting with some difficulties. They approached a number of bodies for assistance in getting us home, including our own Catholic Church but were turned down. One day my mother was walking up Pinstone Street and noticed the Salvation Army Citadel on Cross Burgess Street. She went in and spoke to the “officer” in charge and told him of the difficulty she was having in getting us home. To cut a rather long story short, we were taken from our place of evacuation, escorted across London and put on the train for Sheffield. I was met by my mother and taken home by tramcar. I have remembered this incident and although being a Catholic, the Salvation Army has always been rather special to me.

One other thing that remains quite clear to me was the night of the Sheffield “Blitz”. I have never been able to fathom out why this particular incident happened the way that it did. I could never understand why we spent the night of the Blitz under the stairs on the cellar steps because we had an “Anderson Shelter” sunk in our back garden. We did use the shelter on a number of occasions later when the sirens sounded, but on the night of the Blitz I spent the night on the cellar steps underneath the front stairway. This was I assume to give us an element of protection should a bomb fall on our house. There was a little bit of excitement when a bomb dropped on two houses at the top of Havelock Square (now Holberry Gardens) and demolished them. I remember whilst on the stairs that an incendiary bomb fell on to our cellar grate and seemed to fizz for quite a long time.

My final recollection was relating to the house where we lived. The houses in Havelock Square were largely big Victorian terrace houses with 4 large bedrooms and a palatial bathroom. Because we were not able to use all the rooms ourselves our parents were required by the Authorities to take in other “families” and share the house with them. We had a family called Hacket staying with us. Mother, Father
and son Arthur. Arthur was a coalman and was eventually called up and went into the Army. One day my mother was in the kitchen and looking along the corridor to the hall noticed a figure of a man going up the stairs and my mother said to herself “oh! Arthur must be home on leave”. Later on that day Mr. & Mrs. Hacket got a telegram to say that their son, Arthur had been killed in action. My mother was the most level headed person, not given to fanciful things but was insistent that she did see Arthur going up the stairs.

One fine recollection :

My father was during the war years employed as an inspector for the Admiralty in Hadfields Steel Works who were employed as contractors producing steel for use in armaments.



During the War there were on occasions a “Military Parade” through the City. The City Centre was always packed with people to see these. I always delighted in these, particularly the Bands. These were interspersed amongst the parade. Two of the bands that stick in my mind was one of the Highland regiments with their pipes and drums and something a bit special, a contingent of American soldiers with their band which played a totally different kind of music to that which our Military Bands played. But I remember that the “Yanks” got a good welcome from the people in the streets.

One other thing that sticks in my mind about one of these parades was a contingent of Air Born Troops some of them were riding very small Motor Bikes which they quite often dismounted and carried them on their backs.

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There was great excitement in our house one day. The postman arrived with a big brown box which was marked “Red Cross”. This was sent to my mother by her brother Paul Furniss who lived in Australia. When my mother opened it we found a whole host of goodies inside. All imperishable foods, jar of honey, box of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate and many other wondrous things.

My mother’s brother, Paul was, like her brought up with a Theatrical background. He lived in Sydney Australia and founded the “Four Arts Theatre Club” which did a great deal for members of the Armed Forces in Australia who were given leave for a bit of rest and relaxation. Many of them were sent home after being injured during the battles.

When my Uncle died, because of the work he did for service men and women his work was recognised by the Military and he was given a near Military funeral.

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As children we went to school at St. Vincent’s, Solly Street. To get to school we had to go past a number of derelict buildings. These were old industrial buildings in the main but there was an old Pub on the corner and further down a redundant Anglican Church, corner of Garden Street and right next door to the St. Vincent’s Presbytery.
During the war these old building were used by the army for training purposes. To make the exercises more realistic they fired blanks from their guns and there was much banging from large firework things called ‘thunder flashes’. A little later in the day a canteen arrived and each soldier was given two thick slices of bread, a wedge of cheese and a large piece of fruit cake. They also held out their “discie” in which was poured a measure of tea.

After the soldiers had gone we went around the building collecting the spent cartridges up. We also found a number of unfired bullets so we put them in a crack in the wall. We found a piece of wood with a nail in it; we placed the nail against the bottom of the bullet and hit it with a brick causing the bullet to explode. We thought this was great fun.

Some of the soldiers were billeted in an old rather large Victorian house in Hanover Street across from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. The kitchen of the house had been adapted into a wash room with two rows of wash hand basins placed back to back.

On the night of the “Blitz” one of the Priest from St. Vincent’s went down to the Church to remove the Blessed Sacrament and Chalices from the Tabernacle. He had only been gone from the Church a few minutes when it received a direct hit and the whole of the chancel and the sacristy was very badly damaged. Until such time as the Church could be rebuilt, services were held in the Church Hall. Also demolished was the Catholic Men’s Club in the Church grounds.

Across the road from us lived the Vickers family. Mother, grandmother and son Roy, Mr. Vickers was in the army. One day we saw Mr. Vickers coming home. He had on an Australian type hat where one side was turned up. He was seen coming alone Filey Street with his great coat on with his kit bag on his shoulder and very large bunch of bananas as though they had just been cut from the tree. The Vickers family suddenly found themselves to be very popular with all the kids around there.

In 1945 I was taken into the Children’s Hospital for investigation of a kidney complaint. On the day in question I was sedated and taken down to theatre for the investigation to be carried out. When I came back from theatre and had come round from the anaesthetic I was told that the war was over. “Yes” I said I know that. “Oh! No” they said, the war with the Japanese. They had dropped the ‘A’ bomb on Hiroshima.

I remember one day when we went into Town and were amongst a great crowd of people there to greet the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill.