World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Stories by Authors' Names

A - D


ABBOTT Lewis - click for story

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ADAMS George 

The sound recording from which this interview was taken can be heard on the Audio Recordings page.

Written story on a dedicated George Adams page - click

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ADDISON Rose

The Sewing Ladies

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Rose Addison
Location of story: Macclesfield, Chesire
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Doreen Partridge of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Rose Addison.

Rose Addison
The Sewing Ladies
History had never been my strongest subject at school. I had heard all about the First World War or the 1918 war as it was sometimes called. My father had been in the trenches, or as some said, over the top, but as was the case with most young people, that didn’t mean much to me. He was at home now, fit and well, so what did it matter?
Little did I think that in later life history would mean much more to me, and that in 2005, I
would have the privilege of writing about the part that I have played in the 1939-45 war,
and paying my respects to so many others who had played a greater part - some with their lives, leaving behind grieving families and others suffering from the scars of wars.
There was a lot of talk about war in 1938, and as a 14-year-old country lass I was a bit
scared.

What part could Macclesfield play? It was very famous for its silk mills but nothing else
that would be of much help during the war. All at once I was 15 years old. War was declared and I was working in Catlow's factory with a lot of other ladies, some from London and the other big cities, all escaping the bombs. We were told that our work was to keep the forces warm and safe. So the first job was safety as we started to make camouflage coats for the army. It was hard work - the materials
and the oils that were painted on them didn’t agree with everyone’s skin. Still we carried on thinking of our men who had to be safe.

Later we were transferred to another factory - Belmonts. Here we made RAF uniforms.
Some of the girls put letters in the uniform pockets with their addresses on hoping to get a
reply. I doubt very much that they ever got outside the factory. Along with a friend. I did an extra little job to help in the war. We joined the Red Cross and after work, went into the hospital and gave what help we could with such a shortage of nurses. This was to decide my career when the war over because I loved nursing and caring for
people.

My father was an air raid warden. He went out at night and often came home and told us
how bad the raids had been over Manchester and Sheffield. He made sure that all our
blackout curtains and blinds were tightly closed, 'the tiniest glint of light could attract
attention. We also had lots of refugees but apart from that there were lots of soldiers, the Y's (R.E.M.E.S and quite a lot of Americans).

Later on in the war we had some prisoners of war, mainly Polish but some Italians. These
young men were put to work on the farms. It was a great help to the farmers whose farm
hands had joined the forces. Some had gone as Bevin boys. It was pitiful at first to see the prisoners of war. They were so afraid of us; some were unable to speak English and it took quite a while for them to realize that we were their friends. Some attended our church and many said how grateful they were for our hospitality.

Now the war was over crowds gathered outside the town hall dancing, some crying,
laughing and others very confused. Where would they live or when could they go back to
their hometowns.

So although I had escaped the blitz or loss of family, my home and possessions, I did feel
sad for those who had suffered such terrible losses. Quite a few of our boys and men from Macclesfield served in the forces. Sadly I pay my respects to those who did not come home, and also their families. But I feel that along with many more people, I did my little bit for the war, helping to clothe the armed forces, keep them safe and as some say, we were the forgotten ladies who worked behind the scenes, but I still think the sewing ladies did a good job, forgotten or not.


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AFLAT Muriel

FARM CAMP

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: MURIEL PATRICIA ALFLAT (nee GILLIVER), Miss. E. Woodland, Miss J. Hague, Miss P. Hampston
Location of story: Sheffield, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, Helpringham
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of MURIEL PATRICIA ALFLAT.

FARM CAMP

By MURIEL PATRICIA ALFLAT (nee GILLIVER)


In the autumn of 1944, a group of girls from Abbeydale Girls’ Grammar School, Sheffield, went to Lincolnshire to pick potatoes as part of the war effort. There was a shortage of labour in the countryside, as the young men had been called up for military service. We left Sheffield Midland Station on a Saturday by train, until we reached Sleaford. One of our party, Mavis Hurst, trapped her hand in the train door and was tended by some very kind American soldiers travelling on the same train.

On arrival at our destination, we transferred to a lorry and were taken to our lodgings. Up to that point, I was quite excited and eager to see what lay ahead. We reached our accommodation, which was an extremely derelict old farmhouse in Helpringham. To me it was horrific. We were allocated the rooms in which we were to sleep. We were about eight to a room. Mine was on the ground floor and others had to walk through ours in order to get to the upstairs rooms. We slept on sacks filled with straw and we had army blankets to cover us. If the doors of the rooms were slammed the walls swayed! We washed in water from the pump (queued up to do so in fact) and it was also our drinking water---that is until someone put their soap on the top (only there wasn’t one!) and it fell down the pipe! Next to the pump was a small static water tank with corrugated metal covers. When anyone lifted up a cover to get water, the midge larva at the top wriggled to the bottom! I’m afraid I did very little water drinking or even washing!

Our morning and evening meals, which were served in some hall or other, were brilliant and prepared by our accompanying teachers, Miss E. Woodland, Miss J. Hague (Maths) and Miss P. Hampston (English). Each day, a couple of girls were detailed to help with the chores, washing up, preparing meals, cleaning where the chemical toilets were. We mostly had cooked dried eggs and tomatoes for breakfast, which I quite enjoyed. Our evening meals nearly always included blackberry and apple crumble, the blackberries having been collected by staff and duty pupils. I enjoyed this too. The meal I didn’t enjoy was the mid-day one, a packed meal. Without fail it was fish paste sandwiches. I liked fresh salmon paste, but ours was, amongst others, bloater and mackerel from jars. To me it had a dreadful taste and I usually gave mine away. To supplement our meals, we were always hungry, we were allowed to go to various orchards and pick up the fallen apples to eat, even though the cows had had a bite of them first! Our other supplement was a tin of National Dried Milk into which we dipped our fingers and then licked it off!

One of the things I’d always wanted to do was to have a midnight feast. I had read a lot of Eleanor M. Brent-Dyer’s “Chalet School” books! Some of us had the odd food parcel from home and a “midnight feast” was proposed. I’m afraid I was too exhausted to stay awake and had to be woken up by someone. All I wanted to do was sleep---quite a let down!

Our daily time-table was as follows:-
- 8.0.a.m. we went to work
- mid-morning we had ¼ hour break
- dinner break for ½ hour
- 5.0.p.m. we finished.
We were taken to the fields on a tractor drawn trailer. The strip of field being harvested was divided into patches paced out and marked with sticks. The spinner (a machine that dug up the potatoes) was horse-drawn and went up one side of the patch and down the other. We collected the crop into some sort of baskets and left them at the edge of our own patch, to be collected by a man with a horse and cart. When the area had been cleared, the spinner was replaced by a harrow (rake), drawn by the same horse. This turned the soil again and we picked up any potatoes missed the first time. Then the whole process was repeated with a fresh strip of field. It rained nearly every day and was very cold, bleak and miserable. It was back-breaking work and I ended up working on my hands and knees. The older man who was in charge of the spinner was named “B dash” by us---as in “Get them B--- ‘taters picked”, and the younger one doing the collecting we called “Rosie” as he blushed when spoken to. I never did know their real names.

At one point, Italian POW’s were working in the adjoining field from where they cobbed potatoes at us with great merriment. Our pay was 9d. per hour (now the equivalent of 3 3/4p per hour and our keep was deducted from this. On our day off, Sunday, I would have liked to catch up on my sleep---but no, we were marched in a crocodile to look at the eight sailed windmills in the area. Some girls picked mushrooms---a variation to our diet---and some had assignations in the hay-stacks with the local lads!

Towards the end of our stay, I developed dysentry and was isolated. I presume we returned as we arrived, by lorry and train, but I can’t remember. My mother was waiting for me as were other mothers at the station. She was quite convinced I had someone else’s shoes on---they were so caked up with mud they were unrecognisable as mine! The following summer, some girls went fruit-picking, but I was not one of them!

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AINLEY Kathleen

Going Home during the Sheffield Blitz

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Kathleen Ainley
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Kathleen Ainley.

Going Home during the Sheffield Blitz

By
Kathleen Ainley
One Thursday night I had gone with my friends to the Sheffield Empire Theatre to see Henry Hall. We went to the first house at 8pm but my father was not very happy about me going.
The sirens were going as we came out of the theatre and we walked down to the tram stop outside C & A. We nearly went into the shelter below Marples pub but the tram came and so we got on and set off home.
We could hear the anti-aircraft guns firing from Manor Top (there was a battery up on the top of the hill. We could hear the groan of the planes approaching. It was very frightening.
My father was waiting for me at the tram stop and he immediately took me into the air raid shelter. The tram driver was scared to go on but the conductor said “Let’s go to Handsworth, it’ll be safer over there’ this is what they did and they stayed there.
I stayed in the shelter all night with my mother, brother and sister. I kept popping out to see what was happening but I soon went back into the shelter. My father had gone to work; he was a signalman on the railway at Brightside.
Sunday was the next big bombing raid and the planes concentrated on the steel works at Attercliffe and Brightside. My dad went out of his signal box and took shelter under a bridge for cover. A landmine went off right next to him and deafened him; he never regained his hearing properly. A young lad who was sheltering with my dad was really scared, because his home had been blown up on the Thursday attack.
The last bomb dropped that night, landed in the schoolyard near our home. We had heard the whistling of the bomb and all thought that we had had it; all the lights went off, we were all very scared. Later I climbed out of the shelter and it was a very bright night with the entire east end of Sheffield aglow – on fire!

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AINSWORTH Peggy

Life in Wartime Britain

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: John Tobin, Vincent Tobin, Doris Tobin, Bessie Tobin, Peggy Tobin
Location of story: Bradford West Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Maggie O’Neill of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Peggy Ainsworth.

Life in Wartime Britain

3rd September 1939 - 7 years old

My earliest memory of the war was air raid drill at school. We had these brick shelters in the playground. My father erected an Andersen Shelter in the garden. Being fortunate, the only time we were in the shelter was the last Saturday evening of August 1940. My grandfather retired that day. The centre of Bradford was bombed. It was thought they were unloading bombs for a quick return home. I remember black out material for curtains, restricted light in torches and shortages of coal. I lived in the bedroom because of gas fire. Soldiers were billeted in schools and big houses. Ration books: being a child 2 ounces (50g) of sweets a week. People used to exchange food. My mother made rabbit stew (lovely).

My father was a painter and decorator and worked at the Royal Infirmary, and because there was a lot of leftover food, the workmen formed a pig club. I remember going with my father to feed them, there was good accommodation for the pigs and boiled up food. We ate pigeon. I was lacking vitamins and the lobes of my ears were coming away from my head. The specialist, a Mr Bingham prescribed Borax, which did the trick. I remember Winston Churchill being driven in an open jeep down past the drive where I lived and waving to people, queuing for bread, Marks and Spencer’s for fruit cake and cinemas. Unlike today, we had many ‘uplifting our spirits’ films, musicals with Fred Astaire, Laurel and Hardy, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry being my favourites. Photographs of Belsen were on display at the Co-op Hall I went to with my mother.

My brother was killed aged 19 years, on the way from Anzio to Rome. Whitsuntide holidays at home in bed, woke to my mother crying after receiving the telegram. We went to my father’s work to tell him (no phones). My brother had worked at John Lipton’s Wine and Spirits Co in the centre of Bradford near the railway station. My mother remarked, after going to his workplace to inform them of his death, that many soldiers were making for the railway station. Later we heard about D Day on 6th June 1944.


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ALLEN Jack

We Desert Rats

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Jack Allen
Location of story: Tunisia, North Africa
Unit name: Desert Rat, 8th Army
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Carole Cooper.

My uncle Jack Allen was a Desert Rat in the 8th Army during World War II. The following poem was written by him during his time in the desert in 1942.

We Desert Rats

We live in the desert, believe me it's true
If you envy us, we'll change places with you
We eat sand with our breakfast and with our stew
And not only that, we breathe the stuff too
We're nothing but, Rats in the Desert

We dig trenches and dug outs, we dig them by hand
Then we live somewhere else, isn't life grand!
When we can, if we can, we sleep on the sand
The mysterious East, the Promised Land
It's 'oh!' for people who don't understand
But think of us, as Rats in the Desert

We've not had a bath for ten weeks or more
We can't shave too often, our faces are raw
The sun and the sand make our feet rather sore
I do wish I knew who started this war
And what the hell they started it for
Perhaps to make us chaps, Rats in the Desert

We work by day, we work by night
Doing things we know will give Hitler a fright
And if he isn't wise it will just serve him right
Cause it's that guys fault we're out here to fight
And living like, Rats in the Desert

But we're getting used to the Desert, flies and grit
We don't bother about time, beer or kit
We visit each other to chat, smoke and spit
It helps pass the time by just a bit
We play like Rats in the Desert

And when this war's over and we're back on the boat
And we anxiously wait for this to float
We'll draw our back pay and credits in notes
And think of the time when these verses we wrote
And we were Rats in the Desert

Oh! to see a Desert Rat now the spring is here
Nothing to do, Nothing to say, no money, no fags, no beer

My home is the centre of nowhere
by the side of a desert track
And if folks care to come up and see me
sometime you'll find me in my Bivouac

The way that I dress isn't style
but there's no-one here to care
I just knock about in khaki rompers
with buttons off here and there

Water out here is a problem, I've not
washed since a week yesterday
But that doesn't matter as I've no soap,
you sunburn quicker that way

And at meal times it seems strange
with no hall to sit in
It's hard tack and bully or biscuits and fish
or some fruit from a tin

We don't hear the call of a bugle
not even a Janker parade
Sometimes I forget I'm a soldier, as on
Friday's we don't even get paid

Hitler sometimes sends his planes over to
stop us from resting
But the AA lads just open up and make it
more interesting
And at night time it's so peaceful, off to
work and no queue for a bus

Oh! to be a Desert Rat
Robinson Crusoe had nothing on us!!

Jack Allen
1942

Jack Allen died on January 10, 1999 aged 90.


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ALLEN Mary

The SS Benares - My life was saved by a clerical error

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Mary Curran (now Allen)
Location of story: Garrowhill, near Glasgow
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Norman Wigley of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Mrs Mary Allen.

In 1940 I was 6 and my brother would have been 2½. I learned after the war that we should have been evacuated to relatives in Ontario, Canada on the SS Benares, but we were not allowed to go because there was something wrong with our visas. We had to stay at home in Garrowhill, near Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk, and it is very likely that if we had sailed we would not have survived.

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ALLOTT Arthur 

Liberation Of Europe

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Arthur Allott, Bill Cooper, Syd Smith, Harry Adams and Macdonald
Location of story: Normandy to Germany
Unit name: B Flight 658 Squadron A.O.P.
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Arthur Allott.


We started in Normandy, then we went through the Falaise Gap where we lost 2 men after being bombed and machine-gunned. We followed the Armoured Guards into Brussels where we were met by three ladies who took us home. ‘Us’ being Bill Cooper, Harry Adams and myself. The ladies’ father had served a bottle of Brandy for the first British troops who came to his house.

From there, we were trying to get to Arnhem which we didn’t manage, we only got to Nim Bridge where we lost a plane that was shot down. Our unit was an Air Observation Post whose function was to direct artillery fire onto targets. I was in the R.A.F. attached to the army; the pilots were actually army captains and we were attached to the 30 Corps.

The next battle was the Rhine crossing where we had a grandstand view of the paratroopers dropping. Later, we lost another plane which was shot down; two people were killed. Meanwhile, whilst in Holland, we were taken for dinner at a house in Treebeck; they were very kind to us; they had two little girls whom I still have a photo of.

The next battle was the Battle Of The Bulge in the Ardennes. We were in a little village outside Brussels arranging a Christmas party for the kids. We had made a great spread, but unfortunately, we had to move for the Germans had broken through the Ardennes.

I often wonder how these kids went on. Syd Smith was a great friend whom I haven’t seen since the war. He lives in Berkhampstead in Hertfordshire, Bill Cooper lives in Newcastle, Harry Adams, in London and MacDonald lives in Huddersfield (assuming they are still living of course).

“We will never see the likes again.”

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AMBLER Joyce 

The sound recording from which this interview was taken can be heard on the Audio Recordings page


Horsemeat, A Wedding Treat

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Joyce Ambler
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Joyce Ambler.


My memories are basically those of a schoolgirl. The majority of schools were closed during the war, and so we had to go into people’s front rooms. My mum was one of those kind enough to open our home, but really, I don’t think we got much out of it, not as much as if we were actually at school. But another one of my memories is seeing these church doors and other halls with all the lists of names of people who had been killed in the blitz – the bombing etc.

On the first night of the Sheffield blitz, the Thursday, my sister had had a new baby. The blitz started about 7 o’clock, and we went into the cellars, which were re-enforced, and unfortunately, not too far away, a bomb dropped onto a pub. The fire from that blew out part of my sister’s home, set the house on fire, and the only way that we could get out, was by going through the cellars.

One of the lighter situations was - as you know, everything was rationed – my brother was coming home on leave to be married – he was in the 8th army – and of course, there was no food. He was bringing his friends to the wedding, and my mum wondered, “What are we going to do?” She decided that we would stand in the queue at the butcher’s shop and get some horse meat. So on Friday, my mum made this fantastic meat and potato pie for the guests who were coming to the wedding the following day. She bought this enormous piece of horsemeat which was roasted and used for the wedding buffet.

Y’know, we had to stand in queues for anything that was a bit different, such as rabbit or sausage, anything that was different. But I’ve got recollections; I did try this horsemeat. It cut like beef, but it had a different flavour, and I reckon one or two of the guests cottoned on that it was different, but nobody complained. It was edible, maybe a sort of sweeter flavour, but none of us complained. It was a luxury to get quite a lot of meat.

Of course there was rationing and each person in the household was allocated 1s 6d (one shilling and sixpence, 7 ½ p) worth of meat per week. So, if you bought a dearer piece of meat, you just got less, therefore we always had the cheaper cuts so that we could have a little bit more.

Of course, we had the blackouts, and being in my teens, I didn’t get to go out.

Interviewer: What did you do of an evening?

Joyce: We just stayed in, of course we had the radio, but it was more or less a gossip. Occasionally, we managed to get to the cinema. I can recall going to the cinema and the air raids sounding, so we had to come home.

Interviewer: Were you out and about on the blitz nights?

Joyce: On no love, on the blitz nights I was at my sister’s home, when she’d had this baby. The baby was born in September, the blitz was in December, so she was quite a tiny baby when the air raid came. That was when we had to go into the cellars.

Int: So when it was over, your house was totally destroyed was it?

Joyce: No, it was my sister’s; the fire had blown out all the windows and the roof was off, so the family, my sister, her husband and the very young baby came to live at my sister’s home. We did allsorts in those days, we’d move furniture to one side to get a bed in.

Int: Did you get any compensation for the loss of your home or anything?

Joyce: No, not a thing. But I suppose it was a difficult time for everybody really. The thing that pleased us was when loved ones went away to the war, we were over the moon if they came back. So, what we were suffering at home, didn’t compare to them who were fighting the war. We just wanted them back.

Int: Did any of your relatives go out to the war zone?

Joyce: Yes, the one who was married. He got back alright. His friend was in the airborne regiment and he had one bullet wound in his leg, but that was all he suffered all through the war, but his friend, a very nice chap, he died. He was in the airborne and they went over. He was presumed missing, he was never found.


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ARTHUR Jack

School Days 1939

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Jack Arthur, Harry Emerey and Richard Flinders
Location of story: Fence Council School, Woodhouse Mill, Sheffield.
Background to story: Civilian

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jack Arthur.


Schooldays 1939
I was a schoolboy when the war with Germany was declared. I remember that morning quite well; I was listening to the radio with my family, just waiting. My age then was eleven years; I am now 76 (2005).

Being at school in those days was different from the present time; I yearn for their return. We went to school with our gas masks in a cardboard box and an Identity Card in our pocket.

As war progressed, things began to change. Rationing started; there were no bananas, very few oranges, and even fewer sweets. Smith’s crisps were also rare.

I remember hospital trains passing through Woodhouse Mill station, going somewhere, no church bells and the blackout. We had to walk to school, and I remember the anti aircraft guns pointing their barrels to the east. I heard them firing their deadly shells, sooner than I expected.

As children, we never went short of fish and chips, it cost 1 penny (0.5p) then. It came to pass that the gun site at Treeton became redundant; the war changed course and eventually, that site became a POW camp at which Italian POW’s arrived. I will never forget the air raids in 1940 – 41, and the Sheffield Blitz.

Whilst at Fence School, the bigger boys had to pump the air raid shelters out. Harry Emery, Dick Flinders, and I, along with more lads who were big enough, got the job of doing that. The good thing about it was that we always missed the maths lesson, so we didn’t mind, although it mattered later.

We did our bit (digging for victory). The girls were knitting balaclava helmets for the troops. As the war carried on, I was beginning to think I might become involved, sooner of later. The nearest I got, towards the end of the war, was when I started work in the munitions factory at Attercliffe, helping to make mortar shells. At that stage of the war, I had left school at 14 years of age and my wage was 14 shillings and 7pence (73p).


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BAHR Irmgard  Click for Dedicated Page

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BAILEY Allan 

My Father's War Service with the Royal Tank Corps

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: George Robert Bailey
Location of story: France; Dunkirk; Tobruk; El Alamein; Alexandria; Italy; Normandy; Germany
Unit name: Royal Tank Corps
Background to story: Army

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Norman Wigley of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Mr Allan Bailey.

My father, George Robert Bailey, served with the Royal Tank Corps as a sergeant in WW2. He went to France with the BEF and was evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940; he was uninjured.

He then served in North Africa, attached to the Eighth Army. He was with a Churchill heavy tank unit. He served at Tobruk and El Alamein.

At El Alamein, he was in charge of a tank as part of a troop. His tank was hit and caught fire and the gunner was trapped. My father was ordered out, but went back in to rescue the gunner. He then got carpeted for disobeying the order and lost his stripes. However he was told by the Captain that he would be OK – but the Lieutenant who reported him would go no further. At the hearing, his rank was reinstated and he was even mentioned in despatches. The Captain was later proved right about the lieutenant.

After El Alamein he was in the victory parade at Alexandria and came within feet of Churchill and Montgomery. He came home on leave and then served in Italy until they surrendered. He returned to the UK in time to go with the Normandy landings on 6th June 1944. He went through France, Paris, and across the Rhine, finishing at the Brandenberg Gate where he met the Russians.

My father was awarded the North Africa Star with 8th Army bar and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Italy Star, the France and Germany Stars, the Victory Medal, and the Service Medal.

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BAILEY John

From Barnsley Town Hall to Dept. Propaganda and Psychological Warfare

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: John Bailey, aged 104 (b. 24.12.1900)
Location of story: Barnsley, London, France, Brussels, Badherdhysin
Unit name: Dept. Propaganda and Psychological Warfare
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Anne Payne of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of John Bailey.

I was called up at age 42 and felt a bit annoyed at that as I was in a reserved occupation, working as I did for Barnsley Corporation Electrical Dept. (as electricity came under the local council in those days). Because it was a reserved occupation, they put the manager’s son in my job instead. I was sent to Aldershot and did 6 weeks of basic training. While there, we were divided into two groups on one occasion and told to debate something. They appointed me as chairman and I had to make the opening speech about a pit disaster (which I knew something about as I’d been a pit pony lad in a local pit when I was younger and had actually been in a disaster, being one of the few who had walked out alive) and we won the debate. I’ve wondered since if this was one reason why they sent me with a letter to London afterwards, and told me I’d to give this letter to no-one but the police. I’d no idea what was in it.

When I got to London, I approached the first police-man I saw who opened the letter and said “Bloody Hell!” and took me to a police station where I was seen by an Inspector and he arranged for me to be transported in a police van to a private address in Kensington. I still didn’t know what the place was but eventually learned that it was to be the headquarters of the new Dept. for Propaganda and Psychological Warfare. I was then Pte. Bailey, and along with a sergeant and a brigadier, I was the first recruit. The place was bare and there were no mattresses, so you just put your army great coat on the floor and used your hat as a pillow. I was told by the sergeant to find an envelope of a particular size for the brigadier, but the place was bare, but I found one eventually and took it to him. He asked who I was and I learned that some-one else had arrived, so that made four of us! We never did get any mattresses, but you learned to sleep anywhere.

Eventually, as the war progressed, our commanding officer came to us all and said “Hands up anyone who wants to go to France”. As this was followed by complete silence, he then said, “Well all you buggers are going anyway!” I was part of the D-Day Landings on D-Day +1. (I think I’m probably the oldest survivor of the D-Day Landings, and possibly the oldest member of the British Legion.) We went with an officer and on the way out of harbour, our ship did the same as every other ship leaving---we shot a cannon at a nearby wreck, trying to sink it. We arrived at Aramanche beach. We managed to get to Lisle and then on to Menzies where 1000’s of us had gathered in the street. Our troops took over a German barracks where all personnel had been killed, but we eventually got to a camp, where we slept in a field in branches and under twigs. That was where we met up with Brigadier Neville again. He lived in a caravan, and when he moved out, the Colonel wasted no time in moving in. I’d chummed up with another private and we had to cook the Colonel’s breakfast each day. One day, the Colonel had said to my mate, “I’m getting blaadey tired of white eggs.” When I heard that I asked what he expected us to do about it, given that everything was in such short supply. My mate said, “Well he wants brown ones”. So I said, “Right, we’ll boil them in coffee”, and we did!

Soon after, we reached Monty’s HQ in Rue de Loire, Brussels. We lived a bit rough at times, but eventually we got into a building in Rue Justalips, which we shared with some officers. There was a captain there who was a bit of a pansy and he said to me one day “You’d have to follow me if I went over the top”. I told him I would follow him anywhere---I don’t think he understood my sense of humour! Also sharing the same building at times were officers of the press, including on occasions, Richard Dimbleby. By this time I’d got 1 stripe (lance corporal) and every evening, I had to take a canvas bag marked Press to HQ. There were often up to 13 newspapers in it and as I handed in the new ones, I was given the old ones to take away. These were all marked to show what I needed to cut out and put in an album for Monty. You see, I was never involved in any battles, but I was always in the middle of it. No, I fought my war with 2 bottles of Gloy (glue)! They made use of me in other ways as well, though, because years before, I’d been in the butchery business, so on one occasion when we’d managed to get hold of a lamb, I butchered it. With the help of two ladies, we succeeded in providing food for everyone for a long time. I even taught the ladies to make tea!

One evening, while still in Brussels, I went for a walk and as I rounded a corner, I heard a crash and saw someone thrown through a window, following a fight. Nearby a door opened and a man called Paul came out. He was a watch-maker and they were having a party. He could see I was startled and said in broken English “What’s up Tommy?” He invited me in to their party, but I said I’d better not. He understood my hesitation and reassured me that they were all for the invasion and against the Germans, so I went in and joined them for a while. I went back several times and he made me a ring and a watch. One day they took me to a hotel to meet some footballers. By then I was a corporal, and I “slapped down” a private who was also there and taking over---ordering people about. I “pulled rank” on him and told him not to take advantage of these good folk. Later, Paul and his friends asked me to sing for them. (I’d done a lot of singing before the war, mainly in amateur operatics, and after the war I sang with Male Voice Choirs.)

Soon afterwards, we were moved to Badherdhysin, where the hotel became the sergeant’s mess. By coincidence, I saw an old colleague from Barnsley and said, “Hallo Joe”. He showed no sign of recognition and pointed to his stripes (sergeant), saying “Hey, watch who you’re talking to---there’s no Joe here, it’s sergeant to you!” At the sergeant’s mess, we also employed two Germans who’d been anti-Hitler, and they invited me to sing---word had got round! While we were there, I met the Commander-in-Chief (Monty), who wanted to meet the person who’d been making up the albums. He asked me what I would do with them if I were him so I said, “Well sir, if it were me, I’d give them to my son to keep”. Monty said, “Well that’s what I’ll do then”.

On another day, I was told to get ready as they needed me to take a bust of Monty to the C-in-C in Caen. It had been made by a French sculptor, and I had to go and collect it from him in Caen. I was dropped by jeep on the outskirts of the town, but it was in the middle of a battle, so I was phoned through every 10 yards to say who I was, and most of the way I was walking through dead bodies---the stench was terrible. When I reached base, the Colonel was pinning up Christmas cards, which seemed wrong when men were getting killed. I was given food and taken safely back, phoning me through again, every 10 yards.

At the end of the war, I was given a certificate of merit by Monty and a photo was taken of the occasion, which I still have, but unfortunately, someone stood in front of Monty while it was being taken. I also have a photo of me holding Monty’s Dachsund puppies, and a picture of all of the people in publicity and psychological warfare. I was demobbed in 1945 after 2½ years, and this for me was the best day of the war. From the sergeant’s mess, six officers carried me shoulder high and sang God Save the King. We were de-mobbed from Salz.... in Germany, and there were big battle ships everywhere. I slept in a hammock, which was a new experience, and when we got to Hull, there was an announcement, “Will Sgt. Bailey move forward,” and then I led the men off the boat. When we arrived in Sheffield, there were 100’s of British soldiers in this office we were taken to, and it was going to be a long wait for transport home. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, the place was nearly deserted, but I was just in time to get the train home to Barnsley.

When I got back to work at Barnsley town hall, my boss asked me what I’d done during the war, because they’d had to send information about me and give a character reference, but they’d never known what it was for. From the Electrical Dept. I moved to the Housing Dept. and from there I went to work in the Education Dept. where I stayed as a school bobby until my retirement. Since then, I’ve kept myself busy by writing poetry and have written up most of my life’s story up till joining the army. Also, there’s a local historian called Brian Elliott who’s written a number of books, and he seems to find me interesting, so he’s got me in some of them. Then, last year, I was awarded a veteran’s medal from the Chairman of the British Legion. The presentation was at a special do at Doncaster Race-Course, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

 

BAILEY Barbara

HMS Marne Proclamation

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Barbara Bailey
Location of story: Artic Circle and Sheffield.
Unit name: HMS Marne
Background to story: Royal Navy

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Barbara Bailey.

Barbara has the original proclamation given to her husband for crossing the Artic Circle on the HMS Marne (merchant Navy). It was the 'Order of the Blue Nox'.

She also recalls that on the night of the Blitz, one of the strangest sights was a piano stuck up in a tree.


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BALDERSTONE Eugene

My War Time Working

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Eugenie Balderstone (Nee Eley), Lady Ursula Manners, Ernest Hayden (Sonny), Kathleen Beesley
Location of story: Grimsby, Wroxham, Grantham
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Eugenie Balderstone.

My War Time Working

By
Eugenie Balderstone (Nee Eley)

When the 2nd World War broke out in 1939, I was seventeen and working at Ticklers jam factory in Grimsby. My parents came from Hull. We had a shop, a general store, close to the 'Docks' in Grimsby.

My mother Amelia (Millie) made and sold hot cakes. I helped to deliver them on early mornings before going to work. My eldest sister Florence (Florrie)was married. My other sister Georgina (Ena), who was 18 months younger than I, worked locally as a braider for Sleights.

During the summer of 1940, a group of us girls from Ticklers, were sent to assist with the fruit production at Hoveton St. John nr. Wroxham. This was only for a few weeks because the people on the farms there couldn't get the fruit to Grimsby. Some of the jam made by Ticklers was for the armed forces. We hoped that soldiers in France ate our jam.

When I returned from Norfolk, I decided to join the ATS. My father Ernest (Tim) worked as one of the Recruitment Officers at the Duncombe Street branch.

During the 1st World War he was in France in the ASC, now (RASC) in transport, driving a lorry. Before that he played a piccolo in a military band. The Royal Warwick’s regiment (overseas). He objected to me joining the ATS being concerned about my health, since I had recently had meningitis.

Instead I went to work on munitions at British Mark (Marcos). In Grantham I was interviewed by Lady Ursula Manners, the Duke of Rutland’s sister. It was at her suggestion that I agreed to work in the loading sheds. My job was filling shells with TNT powder. I was paid an extra penny an hour risk money for this work. This was, I thought, my contribution to the war effort.

The munitions factory in Grantham was a large site. My sister Ena came to work at Marcos; she was on a milling machine. This was at a different part of the site from where I worked. The loading sheds were further 'up in the hills'. Sometimes we had to go down into the magazines (mags). Stored in the mags were two different types of powder. There was black powder for tracer bullets and yellow powder for filling the shells. I only ever worked on the high explosive (yellow) powder. This stained our hair and skin yellow. It It used to burn and sting. We got skin rashes, even though we wore masks and overalls.

The working conditions in the factory were strictly supervised. We wore protective clothing such as rubber boots and caps covering our hair. We changed and left personal items in our lockers. Cigarettes, lighters and matches were forbidden. Often, we were checked before going into the sheds to start our shifts. We worked 12 hour shifts; a fortnight on days, then a fortnight on nights. Later I went onto permanent nights. During the changing of shifts from one to another, sometimes we would take a long weekend break. On one occasion, whilst at home in Grimsby, I stood too close to the black grate's oven door. Catching my arm on it, the skin very quickly peeled away. I realised I must be more careful in the future. However, after it healed up I continued to work in the loading sheds.

Many people from Grimsby worked at British Mark. My future husband's mother, Cora was there as well as some of the girls from Ticklers. My father eventually came to work at Marcos since he was no longer needed as a Recruitment Officer. Despite there being a war on, the long hours and dangerous work, I made some good friends. Marcos had a big social hall. I enjoyed many a night out in the social club singing and dancing.

Towards the end of the war (around 1944), I had an accident. There was a routine before and after an air-raid. Once the warning siren went, everyone had to get out as soon as possible to the shelters. It was my job (as it was someone else's on another shift) to rush around and see that the machines were shut down before I could go to the air-raid shelter. After the all clear, it was my job to check that the machines were safe to start up again.

One night as the siren sounded, during black-out, whilst hurrying to shut the machines down, I slipped on one of the duckboards outside the machine sheds and cut my knee badly. It healed up quickly but my leg began to swell up. My father suggested that I needed a change. He said that I had worked long enough with high explosive powder. I joined him working in the bonus office.

My leg continued to play me up. I returned to Grimsby on sick leave to convalesce. On VE Day, 8th May 1945, when Churchill spoke at 3pm to say the war was over in Europe.
I was with my mother at Grimsby Hospital. My leg was so painful, there was a possibility of having my toe amputated. I thought I might lose my right leg. Fortunately, this didn't happen.

I married Ernest Hayden (Sonny) at Old Clee Church, Christmas 1945. My right leg was still stiff and I couldn't bend it. Even during the wedding ceremony. Ernie had come back after six years at war in October. (1945) Because he was a brick-layer he came out on 'B' class.

He helped me recover as did Mrs. Kathleen Beesley. Ena was home and belonged to Mrs. Beesley's keep-fit class/troupe. I went to her three times a week and she massaged my leg. By 1946 I was feeling much better and I made a good recovery and continued to help my mother in the shop. I never went back to Ticklers. I left it to others to make the jam.



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 BARBER Jean

A Child’s View of War

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Jean Barber
Location of story: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jean Barber.
By
Jean Barber

Viewed through the eyes of a 5 to 10 year old child, life passed off uneventfully, food appeared on the table, birthdays and Christmas produced presents, and the yearly holiday taken at the seaside - generally Blackpool where my father, a commercial traveller amongst other things, took Mum and myself, sometimes by car - he combined our holidays with his travelling, and at other times joining him by train when he was already in the area. The only eventful thing that happened were stray bombs that fell in Stannington, the blast from the valley brought the ceiling down in the front room of the house which overlooked the Rivelin Valley in Crookes.

My Dad built an air raid shelter, he dug into the bank at the back of the house which was built on a hill near the Bolehills. The walls and roof were brick and concrete reinforced with mesh, the garden which was terraced was re-instated on the roof of the shelter. You could not tell a shelter was there as the garden hut was in front with just a small passage at the side leading to it. I know that the shelter was still in place in the 1980s, as it was used as a garden store and shed. The whole thing was immensely strong and equipped with bunk beds - always ready, and an off-heater capable of brewing tea and battery lights. The elderly couple who lived next door used it as well, as it was pretty big.

My Dad was in a reserved occupation in a small tool and engineering firm in Sheffield, switching from the office when men were called up for the army. This resulted in him being able until he retired to sort out any problem that came up, he could work out most things and finish the job. I have a copy of a painting done by one of the work people of Dad at his bench, working an a job. He started the war as an A.R.P. Warden switching to the Home Guard, however, because he could drive, he was seconded to the Auxiliary Fire Service to drive the fire engines based at Division Street. He attended the fire at Walsh’s department store and said it was not the result of a bomb, but from flames from else where. The fires could not be extinguished as there was no water supply, the fire fenders having an inadequate supply of water for the amount needed. It was only when I grew up that I understood the danger he was in as he worked through the blitz with the A.F.S., combining this with his job at the firm. The firemen had a reputation for making huge sandwiches at that time, this I can verify, having tried to eat one, they were big!

My Mum's brother and sister were also with the fire service, my aunt was on the switchboard in Division Street throughout the war. My uncle was full time in the A.F.S. He had a posting to London through their blitz and I remember overhearing Mum say that one of his jobs was to go out with a basket and retrieve human body parts - to a child it seemed unthinkable.

The flourishing Black market operating at the time produced a steady supply of food and materials for clothing. The proprietress, of the hotel we stayed at in Blackpool had quite a few farmers among her clients, when they came for their holiday what their suitcases contained was anybody's guess, but we always ate vary well and the proprietress was generous to her regulars and supplied them with food when they went home. The Christmas turkey came from the vale of York, where there were contacts, Dad hiding it well in the back of the car along with other goodies.

I remember at my grandmother's my aunt sat making underwear out of parachute silk. Also my Mum, making clothes from material she obtained from an old friend who kept vast amounts of various materials under her bed, wool blankets made very good coats. Mum also got some mock fur which she made into a siren suit for me. In the shelters they were invaluable to keep you warm.

When V. E. was declared we had moved to Crosspool, where at the top of the garden was a field with allotments: Dad built a bonfire to celebrate: However the most memorable time was V.J. Day.

We were on holiday at Blackpool and when the news of the surrender came through, the whole town went wild. The Fylde coast had huge bases of American and British air force and troops. Along the front at Blackpool, if it could be moved and burnt it went on a bonfire.

There were bonfires and parties every few yards - dancing - drinking - celebrating, it was mind blowing to a just 11 year old participating, and eventually hauled off to bed and watching from the bedroom window: Blackpool eventually slept the next day. Walking along the front the following day, you could see the remains of all the bonfires and service men and women asleep on the sands. I will never forget, at 70 it is still fresh in my mind.

Towards the end of the war when at Crosspool, the Italian prisoners of war used to come walking found the area. At that time things were quite relaxed regarding these men, they used to work on local farms and were based at the Redmires prisoner of war camp near Lodge Moor. When Dad saw any, he used to invite them in for a cup of tea. They were always friendly and occasionally lost, Dad somehow managed to give them directions even if the language posed a little difficulty.

In 2002 I managed to Get my uncle Albert, my aunt's husband, talking about his experiences at Dunkirk. He was with the Royal Engineers but was seconded to the medical corp at the time of Dunkirk. He described picking up the injured on stretches with his partner, wading into the sea and trying to load them onto the boats to bring home. As we know, the boats were all shapes and sizes and rocking violently with all the activity in the water, they had quite a job trying to get them on board without disturbing the injured too much (or losing them in the sea). We all know what a great job everyone did at that time. The medics were of course the last to leave. My uncle described running from obstacle to obstacle on the beach, dodging bullets from the German planes and eventually throwing themselves onto a boat. He recounted his story of the beaches with humour and a little laughter particularly dodging the bullets. I believe he spent the rest of the war in the Middle East fairly uneventfully.

I hope the above will be of interest. I was lucky, many were not. My war passed with the love of both my parents and we came through it together with my family complete, many were not so lucky and we owe a great debt to them. My grandfather lost his younger brother in the 1914-18 war and his body was not recovered until 1936. A farmer was plowing a field at Mouquet Farm in France not far from the Belgium border and my uncle's remains came to light. He was reburied in the war cemetery at Longville in France, near to Belgium. I have been to see his grave with my daughter and the sight of all the rows of graves is the most moving experience, the song containing the lines "When will they ever learn?" comes to-the mind. As my great uncle was serving with the Canadian Seaforth Highlanders, his name is also recorded at the magnificent Canadian war memorial at Vimy Ridge in France and I had the privilege of seeing his name an the memorial and also at the memorials in Edinburgh. I hope to take my son someday. I had the pleasure of going with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who visit the World War One battlefields and war graves every year. It is a moving experience. The Last Post Ceremony held every evening at the Menin Gate in Ypres by the local Fire Brigade and residents is truly a thought provoking time, the sounding of the Last Post and the wreath laying ceremony makes you think of the infallibility of life. Alas, when will we ever learn? Today brought back all the negative feelings of war with the bombing of London – 7 July 2005!

My Mum, what was her contribution? She was like so-many other mothers and wives, quietly getting on with life, making sure her family were fed and clothed, the power and the backbone of the country on which life hinged in spite of the higher profile of the forces and home work force. Without them, life would have been so much harder for everyone. Their role is often very much underestimated by everyone who lived through those times. As a wife and mother I understand the amount of work that we do and the truly momentous efforts our mothers must have put in to look after us.

Jean Barber nee Ward.


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 BARCLAY Peter

THE MASKS OF WAR

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Peter Barclay
Location of story: Timperley, Cheshire
Background to story: Civilian Force


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Peter Barclay, and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

THE MASKS OF WAR
By Peter Barclay

”Piddle into a towel or a handkerchief and hold it to your face. It's better than nothing in a gas attack,” my mother smiled trying to reassure me. Weeks later the rubber gas masks arrived in their neat cardboard boxes. We learned to duck our necks in first and then pull the masks over our faces. Within minutes, the plastic window clouded up, but it all seemed fun and as gas attacks never happened, masks lay in the back of cupboards until the end of hostilities.

It all seemed a bit pointless, the Germans seldom raided us in the North West. True, we said goodbye to bananas and oranges, essential food was rationed. The news on the wireless was not too good, but we sang songs about The Lambeth Walk and Washing on the Siegfried Line and the fun remained for a further year or so, yet imperceptibly the stage was turning. When air raids on Manchester intensified, attitudes changed. My parents put on a good face and led me in the middle of the night down to the dining room where the table was pushed against the wall. We waited and listened. There was the guffaw of anti-aircraft fire, the crunch of distant bombs, the steady hum of our own aircraft then........ ”It's one of theirs, you can tell by the chugging of their engines.” At last, the all clear siren and a sleepy return upstairs to bed.

As raids intensified, my dad decided to move the beds downstairs. At first it was a bit of a laugh, the three of us in the same room. He spent his weekends designing new blackout and would arrive home from the hardware shop with the latest supply of wooden laths, thick black paper and eventually the latest in roller blinds. I regarded my father as King of the Night, until I found that Britain was full of them, DIY men before that term was actually invented. Over our new bedroom window, he carefully glued sheets of muslin to protect us from bomb blasts. All we could see through the garden windows was a sea of pale white, which rapidly turned to sickly green as mould formed between fabric and thin plate glass.

It was safer to sleep on the floor beneath my bed, a bit like camping. I woke one winter morning to find my parents still in bed. “My comic arrived?” I wondered vaguely why dad hadn't gone to work. Mum pulled back the kitchen curtains; the nearby privet hedge and side of the house were plastered with thick sickly looking clay. After breakfast we wandered outside to collect shrapnel, those shiny bits of distorted shells that had rained down from ack-ack fire. The house next door but one, had a massive hole in its roof where a huge lump of boulder clay and grit had penetrated the bedrooms and living room. Fortunately the two elderly owners survived unharmed. Not so fortunate the occupants of a house five minutes walk away. Later my father came home with the news, “Manchester's been blitzed. A German aircraft hit by gunfire, knew he was going to crash, he off loaded his bombs. It struck that house by Stoney Path. Everyone was killed, it could have been us,” he added. For once my mother looked really worried.

With Allied successes at Stalingrad, El Alamein and Anzio the tide was moving in our favour. The Americans had joined the war, a food parcel arrived in the post unexpectedly. It was from our relatives in New York. There were gifts of candy bars and garish tee shirts, one or two crazy comics and a small book on American birds that I kept for years after. A strange uniform appeared in town, Polish servicemen were in dark blue, neatly tailored outfits were on the American troops and airmen who were flush with money. Inevitably, girls flocked towards them, becoming the first GI brides after the war. They brought their crew cut hairstyles, doughnuts and Glen Miller music. Britain was never the same again.

Towards the end of the war, strange faces appeared in the fields; good looking men with black hair and strange accents, Italian people, used to farm life. I stood by a roadside and watched a team of muscular, fit looking men with an officer in charge, engaged in a drainage scheme. I liked the ingenious way they smoked their fags in home made cigarette holders with a little pipe at the end. I had never seen men work harder. They were German prisoners of war. Where were the Giles cartoon figures of block-faced troops with blonde cropped hair and brutal intent? These men looked all right to me. Was this another mask I needed to discard? Times were changing rapidly. Months later the German prisoners wandered around the shops unhindered, they merely wanted to get home and out of uniform for good.

As young teenagers, the lads I went around with enjoyed exploring the lanes on bikes or walking in the Derbyshire hills alone. We could map read and liked doing our own thing. When peace was declared, I don't remember any street celebrations. Neighbours met casually in the road, enjoying the splendour of that summer evening. Trees were in full foliage, roses were in bloom and the air balmy with success: it seemed enough. That revolving stage had turned again. When I looked at my parents, I seemed to see them for the first time. Gone were the young folk of the thirties, masks were off revealing the tired careworn faces of a middle-aged couple. They'd coped with raids, rationing and constant queues, plus Home Guard and ARP duties for five long years. Peace was with us again, but a different peacetime now that the Masks of War had finally disappeared.


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 BARGH Neville

Fuhrer's Speech

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Fred Bargh (storyteller's father), John Bargh (storyteller's brother), William Neville Bargh (storyteller)
Location of story: Chesterfield, Derbyshire. India, Africa and Germany.
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of William Neville Bargh.

During the war years my father worked at Markham Engineering Broad Oaks Works, Hollis Lane, Chesterfield. In his spare time he started chimney sweeping, because you had to have them swept every 6 months in case of catching fire, which had fines imposed if they did. On his rounds on the A619 (Chesterfield to Baslow Road) he pickled up a leaflet dropped by German planes in 1940 and brought it home. Now I’m the only one in the family, I still have the original copy, discoloured with age. It is now in a folder kept in the dark.
My father had to give up his engineering job because his rounds got bigger and bigger, he had to get a pony and cart. His rounds took him all over Chesterfield, and they all knew him as Fred Bargh, chimney sweep of Vincent Crescent, Brampton, Chesterfield.
My brother John Bargh joined the Royal Engineers in October 1944 and went to Ripon first, then on to Kirklumsdale, then to Bradford. He should have gone to Germany with his battalion, but he was taken ill and went in to hospital. His battalion went without him and only three came back alive. When he came out of hospital, he went to India (sailing from Southampton), spending most of his time there. He sailed from India to the Gold Coast in West Africa. From there he came back to England and was posted to Germany before coming home to be demmobed with a Demob suit.
I myself saw the sky light up over Sheffield on our way to the shelter, we had one shelter between three houses on our street.
I remember starting school at Rye Flat, Brampton, and having to carry a gas mask everywhere we went. We were told if bombs were dropped to go into a corner of the wall of a building, as these were the strongest parts, however, we did not have to put this procedure into practice. We had a teacher called Mr. Fox. He was my favourite teacher who joined the RAF, and not long after he joined he was killed by a plane's propeller. This has lived with me all my life, I will never forget him. It would be around 1940-1 from memory, although I do not remember the squadron.
I used to go walking, and one day went across the fields with friends onto Westwick Lane which went from Ashgate to Chander Hill on the A619 Chesterfield to Baslow Road, and we saw some Prisoners Of War building a bridge across a ford. We spent some time talking to them; they were very nice guys. They inscribed their P.O.W. name and number in the concrete side, I don’t know whether they are still there or not, I’ve not been down that lane for a long time and don’t live at that side of town.


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 BARNES Pat

"Good Morning, Daddy"

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Patricia Barnes
Location of story: Chesterfield
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Doreen Partridge of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Patricia Barnes.

Patricia Barnes
Good Morning, Daddy
My first memory of the war was going with my mother to see my father off on a train. He was wearing his uniform and he waved a rolled newspaper as the train left. It was many years later that I discovered from my mother that I was only two years old at the time; he left in 1939. I would be almost eight years old the next time that I would see him. I remember the occasion so vividly. I was in bed reading a book and with my hair in “rags” (the earlier version of hair rollers!), when a man came in bringing me a tin of boiled sweets and a box of Turkish delight. I knew instantly who he was because, for all those years he was away, my mother and I had a morning ritual whereby we would say, “Good Morning, Daddy” to his photograph which hung on the wall in the “room” (lounge).

My father was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, stationed firstly in France, then in South Africa and for the most time in Cairo. Somehow, he managed to get a tin trunk sent to us which contained yards of lovely green flowered muslin, a doctor’s first aid kit, beautiful Egyptian leather handbags- one for me and one for mum. Also for my mum, he sent some items worth their weight in gold – several pairs of nylons. The spoils of war!
We lived in a road of modern semi-detached houses, but except for one other house, these all had their families intact as the husbands were working in industry or coal mines and were exempt from going in the forces. My father had worked in the Town Hall in a “Reserved Occupation” so was also exempt but he insisted on volunteering to join the army.

I started school aged five, so had three years there before the war ended. I was the only child in the class with just one parent visiting on Parents’ Day, so I was allowed to keep my school books to, hopefully, show to my father at some unforeseeable future. Only a few yards beyond the bottom of our garden there was an Air Raid Warden’s Station from which sounded a siren to warn of possible air raids. It was a dreadful sound and one, which terrified me into immediately rushing to find my mother. I cannot remember the sirens once I started school but this was possible because they were not so close as when I was at home. I do recall the large brick-built shelter at school; built into a bank in the middle of a large grassy park. We also had the “Anderson” shelter at the bottom of our garden; often it had water in it. I believe they could be purchased after the war for the sum of £1.00. I think they would have needed to be remodelled to make a garden shed. I also recall during the air raids of being put under the kitchen table with the dog and if at my grandmother’s house, we all sat on the cellar steps.

Being only twelve miles from Sheffield, we would hear the German bombers passing overhead on the way to bomb the city. I recall visiting Sheffield at some time and seeing all the mountains of rubble which had once been shops, houses and factories; a dreadful sight. There was also a barrage balloon on the ground, surprisingly large; one only usually saw them up high in the air on the end of cables to prevent low-flying bombers.

My grandmother always seemed to be knitting gloves, scarves, socks and balaclavas. These were for the troops and I believe she achieved a very high number of garments and was later awarded a framed certificate of commendation for her considerable efforts.
In our town centre, I recall seeing large metal pipes running along the gutters at the side of the roads. They were water pipes and I believe they were kept above the ground to make it easier to repair them in case of bomb damage. I was taken to see a German Messerschmitt that had been shot down (I don’t think locally) and for which we paid an entrance fee, a sort of sideshow.

Our house, being relatively modern, had French windows, but one night a man had tried to get my mother to open the door and next morning, there were signs of someone trying to break in through those French doors. So until the end of the war these grand features were securely boarded up.

Under the bed in the spare room was a box of carefully hoarded tin foods, used sparingly as rationing was quite severe. I remember the powered eggs and potatoes and the awful saccharins for sweetening tea. If one was lucky enough to have an apple, it was quite usual for a less fortunate child to say, “Save us the cog,” meaning the apple core. One of my real wants was a banana. I’d never seen a real one and for many years I had to be content to dream about one. I used to look at a large plaster one in the greengrocer’s window.

Although my father was never in the ”Front-Line”, I gather it was no picnic out in the Middle East and he did his bit. He never applied for his war medals, he showed no interest and I can only assume after being away from home and family for six years, all he wanted to do was to get back as quickly as possible to a normal life. Only a few months ago, I managed, finally, to obtain his medals and they will now be framed alongside that photograph of a good looking young man in uniform to whom I said, “Good Morning, Daddy,” on all those many , many occasions.


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BARRACLOUGH Arthur

The 8th May 1945. V E Day.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Arthur Barraclough
Location of story: From Austria to Saarbrucken

The 8th May 1945. V E Day.

By
Arthur Barraclough

From Austria to Saarbrucken

And now, 60 years have passed by. Yet, although it is good that it will be remembered - (thanks to the wonderful work of Emley Fundraisers) - no doubt for many younger people, it will mean very little. For children going to school, as with the 3rd September 1939, it will be just another date in history books.
May I tell you what it means to me? As a Prisoner of War, captured in Sicily 1943, and having been marched from the eastern side of Austria to almost the western side, a 14 day walk, with so little food that we came to know the real meaning of the word hunger. Having been put into a camp which no words of mine can describe; myself and a friend decided "We are not staying here!"
I think it was 2 days later having noticed the proximity of the railway station, and waiting until it was dark, we got through the wire. This was my third attempt at escaping. Having, by now acquired a reasonable knowledge of their language, I bought 2 train tickets and made our departure. My heart came into my mouth when another passenger asked my friend (who could speak no German) where were we. Fortunately I was able to answer. Other rather frightening events followed, which I feel prohibited from recounting here. But what I must relate, was when a German soldier accosted us - asking who we were etc etc. He then told me that he had been wounded an the Russian front - had been in hospital and subsequently discharged as unfit for further military service. Continuing - he said he was wanting to make his way home to Saarbrucken. "But", he went on "the Americans are in Saarbrucken. I will help to get you to the Americans if you will then help me".
That night we slept in the hay on a farm. He paid the farmer's wife for a little breakfast and then we started out walking. Round about mid-day we walked around a corner of the road and were met by an American Armoured Fighting Vehicle (something like a small tank). As I was in English uniform, my Australian friend in his uniform and the German in his uniform, the American, with his head out of the cockpit of the vehicle, was nonplussed. "Friend or foe?" he was wondering. I told him of our adventures, and then he said "Do you know what day it is?" After pandering for a moment or two, I said "I think it's Wednesday". "Do you know anything else?" he asked. "No - should I?" "It's V E Day," he said with a smile. Freedom at last.
There is a lot, lot more I remember. Including "acquiring" a German army car that we motored up to Paris in. But what I also remember is the food we were given. V E Day 8th May 1945.

"What doth he know of freedom, who freedom only knows?"
Arthur Barraclough


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 BARROW Mary

Molly's memories of wartime Derry

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mary (Molly) Barrow
Location of story: Derry, N. Ireland
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Jo Thomas of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mary Barrow.

I was born on 19th October 1921, so was 17 when war broke out. I remember listening to Mr Chamberlain on that Sunday through the radio. I was living at home in Derry, Northern Ireland . My mother died just before the war, and I was the oldest of 13 children, 9 boys and 4 girls, including two sets of twins! So I stayed living at home helping to look after the children with my stepfather.

When I was still living at home, early on in the war, there was an air raid. The planes followed a ship up the coast and dropped their bombs. We did have an air raid shelter right outside the front door, it was above the ground, made of concrete like breeze blocks, but there wasn’t room in it for everyone, and nobody really used them anyway. Only the rich people could afford good air raid shelters. Most other people who lived round us took blankets and their bedding and went out to the country at night. They slept in the open fields. It wasn’t very far, up to the top of our street, through some other houses; Breeze Lane we called it, and then into the fields. My stepfather said I could go if I liked but I couldn’t take the children, so I stayed.

When the air raid siren went, I was in bed and I thought, ‘They’ve arrived and we’ll all be wiped out’, I put my head under the covers. It sounded so near, I thought I’d be next. There was a whistling and waiting, then you heard the noise and knew it wasn’t you. The next morning, we all went outside and everyone was talking about it. The bombing had been about a quarter of a mile away and had taken out a whole row of houses in one place and all the people. They eventually got rebuilt. The planes came over about four times during the war but that was the only time they dropped anything.

When I stopped to think about the war, I was angry – mad about it all. I thought why should the people that we love get killed like that.

I’d left school at 14 and started working at a shirt factory, but when business slowed down I moved to the laundry. When the war started the laundry was contracted to do all the soldiers’ shirts and kit. There was a naval base in Derry and lots of soldiers stationed there.

When I was about 20, I moved out of home. I lived in a house with 4 other girls. We shared the cooking and used to put our rations together. We also swapped clothes, we were all roughly the same size. I remember I had a black dress with short sleeves and a cowl neck so you could change the style of it. I used to change the trimmings on the hem, neckline and pockets, buying a couple of yards of green ribbon, lace and other things to change how the dress looked. We would share shoes and bags too. We painted our legs with dye and used an eye pencil to draw lines up the back of your legs instead of nylons. We went to the free dances with not much money to spare. I didn’t dance that often, just sat and watched – I was quite shy. Two of the girls I lived with ended up marrying soldiers they’d met going out to the dances though.

We girls also used to go to the cinema a lot. There was always a Pathé newsreel before the main feature, we wanted it to be over so the feature could start. I went to see Gone with the Wind five or six times and I’ve got it on video now! My grand-daughter bought it for me.

When the war ended there was a big dance in a posh hotel that the American soldiers had taken over. They used their rations for everyone and there was music from a U.S. big band.

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 BARTLEY Betty

Sheltering from the Blitz at Bramall Lane

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Betty Bartley
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Frances Read of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Betty Bartley.


During the war when the Blitz started, I was living with my sister at Bramall Lane (Sheffield) and we went to her father in law’s and there were bombs dropping. The soldiers came and took us away from there to under the Bramall Lane football ground. There were lots of soldiers down there. The soldiers were singing to the children and they would bring a drink round. There were lots of bombs dropped on Bramall Lane, and a car was hit. When it was over, my brother came to pick us up and it was nice to see them. My parents were worried, as they were at Heeley, and scared about what had happened to us at Bramall Lane. One of my sister’s neighbours came down and said her house had been hit by a bomb – but then it turned out it hadn’t been hit, so it was a nice surprise! But it was thick in soot so we had to go up to Heeley to stay for a while.

At my mother’s we would go down into the cellars, and we would be petrified. The bombs came down with such a bang. I was born in 1928, so was only about 14 at the time. We had ration books and could only have so much. My mum kept hold of them to make sure of what we could have. I wouldn’t like to live through it again.


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BARWICK  JD

Day Before V.E. Day - The First To Know

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Sheila Connoughton
Location of story: London, Whitehall
Background to story: Army


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Jo Thomas of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of JD Barwick.

Sheila Connoughton, my mother, worked on the teleprinter and received word from Germany that the Axis Forces had surrendered that day.

This was then passed on, when it was decided to announce this to the general public on the next day.

While on her way home on the bus, two women sat in front of her said, "It can't be long before it is all over." My mother was going to tell them it WAS over, but then remembered the Official Secrets Act.

My mother was the first person in the UK to know the war was over.

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 BASTON Jessie

Peace Pledge Union

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Jessie Baston
Location of story: North East England
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Alan Shippam of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jessie Baston.

When war broke out I was teaching at a Grammar School in a village in County Durham. As a member of the Peace Pledge Union (“I renounce war and will never support or sanction another one”), I joined the local group.

When the night of bombing of Germany began, I wrote to the local paper on behalf of the group to protest. A reply appeared, my Landlady’s husband said, “If you intend to reply to this letter it will be from another address!” I replied c/o a member of the group. He was furious, “Get out!”

It was 8 o’clock in the morning, I packed my things, spent a night in the school’s medical room, then was offered a flat in Durham, returning soon to the village where I was given accommodation by an elderly woman who shared my ideas. However, I had by then been appointed to a school in the West Riding and came down to Sheffield where I found more people who shared my views, and a more tolerant atmosphere generally.


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 BEAUMONT Ida

The Night of the Blitz – Sheffield 1940

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Ida Beaumont (Nee Copley)
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Ida Beaumont.

The Night of the Blitz – Sheffield 1940
By
Ida Beaumont (Nee Copley)

I was born on the 26th May 1916, in the middle of the First World War. My father worked in an foundry, making railway wagon wheels at Samuel Osborne's, down Penistone Road in Sheffield. He needn't have, but he volunteered to go to the front, firstly with a local regiment and later, after he had been invalided out and recovered, with the Black Watch.

My Father rarely talked of his wartime experiences as we were growing up. I do remember though, my mother had made, a little dress and Tam O Shanter, for me out of his Black Watch kilt. I was only a small girl then of course, there would have been plenty of fabric in that kilt. I loved that outfit.

Looking back, I realize how lucky we were that Father had come through, so many didn't. He was a strong man though, physically strong, his working conditions saw to that.

Little did we know then that war would come round again, and that this time, I was to be directly involved. I could have joined up at the outbreak of the second war. But my mother wasn't well at that time and I was her principal carer, which meant that I had to stay at home.

In the cities, men and women who were of an age to do so, if they hadn't joined the forces, were encouraged to work for the 'war effort'. Most of the service industries and manufacturing were directed that way. Sheffield was known as the 'city of steel'. Now it's all gone and you can't believe it. My father, and a generation before him, at least, were all engaged in the metal trades, moulding, grinding, cutting and filing from cutlery to massive castings for civil engineering. During the conflicts, of course, all that skill and expertise was invaluable to the war effort.

Women were called in to supplement the labour force in the manufacture of armaments. A lot of it was shift work. I couldn't manage it with my mother. I needed something a bit more flexible so I could get home to her in the day. We'd had letters, like call up papers, I suppose. We'd to go to the Labour Exchange and sign up for something. I forget if I had any choice in the matter, but I was assigned to the 'transport'. I was to be a conductress on the trams. It was quite an adventure for me. I was twenty-three or four.

I'd had jobs in the past but none of them lasted long because of my mother, she needed me at home. We began with two weeks training, that's all, at the Tenter Street Depot. Our first task was to learn all the fares and practise adding them up. I remember, from town to the terminus was tuppence. Then there was threehalfpence, a penny and a halfpenny fare. The ticket machine was like a metal box. You had to select the appropriate ticket, they were all different colours, and clip it to show it was valid. I think, in some areas, female conductresses were called 'clippies'. Actually I was lucky. I had worked in a shop and I was used to handling money and adding up. I was always
reasonable at it.

My placement was always on one of two routes, Ecclesall - Middlewood or Malin Bridge to Fulwood. Just occasionally I'd do relief on a special run, down the east end to pick up steel foundry workers and bring them back to the city. I'm not sure what the purpose of this run was. All I know was that I dreaded it. The tram would be crammed with these men, there were no stops and I had to collect all their fares in double quick time, as the thing rattled and rolled towards the City. There was a lot of banter you know, you'd struggle to concentrate at times. It was all good-natured. You rarely felt threatened. Just occasionally, if you picked up drunks, late at night, but that wasn't often and you learned how to deal with it.

The drivers were men who were too old, or unfit for war work. On the whole they respected the woman. Some were a bit dour, they didn't speak to you much but most were very kind. When the tram reached the terminus, you had to move the pole, you know, on to the other line, for the tram to return. It was really the conductor's job but it was heavy and difficult for a woman, so the driver had to do it. They'd do it willingly, most. Some of them had a little joke with you.

In fact it was good for me. I'd led a fairly sheltered life at home with my mother. Although I was mature in a lot of ways, I hadn't been out and about much. I enjoyed the work too, on the whole. The uniform was smart, skirt, tunic top and peaked cap. We had to carry a gas mask all the time. My fellow workers - I remember a Betty and someone called Jack Walker - after all these years. I'd make a beeline for them at break time, at the canteen. Yes, there was a particular kind of camaraderie, particularly after the blitz, when everyone had to gird up and pull together.

I missed all of that really, I made good friends. I didn't work the duration of the War because I'd to go back full time with Mother. There was no help then. If your family members needed care, you'd have to provide it between yourselves. Of course we had to learn the drill, in case of an air raid. There was a big operations room somewhere. They controlled all the tram routes and movements, they knew exactly what ran where and when. When a raid was predicted, we had to lower the lights, you know, blackout. We ran on just the dimmest light imaginable. I remember the colour purple. Was that the signal for us to dim, or the dimmed lights themselves? I can't quite recall which, only that it was really eerie, rattling along deserted streets with sirens wailing in your ears. Of course in times of real danger, you'd to evacuate the tram and head for the nearest shelter.

I was on duty the night of that first massive raid. Luckily, or unluckily for us, when the real heavy bombardment started, we were on our break off the tram, but in the city. We were somewhere down Chapel Walk getting refreshments and it started. "We should get to one of the shelters," we said, "there's not enough protection here." Marples Hotel at the corner of Fitzalan Square, was reputedly the biggest and the best in the vicinity, so we thought we'd make a run for it down there. There was a few of us driver and conductress teams. Then, there must have been a bit of a lull and one of the drivers suggested we try to make it back to H.Q. at Tenter Street. At least then we would know the score, be on tap if services resumed and we were needed. Tenter Street wasn't too much further, in the other direction from Marples.

We set out, it was fine, but then, it started, like Dante's Inferno. I don't know what was raining down, bombs or incendiaries; the noise was terrific. Buildings were on fire. We ran, dodging into shop doorways and just stood, aghast. You weren't frightened as such, because, well, it was just such a spectacle. I just remember Paradise Square. It's a rather elegant square of Georgian houses at the back of the cathedral. It's probably the only bit of elegant architecture Sheffield has. We had to cross it to get to Tenter Street.

My driver was lame which was why he was on the trams and not in the forces. A lot ran on ahead, but I wanted to stick with my driver, he was slow, limping along, but I couldn't abandon him, even though I could have moved ten times faster. One or two of the others stuck with us.

Looking back, it was like a film, shot in slow motion. Paradise Square had us moving through it in the midst of all this chaos; bombs falling and bullets raining down and here we were in this place. It was unreal, so strange. I still have this abiding image of it in my mind.

As we neared the depot, we were stopped in our tracks by this dreadful sound, indescribable. One of our companions shouted in alarm, something I couldn't hear and the next thing, my driver, who had been slightly behind me, pushed me into a doorway, onto the ground, and flung himself on top of me. There was the most enormous explosion, everything shook, and there were sounds of falling masonry. I was frightened then.

We were so lucky; it had been very close. But to this day, I've never forgotten the unselfishness of that driver. He acted to save me before himself. And he was a family man. But it was so like him; he had been kind to me from day one, despite his disabilities.

That incident was the closest I got to the war; close enough. Later that night, I walked home to the outskirts of the city. The streets were eerily deserted, but I wasn't scared. My main thoughts were for home and family then, hoping that they hadn't suffered a hit. Quite a few suburban areas did. As I turned the corner into our street, everything was fine, but there was no one in at home. They were in next door but it was a shelter for practically the whole street, because their's was sturdily built. The man of the house had seen to that. Most of the neighbours, my father included, had been rather half-hearted in the attempt to build an Anderson shelter. I think he thought we wouldn't ever need it.
Anyway, I went and put my head round the door. My mother greeted me with tears of relief, the men looked rather rueful. They knew things were serious in the city. Here they were, huddled in the shelter and a young slip of a girl had walked it through the blitz! It was nothing unusual for me at any other time but that night, it was different. Of course, I had to recount all my experiences then.

It was strange after the Blitz. The damage was immense. You'd have no idea if you were to look at Sheffield today. I mentioned earlier that my one abiding image was of Paradise Square, well I have another: when we got back on the trams and back to our routes, Malin Bridge to Ecclesall, we came right through the city centre and down the Moor. I couldn't look at the Moor, but I did because I had to, but it was awful. That made me want to weep; such devastation. When I was on the tram, I used to avert my gaze, look at people's feet, anything to not have to look. The seriousness of it was brought home to me then.

It was bad when people as far away as the other side of Chesterfield talk of that night. They knew something dreadful was happening to Sheffield because they could see and hear it, from that distance. They could see the red glow in the sky! We were so lucky. Marples got a direct hit that night. But for a blink we might have been there. Many lost their lives or family members. I know of one man whose father and brother were in the steel mills down the east end that night. Wherever they were had suffered a direct hit. The next day the man went down, digging with his own bare hands in the rubble of the building. Neither their bodies, nor any part of them, were ever found. He was never the same again. He suffered dementia at an early age and died quite young. I'm sure that dreadful experience had a lot to do with it.

When you think of the victims of war around the world today, it's often the civilian population that come off worse. But lessons don't seem to be learned. We don't seem any more civilised in our dealings with war.
I'm a good age now and I've lived through so many changes, quite remarkable advances that have affected ordinary lives like mine.
Then there are just a handful of incidents in my life that have been quite extraordinary, such as I've just described. When you get older, you sit and reflect on them sometimes. My memory isn't too good but I hope I've managed to convey just a little bit of the atmosphere of those times.

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 BEAUMONT Kathleen

Happy Days

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Kathleen Beaumont nee McErlain, Mary nee McErlain, Margaret nee McErlain
Location of story: Niddre, Edinburgh, Elgin, Scarborough
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Kathleen Beaumont nee McErlain, and Mary Knight nee McErlain.

Kathleen was born in 1935 in Niddre, Edinburgh. She was four years old when war broke out. She remembers going to Elgin, where my father was stationed. My mother, Margaret and Kathleen stayed in a big old farmhouse.
She then remembers them all going to Scarborough (like a holiday), and staying with this lady who had two Scotch Terriers. This lady took Kathleen to the beach to collect coal. At this time, father was stationed there. It was around Christmas time. They had a party at the barracks where a soldier dressed up as Father Christmas. They all got presents; Kathleen’s was a ‘mint green’ knitted dress and Margaret’s was a blue one.
They returned to Edinburgh. Home was a tenement building. They lived in a single end. This was a room at the top of the building like a bedsit. She remembers the stairs to the end of the room were wooden; the rest of the tenement had stone stairs. This building in Braid Place was declared a risk, being in Edinburgh and being so tall. The tenants were asked to leave it.
My mother, Kathleen and Margaret went to live with Auntie Cassie in Craigmillar. She was my mother's sister. My granny Sharkey, my mum's mum, lived there also. I was born in 1941. We all lived there till the end of the war. I was about two years old before I saw my Dad, he had returned from Africa. Kathleen says I used to hide behind a chair and say, “Ma, its that man again”.
Granny Sharkey died in her sleep when I was a baby. My mother told me that I was asleep in the same bed at the time of her death. Kathleen remembers playing in the air-raid shelters in Craigmillar during the daytime, singing, dancing and reciting poetry, all entertaining each other.
During the summer, all the children and mothers played rounders in the streets. Kathleen was knocked out with the bat (she survived!!). Prior to this, Kathleen was in King’s Park in Edinburgh and had an accident near Arthur’s Seat. Arriving at hospital, Kathleen had to have her head stitched without anaesthetic (there wasn’t any!). In 1945 we all moved back to the ‘Single End’. There were five of us, including my Dad. The building they had been asked to leave, due to being a potential target for the bombers, was still standing, without a window broken, with my Mothers’ furniture still in place.
After the war, we moved to Herriot Mount in Edinburgh. This was a very steep hill, at the top of which were the steps to King’s Park. The only recollection I have of the war was a street party. I couldn’t figure out how they kept the tables up on our hill. Kathleen says this party didn’t happen, so maybe I imagined it!


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BEDDOW Barbara  

 BEDDOW Barbara

WAR TIME YEARS IN THE TIMBER CORPS

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Barbara Beddow, Frank Dennis
Location of story: West Riding of Yorkshire, Forest of Dean, Fearby in North Yorkshire, Swinton Estate, Markington, Middleham, Carlton, near Selby, Foggathorpe
Unit name: TIMBER CORPS
Background to story: Civilian Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Julie Turner of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Barbara Beddow.
WAR TIME YEARS IN THE TIMBER CORPS.
by
Barbara Beddow

I grew up in a country village in the then West Riding of Yorkshire. I was an only child, quite bright, gained a scholarship to a Grammar School and was academically inclined but my father, who was an electrical engineer working with a firm of gas engineers, became a victim of the 1930’s depression and I at 14.1/2 yrs left school and got a job in a rather up market shop – a children’s outfitters. We catered for children going away to Prep School and sold the local Grammar School uniforms. Later I moved to a very select ladies fashion shop. In April 1939 I married a boy I had known from school days – in September 1939 he was killed – he was in the Irish Guards, in barracks in Dover where they were shelled from across the channel.

Later in the year, my husband’s sister, who was about to go to University saw an article in Punch about the Land Army and the mention of the forming of a Corps of women to work in the Forestry Commission.

Eventually with the help of someone in the BBC we were given an address in Harrogate, we wrote off for information and within a week we were in and had our instructions and travel warrants to go to the Forestry Training College in the Forest of Dean. (I must add at this point, that my mother was horrified and forbade me ever to darken their doors again). Here we were billeted in a hostel and as the male students had only just moved out we had then tutors for lectures, in tree recognition growth and uses. We were also taught how to measure trees, both standing timber and felled trees. We also went out on practical experience with the staff who did the felling, and re-planting, so there was nursery work experience as well. After six weeks we were allocated a place of work, we were sent to Fearby in North Yorkshire, our overseer was a Canadian lumberjack, very introverted, certainly not use to having women working for him – so he had as little to do with us as possible. Not so the local village boys, we caused quite a commotion, the wives were very suspicious and not at all friendly. We were staying on a small holding with a couple and their two young children but we were soon asked to move - we were like beings from another planet to them. We both went to stay in the village Pub – we went to bed carrying a candlestick and in the morning washed ourselves in a basin – having carried the jug of water up the night before.

Nancy and I soon parted company, she had fallen in love with an ex Geordie minor and later became pregnant and married him much to her parent’s horror. She was critical of me because I flirted with the boys, so soon after being widowed. I soon moved again to the Sawmill House on the Swinton Estate, pheasant were still being raised when I arrived and the Keepers “bothie” was attached to the Mill House. The mill was working (by water wheel) for the little Swinton estate. Viscount Swinton from the Castle brought venison round to his employees. Lady Somebody, who was President of the local L.A. branch invited me to afternoon tea – with the silver tea service, cucumber sandwiches, strawberries and cream served on the Sheraton, or was it Munton china – very impressive. Big snow, completely cut off, down to a bag of turnips.

From Fearby I moved to Markington where I continued to do the same job – timber measuring, starting at daybreak and working until dusk or 5.30p.m. whichever came first. Drinking bottled cold tea and eating doorstep sarnies of home cured bacon, or maybe ham or cheese. Sausages to roast on sticks over the tortoise stove were very tasty. We were not allowed to go home whatever the weather – we would sit in the hut and play cards or yarn.

In Markington I stayed with a family, Mum and three daughters – mum was having fun with the local army lads. Someone wrote to her husband, he came home and chased her with an axe (mine, used for chopping firewood). I moved out pretty quickly and was moved on to Middleham, after a few weeks in Wormald Green, where I stayed with the local Doctor and his wife, who adopted me and taught me to play bridge. In Middleham I worked on Witton Fell, counting pit-props and riding the wagons to consign loads away at the station. Varying it with taking the articulated lorry loaded with telegraph poles. We had many C.O’s here, some homosexuals of both sexes and also men from the Durham pits. Lived here on the banks of the River Yore in a beautiful house which had been Middleham Vicarage – or maybe the Vicar just lived there. His daughter, a victim of sleeping sickness was the owner. She had a cook and a housemaid and as her war work she was the local post lady. She was a man eater, and her men ate all our rations but she had a boat on the river and we had many midnight parties. Used to see otters playing on the river bank.

On the move again, to Carlton, near Selby. My supervisor – a Yorkshire cricketer called Frank Dennis asked me if I would be a forewoman in charge of operations and as it meant better pay and a new challenge I accepted.

I was to find and extract a shrub called Alder Buckthorn (Ramnus franguli). So off I went to the New Forest to see a project already set up and working, stayed in a small Hotel almost filled with retired “ladies” – one was an ex head Mistress of Girton. There was a commercial traveller who came regularly, and the “ladies” almost fought each other for who should warm his slippers and fetch his drink etc. I learnt that the gypsies worked this Alder Buckthorn in peacetime.

I settled into digs in Carlton, was issued with a bicycle and given several possible locations to search – small woods. The owner had hen to be approached and informed. I had twelve girls sent to me, straight from home and I had to find billets for them and did I have problems, from bed wetting, stealing, staying out all night to dirty habits etc. I was issued with a hut for an office, and an open sided shelter for the girls to work in. Some bushman saws to cut out the branches. We bought a set of cobblers knives – we chose to erect the huts on the bank of a stream on the edge of one wood. We soaked the branches in the water, then scraped off the bark. I managed to beg from a local farmer some sheets of corrugated iron, which we laid over stakes in the ground. We lit fires underneath and dried the bark – then filled the sacks with the end result and sent them off to be turned into Cascara Segrada. The sticks were cut into equal lengths and labelled and bundled and sent to be used in high precision work in the making of ammunition.
Here in the village, lie was fairly normal, cricket on Saturday afternoons in Summer and Carlton Feast just as it always had been. Whist Drives in the Village Hall and plays by the Drama Group in the Winter. I remember running Aid to Russia dances, helped by the baroness Beaumont and trying to skate on the ponds in the grounds of Carlton Towers. I remember rabbi ting with ferrets and seeing herons fishing and watching a family of kingfishers grow up.

The agent for the company who owned all the farms where we found Alder Buckthorn, invited me to his home and he and his wife often took me visiting the farms, where we would always be given fruit or beg or pork sausages, bacon, eggs etc.

I remarried during my time in Carlton – someone from my hometown that I had known over the years. The family I lived with were very good to me and I have remained friends with the children as they have grown up. My landlady taught me to bake bread – to cook Sunday dinner, including Yorkshire puddings, apple pies, cakes etc. We had no shortages, one Grandpa had a farm and they killed pigs (illegally) and made butter and cheese. The other family had an orchard with apples, pears and plums, he grew asparagus and I will always remember the slices of thick home cured ham and bundles of asparagus dumpling with butter and home grown new potatoes. We had masses of soft fruit in the garden and had raspberries and strawberries with everything, made dozens of pounds of jam and bottled it in kilner jars. Blackberries grew down the lane which we gathered and the children went gleaning after the peas and beans had been harvested, bringing basket loads home to be eaten or put down in jars layered with salt. Eggs were put in a big crock with isinglass.

The R.A.F. boys that I knew provided the dried fruit for my wedding cake, my landlady baked and iced it. I bought remnants of ivory, shell pink and pale blue satin and we all sewed my wedding underwear and nighties. The gypsies down the lane sold me clothing coupons for my outfit and a family in the village, whose husband was a farm labourer and had ten child sold me butter, marg and sugar and anything else on ration to take home to my mother (who had by now quite forgiven me).

The wedding over, with a honeymoon in Scarborough where my husband’s Battery were stationed and a great party in the Mess, then back to work and another move to Foggathorpe, between Selby and Holme-on-Spalding moor. Here I rented a small cottage sandwiched between the Post Office and the Pub. Mother ran the Post Office, owned my cottage and had two bachelor sons. Daughter and son-in-law had the Pub – I could go out of my back door and knock on the bar window, whereupon they would open up take my order and serve the drinks. A toad lived in the wall opposite my back door, and the Post Office had a lovely garden with a lily pond with lots of carp, and frogs sitting on the water lily leaves. A small hut with a paraffin oven and a rickety table was my kitchen. In the cottage was a stone sink with a slab and that was all – no hot water, I use to go to friends in Selby for a bath.

Here we felled two 12 acre woods, it was only small stuff so the girls managed, we walked to work. When we arrived in late June, down the side of a bean field, which is the most heavenly perfume I know, and facing us was a field of flax, if you have never seen the blue of a flax field you have missed a treat. Social life her was very good, we had five aerodromes, all fairly near – so I wrote to ask the Station Commanders to invite the girls to their social activities with the result that the girls had plenty of parties, dances, concerts etc. They were also allowed to use the N.A.A.F.I. at Home on Spalding. I was invited to many of the Officers Mess parties etc. where crews brought back exotic foods from visits to Africa, Australia etc. The Lord of the Manor was a disabled Army Officer – he had been injured playing polo – he still kept some of his polo ponies and a retired jockey to care for them. I learned to ride with him and enjoyed early morning trots around the village.

I had more problems when I was told that I was being sent Italian prisoners of War to work with the girls. The problems I leave to your imagination.

Eventually my husband came on leave, my old jockey friend, as a great treat arrived with a hen in a sack – after trying hard to pluck out the feathers – we had to pack up and take it home to mother! Not before I had given my husband a treat – I had made some jam tarts but sadly I had greased the tin with fat from a joint of pork which I had stuffed with sage and onion. After that leave I found myself pregnant and so I resigned.

I feel that we were so busy adjusting to a new way of life that the War for us only became real when it affected us personally – a period when my first husband died – when a bomb was unloaded on a corner of Masham (2 miles from Fearby), when a plane crashed in a field at Carlton, scattering bits of bodies around. Counting the bombers out at night over my cottage at Foggathorpe and counting them back in, in the early morning. We didn’t talk about the war much. I think many of us enjoyed the freedom from parental discipline and wallowed in friendships of all kinds – girls together – boys and girls, girls with older married landladies etc. I think older local people saw us as a threat, bringing a challenge to their own young people, who were still under discipline, the young ones were jealous of our freedom. We were probably seen as being a bit wild and too free.

As far as I can judge we were not exploited – rather the opposite. We had no supervision (only a visit about every 3 months) so I was entirely free to work or not.
I loved the work, I’ve always had a feeling for nature and the outdoors and I revelled in the countryside, learnt many of the birds and much country lore which has remained with me, as I have continued to be a bird watcher and walker. Living with and working with and having to relate to such a variety of people developed in me an interest in what makes people tick – so when I came home to start a family I soon became involved in voluntary work, Sunday School, Brownies, Guide Commissioner, Youth Club Leader, Youth Tutor, Marriage Guidance (now Relate) Counsellor. After my children were at school into full time work with the Education Service, establishing Community Service with 4th and 5th Years. After retirement at 59 I went on to start and Chair the Calderdale Volunteer Bureau for ten years. At present I am British President of an organisation “Internationally Yours” and a Women’s Friendship Club founded during the last War, aiming to help establish peace through interaction with women of different cultures. I also run a Probus Widows S& Wives Coffee Club in Halifax. I am also involved in a scheme to help young people which is being sponsored by Prince Charles Prince’s Trust and the Wakeham Trust.

Looking back I am amazed at what I was expected to do at 21 years of age with no training in how to manage relationships or people’s problems. No-one to turn to for guidance – no guide liens at all about employee’s rights or where legal responsibility lay. How different it is today. I have a book which was published, written by members of the Timber Corps – poems, articles, jokes etc. Skipping through it again I am sure we had no idea of the variety of jobs that the Timber Corps girls were doing and we had none of the referred to training. I was made a forewoman when I went from Middleham to Carlton mostly by postal communication. If I had any real problem I could contact the supervisor but one lived in the Midlands, another up North and seldom visited. As long as my weekly returns were correct and my accounts I paid the tree fellers who were on piece work (some of them could not read or write but knew their earnings to a penny) and the girls – and again I had not done any office work or dealt with finance in any way. I indented for the money I would need – it came through the Post Office – then I placed it in a Bank Account. The girls did understand the use of pip props and large timber in the mines and knew the straight trees with a circle of white paint were to be telegraph poles.

We were told that usually soft wood was used for pip props but it was becoming short in supply, so it was hard wood being taken from the woods in Foggathorpe.

I believe we occasionally had a news sheet of some kind but I cannot remember the format.

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 BEECH Alan 

A near miss for the Tower

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Alan Beech, Marion and Leslie Beech, Mr and Mrs Sissons
Location of story: Blackpool
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Alan Beech.

A Near Miss for the Tower

It was the summer of 1941 and my parents, Marion and Leslie Beech, had decided to take a week's holiday in Blackpool. I am their son Alan and at the time, was 8 years old and although the war had been in progress for almost two years, it seemed very far away from us in New Houghton, a small mining village on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire Border.

It seemed a lot closer in Blackpool, although it was not due to enemy action. It began one afternoon with a mock gas attack. We all had to wear our gas masks for a short period of time, until the all clear was sounded. As the masks were being packed away we heard a man swearing loudly. Looking round we could see why. He was a member of the RAF and his left hand had been badly injured by a piece of metal that had fallen from an aircraft that had collided with another, almost over Blackpool Tower. Luckily the wreckage missed the Tower, but a lot of it fell on the Central Station, killing 17 people at the rear of the Blackpool-Nottingham train and demolished most of the forecourt. I cannot remember if there were any more deaths, but suspect there must have been.

The next day we left our hotel, owned by Mr and Mrs Sissons, and walked to the seafront to watch the aircraft engines being removed from the beach. They had gone down into the sand quite a few feet.

I am now 72 years old and vividly remember the things I have written about. Unfortunately there are several things about this episode that I cannot remember, probably because I have never seen or heard anything concerning this tragic incident since it happened. However the 5000 people reportedly in the Tower at the time of the incident who are alive, will remember what a close call they had that day in 1941.


Pr-BR

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Joan Bell 

 BELL Joan

WARTIME

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Joan Bell
Location of story: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Joan Bell.
WARTIME
By
Joan Bell

She looked up at him from her place at the table where she sat with her writing pad open in front of her. “’am not gooin’ in that shelter toneet and that’s that. If Jerry wants me he'll find me wheerever I am. I'm gooin' to get this letter written choose what. Its no use thee standing there wi bag in thee 'and 'am not going so sit thi sen down and read paper or summat,”

He knew there was no use arguing, she'd made her mind up and so he'd best accept it, he'd stay here in the kitchen with her and perhaps if things got real bad and she'd got her letter written she'd change her mind.

He picked up the paper and looked for his pipe. He knew there was no tobacco but it gave him some comfort just to have it between his teeth and to put his fingers round the bowl.

The sirens had gone some minutes before. She picked up her pen dipped it in the ink and started her letter.

My Dear Daughters,
I hope this letter finds you all in the best of health as we are at the moment. Thank you for your letter, we didn't get it till this morning all the post has been delayed. It was good to hear from you.

We aren't going in shelter tonight so I hope we don't get any enemy action round about. There were some planes going over a little while ago but it is quiet now so they must be going somewhere else.

I went to see your Granddad and Aunty Pat on Sunday and they send their love to you all, Mrs. Booth next door to them has just had another baby, a girl this time and they are going to call her Judy.

I think there are some more planes about now as there is droning and lots of noise, they seem very close.

Are you still having your lessons in school?, Here children are going to people's houses especially those with front rooms, Some have been across the road at Simcox's and 1 think everybody in the street knows that now. She was stuck up before but now we shall have to pay to look at her, I'll bet she makes all the kids take their shoes off before they go in.

Oh! that one was close it came whistling down like a banshee. I think its blown some windows out because I heard some glass breaking.

Mr. Gee next door has just been to fetch your Dad. He said there's an incendiary bomb been dropped at the end of the street so your Dad has taken the stirrup pump and the shovel. They have been practising at the A.R.P. for months so they should be able to manage to deal with it alright. As you know there is nothing them two can't do when they set their minds to it. It's a pity they were both too old to join up, they seem to think the war would have been over by now if they'd been out there.

We shall try and come to see you on Sunday as usual but your Dad thinks he may have to work as they have got a lot of big orders in from the government so it may be next week instead.

Your Dad has just come in and says it was the fruit shop window that went and it looks as if there is a fire somewhere near the church.

We had a letter from Uncle Willie Carrington about George, he has been reported missing at sea it doesn’t seem five minutes since he was over here last summer when he went back to Bradford with our lavatory key still in his pocket.

We've had to put the light out now as our window has got blown in and the blackout curtain is blowing about. I'm writing this whilst your Dad is holding the torch so please excuse the bad writing because he keeps wobbling it about. He is trying to keep the fire from blazing up at the same time with the draught from the window so he has got the torch in one hand and the kettle of water in the other. Every time the fire blazes up he pours a drop of water on it. That's what the splashes are on the paper where the ink has run.

Our Arthur is still in hospital but they have got the shrapnel out of his leg. His letter looked like a paper doily after the censor had done with it, I'm sending you an Air Mail with his address on it so you can write to him. he says he hasn't had any mail for six weeks.

Your Dad and me decided we'd sit on the cellar steps for a bit as it was getting very bad outside and the fire had gone out anyway. We've got his working coat round our legs to keep us warm and he fetched the eiderdown off the bed so it's not so bad. Now he has got his mouth organ out of his coat pocket and is going to give us a tune. He says it will drown the noise but I doubt it, there seems to be lots of planes and things buzzing about out there.

I think old man Quirk at the back of us must be trying to do that too. He always sits in the cellar when the sirens go and we can hear him singing at the top of his voice, I never knew he was religious but he has been singing all the hymns. It sounds sort of nice really. And now your Dad is playing the same tunes so they are singing and playing together, it can't be very nice for him on his own at a time like this.

Morrison's cat got it's tail chopped off in the tram lines last week and it looks very peculiar with only a stump. Their Jack has been home on embarkation leave so his Mam was upset. He looked well in his army uniform, real smart, clean and tidy, best I've ever seen him. Didn't look like same lad and I'm sure he's grown taller. All these lads that were but school kids a couple of years ago. May God take care of them. And you my precious girls, may God look after you too. I pray for you each and every night. 6e good girls and we'll see you soon.

Lots of Love.

Mam and Dad xxxxxxx

P.S, We came out of the cellar when the all clear went just before your Dad went off to work, When it was light we could see the devastation all around, it was chaos, there was glass everywhere, There are only about three houses in the whole street that have not got some windows missing. We were luckier than most as our were only the ones downstairs. We've put a piece of wood in that now so we shall have to have the light on all day.

Albert came round to see if we were alright, He told us there had been a bomb dropped in Dane Street so that's what the fire must have been. He has also been told that the town is in a mess with a lot of people trapped in a pub in Fitzallen Square.

Anyway we are alright. I expect you will have heard all about Sheffield on the news.

T.T.F.N.

Lots of Love. xxxxxxx

Mam and Dad,

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BELLAMY Doreen

The end and the beginning

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Dennis Martin, Margaret Carol Shaw
Location of story: Baslow Derbyshire Brampton Chesterfield
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Maggie O’Neill of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Doreen Bellamy.
The End and the Beginning

10th April 1944

My brother Dennis and his two friends went walking on the moors near Baslow. There they found used grenades, mortar bombs and cartridge cases. They played with them pretending to bomb things. On the way home Dennis found another mortar bomb, about 9 inches long, it had two bullets stuck in it and it was dented a bit.

The two friends kept the collection they had played with while Dennis kept the nine inch mortar bomb. The boys went home next door while Dennis went into grandma’s house. He was staying the weekend. Dennis put the bomb on the kitchen table and came back with some pliers. As he tried to open the shell it exploded killing him instantly and badly injuring Grandma.

Dennis was 14 years old, had just left school and was to start work the next day at East Midlands Motor Services. He so wanted to be a motor mechanic. A grand lad, looking forward to the future and earning a bit of money to take care of Grandma.
On 17th May 1944, our sister Margaret Carol Shaw was born. As one life ended another began.

The Air Raid Shelter

As children in the war we stuck together, older siblings looked after younger ones and despite moaning “Have I GOT to take her with me?” the answer was always, “Yes you do”.

We lived in a pit village called Poolsbrook. It was surrounded by black tips, buckets clanging along the top spewing out black dust and waste. Half a mile down the road was Ireland Colliery with air raid shelters at the side of the canteen. The shelters were covered over with soil and grass grew alongside brambles. Each had a square shaft with iron rungs to a depth of 12 feet.

A short cut home took you over the air raid shelters, but you had to be careful. I explained to my little sister to only step where I did to avoid the shafts. Little did I realise her legs were half the size of mine, so she couldn’t always step where I had.

The inevitable happened, one minute she was there the next gone. Down the shaft she flew hitting the iron rungs en route. She cried of course poor soul, but looking at her from the front I could see no damage. The back view was a different story, for slowly her white blonde hair was turning a pinky red!

Before going home we called at Mrs Smedleys a very kind neighbour who gently cleaned and cuddled my little sister. Luckily for me we only washed our hair once a week so nature took its course and the wound had healed. The flight down the air raid shelter remained a secret from our parents forever.

This happened just after the war in 1948.

 

Pr-BR

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BENNETT Irene

Irene Shaw's Story

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Irene Bennett
Location of story: RAF Finningley South Yorkshire
Unit name: 25 OTU Squadron
Background to story: Royal Air Force

 

Irene as a People's War volunteer in 2005

 

BENNETT Irene


Irene Bennett’s Story


In 1941, shortly after the Sheffield Blitz, I joined the WAAF. I was 26 years old and engaged to be married. After a month’s training in Signals at RAF Cranwell, we were sent home on leave and I remember thinking I would probably be posted to somewhere like the wilds of Scotland, so it was a great surprise to hear that I’d been posted to Bomber Command at RAF Finningley in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

As my home was in Sheffield, the posting to Finningley suited me perfectly and sometimes I was able to sneak home between watches, but I was always careful to avoid being seen by the Redcaps, or Military Police as they are now called.

The office I was assigned to was also inhabited by about 5 other men who were the Morse Code operators; One of my jobs was to hand out information to the navigators who would come in to find out where they were being sent to that night. Although most of them were from the British Isles, there were also men from the USA, Poland Australia, Norway, Sweden and Canada.

I got on well with my colleagues, and sometimes, when we were off duty, we would find a Pub in Doncaster where there was a piano. I would be sat down to play and they would gather round and have a sing-song. The Landlords loved it as it brought people into the Pub and we would all get free drinks.

This particular day in 1942, I was working in the office on a 12 - 4pm watch. A signal came through on the teleprinter giving details of the bombing target for that night, which was Essen. The message gave information on the number of aircraft going out from different airfields in the region, and the bombs they would be carrying. I didn’t realise it at the time but this operation was part of the now famous ‘1000 per night’ bombing raids which Air Vice Marshall Harris had instigated to target the cities of Germany.

I took the signal into the Operations Room and handed it to the Sgt. in charge. Shortly afterwards I was called into the office and asked, "Corporal, did you read the message you just brought in?" He seemed rather annoyed. I replied, "Partly Sir," to which he said, "I’m afraid you will be confined to camp this evening, because this is a terrible breach of security." I was surprised and wondered what was so special about the message. I told him that I had planned to go out with the boys that night. He explained that I could be talking to someone in the village and as it was a lovely moonlit night, I might innocently mention the bombing raids. I pointed out to him that I had signed the Official Secrets Act, but he still insisted that I stay on camp. Of course, then I couldn’t wait to get back and read the whole transcript.

Looking back, I now realise how serious it was, and why the Officer was so concerned. The message should have been in cipher.

I left the WAAF in 1944 to have my first child, but I still look back on those times at Finningley as the most memorable times of my life.



PR-BR

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 P.C Robert Black's Story

 - submitted by Irene Bennett

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Robert Black
Location of story: Sheffield, Canada, Scotland
Background to story: Royal Air Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Irene Bennett.
P.C Robert Black's Story.

By
Irene Bennett

When war broke out, policemen were not allowed to join up unless their Chief Constable agreed, and the one in charge of Sheffield did not. In late 1943, the Sheffield Chief Constable did agree and therefore P.C. Black immediately applied to join the RAF as a pilot.

Not long after the training started, they were sent to Canada for actual flying training, but in the meantime, they did preliminary training in Scotland. One day the squadron was on the beach in Scotland doing exercises. One exercise consisted of one man being carried on the other man's back, kind of "piggy back".

Robert stumbled with another man on his back and the airman being carried, fell awkwardly with his knee digging into Robert's back. Some damage must have been done because Robert could not get up or move at all.

The consequence was that for about ten months, he had to wear a kind of stiff corset from his shoulders to below the hips. His wife Joyce went up to Scotland to be with him for most of the ten months. They both thought that would be the end of his ambition to take part in the war. Much to their surprise, when he had the dressing removed and was declared fit, the Officer sent for him and told him that while he could no longer be accepted for training as a pilot, he would be accepted as a Navigator which Robert thankfully accepted.

Robert went out to Canada to commence training as a navigator in the bomber command in 1944. The training took 6 months which meant it was early 1945 before they got back to England to find out which RAF station they had been posted to and where they would have to report to after 28 days leave. By this time the hostilities were just about over, so the consequence was that he never actually did any flying, as the war was over before he was even posted to a station for duties.


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 BERESFORD Rita

My Little Bit

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Rita Beresford
Location of story: W.A.A.F. Unknown base
Background to story: Royal Air Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Rita Beresford,
 ============================================

We three joined the W.A.A.F. (now the W.R.A.F.) in February, 1943, as vary naïve girls. We had ups and down, laughter and tears as many others did and I suppose it could be said that we, on the whole, had a good war. One great thing that came out of it was our firm friendship. We are still here for each other and we are very lucky to live near to each other. Many bonds of friendship made then are still tightly sealed.

In spite of the sadness and heartache, I consider I had a good war if that is an appropriate phrase. When I joined the W.A.A.F. in 1943, I couldn’t understand why my country needed me; five feet 2 inches, seven stones in weight, but, I still wore my uniform with pride and I did my bit. I also made genuine friendships and four of us are still here for each other at the tender ages of 82 year.

PR - BR

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 BLANCHARD Pat

Hull Fireman’s Daughter

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Pat Blanchard
Location of story: Sheffield

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Pat Blanchard.

============================================

Although living in Sheffield now, I was born in Hull and was aged three years when the war broke out. My main recollection was going into the air raid shelters at night. When the bombs fell, I remember that my little dog was so scared that he would climb into bed with me.
All the windows in the house were blown out.

I used to collect matchboxes from the pub. I remember meeting some Americans; they gave me a pencil and a comb. I gave the comb to my brother who turned it into a mouth organ by attaching a piece of paper to it. I kept the pencil myself and I scraped all the paint from it.

My father was a fire engine driver. One day, he stopped to pick up a woman, an act that saved his life. Had he not done so, he would have been at the exact spot where a bomb landed, at the time it landed.

I was evacuated to Bingley where I lived in a cottage with my mother and brothers. Then we moved to Bridlington where my dad joined the fire service.

PR-BR

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 BLAND Hermine

I escaped the Russians and met my husband

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Hermine Bland and Jack Bland
Location of story: Graz and Klagenfurt Austria, and Sheffield Yorkshire
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Alan Shippam of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Hermine Bland.


I was born and living in Graz in Anger,Austria 1945 at the end of the was but was quite fortunate because when the Russians invaded, the Nazis ordered me to go to a family (whose husband was quite a big noise in the German Army) and got a job looking after their three children. The woman was Austrian and very nice to me really, and then when the Russians came, she said to me, “I don’t think you should stay here, come with us and we will try get to the American zone.” So I got to the American Zone in January 1945. We walked on Easter Monday, all night and next day, which actually was really the worst time, because of bombing. We finally managed to get a cattle train, with hundreds of other people who were fleeing, and we finished up at a place called Schladming, which was in the American Zone. I stayed in Schladming, which is going towards Salzburg, but by the end of August, I decided I wanted to go back, because I hadn’t heard from my family since January onwards, and the Russians had practically gone by then. There were just a few left. My mother and sisters told me it was a good job I wasn’t there when the Russians were there, because everybody had had a terrible time. They had even had to sleep up in trees and among haystacks to escape, because the soldiers did a lot of raping.

It was Christmas 1945 and I was walking along the road to go and meet my brother because he was playing the accordion, and whenever he was playing, we always went, my sisters and I to dance. All of a sudden, a big British lorry stopped, a soldier got out, got hold of me and threw me in the back of the lorry. I found out there were lots of girls in the back. The lorry was going round to different villages collecting girls so that there would be girls to dance with the British soldiers, and that’s how I met my husband. From then on, we just carried on courting and then in August 1946, it came out that British soldiers were allowed to marry Austrian girls. So my husband applied a number of times, but because he was so young, they didn’t think he ought to. But anyway, we finished up finally getting married on December 14th 1946.

From there, my husband had to go to Klagenfurt, and we stayed there together because we were married then, and he got demobbed in October. He then came back to England and I stayed on for about a week before I got sent for and shipped over from the Hook of Holland to Dover.
The journey across for me, was terrible because we were a very close family and I missed my mother and my sisters and my brother terribly and because I couldn’t speak the language, it made it a lot worse, but when we got on the boat the British nurses (because I had a baby), were marvellous to me. They took the baby off me and told me to have a right good sleep all night, and they brought her to me in the morning. Then, of course we got off the ship and my husband was there with my mother-in-law and we travelled up to Sheffield.

I couldn’t speak the language which made it twice as bad and my mother-in-law wasn’t very pleased. Jack was her only son, so you could imagine, marrying an Austrian girl, when she wanted a British girl. But, she loved the baby, and by then I was expecting another child. So, we got on by then and lived with her for two years, with three children.
Well, if I hadn’t have met my husband, obviously I wouldn’t have come to England, but it’s been a lovely time. We’ve been married for 58 years and we’re fine together. We’ve got lovely children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and it did change my life obviously, because I missed my family terribly but as time got on, it just became alright. We keep going back regularly now. We couldn’t at first, because we couldn’t afford it for the first 14 years, but my sisters, my mother and my brother kept coming across, so we could keep seeing each other, because as I said, we were a very happy family. After that, in 1969, we started going every year, by car and the others came across every year, so we saw each other twice a year, so things are fine and everything is lovely.

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 BLAND Jack

I met and married an Austrian girl

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Jack Bland and Hermine Bland
Location of story: Austria
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Alan Shippam of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Jack Bland.

In 1945, as the war was finishing, we were coming up to the Austrian border where we were held up, because the Russian Cossacks, who had been fighting on the German side, were at the border. They wanted assurance that they wouldn’t be handed back to the Russians. When they received word from London, they then let us through and we travelled up to the Graz area, to a place called Premstätten.

When we got there in Austria, there was supposedly a sixth month ban on speaking to civilians, but that didn’t happen, there was nothing else they could do. After the sixth months, they made arrangements to have dances and things with civilians coming to Grantz. When that happened, I met a girl, who came to the dance, and whom I thought was very nice. Although I didn’t dance, all I did was drink, but we met and started going together.

I applied to get married, but they didn’t want me to marry. I don’t know why. My friend who was going with a farmer’s daughter, got permission straight away, but my wife being only with her mother, her two sisters and a brother, they thought she wasn’t good enough for me, I think. But after a while I insisted; I made three attempts and three applications to marry her, and we finally got married in December 1946. Not long after that we had a child, which is why I was trying to get married previously.

I signed on for another six months in the forces so that I could still stay on in Austria, and in that period, our units broke up and I was transferred back to Clagenfert, to a works section. I went with the garrison engineer, Volkemark and it wasn’t long after that that the Captain and Volkemark went on de-mobs, and the major sent for me and said he thought I was quite capable of taking over the garrison engineer’s job, which I did.

My six months were then up, but you could only sign up for two years. Well I didn’t want to sign up for two years, all I was signing on for was waiting for my wife awaiting transport back to England and they used to wait for enough wives married to British soldiers to warrant a train to bring them back to England.

When I got word that that was happening, I said to the Major, that I would like to go two days before and he was very good and said, “Right, you can go.” So off I went back to England, went up and got my de-mob suit and things, came back down to where the wife was landing with the boat across the channel, picked her up and brought her back up to Sheffield.

From there, we had to stay at my mother’s house for approximately two years. Finally, we bought a house near Hunter’s Bar and by that time, I had carried on starting work in England obviously in the building trade. When I came home, my mother and her brother, who had fought in the First World War, my Uncle Bill (who still had some type of bullet in him, which they couldn’t get out, or it was too dangerous to, but had carried on as normal) felt I should never have married an Austrian girl. I think she said to my wife, “I don’t know why he’s picked on you, I had a lovely girl waiting for him,” which I never knew about but wouldn’t have taken on anyway if I had known.

It went along alright really though, it wasn’t too bad. I mean, she didn’t mind us living in their house for two years, until we found a house, which she gave me £500 towards buying, which was very good and then. She visited us all the time until she died.
We’ve now been married for 58 years and we’ve got three grown up children, eleven grandchildren, eight great children and we know there’ll be a lot more before so long, so we’ve finished up with a right family.

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BLORE Doreen 

 

A Day in the life of a N.A.F.F.I. Girl

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Doreen Blore (Nee Taylor), Miss Gerrity
Location of story: Weidenbruck, Badenhousen, Germany
Unit name: N.A.F.F.I.
Background to story: Civilian Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Doreen Blore.
A Day in the life of a N.A.F.F.I. Girl
Weidenbruck 1945

By
Doreen Blore (Nee Taylor)

I Became 21 years of age as the `Second World War' was ending, and volunteered for service abroad, as a N.A.F.F.I. cook. We sailed from Dover to Calais, then boarded a train that did not have any glass in the windows. After a long cold journey, we arrived at Badenhousen, in Germany. The weather was very bad, with snow and rain followed by floods, until Easter time when it began to improve.

Another N.A.F.F.I. girl, called Peggy, and I were pleased when two German ladies, who worked at our Hostel in Weidenbuck, offered to lend us their old bicycles to go out one afternoon. We said that we would just ride as far as the petrol dump at the end of the road and back again.

When we arrived, my front tyre had burst, but the soldiers at the dump offered to help. As they inspected the damage, there was a telephone call in the office from an Officer, to say that someone was coming, to raid the dump, to get the petrol. He was told about our presence, and that we were stranded. He said that he would come over to return us to our hostel, and that they were to keep us in the office until he arrived. We could hear a lot of banging, like gunfire and voices shouting. Through the crack in the hut, we could see dark figures running about in the twilight.

Our Manageress, Miss Gerrity, was very angry with us, when we returned, but she knew the Officer and he calmed her down. He suggested that in future everyone should sign a book to say where they were going, and at what time. I must have been frightened, because in my hand, I had two buttons that I had twisted off my jacket while we were hiding in the hut. A couple of days later, the bicycles were returned, with the tyre mended.


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 BOAM Janet

Fish and Chip Supper

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Tony Morley
Location of story: Shiregreen Lane, Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

"Fish and Chip Supper"

by
Janet Boam

Tony Morley was 9 and living in Shiregreen Lane when the following incident, which he remembers vividly, took place.

The year was 1944, the sirens had sounded and all had taken their places in the Anderson Shelter in the back yard. Two doors on from where Tony lived, was a fish and chip shop. The owner also took her place in the shelter and was grumbling that when the sirens sounded, she had had a shop full of customers awaiting the fish and chips which were cooking in the pans
As the sirens sounded the customers vanished, so she turned off the pans leaving all the fish and chips, and headed for the shelter. On hearing this, Tony and his friend ran out of the shelter intent on rescuing the fish and chips. He remembers looking up and seeing a German plane just above the houses - it was lit up by a searchlight and he could see the markings clearly. They ran into the shop, which was in darkness, and managed to find the scoop to get the fish and chips out of the pans.

Looking around for something to put them in, they remembered that one of the neighbours had a large tin bath hanging on a nail in the wall, in the yard outside. Wasting no time, they fetched it into the shop and proceeded to empty the chips and fish into it.

When all the fish and chips were in the bath, they set off back towards the shelter.
They had just passed the row of dustbins in the yard, when there was an almighty crash behind them.

They made it to the shelter and hungry mouths soon devoured the fish and ships from the bath.

The next day, on emerging from the shelter, they saw a huge hole in one of the dustbins. It had been hit by a piece of shrapnel which must have missed them by inches!


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 BOAM Lewis

“Fire-Watchers’ Fire”.

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Lewis E Boam,

Location of story: Firshill & Pitsmoor Road History Group
Background to story: Civilian Force

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

Lewis E Boam, 18, Firshill Gardens, Sheffield S4 7BU.

Firshill & Pitsmoor Road History Group.

“Fire-Watchers’ Fire”.

A few days before the incident which I will relate to you took place, I had a dream which was to come uncannily true. I dreamed that I found a woman’s head in a Typhoo Tea Box.

At this time I was engaged in fire-watching duties at the Brightside & Carbrook Co-op Chemists in Infirmary Road. My co fire-watcher was an elderly gentleman by the name of McClennan. One night he had stoked up the fire and we settled down for the night. He was reading the ‘Weekly News’ and I sat opposite dozing. When I awoke I smelled burning soot and tried to alert McClennan to this fact. However I had great difficulty, as he appeared to be asleep with he eyes open. Just as he came to his senses there was a frantic banging on the backyard gate which led into Gilpin Lane. It was four steelworkers who had seen that our chimney was on fire and had come to warn us. When we looked up there were flames shooting out of the chimney pot. At this point McClennan vanished only to reappear when the fire was out.

The four workmen and myself decided we would tackle the fire and proceeded to find the equipment needed. We found the stirrup pump didn’t work and the bottom fell out of the bucket. I ran on the road to Westminster Bank and borrowed their stirrup pump and we managed to find another bucket which didn’t leak. By this time three of the workmen had gone on their way leaving the one remaining and myself to tackle the fire which we eventually did. At this point McClennan re-appeared. We decided to check the upstairs rooms to make sure nothing was burning up there as in some old buildings one chimney ran into another.

McClennan lent me his torch. I went up first and he followed. The upper rooms hadn’t been used for years and were very dusty and full of junk. We went into one room which was lit by moonlight streaming through the window. In a pool of moonlight on the floor was a Typhoo Tea box and in it was the head of a woman with long blonde hair. I stopped dead in my tracks recalling with horror my dream. However on closer inspection it was nothing more sinister than the head of a dummy which must have been used in window displays. I must admit that at first it gave me a nasty fright.

McClennan’s reaction was to grunt and say “come on, let’s go”, at which he went back downstairs and proceeded to stoke up the fire again. Really we were lucky because if the A.R.P. had spotted the fire we would have been in big trouble.

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BOAST Fred 

 

Old Time Dancing in 1945.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Fred Boast
Location of story: Addlestone, Surry
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Fred Boast.

At the time of VE Day in 1945 I was just 12 years old and lived with my family in Chapel Avenue, Addlestone, a small town in northwest Surrey. My father was in the Home Guard and my friend, Bryan Smith, lived in the same street, and his father was an Air Raid Warden. Bryan was very musical and played the piano accordion and later went on to become the conductor of the BBC Radio 2 Ballroom Orchestra at the Maida Vale Studios.

Chapel Avenue had some 40 homes in it and ran parallel with Chapel Grove, with another 40 homes, and they were joined across one end with Chapel Park Road with 20 homes. The occupants of these houses decided to get together to celebrate the Victory in Europe, and formed the Star Social Club. The Club held many Social events and held them in Chapel Park Infants' School, which stood at the corner of the Avenue and Park Road.

Bryan, who was regularly appearing at the local music halls, would get together with my uncle, Jim Westbury, also from Chapel Avenue who also played the piano accordion. They would play their marching and sing-along tunes. All of us children and our parents would march behind them round the square which was formed by the Chapel roads and the High Street. We would then finish up at the School for our social evening.

Old Time Dancing was very popular at this time, with dancing in the town on Tuesday evenings at the Weyman's Motor Bodies works, and on Thursday evenings at the Airscrew factory, where they made propellers for the Hurricane fighter. Mothers took their sons to the dances, as there was a shortage of male partners due to them being away in the armed forces. There was also a long night once a month on Saturdays at each venue. The music was always provided by a minimum of a Trio up to an eight piece Band. The ladies always wore long dresses and gloves that went up to their elbows. It was nothing to see a young lady cycling to the dance with her long dress all wrapped in front of her, so that it did not get entangle in the wheels. We had a Master of Ceremonies but no floor leaders; you just got up and followed the couple in front and hoped they were doing it right. You always danced in a circle around the dance floor. The only time that there was an en-core to a dance was in the progressive ones. These were very popular as were the set dances.

The Old Time Dancing at this time was very popular, as it provided a welcome relief from the many problems of the day that the civilian population were suffering.
The favourite dances of this time were -
Waltz - Veleta, Imperial, Doris, La Rinka, Pride of Erin, Tango, Florentine, St Bernard's, Chrysanthemum, Spanish & Kings
Tango - Royal Empress, Lola, Donella, Square, Fascination, London & Society Foxtrot - Society, On Leave & Ladbroke. Saunter - Moonlight, Yearning & Starlight Two Step - Boston & Military
Set dances: - Lancers, Quadrilles, Waltz Cotillion & Dashing White Sergeant.
Others: - Eva Three Step, Marine Four Step, Donnybrook, Barn Dance, Latchford & Highland Schottische, Maxina, Mississippi Dip, Esperano Barn Dance, Jazz Twinkle, Palais Glide, Lingering Blues, Gay Gordons & Shag
Others danced in Party social Dances included - Balling the Jack, Lambeth Walk, Okey Cokey, Jitterbug & Hands, Knees and Bumps-a-Daisy.


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BOOTH Doris 

 

Pitsmoor

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Doris Booth (nee Turner), friend Irene South and Mrs. Rosie Grocock.
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 Doris Booth.

Pitsmoor – Doris Booth

I remember there was an unexploded bomb at the corner of Clun Road and Ellesmere Road, very near to Mrs. Grocock’s fruit and vegetable shop and myself and a girl called Irene were watching from a safe distance away. The bomb disposal unit were there to detonate it, but it was said that Mrs. Grocock was trying to save some of her stock first. I cannot remember how long we waited but eventually it was blown up with such a loud bang that we ran for our lives. When we ventured back to look there was fruit all over Ellesmere Road and water gushing from the main water pipes.
Mrs. Grocock lost the shop and living quarters and went to live in a relatives house but eventually had a small lock up building built on the same site. She stayed there until 1972/73 when everyone was being rehoused. A new estate has now been built in this area.

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BOOTH Mary 

 

The Worst Night of my Life - the Sheffield Blitz

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Mary Booth (nee Balderson)
Location of story: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Norman Wigley of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Mrs Mary Booth.

 


At the start of the war I was working for a cutlery firm called Thomas Turner near Sheffield Midland Station. My job was in charge of the warehouse and checking surgical scissors that we made. 


On the night of the first Sheffield blitz (Thursday 12 December 1940) I had gone straight from work to see a film at the Palace Cinema on Union St. with two friends (sisters) from work. Not long after the film started the lights went up and the manager came on stage and told us that there was an alert but we stayed where we were and the film carried on because we had had a lot of previous alerts. However not long after, he came on stage again and told us that bombers were overhead and we were all asked to leave.

My two friends and I left the cinema and they went one way towards home and I turned towards the city centre to try to get a 97 bus home to Southey Green. I could hear the aircraft and the sound of bombs exploding and could tell they were getting closer. People were running in all directions. I had reached High St. and had almost got to the bus stop when I felt a hand on my shoulder – it was a big policeman who asked me what I was doing. I told him I was trying to get a bus home and he said “No – come with me” and he led me to a shelter under a pub on the corner of Howard St. and Charles St.

We had just reached the entrance when the first bomb fell nearby and the explosion blew us both down the steps. I was very frightened and bruised but otherwise unhurt. I was however upset that a Christmas present of perfume that my two friends had bought me was smashed. We stayed in the shelter the whole night. Bombs were falling all round the city centre – I remember that the noise was rattling the toilet in the corner. Water was being used by firemen all around our shelter area and by the end of the night we were up to our knees in water. We had injured firemen brought in during the night and people from the Empire Theatre as well.

The shelter we were in was soon full, but luckily our shelter and the pub above us escaped a hit. We came out of the shelter when the ‘all clear’ sounded. I wanted to get home to Southey but was told by the Police that I would not be able to get there. I saw lots of damage – buildings on fire, trams destroyed – I even saw a tram driver with his arms round the conductress trying to protect her – they were both dead. One of my friends from the cinema and her brother had come looking for me. They found me and took me back to their home on Queens Rd. On this walk the brother kept telling me not to look at some of the sights we were passing.

I stayed the night with them. I set off for home the next day and was given a lift on the back of a railway dray as far as Wadsley Bridge Station. I could walk from there. I met my mum at our gate and she told me my dad had gone into town to look for me. They had of course not seen or heard anything of me since I went to work on Thursday morning and they feared the worse for me as from Southey they could see the city centre glowing with the fires. I was filthy but I was so tired I went straight to bed. When I awoke later I eventually had a bath and something to eat and drink. My dad had returned by then and although glad I had got home safely I still got shouted at! I never thought I would see my parents and family again. Thank God I did.

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BOSTON Margaret 

 

The Blitz (Sheffield)

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Margaret Boston (nee Scales)
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Margaret Boston (nee Scales).
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My story begins on the beach at Blackpool where I was on holiday with my parents. We heard that war had been declared and I remember Mum saying, “We are going home at once.”

I was six years old when war was declared and I lived at Parson's Cross, Sheffield. During the height of the Blitz, we slept in an air raid shelter which was situated behind the garage. One night, a particularly bad raid was in progress and one ‘stick’ of bombs fell quite close to our house and it blew the shelter door out.

The following day, my parents, brother and I walked to where the bombs had dropped and I remember so much devastation. One bath was hanging precariously out of a half of a house and shrapnel was all over the place.

My father worked at ‘Toledo’ steel works and one night during his break, he walked over the road to talk to the policeman. He returned to work and soon after, a bomb dropped; the row of houses and the policeman were no more.

Another time, my father came home from work one morning to say he had seen trams bombed with people still inside. It was a very harrowing time.

One of the biggest disasters in Sheffield was Marple’s public house, which had a direct hit, killing a lot of people. My uncle had been there earlier in the evening. I was evacuated to my grandparents in Doncaster, with my cousin who also lived in Sheffield. However, after six months, I was so homesick that I went home. My grandparents also had an evacuee from London.

I had two family war incidents: my father’s cousin was killed, he was in the R.A.F. and was in a Sunderland plane that crashed. My uncle was in the eighth army and was torpedoed twice, but luckily survived.

Anyone who has experienced the Second World War would do anything to avoid another one. Too many people sacrificed their lives for our freedom.


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BOULT Joan 

 

My War Work, Royal Artillery Searchlight Division

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Joan Boult (nee Bluett)
Location of story: Bournemouth
Unit name: Royal Artillery Searchlight Division
Background to story: Civilian Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Frank Copley.


I was about nineteen and living in Bournemouth when War broke out. We saw little direct action, apart from one occasion when I was walking with a friend in Talbot Woods above the town, and there was an air raid. It was mid morning and quite unexpected. We knew from the commotion and the pall of fire and smoke that damage had been done. Of course, on our return, we saw the extent of it. One of the big West Front hotels had suffered a direct hit.

There was nothing to bomb Bournemouth for. We had no naval base; we didn't manufacture armaments or anything like that. Instead, the town became a centre for sort of office-based manoeuvres, 'strategic planning', that kind of thing, because it was deemed to be safe 'ish'. As a young woman I was working in a draper's shop, selling.

When the War came, quite a lot of women went in the forces. There was something about women under twenty-one and over forty. I don't think they were allowed to join the 'regular' forces.

My sister joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service). She had to go to Hastings. I remember her being in uniform at my wedding, towards the end of the War, so she must have been in a while.
We got these letters, I remember, a little bit into the War (I think I was twenty one by then), advising us that we should apply for work to support the war effort. There was a choice I think, but most of them were clerical type jobs, all for the War Office. Some of them were quite high powered, like code breaking. A lot couldn't tell their families what they were engaged in, until after the War was over.

I applied, successfully, to work for the Royal Artillery Searchlight Division. They had a sort of 'operations' room in one of the hotels on the West Cliff. All the big hotels had been requisitioned. We were on the top floor I remember. I suppose it had been a lounge for guests, or even a bedroom.
It was interesting work. My job was to organise a sort of 'recall' for men on the searchlights, to do civilian work for short periods.

These were men billeted in Britain, but all over the country. Every so often, certain of them would be allowed so much leave, fairly short bursts. They'd be required to help with a sugar beet harvest or in a coal mine. It was usually agricultural or industrial work of some sort, when there was too much work for the regular workforce. Their numbers would be depleted, because of the number of hands that had gone off to fight. The Land Army and the Bevin Boys would be doing their bit, but from time to time they'd need reinforcements. Whether these reinforcements we were sending were farm workers or coalminers in civilian life, I don't know. I'd imagine they would have to be, because there would be skills involved and no time to train someone up in just a few weeks. Whether they were going back to their own home area, I'm not sure. It'd be interesting to know. It'd make sense if they were. My job was to co-ordinate all the arrangements for this leave.

I suppose I'd worked from a list. I don't recall quite how the men were selected to come out, but I had to write to their regiments and work out all their movements and so on. Strangely, I always remembered organising someone to come to the coalmines in Clay Cross. A funny name for a place, I thought at the time, where an earth is it? Never realising I'd be living just up the road from it all these years later!

There was a huge map on the wall, of the whole country. I became quite good at map reading. If you give me the name of a town in Britain, I can usually tell you what county it's in. I got quite good at geography, it stuck with me. Even now, when we're driving round the country, I can beat some of the youngsters at navigation. I've my wartime service to thank for that!


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BOWER Dorothy 

 

The Blitz December 12, 1940

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Dorothy Bower, Jean Bower, Mr. & Mrs. Richardson,
Location of story: Sheffield (Pitsmoor)
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Dorothy Bower.
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On Blitz night, 12th of December 1940, my sister and I were alone in my sister’s house in Kilton Street, Pitsmoor Sheffield 3. Mr. Richardson, who was my friend’s dad, had a brick shelter in his yard. As we were trying to get across the road to get to our own house in Andover Street, only about two minutes’ walk away, my mum and sister had gone to the Coliseum Cinema, also a few minutes’ walk away. We were told to stay where we were and wait for them to pick us up, in case of any air raids, but we had never had one until then. So I thought it was best to go home, across the road.

But by the time we had gotten half way across, the raid really got going and the planes were trying to drop bombs on the railway and works at the bottom of Norfolk Bridge. ESC and Browns were two of the works. My other sister worked at ESC and she was at work that night.

So, there we were, running to get home and it was absolutely pitch dark in the street. The Richardsons saw us and took us into their Brick Shelter. Half way through the raid, we were all singing, but a bomb or land mine dropped in the street below us. Mr. Richardson flew in the air on a wave from the blast, and landed on his back in the yard outside. Later, Mrs. Richardson dashed into the house to make some tea. When she saw her lovely home made bread, black and covered in brick dust, her language was too disgusting to print and I couldn’t spell it anyway. My dad thought we had been killed by the bomb that was dropped at the bottom of the street. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.

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BRADBOURNE Walter 

 

Evacuation from Leeds. An excerpt from "Thirties Child", the memoirs of Walter Bradbourne

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Walter Bradbourne
Location of story: Leeds, Otley, West Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Gillian Davies.

Evacuation from Leeds. An excerpt from "Thirties Child", the memoirs of Walter Bradbourne

by
Gillian Davies

I didn't sleep much the last night at home, before my evacuation day. Perhaps it was the uncertain circumstances surrounding this "holiday" adventure. I was awake when Dad came in to see me at around 4am. He gave me a big hug, saying, "Be good son, good luck and be brave". Dad was on early shift at Sammy's (Samuel Ledgard buses). But why should I be brave?

On reflection, it must have been very upsetting for Dad to say goodbye in this manner, knowing that when he returned home from work I would not be there. Nor would he know where I was. I'm so glad that I never had to do anything so devastating and psychologically draining when my two little girls, Gillian and Joanne, were young. There was no counselling for anyone in the war years, people just had to get on with life.

Mam gave me a cal! at about 5.30am. I was soon washed and dressed and downstairs. Mam went through my carrier bag of clothes for me to see what I was taking. It didn't seem much, a paper bag with a string handle, to take on holiday. However she assured me that I had everything that was on the list. She then asked me to repeat my identity card number, which I had been learning parrot fashion for weeks. "KNYF/63/3" I said smartly. She gave me a big hug, "Very good, love". We caught the number 50 bus at about 7.30am and Dot (my older sister) came along to see me off. She was on the afternoon shift at the GPO. The bus was full and I had to stand all the way to Leeds so I was glad when we arrived at the Town Hall.

When we turned the comer into Calverley Street we were surprised to see hundreds of adults and children congregating around 30 or so single deck buses. It was absolute chaos. Adults scurried around, children dawdled, worried mothers and harassed officials with clip- boards trying to sort everyone out and place them on the correct bus. Some children were excited, others, their little faces pale, bemused and obviously afraid. All were clutching an assortment of bags, bundles, and the inevitable gas mask.

It was quite some time before Mam found a lady that had my name on her list. I was "ticked off" and given two luggage labels to write my name and school on. Then, as instructed, Mam fastened one label in my top left buttonhole on my raincoat and the other on my paper carrier bag. Yet another Evacuation Official came and checked me over before disappearing into the crowd.
Mam was getting a bit upset by this time; it was 10.30 by the Town Hall clock, over two hours since we had arrived.

Some of the buses were Sammy Ledgard's and I asked Mam if Dad would be here. "No; she said, "He's on the Bradford service this week".

At last, a somewhat buxom lady shouted for my group to go to bus 15. As we approached we had to form a single file. Mam and Dot gave me a big kiss. I was checked again and the list was ticked as I climbed the bus steps. The two front seats were reserved, one for the teacher and official and the other was stacked high With paper carrier bags similar to mine.
I finished up towards the rear of the bus and was lucky to get a window seat so I had a good View of Mam and Dot, which I was glad about.

Soon, another boy sat beside me. He was very thin and pale faced and didn't look at all happy. He told me his name was Ray and that his mother had been unable to escort him to town because she had to work. I felt very sorry for him (he had travelled to Leeds With another boy and his mother). Looking around the bus there were many strange faces. Clearly, not everyone was from Kirkstall Road School, including Ray.

Our destination was unknown. Although Mam and the other parents had repeatedly asked the officials for information, the answer was always the same "When they arrive at their destination you will be informed".

Drivers were now starting their engines and very slowly the convoy snaked its way past the Civic Hall. I gave Mam and Dot a big wave and they waved back. Both were crying. In fact all the ladies in the crowd we passed were crying. Why? After all, we were only going on holiday weren't we?
I thought at first that all the buses were going the same way but they soon started going in different directions. Soon there were only two buses in front of ours and we seemed to be following them.

The teacher came down the bus giving everyone another paper carrier bag. They were from the stack on the front seat and inside there was some tinned food, a tin of Carnation milk and a bar of chocolate. We were told that this must be handed to the person we were going to live with.
I was getting very hungry by now and had a look in my carrier bag. Mam had packed me a large pack of salad sandwiches and some chocolate. I started to eat and asked Ray why he wasn't eating. He told me that his Mam had not had time to pack anything up for him so I let him have some of mine and he was overjoyed. He started talking more now, before he was very subdued. I also shared my chocolate with him. I felt so sorry for Ray, he obviously needed support and I would have to help him as much as possible.

Our bus started to slow down and I could see that the two in front had also stopped. A teacher from the bus in front came running towards ours and had a chat with our teacher. "Would anyone like to go to the toilet?" she shouted down the bus. All the hands went up! What a great idea! The boys left the bus first and went behind a hedgerow. The girls were taken across the road and into some dense woodland. Our "adventure holiday" had made most of us forget about the call of nature!

We were soon on our way again and passing through a village. I tried to see it's name however all the signposts were down and other identifying names were covered up for security reasons. One of the older boys said it was Pannal, but I was none the wiser.
We stopped again at another village and kids from the first bus got off; it must have been their destination.

Ray and I ate the bars of chocolate from the tinned food carriers as our journey seemed never ending.
Eventually we stopped outside a large building that looked like it was a factory. We were told to get off the bus and line up in twos. It was check time again and the teacher made sure we had our gas masks and personal belongings.

The last few children from the bus in front were now filing through a large doorway a few yards away. Three large stem looking ladies came out of the door and talked to the teacher from our bus. They were wearing yellow armbands that read "Evacuation Billeting Officer". The clip- board with our names on was handed over and we were told we would be following the other children shortly. As we started to move towards the large doors Ray and I were last in line; it was the way we had filed off the bus. On entering the building I was surprised to see iron railings on each side of us and there was a lot of noise ahead, shouting and general commotion. We were lead into a clearing that was almost circular: it reminded me of the circus ring I had seen when Mam and Dad took me to the circus on Woodhouse Moor. Men and women were shouting and pointing from the other side of the railings at the children in front of us. "I'll take that one", "I’ll have her", "I only want one, not two", "I want that lad; "I’ll take that girl but not her sister" and so it went on.

Eventually those chosen were led away with their prospective foster parents, though many were in tears, especially where brother and sister had been parted. Meanwhile Ray and I and two giris were asked to walk around the ring again, being the only ones not to be picked. It would appear that nobody wanted us as the four of us were led away to a comer of the building where we joined other children that had also not been chosen.

We sat on a type of bench seat, raised up above the ring. I looked round at the two girls that nobody wanted; they were sisters, both had runny noses and wore steel rimmed spectacles.
Some of the lads had spotty faces and I wondered if these were the reasons for not being picked - but Ray and I had none of these features so what was wrong with us?

We were glad that there was a toilet near to where we were sitting as we were able to get a drink from the tap in there by cupping our hands together, the first drink we had since leaving home. It wasn't that long before more men and women started to fill the outside of the ring. I looked in my carrier for my remaining sandwich. I soon found it, along with another bar of chocolate. Mam must have packed two. I put the chocolate back to have later and Ray and I had half a sandwich each, which we were both ready for; it had been a long day and it wasn't over yet.

Some more children were led into the ring, just as we had been. We had a very good view of the proceedings from our vantage point. The evacuees started walking round the ring amidst all the shouting. The older boys were chosen first by men who were obviously farmers, then the older girls were chosen by the women. There were fierce arguments between both men and women, pushing each other and shouting such things as "I said I'd have that one before you did". Two women were almost coming to blows over one child and it was only the intervention of two billeting officers that prevented a fight.

We both watched in total amazement at this awful spectacle.
One little girl remained standing there, alone. Everyone else had been chosen this time except her. The tears began to well up and she sobbed and sobbed. A lady took pity on her however and she was led away by her new "Mum".
I was beginning to have grave doubts about this so- called holiday now. Then again, Mam had said that I would be OK and she was never wrong; I had great faith in her. On the other hand, Dad had bold me to be brave, which made me worry a bit.

Soon everyone had left the cattle market (for now I know that is what it was) and the three Billeting Officers came over to those of us that were left. They told us we were in Otley, though none of us were any the wiser. I had never heard of Otley before; the time that the bus had taken to get us here made it seem as though we were a hundred miles from home. Of course I now know that the bus had gone via Wetterby and Harrogate to arrive there.
We were checked again and then lined up in the now customary twos before being led out to a waiting bus. I think there were about thirty of us and we all boarded the bus along with the Billeting Officers.

After a short ride of about ten minutes, the bus stopped and ten children and a Billeting Officer got off. Another ten minutes journey and this was repeated. Our ride was much longer but soon the inevitable happened and we were off the bus. We stood on the grass verge whilst the Billeting Officer checked her list again. Looking around, the place seemed OK with lots of trees and fields. We were soon walking up a road that led into an estate of private houses. The Billeting Officer would leave us waiting in suspense at each garden gate whilst she knocked on the house door and inquired in a stem voice "Will you take an evacuee?" She was quite intimidating in her manner, buxom, and wore a hat with a large feather in it very much like an Austrian Tyrol forester!

The first few houses were unable to take any of us, for whatever reason, and the Billeting Officer became somewhat annoyed and started telling people that it was their duty to help the war effort. We fared better in the next street as six of our party were taken in. Ray and I found ourselves last in line again and we were feeling very tired now. Both my hands and my fingers were sore and painful from the string handles on my carrier bags. I pulled my coat sleeves down to cover my hands to try and protect them a bit but the string kept slipping back.
Only one evacuee got a home in the next street, leaving just the three of us. Soon there was just Ray and me.

We walked up and down the next street without success and I could see that Ray was getting upset. He was almost in tears, his bottom tip starting to curl out, so I put my arm around him and said, "Don't worry Ray, if nobody wants us they will have to send us home". With that he cheered up a bit.

It looked as though we were going to be unlucky again in the next street, after six refusals, however it looked more promising when we got to number 8. There was a long discussion and I could hear bits of the conversation about whether one or two could be taken. I feared we would be split up, so when the Billeting Officer said, "Right you two, you will be staying here" it was such a relief. I don’t think we could have gone much further without collapsing.

We both walked slowly down the garden path towards the front door. The lady of the house didn't look at all welcoming as she received the documentation from the Billeting Officer (who left soon after, bidding us goodbye as she went).
We entered the hallway and the door was slammed shut behind us. It was clear that we had been taken in under duress.
She read us the "riot act" and no mistake; her index finger pointed at us both menacingly.
We were not to enter the front room at any time, the sitting room only with permission and must remain seated in the kitchen until told otherwise.

She took our carrier bags and emptied the contents onto the kitchen table whilst Ray and I were still standing on the door- mat waiting to be told where we could put our coats and gas masks. There was a coat stand next to us in the hail, with a mirror in the centre. What a sad state we both looked. We had chocolate stains around our mouths; my cap was twisted round to the left, with most of my hair to the right. Neither of us had been able to wash property since leaving home at ~5am. We felt and looked grubby as we stood watching Mrs Rudd (I think that was her name) sorting through our belongings. All the tinned food was put away in a cupboard and then I was mortified when she ate my bar of chocolate.

Footnote:
Dad was about seven or eight years old when he was evacuated. He and Ray continued to be mistreated by Mrs Rudd. They were often left hungry (despite the increased rations she received for them) and locked away in their bedroom. This culminated in them running away and living rough on the steep escarpment and heath-land that towers above Otley (known as the Chevin). A kindly policeman apprehended them during a desperate food foraging expedition into the town. He took them to the station and gave them a decent meat and then contacted their parents. The authorities dealt with Mrs Rudd.

Dad and Ray kept loosely in touch for a while after their traumatic time together. A short time later he saw a newspaper photograph of Ray with his Mum (she had remarried) and he thought they moved away from Leeds soon after. He never heard of him again.
Dad passed away in February 2005.

 =====================================================================================================


BRAILSFORD William Alan

 

Life As A Bevin Boy 1943 - 1947

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: William Alan Brailsford M.B.E.
Location of story: Handsworth (Sheffield) South Yorkshire
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 William Alan Brailsford M.B.E.


When I left High Storrs Grammar School, Sheffield in 1935 I was successful in getting a job which was difficult in those days, R Messrs Hadfields Ltd., Steel Manufacturers, famous for manganese steel and world renowned.

I trained as an Accountant and qualified as an Associate of Cost and Works Accountant, by correspondence course and attendance at Sheffield University evening classes.

War clouds were gathering and in 1938 being of a certain age I was required to register for Military Service and I remember going to the Artillery Barracks in Glossop Road Sheffield to “sign on” and attending at the Drill Hall near Bramall Lane.

By this time it was realised that War was almost certain and Hadfields was obviously a vital part of the war machine and was asked (or told) by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to build a factory on a greenfield site to manufacture 500 lb bombs. I was detailed to be responsible for the Capital Expenditure and administration of this project, which was to be located at Swinton Nr. Rotherham. We worked every hour possible 7 days a week. Problems, problems but on record time the factory came into production. Steel melting, casting, 5000 ton presses, annealing, machining, hardening, assembly of components. Explosives were dealt with elsewhere.

As a result of this work, I was reserved from being called up. I joined the L.D.V. Local Defence Volunteers, later to be the Home Guard (Dads Army). I was the only N.C.O. who had not been an ‘Old Sweat’ in the First War. We were ‘E’ Company; our C.O. was a Guards Officer. We were charged with the defence of East Hecla Works as Hadfields was called.

It was near the time when we were achieving full production at the Swinton factory, that the Ministry told us to close it, I think the bombs were too small.

I volunteered to join the Royal Navy, passing both the medical and quite searching mental written examination and was recommended for the Officers’ Training Course.

I wanted to be called up. It was 1943 and Ernest Bevin, who was Minister of Labour, needed more manpower in the coalmines. He decided that anyone being called up with a number 9 at the end of their registration number would be directed down a coalmine as their compulsory National Service.

I was convinced I was in the Navy but to my horror I received Bevins invitation, against which I actively objected, attending a Tribunal in Leeds – result I was directed down a coalmine. I was a Bevin Boy.

Training took place at Woodhouse, near Sheffield, where I suppose some 50 of us were instructed in the running of a colliery safety measure, duties, and responsibilities. Physical Training was a regular part of the course and I remember being ‘matched’ with Alan Brown in the boxing sessions. We were both over 6ft tall – he was manager/coach of a Professional Football Club, Sunderland I think and obviously pretty fit. I had all on to stop him killing me in the boxing. I was much better in the Cross Country runs where we ran together and had interesting chats on the way round.

After some 6 weeks we were “fully trained coalminers and I was allocated to the Nunnery Colliery in Handsworth, South Yorkshire which meant I could live at home. Many of the lads were allocated to Bettshomger Colliery in Kent.

My first job was to chip cement off some old bricks and to dismantle a wall (on the surface). My colleague thought this was a great job. Shortly afterwards I was transferred to work on haulage in a drift mine (running straight down into the ground) extracting a high grade coal from the Furnace Seam. All the coal was processed through a coking plant at Orgreave, producing valuable bi-products, besides, coke, tar, natha, petrol, gas.

The drift mine as it ran straight into the hill side and being relatively near the surface was very wet. Often water would be pouring from the roof, we wore waterproofs, got pretty wet and we became very tired ploughing through the deep mud with our huge safety boots. The smell was disgusting – sulphurated hydrogen – bad egg smell and I can still recall it when thinking about it. The seam was only 1ft 9ins. So much of our work was ripping and removing the overburden. This grey material was razor sharp when shattered and removed but became a soft shale very quickly when exposed to the outside atmosphere. We hauled the coal and rock to the surface with a very old worn compressed air donkey engine.

Signals were given by one ring to stop, two to go on a bell system. The ground was very unstable and the roof would come under pressure causing great problems.

The person in charge of operations, the Deputy, may have been good at his job, but like so many of the Managers was blunt in conversation and the continuous use of bad language was accepted as the only way of making English understandable.

After some time on the Furnace seam I was transferred to a deep mine in the same District, the Handsworth and Flocton seams.

The shaft had been sunk around 1880 and coal had been extracted in such a way to leave a block under Sheffield to avoid subsistence. Consequently the working faces were becoming a long way from the pit bottom and it would take an hour to walk along the roadways to the coal fact. As the seam was on a decline it became hotter and hotter and we shed out clothing as we went. A large bottle of cold tea was like champagne and I soon learned that if I did not have a Snap Tin I would have no grub. The first time I put my sandwiches in my pocket the rats ate them and my pocket while I was away working.

T this time I was allocated to work on haulage with the aid of a put pony for the motive power. A wonderful animal with tremendous power. The stables underground were very well run, the ponies well looked after and the many rats were well fed too.

Haulage of coal and overburden to the put bottom was a tortuous business, reasonably carried out with the pit pony on the more level areas. All the time I was bedevilled by being 6ft tall and my safety helmet worked overtime and often I thought my head was being pushed down into my body. My pony would pull 6 or more tubs each holding 10cwts.

My next job was haulage with the use of compressed air engines in a very uneven location where the roadways were up steep inclines and valleys due to the numerous faults. The tubs in line would be se off from the loader and down a roadway into the darkness with a great rumble. Frequently a ‘stopper’ would be put in the wheel to retard the speed. After a short time an even greater rumble would be heard as the line of tubs would come off the rails and finish in a confused mass of tubs and coal or rock. The delays caused by having to rectify the situation were many and I used to complain to the Deputy (the boss) about the complete inefficiency of the workings.

I had now progressed from having a Davy Safety Lamp which on occasion went out – a worrying situation when working alone, to an electric lamp with the battery on my belt and the light on the safety helmet.

During my service underground I worked on most of the jobs. Ripping with a hydraulic ‘digger’ to removing rock, coal getting and loading. We had no machinery as is now available, the only mechanical aid was a conveyor belt. The roof conditions varied considerably from stable rock formations, where holding up the roof was relatively easy to faulty rock which required steel arches in the roadways with shuttering. When moving a coal fact forward the coal would be removed and the overburden put in the ‘GOB’, virtually building a block wall behind as we progressed. This held up the roof. Pit props were also used. If the appropriate supports were not put in position, the pressure would “come on” and reduce the height probably causing more ripping to be done.

The Deputy gave me the opportunity to carry out some of his duties – I helped with shot firing and some surveying – I even carried the caged canary used to identify gas (fire damp). Fortunately the canary never keeled over whilst in my care.

Ventilation was a problem. In one location air was fed to the working area along a canvas pipe about a foot in diameter. In other places a great wind would be blowing, interrupted in various places by large rubber doors.

Accidents wee frequently suffered but during my time there were no major falls. Absenteeism was a major headache and I do not think there were any working weeks when one or more of the team was not off sick or injured. I am pleased to say I never missed a shift over nearly 4 years despite the fact I could not say I enjoyed the work. There were no pit had baths and I would go home straight from the mine as we all did.

At one stage I was so frustrated by the interruptions caused by inefficiencies that I asked the Deputy to arrange for me to see the Managing Director of the Company. I was not Nationalised at that time.

He thought this was most unusual but I insisted and eventually was invited to see
Mr. Ditcher, the M.D. at the Head Office at Nether Edge. I took the opportunity of asking him when he had last been down the mine. Had he any idea at all of the low level of efficiency etc. He spared me nearly an hour – a most interesting conversation and no doubt one of the most unusual interviews that either of us ever had. I realised the put was an old one and little could be done to really improve tings. I thought the event was worthwhile as a fact reporting mission. As I recall the only r result o my interview was to e invited to a cocktail party of the Mine Officials. A Bevin Boy on parade!!

Maybe it also resulted in being asked to help in the wages Department as the Manager had had a nervous breakdown.

This gave me an opportunity to meet many of the miners. They were a great lot, particularly underground, they would risk their lives for their mates. They tended to lie from day to day and if they had any money left at the weekend they would be hard pressed to turn up on Monday. Very many would ask for a ‘sub’ every week, which had to be deducted from the next weeks age – only to ask for another. Some would ask for a spare wage packet so that their wife would not be aware of total earnings.

A coal allowance was available to married men and 2/6 a week was deducted for a load of coal. They purchased safety boots paying a few coppers a week by deduction from wags.

My wages over nearly 4 years were £5.00. per week except when on a few occasions I stood in for someone who would be paid overtime or some allowance according to the job.

I gave my notice in every week but it was rejected until eventually I was formally released from my National Service in 1947.

I had made friends with some of the miners who would invite me to their home – small back to back terrace houses, spotlessly clean, as far as was possible in a mining area. The Yorkshire Range would have the brasses highly polished and the fire would be roaring up the chimney even in summer. Hot water was required for the bath in the Tin Bath on the hearth. Outside many houses would be a load of coal, he cellar being full.

On leaving, he miners gave me a party – that is a drinking session. It was with some trepidation that I went along knowing how these fellows could drink – 8 pints on Saturday lunchtime and “we’ll go out and really have some tonight”.

However, the session at the Greyhound at Attercliffe and another pub the name of which I cannot recall went off successfully although I must admit I could not manage to read the destination board on the tramcars so I walked all the way home to Broomhill.

This period in the mines was a relatively isolated one for me as friends of my age had left the area and were in all parts of the world on active service. Some consolation was had from being Hon. Secretary of the Sheffield Rover Scouts which at the end of the War numbered 1,200. Every month a printed magazine was compiled by the District Commissioner (Gibby) in which I assisted. It was sent around the World to each of the Rover Scouts and kept them in touch with home. Their stories form part of the magazine called ‘SLABS’(Sheffield Local Association of Boy Scouts).

This was my National Service as a conscription BEVIN BOY – an experience I would not have had or chosen except for the War – and never a medal in sight.



20/10/92.

=============================================================================================

 

 

BRAMMER Evelyn

 

Childhood Memories Of The Blitz Night With My Aunt.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Evelyn Brammer
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Margaret Walker of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Evelyn Brammer.


Childhood Memory of the Blitz Night with my aunt.

I was aged 14 in about 1940/41, and every Thursday, I had to go and stay with my aunt, Mrs Bell, at Graves Park, in Sheffield, because my uncle was in the Home Guard and was out on duty every Thursday, and my aunt didn’t like sleeping on her own.

One particular night, I arrived at my aunt’s as usual, and after tea, we were just doing the washing up, when we heard the sirens going and we could also hear the bombs dropping. My aunt said, “Quick, lets get under the dining room table”. There was a piece of land very close to the side of the house, and at that moment, a bomb landed right there, right next to us. The whole house shook, the noise was terrific, all the windows were blown out and all the pots were shattered, everything was broken. The first thing I said was, “Oh auntie, we needn’t have done all that washing up!” My aunt couldn’t believe that was the first thing I had thought about, and for many, many years, this became a standing joke in the family. Just after that happened though, the air raid warden came rushing to the house, and took us immediately to the air-raid shelter on Derbyshire Lane. We were both shell shocked and disorientated from the experience, as well as covered in dirt and dust. We stayed there all night, the shelter was packed and it was awful. We hadn’t taken anything in with us, but we didn’t care, we were just glad to be alive.

The next day, we came out of the air raid shelter very early in the morning. My uncle came and collected us and wanted to take us back home, or what was left of it. I didn’t want to go back though, I just wanted to go home. I was worried about my mum and dad and was wondering if they had survived the night. My aunt and uncle let me go, and as there was no transport, I set off walking home, all the way from Derbyshire Lane to Darnall. For some reason, I didn’t go the way I should have, which would have been to walk towards Norton, and then Gleadless and across the top towards Darnall. I walked down Derbyshire Lane and headed towards town. I don’t know why I did this, maybe it was shock. Anyway, I walked through High Street, and it was awful. I just didn’t recognise it as High Street anymore. There were empty spaces where shops used to be, like C & A and the Marples. This was the same all the way back to Darnall, but thankfully, when I eventually reached home, there were my mum and dad, who were both O.K. and also very relieved to see me as well.




Pr-BR

===========================================================================================

 

Evelyn Brammer 

 Evelyn on the way to the blacksmith's

 Evelyn Brammer

Shoeing A Horse In The Land Army

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Evelyn Brammer
Location of story: Kent

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Margaret Walker of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Evelyn Brammer.

Shoeing a Horse in the Land Army

I went in the Land Army when I was 17 and was sent to Kent, (near Margate). When I was first told where I was going, it felt like I was being sent to the end of the earth. Worse still, after a week working at a Market Garden (just dealing with produce, apple picking, tomatoes etc.), there was a terrible heat wave. I was outside all the time, obviously with the job I was doing, and the next thing, I was struck down with the most terrible heatstroke. I had never been out in the sun like that before, and had a terrible reaction. My arms, legs, face all swelled up and went red, and I looked like the Michelin man. It was very painful, and I had to spend some time in a wheelchair recuperating!

I lived in a hostel with lots of girls. I had chosen this, as the other option for land army girls was to live with the farmer and his family, but I didn’t really fancy that, and thought living in the hostel would be much more fun. It was fun, but the downside of this was that the food was absolutely terrible. The Matron of the hostel used to do everything, including the kitchen, and she was the worst cook you could ever imagine. If there was any mashed potatoes left from the evening before, we would get mashed potato sandwiches for our packing up the next day – cold obviously! We hated them, but we ate them because we were so hungry after working on the land all morning, and there was no other choice. The food in the evening wasn’t any better.
I went from there, to Boston, Wyberton Rectory, which was a hostel, and again to a farm. One day, the farmer asked me to take this huge shire horse to the blacksmith's to be shoed. I had to walk to the village, dragging this horse along the road. I had never handled a horse before, and it was actually quite scary. I was just on my way, when suddenly, a lorry came down the country road, and it was full of soldiers. Well, when they saw me, a young woman with a horse, they all cheered, whistled and waved. The noise really spooked the horse, and it reared up and I don’t know how I controlled it. I had no experience of what to do, and was terrified. Anyway, somehow I managed it and lived to tell the tale, and the photo is of me on that very morning with the horse in question!
The worst job in the W.L.A. was potato picking. This was very hard work because we had to follow a tractor which was unearthing the potatoes. If we fell behind, the farmer wasn't too pleased. Backache became the norm!

Pr-BR

=============================================================================================

 

BRIGDEN Doreen 

 

A Lost Childhood

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Doreen Mary Brigden (Nee Hall), Mr. & Mrs. Pledge, Evelyn Rose Idedycheney (Nee Hall) Mr. & Mrs. Evelyn & David Jones, Winifred and Ernest Hall.
Location of story: Croydon Bognor, West Hoathly, Sussex.
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 Doreen Mary Brigden.


Story Title: A lost Childhood.

Names in Story: Doreen Mary Brigden (Nee Hall), Mr. & Mrs. Pledge,
Evelyn Rose Idedlycheney (Nee Hall), Winifred & Ernest Hall,
Mr. & Mrs. Evelyn & David Jones.

Location: Croydon, Bognor, West Hoathly, Sussex.


In the summer of 1939, I was a lively 9 year old and living a very happy life in Croydon with my mother, father and 7 year old sister Evelyn. We had a lovely home and garden with a summerhouse that my father built for us, where we would spend many happy hours playing. We would have outings to the park and Mother would read us bedtime stories.

We were used to seeing my father in army uniform, as he was in the territorials. One day, I remember he kissed us goodbye and said that a war had started, and he had to go away for a while. A few days later we were evacuated with our school. After the excitement of the train journey we ended up on a village green and I remember how frightened my sister and I felt, as names would be called out and people would come forward to take us home with them. Luckily we were kept together and went to live with Mr. & Mrs. Pledge in Bognor, a very nice couple who were very kind to us. I remember on one occasion, my father and mother came to visit us; we were given the day off school and enjoyed a lovely time and a picnic on the beach. We had a lovely family photo taken, which is now a very treasured picture, as although we did not know it at the time, it was to be the last time we would ever see my father, as he later went to Dunkirk and sadly never returned. He was presumed killed. For years I never gave up that he might be found and return to us one day. My sister became very home sick so my mother came to fetch us home from Bognor.

We lived very close to Croydon Airport and one day, were playing out near the airfield, when the first daylight raid took place. Without warning, the airport was bombed. Thankfully we were taken in to safety by anyone around, but to this day I can still remember being surrounded by black smoke and the sickly smell of scent as a scent factory was hit close by.

A lot of people lost their lives, including our neighbour who left his four children. We had grown up with this family and enjoyed happy times before the War. So again we were evacuated, this time to an elderly aunt at West Hoathly, Sussex. She had a small cottage and she could not have us for long. I went to live with Mr. & Mrs. Jones for the rest of the war. They were very kind to me and I was very happy there. Unfortunately my sister was some miles away in Forest Row, and we only got to meet on the occasional holidays. My bedroom at Mrs. Jones’ was high up in the attic and I could see for miles across the country. I remember feeling so scared when I heard the drone of the German planes passing overhead going towards London, and on their return, I could see the London skyline ablaze with red and wondered if my mother and relatives had survived the bombing. I could not wait for my next letter to know they were still alive. My mother had to work in the war at a factory, assembling gas masks for babies. On leaving the village school at 11 years, I then had to go to Chequers Mead in East Grinstead.

I remember being upset when Mrs. Jones refused to let me go to the pictures with my school friend one evening after school, but it was to save my life for a second time as the cinema had a direct hit during an air raid and my friend was killed.

When I returned home after the war, I was 14 years old and had left school and started work. My sister had her friends and gone their own way. My mother had moved from the home I had known with the lovely garden. My dear father had been killed in the war; life would never be the same again, my childhood days were over and I was now considered an adult. I still had my teddy bear and some books and very happy memories of the days before the war.

P.S. I love the film “Goodnight Mr. Tom”, a very true story of the war years for so many and I would like to say, “Goodnight and thank you Mrs. Jones for your kindness in looking after me.”


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BRIDGES Mollie 

 

1)Bananas, 2)Chewing Gum, 3) Train, 4) Fur Coat, 5) Orphanage, 6) Cellar Bomb & 7) USA Bomber.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mollie Spencer Bridges (nee Brown), Kenneth Elkington.
Location of story: Sheffield

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mollie Spencer Bridges.

On V.E. Night, I was looking at the firework display that my uncle had set up. I must have stuck my head out too far and got a rocket blown across my forehead and burnt my eyebrows. Since then, I watch fireworks through a window. At the same V.E. party, I was offered a yellow thing by Kenneth. I what it was and what should I do with it. He replied, “It is a banana and you eat it – so I did. He failed to tell me however, that I should have peeled it first. I still don’t like bananas.

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My father worked at Sheffield City Hall where American soldiers were billeted. I was one of the first people in Sheffield to chew Wrigley’s chewing gum, as it is now known; not Beech Nut tablets.

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I don’t know if this is true or if it was made up to pacify us, but a miniature train was supposed to have been erected on the moors outside Sheffield, to confuse the German pilots who ended up dropping bombs on waste land, because they followed the line thinking I would lead them to Sheffield.

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My Auntie Nellie had ordered a beaver lamb coat from Atkinson’s Department Store. On the day the store received the coat, the store was bombed. My aunt’s coat was found in the rubble; I still have the coat.

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My father had made our brick cellar into an air raid shelter. During an air raid, we were in the cellar with a neighbour when we heard glass breaking and thought our house had been bombe and that the glass was the kitchen window. Dad went to look and when he came back, he said it was the orphanage at the bottom of our garden that had been hit.

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Uncle Ted was standing on the back door step, when a bomb just missed his feet and went into the cellar. All of Dorset Street was evacuated and we all, my mum, dad, aunt, uncle, cousin and I went to live with another aunt, uncle and cousin in a three bedroom house, for four days while the bomb was removed.

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An American bomber plane was in trouble; the crew, apart from the pilot baled out. It flew over our house and the pilot steered it away from the houses and finally crashed it in Endcliffe Woods. It was the talk of the area fro weeks. I went to hunter’s Bar School, opposite the woods and we were taken to se the crash site and told how brave the pilot had been.

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BRIGGS William 

 

My Life With The Yorkshire And Lancashire Regiment

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: William Briggs
Unit name: Yorks. & Lancs. Regiment
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Anne Payne of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. William Briggs and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.


I joined the Yorks. & Lancs. Regiment in 1938 when I was only 16. It was before it converted to the Royal Artillery, and we were based at Manor Lane, and I was there on a gun-site in 1940 in the Sheffield Blitz. Soon after that, we moved to Derby, again on the defence front, and later to the Isle of Wight. Eventually, we found ourselves in Beckenham, South London where we were equipped with guns, transport and everything, before being sent to East India Docks where we boarded landing craft to go to Normandy.

We weren’t in the first landings as we left a few days later than the main force, but it was the only time during the war that I felt really nervous, while we were going through the Straits of Dover---it was only 21 miles wide and we were within range of all the German armoury and especially the big guns---but we got through alright.

It was on the 12th. June that we landed on Juno Beach, which was six days after the first landings, and we landed there because we were attached to the Canadian forces at that time (as they were posted down south near us). We moved from there to Caen with the Canadians, but were soon recalled and put on loan to the 1st.American Army down at Falaise. Patton was just in front of us and we were moved to 20 miles outside Paris. Here, they thanked us very much for our help, but they didn’t want us joining them in Paris.

After that, we were detailed to Amiens and were back in 30 Corps under General Horrocks. (This was the Guards Armoured Division, which combined the Yorks. & Lancs., the 51st Ireland Division from Scotland, and the 50th. Northumbrian Division---otherwise known as T&T or Tyneside and Tees.) From there we went to Belgium to a village below Brussels, where we had to replace the gun barrels as they were all worn out. Once that was done, we crossed into Holland and came to the first bridge leading to Arnhem. We put the barrage down and moved up past Eindhoven and on to a bridge called Veghel. The 101st.American Air-borne Division captured it. They were known as “The Screaming Eagles”. It was while we were there that a German tank hit a mine about 200 yards in front of us and was thrown on its side, smoking and ready to burst into flames. I ran with another guy and managed to get them out. The Commanding Officer of the tank said, “You are gentlemen” and gave us each a medal, which I still have. It was the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, and we were given them just before Christmas, 1944. Then the Red Caps came and took them away. Other people have made more of that incident than it deserves, really. When something like that happens, you don’t think about it you just do it. Instinct takes over---and you certainly don’t think are these men British or Germans, you just get on with it. The whole episode was all over in ¼ of an hour.

We wanted to move forward after that but the Americans stopped us, as north of the village, Tiger Tanks had cut the road. In the end they let us go on, but we had to leave 4 guns at one side of the village and four at the other. (We couldn’t put them down properly as there were Germans on three sides of us, and we may need to move out in a hurry.) As it was, we were heavily mortared and a number of men were badly wounded and one was killed. I was injured on the bridge at Veghel, and was temporarily blinded for nine days. While I was going to and from the hospital (you were never taken off duties for something like that!), I met up with my old mate Jackie Bissell from Rotherham. He’d left us about 3 years before as he’d volunteered to join the 5th.Air-borne Division; and also Sgt. Bill Felvus who was later captured by the Germans and beaten up.

When I was fit again, I went with the rest as we moved up to the next bridge before Arnhem, called Nijmegen. We were based just north of Arnhem at a village called Geleen and we were all waiting to have our Christmas dinner in the Community Centre when the door banged open and our Commanding Officer told us to pack up as we were off to Lovuain. When we got there, we were told to sleep anywhere in the field. By the time we got back next day, our Christmas dinner was cold! In any case, there was no time for that as we were on the move again, this time to Dinant and then on to Ardennes in foggy conditions with only a 20- foot visibility. We weren’t far from Bastogne then and by this time, 30 Corps had moved into Ardennes under Monty. We finished manoeuvres near the Rhine where we put down a barrage over the River, to assist another air-borne landing. Once again we found ourselves attached to the Canadian Army---for the fourth time. (We were also attached to the American Army three times in all.)

Then everything seemed to stop. The Air-bornes (gliders) flew over the top of us and landed---it was a bit like Arnhem all over again. We pressed on and moved further into Germany, and it wasn’t long before our Commanding Officer called us all together and announced that the war was over. Coming down the road ahead, we could see men walking towards us. It was the POW’s from Stalag UB, mainly British and Americans. There were some Italians also in that camp, but they weren’t released immediately as they tried to burn the place down out of revenge---they were detained a bit longer instead.

Next we were ordered to move up to Hamburg where we arrived outside Neun Gamme Concentration Camp. When we went in we found the gas chambers, and the German guards were captured, but we remained on guard in the Towers for some time to prevent any of them escaping. There were no prisoners, just piles of shoes of all sizes (to fit men and women, adults and children) and some bones (which they used to grind up and use as fertilizer!). The in-mates had been mainly Jews from the Hamburg district. Our journey into Hamburg itself revealed 4 ½ miles of complete devastation (for the night that Hamburg was fire-bombed, 60,000 had died). Surprisingly though, in the centre the main Railway Station was still standing and so was the cinema and other buildings. Some of them were used for our benefit, e.g. one building was used as a NAAFI, and another was turned into a Crusader Club for the army. We were billeted into the school and then learned that---unbelievably---the theatre was still open and doing shows most nights, so we went!

Hamburg was always said to be anti-Nazi, and we talked to many people about this while we were there. An incident which occurred while we were there confirmed this. We had to do a week’s guard duty on a big petrol station by the side of the River Elbe, and one day a motor launch drew up and someone shouted “Are you going to the club on the other side tonight? I’ll pick you up.” He was an American who had been in Hamburg when war was declared and had been unable to get back home, so he’d gone all through the war and no-one had ever turned him in. After Hamburg, we went up to the Baltic to Lubeck, taking prisoners to a forest area and then releasing them. It was up to them to make their way as best they could from then on.

It was soon after this that I heard that my wife Sheila was seriously ill. I had to wait 2 days to have it confirmed, and then I was given 3 weeks’ leave. On reporting to Nantwich at the end of that period, I was told to take my papers to York. When I got there, I was lucky because the interviewing officer had noted that my wife had been ill and asked if she was any better. I replied “Not really,” and he said that as I’d been in the army for 8 years, almost without a break, he thought it was time my war was over. I was demobbed on 1.5.46.

After the war, we lived in a back-to-back house on London Rd., which was terrible---I wouldn’t put a pig in that, and to think I’d given up a 3-bed-room semi in Rotherham to live there! You see, my wife was a Sheffield lass and really wanted to live in Sheffield. Rotherham gave ex-servicemen a house, but Sheffield wouldn’t help you, so we did it up and stayed here until 1962 when we moved here to Gleadless. I’d gone back to my old job in Rotherham at Steel, Peach and Toser, where I worked for a few years until going to work at Treeton pit. I was made redundant from there at aged 58 and had no work since. I kept going for jobs but was classed as disabled as I was deaf from the foundries.

I’ve no regrets at being in the army. We weren’t heroes. We just did our bit. I’ve two mates from the war---Harry Hill from Dinnington and Ronnie Gray from Handsworth. Ronnie was a bugler and rings every Sunday night. We were all in the same mob and I was happy with my army mates---we were like brothers. I’m dead lucky as there were only 2 killed out of our battery during the war. You see we weren’t really forward troops, but artillery in support, and we didn’t have a bad war, compared with some. I had a cousin of 17 who was killed along with many others from another battery in Rotherham, because they’d been sent to Burma and were involved in jungle warfare, and those lads had a terrible time. (This was a combined battery with ones from Barnsley and Mexborough.)

As for the next generation, it’s not a question of knowing what happened in the war, it’s a question of will they ever learn from it, or are wars to control the population and stop it growing, as we can’t feed them? Who knows?

 

 

BROOKFIELD Austin 

 

D-Day Shuttle Service

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Austin Brookfield
Location of story: England, France and Italy
Background to story: Royal Navy

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Frances Read of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Austin Brookfield.

I was in the Royal Navy in the D-Day landings at France. I brought our lads across and German prisoners of war back – so we provided a shuttle service between France and England. We were called ‘LCTs’ - Landing Craft Tanks. We would have to avoid mines and have to go to Le Havre, Cherbourg, and Dieppe. The German POWs would then be put in concentration camps in England.

After the war, I was transferred into the army, as they didn’t need LCTs anymore, and I was part of the KRYLIs - Kings Royal Yorkshire Light Infantry. We were transferred to Italy. I had to dig the British bodies up in Italy – we took them to military cemeteries to make a grave for them with a name and a cross - so the parents could visit.

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BROWN Ann 

 

When Sheffield Was Blitzed - December 12th, 1940.

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Ann Brown (nee Cody)
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Ann Brown.


I was four years old, so I don't know how much I remember or how much I was told. We were certainly at the centre of the action. We lived in Alsop Lane, a narrow street of terraced houses and workshops around a central yard. It ran down from The Moor, which was part of the main shopping area in Sheffield. There was the Central Cinema-house at the top of the street, and a school opposite to us.

The sirens went about 7p.m. and this time, the wardens came round and made us go to the communal shelters. Usually, we went down into the cellar when the air-raid warning sounded. This was the big one which Sheffield had been waiting for; much of the steel for the armaments was made there. It was a frosty winter's night, with a "bomber's moon" to light the way along the shiny railway lines and the glistening rooftops towards the city centre.

They came in from the south and the Moor was the first big target, despite it being some distance from the big steel works in the Don valley. It was said that the houses were targeted in order to lower morale; it didn't work. There was a second big raid on the 15th of December, targeting industry, but again hitting houses and shops, but that raid didn't seriously halt production.

During the raids, the drone of the aircraft and the sound of the anti-aircraft artillery, responding was all around. The sky was streaked with the beams of searchlights seeking their targets and the vibration of the impact of the falling bombs could be felt inside the shelters.

My father was an A.R.P. warden and stayed with us that night, he had his rosary beads with him and was praying for our safety. My mother had the black bag with the birth certificates and ration books inside; that was all we had from our home. My father did go outside from time to time, he had his tin hat and A.R.P. badge, and by the end of the night, he knew that our entire row of houses was on fire. This was not caused by a direct hit but by the rain of incendiary bombs which actually caused more damage because the water mains were hit and there was no pressure of water for the hose-pipes to put out the fires. The houses and shops had been left to burn. My dad's heroic deed that night was to go into our house when it was on fire to see what he could rescue, and the one item he chose was the recent coloured photograph of me which he snatched from the wall.

When the all-clear sounded, we emerged from the shelter and saw our houses in flames, so we were taken to the school where the emergency services were ready with cups of tea and offers of help. We then set off to walk to Totley (six miles away) where my grandparents lived, carrying my picture and nothing else. We walked through the rubble and debris of Sheffield's main shopping street, the road swimming in water from the burst mains, burnt- out trams standing on the buckled tracks, big department stores like Atkinson's still burning. We walked through the suburbs and called on one of my aunts on the way through Abbeydale.

It is hard to explain in these days of instant communication, that there was no way of letting my grandmother know that we were safe until we arrived on the doorstep.
Another aunt and cousin were already there, but we were the only ones in a large extended family who were bombed-out.

We went back to our house some days later, and only the shell remained; the cast-iron kettle was still on the Yorkshire range. My mother talked about the Christmas puddings we lost, they were ready on the shelves at the cellar-head. One small miracle for me was the survival of my doll, Mary, she was absent from the house on the night of the blitz. I had broken the head and she was at the doll's hospital on London Road being repaired and appeared in my stocking on Christmas Day with a new set of clothes. People were very kind of course, and I probably did well for presents that year.

We stayed with family at Totley for six months, and then were re-housed in a large house at Nether Edge sharing with another family until it was converted into two flats. Empty property was requisitioned for this purpose and we were given beds and bedding and table and chairs, and other essentials, and a sum of money to buy furniture, £300 at the time and £150 later, which my mother had no difficulty spending.

Life for us changed permanently, we now lived in the suburbs and went to temporary places to church and school, both were also bombed. Our temporary home lasted for ten years before were given our council house, but we survived, when 664 Sheffielders didn't.


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BROWN William J

 

 

A Memorable Year - One of Many

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: William J Brown
Location of story: Iraq
Unit name: No. 4 Flying Training School
Background to story: Royal Air Force

A MEMORABLE YEAR - ONE OF MANY

By
William J Brown

While not wishing to detract from the gallantry of the air crews during the war, the following account of a year in the life of a "then" Air Craftsman 1 engine fitter, will show that the work of the ground crews was not without adventures.

In May 1941 I was serving with No. 4 Flying Training School at Habbaniya. This was the time of the Iraqi rebellion - a little recognised action but one which had a significant effect on the war. On May 1st 1941 an almost illegible entry in a diary reads "Things look rather grim -for us, all issued with an extra 100 rounds for our rifles".

Thereafter, I served with No. 261 Squadron which was reformed from a nucleus of Gladiators and Hurricanes from 94 Squadron sent from Egypt to reinforce Habbaniya, prior to the appearance of the Luffiwaffe. Imshi Mason, the only bearded pilot in the RAF was C.O. I was allocated one of the Hurricanes - seeming very complex after Audax K3118.

Our next job after the "flap" at Habb was to follow army units into Syria against the Vichy French in what was named "Habb Force". The first stop was at Abu Kemal, where the oil pipe from Kirkuk splits, the T section to Tripoli in Syria and the H section to Haifa. Here the squadron divided, the Gladiators eventually arriving at Palmyra. The Hurricanes followed the Euphrates to Deir et Zor and were preparing to move to Raqqa when the Armistice with the French was declared on July 4th.

All this time refuelling was done by hand from 4 gallon cans fuel strained through chamois leather and carried in Crossley six wheelers - not too comfortable an operation, if petrol slopped over into ears or other openings! I know!

All this in midsummer in the Syrian desert - no shade - no sun cream!

Back to Habbaniya in our all purpose Crossley trucks and back to a much needed bath. We were then rejoined by the rest of the Squadron from Palmyra and equipped as a full Hurricane Squadron.

A short stay and then down to Shaibah by Valencia to cover the occupation of Iran before returning to Habb, this time by rail to Baghdad and thence by road.

Another short stay then on our way again, this time to Mosul where there was a Heinkei 111 left by the Germans. We were told that reconnaissance flights were being carried out along the Turkish border and beyond by our long-range Hurricanes - terrible to refuel.

Just time to recover from sandfly fever, and on my way with a flight of 4 Hurricanes - this time as defence of Haifa. Still travelling by Valencia and still the same "in flight entertainment" watching the R.P.M. gauges (situated out on the engine nacelle) fluctuated as we wallowed around over Transjordan - no CSUs (constant speed units) fitted yet.

In flight catering consisted of such gastronomic delights as the un-expired portions of the day's rations, bully beef sandwich, cheese sandwich and probably a tomato or a hard boded egg. Drinks were of tepid water from our water bottles but since full water chargals (canvas bags) were attached to the struts we were assured of a cool drink at a refuelling stop.

Christmas Eve 1941 saw us on the move once again with our 4 Hurricanes, this time to Nicosia in defence of Cyprus, a further 4 Hurricanes from the squadron at Mosul replacing ours at Haifa. This time we travelled by a D.C. 2 (31 squadron). The tail plane was covered by the signatures of numerous film stars, but no safety belts or seats! We sat on our bed rolls and hung on to the sides! I think the plane had originally belonged to Florida Airways, hence the decorations.

Talk about a holiday island, we arrived in a blizzard of sleet coming down from Trudos. However a Christmas dinner was provided but by whom I have no idea as there were only twenty of us, all aircraft tradesman. It was decided by Sergeant Burden (Lofty) that in the event of invasion, we should take to the hills. Fortunately this proved unnecessary. One memorable incident was when Hon. Billy Buchan landed in a fuel dump but with little damage to either!

We remained there until sometime in February 1942 when we were recalled to Palestine, this time by DH86. In the meantime the rest of the squadron had moved from Mosul and we all met at an aerodrome still under construction; I think it was called St. Jean. Some confusion now reigns, for next we are on our way to Helwan - minus our aircraft but with lots of conjecture. Eventually all a/c tradesmen were separated for further travel, others told they would follow later. By this time our popular C.O. Imshi Mason had handed over and unfortunately was killed shortly afterwards in the Western Desert. We proceeded to Port Tewfick there boarding "The Princess Kathleen" for quite a pleasant trip to Port Sudan where we found we were to embark on the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Indomitable along with 30 Squadron. On embarking (Grog or no grog!). I opted for grog!

Our destination at the time was unknown to us and it was during the voyage that we were given to understand that we would be landing in Ceylon. 261 had sixteen Hurricanes and 30 squadron would have the same. These were in a partially dismantled state, assembly to be carried out on board and aircraft flown off when we were within range of Ceylon. All this time, flight deck space was limited and Fleet Air Arm were still carrying out their patrols. We were escorted by two Australian destroyers Nestor and Napier.

We eventually arrived at China Bay with 16 Mark 2 and one Mark 1 Hurricanes, 30 Squadron having gone to Colombo. It would now be early March 1942.

This was a period of chaos in the Far East and on arrival it was found there was insufficient ammunition to arm all our aircraft. However the powers that be must have anticipated trouble as an ammunition ship that had put into Colombo had been told to clear off, eventually arriving at Trincomalee. We boarded it and after removing tons of bombs of various sizes and a large amount of pyrotechnics all dumped at China Bay, we removed our requirements, giving us just time to get sorted out before the Jap attack on April 2nd 1942.

Twenty two days short of one year since the attack on Habbaniya!

The importance of the putting down of the rebellion in Iraq at this time wasn’t realized in Britain owing to the situation here at that time.

However, it prevented the Germans from acquiring the Iraqi oil fields and a back way into Russia (A good read describing the situation at that time is a book by A.V.M. Dudgeon – “A War That Never Was”).


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 BROWN William DT

Away From It All.

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: William Trevor Dennis Brown.
Location of story: Oundle, Nr. Peterborough, Northants.
Background to story: Civilian Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Julie Turner of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of W. T. Brown.


As I was at public school in Northamptonshire, the war did not really touch my world, apart from the occasions when I saw Flying Fortress bombers returning from their daylight raids over Germany to the U.S. airbase nearby. Some had only three engines, one engine being shut down; another had part of its tail missing.

What did make the war real to me was an occasion when another boy, with whom I had played in the same rugby team, and who had left the year before I did, returned one day to visit the school with his head all bandaged up. He had been called up, trained as an infantryman, been commissioned, joined a Scots regiment, had been sent to France and in the fighting there, had been shot in the head. As he could well have been killed, it affected me more, I think, than anything else in the war.

On another occasion, I was walking alone one Sunday, across a gravel pit, when I heard machine gun fire directly above me and heard what I thought were bullets coming directly towards me, splattering the gravel. I flung myself to the ground and they passed close to me. It was quite frightening until I realised that they were not bullets but empty cartridge cases from bullets being shot by an air gunner in one bomber, into a drogue being towed by another plane. Needless to say, if the empty cartridge cases had hit me they might well have done some damage.

One week of every term was spent in workshops and in the woodworking shop, we made or repaired grenade boxes.

I left school and joined the Army, even though the war had ended, I had to do National Service as did everyone else.


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BRUCE John Darlington

 

                                                                         A Submariner's Story

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jan Bruce.

John Darlington Bruce a Submariner’s Story - Photograph No. 1
By
Jan Bruce

For Captain Lennox Napier’s inspired and courageous captaincy of the mine laying submarine Rorqual, he was appointed DSO in 1943 and won the DSC in 1944. Napier, who had been in the submarine service since 1934, took command of Rorqual, a Porpoise class submarine in June 1941. With the capture of Crete, it was imperative that Malta did not fall into German hands. Under daily siege, Malta had to be supplied with both food and fuel for domestic purposes, as well as for its RAF Squadrons fighting for the survival of the island. A number of convoys had run the gauntlet from Gibraltar or Alexandria to Malta and all had suffered casualties.

 

Jan Bruce cont'd

Admiral Andrew Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief of the British Naval Forces in the Mediterranean, boldly decided to use the Rorqual and her sister submarine Cacholot to get supplies to the island. One associates a submarine with confined space, but Rorqual, launched at Barrow in 1936, was 280 feet long and had a beam width of 29 feet. On her first voyage to Malta, she carried a vital cargo of two tons of medical supplies, 62 tones of high-octane aviation spirit for the RAF’s Hurricanes, 45 tones of cooking fuel and 25 passengers, as well as a crew of 59; but perhaps most important, at least for the island’s morale, 147 bags of mail. On her return to Alexandria, amongst her somewhat lighter cargo, were 130 bags of mail.

It was fraught and nerve-wracking week before Rorqual arrived in the Grand Harbour, much to the relief of crew and islanders. A month later she arrived back in Malta with a similar cargo. An even larger cargo was carried on 31 July, but Napier was concerned when during heavy weather a number of fuel cases stored in the hull developed leaks. This resulted in the submarine’s diving almost seven tons light when these tins were empty in the morning, and slowly filling up with water and re turning Rorqual to normal trim while submerged in the daytime.


After this trip, Napier was pleased to get back to his normal route of mine lying Rorqual could carry 50 mines. Napier’s skill in laying these mines, in the often crystal-clear water of the Mediterranean, brought him a number of successes. In August 1942, his men blew up an Italian steamer. Later that month, he engaged two merchant vessels, sank one and then had his periscope rammed by the other. Although under orders not to engage enemy shipping, because he was carrying vital stores and passengers, Napier attacked a convoy and destroyed the last ship. The passengers had an interesting experience as 16 depth charges were dropped close by.

In January 1943, Rorqual laid mines off the Tunis approach, one of which caused the loss of the valuable German heavy-lift ship Ankara, loaded with tanks for Rommel’s Afrika Corps. This success was reinforced when he sank the Wilhelmsburg, carrying much-needed oil to Greece, with two torpedoes at 2,500 yards in the Dardanelles approach.

After two and a half years of successful command Napier fell ill with jaundice. On recovering, he went to the land-based HMS Dolphin to train future commanding officers for the submarine services.

Lennox Napier was a descendant of John Napier, the inventor of logarithms.

 

BUNTING Herbert

 

Recollections of Leading Seaman Herbert Bunting Rescue of Refugees from the Sinking of the Empire Patrol

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Doreen Partridge of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Herbert Bunting and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Recollections of Leading Seaman Herbert Bunting Part 1
Rescue of Refugees from the Sinking of the Empire Patrol

Rescue of Refugees from the Sinking of the Empire Patrol
Recollections of Leading Seaman Herbert Bunting

I was conscripted into the Royal Navy at the beginning of 1943 and did my initial training at H.M.S. Portsmouth and then I was sent to Douglas in the Isle of Man to train to be a radar operator. My first ship was the H.M.S. Westminster, a destroyer, which was a support ship in the North Sea. She escorted ships from Rothsay to the Tyne, Humber and Thames ports and back; these ships would pick up other support ships and travel on to Russian and Baltic ports.

Buoys were placed down the North Sea to keep the convoys in line and away from the minefields. One day, I was on duty in the radar room when I got echoes that looked suspicious. I reported these to the bridge but the skipper said to ignore them because they were the buoys but to keep my eye on them. I was still very concerned because they looked too big just to be buoys, so when my watch ended I told my radar colleague to keep a very close watch on them. In fact, there were German E Boats tied up to each one of the buoys, they were waiting for the convoy with the intention of attacking as soon as all of the ships were in torpedo range. Fortunately, the Captain had become wise to their plan and the Westminster and her crew were ready to attack. I was off duty by this time so I had to go to my action station that was down in the magazine and send ammunition to battle stations. There were 36 ships in the convoy, not one was damaged but we sank five of the E Boats. The Captain was awarded the D.S.C. and five crewmembers were to receive the D.S.M. To select which of the crew was to receive the medals, when we went to collect our wages, there was a box with pieces of paper in. If you selected a blank piece, you got nothing but if you received one with the letters D.S.M., you received a medal. I was not lucky but the man who had been working with me in the magazine received one. He was the ship’s cook.
Although the seas were often rough and we were attacked by German planes many times, I was never ship wrecked or suffered any injury.

When, however, I was sent to help with the D.Day Landings, I was in a landing craft that became swamped by the sea and we were thrown into the water. I was not at all worried because I was a good swimmer and there were plenty of ships around. We were soon picked up by H.M.S. Wrestler and taken below decks to dry out. We had only been on the ship for half an hour, when it hit a mine and we were in the sea again. I never finished that lovely cup of cocoa. Shipwrecked twice in one day!!

I was sent back to England and had to go into hospital for two week because I was covered with oil like many other of my compatriot
I was later sent to Belfast to join the H.M.S. Trouncer, an Aircraft Carrier loaned from the United States. Just as our training was completed the war in Europe ended, so we were direct to sail to the Far East to help in the Pacific war.

We were travelling through the Mediterranean when we received a distress call. It was from the “Empire Patrol” a ship that was on its way to Cyprus taking Cypriot refugees from North Africa where they had been interred by the Germans. The ship was on fire and we were the closest vessel to them.
The captain turned the Trouncer to go to their aid and as we approached the burning Empire Patrol, we could see heavy smoke and flames and people swimming in the sea. I was off duty at the time and when the captain ask for anyone who was a strong swimmer to jump into the sea to help rescue the refugees, I volunteered.

We did not have time to put lifejackets on and I knew, of course, that an aircraft carrier is a big ship but until I jumped in I didn’t realise how high the flight deck is from the water. I seemed to be falling for ages and ages and then I went down and down and down and down into the sea, it was utter blackness. I, eventually, stopped sinking and started trying to swim up to the light; I thought that I would never reach the surface again. I came up gasping for air, looked around and started swimming towards the people in the water. They had lifejackets on and I and the other volunteers swam them towards the lifeboats from the Trouncer. We were swimming for quite a while and the lifeboats had become full. I saw two women holding onto some floating debris and swam towards them. I tried to swim pushing them before me but was making no headway, so I motioned them to hang on whilst I swam for help, hoping to get a line from one of the lifeboats so that they could be pulled behind the boat and to safety. I seemed to have been swimming for ages, but when I turned round to check on the ladies, I was only about 10 ft away from them.

I was getting more and more tired and felt myself weakening very quickly. I remember sinking below the waves. I knew I was drowning and it is true; all of your life does flash before your eyes. I got angry with myself and using all of the energy I had left, I kicked my way to the surface. I cannot remember what happened after this but I do remember waking up in the sick bay. I was told that two hours after the ladies were rescued and had boarded the Trouncer, one of them gave birth. I often wonder what happened to that mother and baby.

The war in the Far East had finished before the Trouncer could arrive to help; we stopped off in India and returned to England by the way of the Cape of Good Hope and sailing up the coast of Africa. After a short while in Blighty, we had to return the ship to the Americans and we sailed across the Atlantic and the Caribbean until we delivered her to the port in Virginia. Our journey back to the U.K. was on the Queen Mary, my first and last time on a cruise ship.


The H.M.S Trouncer at the rescue of refugees from the Empire Patrol in September 1945.
One of the officers wrote this poem about the Empire Patrol rescue. I have kept it all these years.


Empire Patrol

S.O.S! S.O.S! I’m on fire, she flashed
And the Trouncer slews round and away she dashed
To the scene of the tragedy miles away
Where many were lost on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

“She’s ablaze like a torch,” Trouncer’s captain said
“Now let our great hanger take many a bed.
Strong swimmers will muster with no more delay
For there are souls in the water on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.

“Stand by all you boat crews, now lower your boats
And you on the flight deck, away Carley floats.
Off you go you strong swimmers, now make your play
There are men to be saved on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.


 And into the water tho, heavy the swell
Went boats, Carley, rafts; strong swimmers as well
While yet in the hangers we tried S.BA.
Stood by for the survivors on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The air force was there with a plane in the sky
Dropping smoke floats as marker for those drifted by
And many the men who had drifted away
Owed his life to that aircraft on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

First women and children, the poor victims of fate
Who will never forget to this September date?
For when they’ll remember, they’ll stop and they’ll pray
For the men of the Trouncer on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


Now faster they come and yet even faster
As the boats loaded up, move from disaster
And the swimmers bring in those gone astray
There are heroes aplenty on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The new from the Trouncer flashed back to the port, said
The number rescued, the number of dead
Yet evenings closing, the sky’s getting grey
And there are still some adrift on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

At last all were off, many a thrill
Yet remain in the water a few people still
But more ships are here and Trouncer must stay
To aid in the search on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.


Pr-BR

Herbert Bunting, North Sea Support, H.M.S. Westminster 

Herbert with Mam & Dad 

In Training, H.M.S. Collingwood 

Buoys were placed down the North Sea to keep the convoys in line and away from the minefields. One day, I was on duty in the radar room when I got echoes that looked suspicious. I reported these to the bridge but the skipper said to ignore them because they were the buoys but to keep my eye on them. I was still very concerned because they looked too big just to be buoys, so when my watch ended I told my radar colleague to keep a very close watch on them. In fact, there were German E Boats tied up to each one of the buoys, they were waiting for the convoy with the intention of attacking as soon as all of the ships were in torpedo range. Fortunately, the Captain had become wise to their plan and the Westminster and her crew were ready to attack. I was off duty by this time so I had to go to my action station that was down in the magazine and send ammunition to battle stations. There were 36 ships in the convoy, not one was damaged but we sank five of the E Boats. The Captain was awarded the D.S.C. and five crewmembers were to receive the D.S.M. To select which of the crew was to receive the medals, when we went to collect our wages, there was a box with pieces of paper in. If you selected a blank piece, you got nothing but if you received one with the letters D.S.M., you received a medal. I was not lucky but the man who had been working with me in the magazine received one. He was the ship’s cook.
Although the seas were often rough and we were attacked by German planes many times, I was never ship wrecked or suffered any injury.

When, however, I was sent to help with the D.Day Landings, I was in a landing craft that became swamped by the sea and we were thrown into the water. I was not at all worried because I was a good swimmer and there were plenty of ships around. We were soon picked up by H.M.S. Wrestler and taken below decks to dry out. We had only been on the ship for half an hour, when it hit a mine and we were in the sea again. I never finished that lovely cup of cocoa. Shipwrecked twice in one day!!

I was sent back to England and had to go into hospital for two week because I was covered with oil like many other of my compatriot
I was later sent to Belfast to join the H.M.S. Trouncer, an Aircraft Carrier loaned from the United States. Just as our training was completed the war in Europe ended, so we were direct to sail to the Far East to help in the Pacific war.

We were travelling through the Mediterranean when we received a distress call. It was from the “Empire Patrol” a ship that was on its way to Cyprus taking Cypriot refugees from North Africa where they had been interred by the Germans. The ship was on fire and we were the closest vessel to them.
The captain turned the Trouncer to go to their aid and as we approached the burning Empire Patrol, we could see heavy smoke and flames and people swimming in the sea. I was off duty at the time and when the captain ask for anyone who was a strong swimmer to jump into the sea to help rescue the refugees, I volunteered.

We did not have time to put lifejackets on and I knew, of course, that an aircraft carrier is a big ship but until I jumped in I didn’t realise how high the flight deck is from the water. I seemed to be falling for ages and ages and then I went down and down and down and down into the sea, it was utter blackness. I, eventually, stopped sinking and started trying to swim up to the light; I thought that I would never reach the surface again. I came up gasping for air, looked around and started swimming towards the people in the water. They had lifejackets on and I and the other volunteers swam them towards the lifeboats from the Trouncer. We were swimming for quite a while and the lifeboats had become full. I saw two women holding onto some floating debris and swam towards them. I tried to swim pushing them before me but was making no headway, so I motioned them to hang on whilst I swam for help, hoping to get a line from one of the lifeboats so that they could be pulled behind the boat and to safety. I seemed to have been swimming for ages, but when I turned round to check on the ladies, I was only about 10 ft away from them.

I was getting more and more tired and felt myself weakening very quickly. I remember sinking below the waves. I knew I was drowning and it is true; all of your life does flash before your eyes. I got angry with myself and using all of the energy I had left, I kicked my way to the surface. I cannot remember what happened after this but I do remember waking up in the sick bay. I was told that two hours after the ladies were rescued and had boarded the Trouncer, one of them gave birth. I often wonder what happened to that mother and baby.

The war in the Far East had finished before the Trouncer could arrive to help; we stopped off in India and returned to England by the way of the Cape of Good Hope and sailing up the coast of Africa. After a short while in Blighty, we had to return the ship to the Americans and we sailed across the Atlantic and the Caribbean until we delivered her to the port in Virginia. Our journey back to the U.K. was on the Queen Mary, my first and last time on a cruise ship.


The H.M.S Trouncer at the rescue of refugees from the Empire Patrol in September 1945.
One of the officers wrote this poem about the Empire Patrol rescue. I have kept it all these years.


Empire Patrol

S.O.S! S.O.S! I’m on fire, she flashed
And the Trouncer slews round and away she dashed
To the scene of the tragedy miles away
Where many were lost on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

“She’s ablaze like a torch,” Trouncer’s captain said
“Now let our great hanger take many a bed.
Strong swimmers will muster with no more delay
For there are souls in the water on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.

“Stand by all you boat crews, now lower your boats
And you on the flight deck, away Carley floats.
Off you go you strong swimmers, now make your play
There are men to be saved on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.


 And into the water tho, heavy the swell
Went boats, Carley, rafts; strong swimmers as well
While yet in the hangers we tried S.BA.
Stood by for the survivors on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The air force was there with a plane in the sky
Dropping smoke floats as marker for those drifted by
And many the men who had drifted away
Owed his life to that aircraft on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

First women and children, the poor victims of fate
Who will never forget to this September date?
For when they’ll remember, they’ll stop and they’ll pray
For the men of the Trouncer on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


Now faster they come and yet even faster
As the boats loaded up, move from disaster
And the swimmers bring in those gone astray
There are heroes aplenty on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The new from the Trouncer flashed back to the port, said
The number rescued, the number of dead
Yet evenings closing, the sky’s getting grey
And there are still some adrift on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

At last all were off, many a thrill
Yet remain in the water a few people still
But more ships are here and Trouncer must stay
To aid in the search on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.


Pr-BR

 

H.M.S. Westminster 1st Ship 

H.M.S. Trouncer Flight Deck 

When, however, I was sent to help with the D.Day Landings, I was in a landing craft that became swamped by the sea and we were thrown into the water. I was not at all worried because I was a good swimmer and there were plenty of ships around. We were soon picked up by H.M.S. Wrestler and taken below decks to dry out. We had only been on the ship for half an hour, when it hit a mine and we were in the sea again. I never finished that lovely cup of cocoa. Shipwrecked twice in one day!!

I was sent back to England and had to go into hospital for two week because I was covered with oil like many other of my compatriot
I was later sent to Belfast to join the H.M.S. Trouncer, an Aircraft Carrier loaned from the United States. Just as our training was completed the war in Europe ended, so we were direct to sail to the Far East to help in the Pacific war.

We were travelling through the Mediterranean when we received a distress call. It was from the “Empire Patrol” a ship that was on its way to Cyprus taking Cypriot refugees from North Africa where they had been interred by the Germans. The ship was on fire and we were the closest vessel to them.
The captain turned the Trouncer to go to their aid and as we approached the burning Empire Patrol, we could see heavy smoke and flames and people swimming in the sea. I was off duty at the time and when the captain ask for anyone who was a strong swimmer to jump into the sea to help rescue the refugees, I volunteered.

We did not have time to put lifejackets on and I knew, of course, that an aircraft carrier is a big ship but until I jumped in I didn’t realise how high the flight deck is from the water. I seemed to be falling for ages and ages and then I went down and down and down and down into the sea, it was utter blackness. I, eventually, stopped sinking and started trying to swim up to the light; I thought that I would never reach the surface again. I came up gasping for air, looked around and started swimming towards the people in the water. They had lifejackets on and I and the other volunteers swam them towards the lifeboats from the Trouncer. We were swimming for quite a while and the lifeboats had become full. I saw two women holding onto some floating debris and swam towards them. I tried to swim pushing them before me but was making no headway, so I motioned them to hang on whilst I swam for help, hoping to get a line from one of the lifeboats so that they could be pulled behind the boat and to safety. I seemed to have been swimming for ages, but when I turned round to check on the ladies, I was only about 10 ft away from them.

H.M.S. Jason - minesweeper. Swept English Channel 

The Empire Patrol on fire in the Med 

I was getting more and more tired and felt myself weakening very quickly. I remember sinking below the waves. I knew I was drowning and it is true; all of your life does flash before your eyes. I got angry with myself and using all of the energy I had left, I kicked my way to the surface. I cannot remember what happened after this but I do remember waking up in the sick bay. I was told that two hours after the ladies were rescued and had boarded the Trouncer, one of them gave birth. I often wonder what happened to that mother and baby.

The war in the Far East had finished before the Trouncer could arrive to help; we stopped off in India and returned to England by the way of the Cape of Good Hope and sailing up the coast of Africa. After a short while in Blighty, we had to return the ship to the Americans and we sailed across the Atlantic and the Caribbean until we delivered her to the port in Virginia. Our journey back to the U.K. was on the Queen Mary, my first and last time on a cruise ship.


The H.M.S Trouncer at the rescue of refugees from the Empire Patrol in September 1945.
One of the officers wrote this poem about the Empire Patrol rescue. I have kept it all these years.


Empire Patrol

S.O.S! S.O.S! I’m on fire, she flashed
And the Trouncer slews round and away she dashed
To the scene of the tragedy miles away
Where many were lost on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

“She’s ablaze like a torch,” Trouncer’s captain said
“Now let our great hanger take many a bed.
Strong swimmers will muster with no more delay
For there are souls in the water on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.

“Stand by all you boat crews, now lower your boats
And you on the flight deck, away Carley floats.
Off you go you strong swimmers, now make your play
There are men to be saved on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.


 And into the water tho, heavy the swell
Went boats, Carley, rafts; strong swimmers as well
While yet in the hangers we tried S.BA.
Stood by for the survivors on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The air force was there with a plane in the sky
Dropping smoke floats as marker for those drifted by
And many the men who had drifted away
Owed his life to that aircraft on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

First women and children, the poor victims of fate
Who will never forget to this September date?
For when they’ll remember, they’ll stop and they’ll pray
For the men of the Trouncer on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


Now faster they come and yet even faster
As the boats loaded up, move from disaster
And the swimmers bring in those gone astray
There are heroes aplenty on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The new from the Trouncer flashed back to the port, said
The number rescued, the number of dead
Yet evenings closing, the sky’s getting grey
And there are still some adrift on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

At last all were off, many a thrill
Yet remain in the water a few people still
But more ships are here and Trouncer must stay
To aid in the search on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.


Pr-BR

 

H.M.S. Trouncer Malta - 2nd Ship 

Taking off some of the survivors alongside the Empire Patrol - 30 September 1945 

Empire Patrol

S.O.S! S.O.S! I’m on fire, she flashed
And the Trouncer slews round and away she dashed
To the scene of the tragedy miles away
Where many were lost on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

“She’s ablaze like a torch,” Trouncer’s captain said
“Now let our great hanger take many a bed.
Strong swimmers will muster with no more delay
For there are souls in the water on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.

“Stand by all you boat crews, now lower your boats
And you on the flight deck, away Carley floats.
Off you go you strong swimmers, now make your play
There are men to be saved on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.


 And into the water tho, heavy the swell
Went boats, Carley, rafts; strong swimmers as well
While yet in the hangers we tried S.BA.
Stood by for the survivors on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The air force was there with a plane in the sky
Dropping smoke floats as marker for those drifted by
And many the men who had drifted away
Owed his life to that aircraft on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.

First women and children, the poor victims of fate
Who will never forget to this September date?
For when they’ll remember, they’ll stop and they’ll pray
For the men of the Trouncer on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


Now faster they come and yet even faster
As the boats loaded up, move from disaster
And the swimmers bring in those gone astray
There are heroes aplenty on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

The new from the Trouncer flashed back to the port, said
The number rescued, the number of dead
Yet evenings closing, the sky’s getting grey
And there are still some adrift on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.

At last all were off, many a thrill
Yet remain in the water a few people still
But more ships are here and Trouncer must stay
To aid in the search on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.


Pr-BR

 

 

Empire Patrol survivors in a section of the hangar - 30th Sept 1945 

Gibralter - Herbert on right 

Empire Patrol still on fire at night 

BURBRIDGE May 

 BURBRIDGE May

An Office Worker's Story

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: May Burbridge
Location of story: Sheffield, England.
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of May Burbridge. 

When I was about 23 years old and single, a friend and I went to the cinema, namely The Hippodrome, which was in the centre of the city (Sheffield). It was December 1940. The main feature was a film called, “Jamaica Inn”, and it had not been running very long when an announcement was made that the sirens had gone, and bombs were already being dropped, so the audience was advised to go to the nearest shelter. Everyone rushed out, and in our panic, my friend and I started to run down The Moor, which was already partly on fire.

A car stopped and the driver asked us if he could drop us off somewhere. We accepted and he took us to our homes in Nethergreen. My mum was eagerly waiting for me to come home safely, because she was herself, an air raid warden and should be on duty. I went next door where the neighbour had two or three soldiers billeted, so I felt safe there. Eventually, one of those soldiers became my husband. Next morning, as far as I was concerned, it was work as usual, so I walked all the way to Attercliffe, which is on the other side of Sheffield. I was horrified by all the destruction I encountered on my long walk. Although it took over an hour to get to and from work, it wasn’t an excuse to miss doing my job; there were others who felt the same also. .............................................

Exerpts from May's 1940 diary: New year's resolutions: 1) Always try to be as cheerful as possible, 2) Count my blessings more oftn, 3)Brush hair evcery night, 4) Never put new make-up on top of old, 5) Never eat before meals except on special occasions, 6) Always try to do what I intend to do. .....................................

January 22rd: Went to Dorothy's with Harold and Les. Had a lovely time and walked home with Harold through Endcliffe Woods. We kissed each other by the waterfall, but when I said goodnight, he didn't make another date until Monday. Oh dear, I'm afraid I have got it bad, but I don't think it's reciprocated. I have been miserable ever since because I love him and it's all so hopeless.

January 23rd...I did a foolish thing this morning. I wrote a letter to Harold asking him to mend my shoes. I bet he thinks I'm a bright spark. I would do anything to get that letter back. I didn't mean anything, I wish I could get rid of this feeling inside. Went to The Empire at night with Wilf to see 'Band Wagon'. Poor Wilf, will he be next?.....

January 24th: Went to Wigfalls' dance and had a lousy time. There was a most objectionable man there and he was dead drunk. Still thinking about Harold and regretting about that letter. I do wish something would happen, something nice!

January 25th: Am going to bed early tonight to cry myself to sleep, and then, after tonight, I'm going to get over it. Instead of the above, got a letter from Margaret about my letter to Harold. I went up to have my shoes mended. Felt an awful fool. He's going home this weekend. Can't make him out.

January 29th: I have finished with Harold. He came up with Des and seemed very remote. He says he is going home again. I think he has a girl there. Anyway, we can't go on like this. Pity I allowed myself to like him so much. However, shell get over it, no doubt.

December 12th: Had terrific air raids. Started at 7.30 and then dropped bomb aftyer bomb until 4.15. Was in Hippodrome. They stopped the show and when we got outside, found all The Moor ablaze. Ran home with bombs dropping. Got a lift so far. Thought every moment was our last.

13th December: Walked to down work, houses bombed right and left. Cars burnt, all Moor gone. Atkinson's, Walsh's burning like merry hell. C&A, Cockaynes, Boot's, Mark's and Spencer's and many others. Thousands killed and injured. Many more thousands homeless. East End, where all Military objectives are, not touched. So this is war.....

31 December: So the old year comes to an end. On the whole, had some good times, had some worrying ones too. Met and fell in love with Harold, met Les, Wilf & Eddy Snow. Wonder if war will be over next year. Certainly it was brought right onto the doorstep this year. Haven't kept all my resolutions, but still trying............................. Pr-BR

=============================================================================================

 BURDITT F

 

This photograph shows the two New Zealanders with members of Mr. F Burditt’s family standing in front of the bonfire before it was lighted on ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ November 05, 1945. This would be the first time that the anniveary of the foiling of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ would be celebrated by the lighting of bonfires and the setting off of fireworks since the start of the war and the subsequent ‘Blackout’.

 BURDITT F

Destruction of Monte Cassino Monastery

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. Burditt
Location of story: Monte Cassino
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Burditt.

Destruction of Monte Cassino Monastery

February 15th 1944. My division plus the New Zealanders and Americans were poised to attack Monte Cassino. We were informed that at 9 o’clock in the morning there would be a massive air attack. At 11 o’clock there would be a barrage of all guns followed by infantry attack at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a fine morning with a wintry sun shining. I and a few other gunners climbed a small hill, and with the aid of binoculars we could see the beautiful Monastery which would be perhaps two and a half miles away. Just turned 9 o’clock, bombers of the American Air Force started high level bombing. Within half an hour we witnessed this beautiful building reduced to rubble, and dust was rising to a few hundred feet in the sky. We returned to our gun position, to get ready for the barrage at 11 o’clock when one of our officers shouted a warning. It appeared bombs were hurtling towards us. Bombs fell on the small hill where we had been and straddled our position. Luckily no one was injured from our unit but we learned that a few gunners from the unit behind us had been killed. So friendly fire was heard of in World War Two. For all the bombing and terrific barrage, it caused so much destruction, the attack when it came was a failure. The Monastery when it came was a pile of rubbish and Cassino was not captured until May 1944 by Polish troops. We pulled out of Cassino on my 20th birthday, 26th of March. Historians argue, ‘was the destruction of a work of art necessary?’ It appears after the War it came to light no Germans occupied the Monastery.

====================================================================================================

One of the tragedies of World War Two, The sinking of H.M.T. Rhona.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr Burditt
Location of story: Liverpool, Straits of Gibraltar, Philipville (North Africa).
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Burditt.

One of the tragedies of World War Two, The sinking of H.M.T. Rhona.

I embarked on H.M.T. ‘Duchess of Bedford’ on the morning of November 14th 1943 from Liverpool, bound to destinations unbeknown to me and my fellow passengers. Within a few hours of boarding they asked for a few volunteers to man the guns on the voyage under the orders of Royal Naval Ratings. Being an R/A gunner I volunteered. This action was to prove that I witnessed the ensuing tragedy. We were at sea, part of a large convoy, when on the eleventh night at sea we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar. This brought us to the morning of November 26th, when two more ships joined the convoy off Algiers. The convoy proceeded on its journey, when we were attacked on the afternoon of Friday 26th November by German bombers. Half an hour into the attack the ship on our immediate left was hit by a missile (bomb, torpedo, anybodies guess) from one of the bombers. There was just a massive flash and after a few seconds the sound that she had been hit. Straight away our ship was engulfed in a smoke screen laid by escorting war ships. The attack must have lasted another one and a half hours, and then it was finished. The next morning (Saturday 27th now) we disembarked at the port of Philipville, North Africa, and after a few weeks the incident was just an incident I had witnessed. Luckily I survived the war, and resumed civilian life. Thirty years later, sometime in the early seventies, I saw an article in the National Newspaper from an American gentleman asking if any reader witnessed the sinking of H.M.T. Rhona of Friday 26th 1943. I took up correspondence with this gentleman, who had been a survivor of the Rhona. I learned the said ship was one of the ships that had only joined our convoy on the Friday 26th November, sailing out of Oran bound for India. It transpired what I had recently thought ‘an attack’ and thought of as an incident had resulted in the loss of 1192 men. By any description a terrible tragedy which had taken over thirty years to be brought into the open! By information given to me by other survivors from America I learned they had also landed at Philipville on Saturday November 27th 1943. This is just one of the many tragedies of World War Two that needs remembering if only in memory of 1192 men who gave their lives.

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The Act of a Friend

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. Burditt, Alexander George Alldis.
Location of story: Florence and Greece
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Burditt.


In November 1944 we were pulled out of the front line south of Florence in Italy. We were stripped of our guns, and our division was going to Greece to try and avoid civil war because the Germans had pulled out of the Balkans. Half of our unit was being shipped over in L.C.I.’s (Landing Craft Infantry). Half were going on the troopship “Empire Dace” with our lorries. I was picked to go on the troopship, for some reason I wanted to go on the first ship, so my friend Lofty said. He did not mind changing with me. This we did, little realising the consequences this action would have. We landed safely at Missalonghi opposite Patras. “Empire Dace” came two days later but on entering the harbour she hit a mine. My pal Lofty paid the supreme sacrifice and he lost his life. His name is on the Athens War Memorial, ‘Alexander George Alldis Gunner Royal Artillery’ who died 1st December 1944 aged 20. I can’t ever forget till the day I die my name could easily have been there instead.

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‘Guy Fawkes Night’ with the Kiwis

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. F Burditt
Location of story: Cassino, Italy, Sheffield, England

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. F Burditt.

‘Guy Fawkes Night’ with the Kiwis

By
Mr. F Burditt

In 1944, five friends and I were isolated from our unit, south of Cassino in Italy. A unit of the New Zealanders befriended us. They gave us blankets, a tent and fed us for three full days. I exchanged home addresses with two of the Kiwis, never thinking that when we parted, if we survived the war, we would ever meet.

In November 1945, after the war had ended, my two Kiwi friends were given a month's leave in England and travelled to my family home in Sheffield. They gave my family a big surprise when they arrived at our door because at that time I was still stationed abroad.

It gives one a warm feeling for our friends in New Zealand to think that when they were thousands of miles away from home, they still remembered a chance meeting in Italy and for the help that they willingly gave to strangers in hard circumstances, when it was needed.


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The Act of a Friend

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. Burditt, Alexander George Alldis.
Location of story: Florence and Greece
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. Burditt.


In November 1944 we were pulled out of the front line south of Florence in Italy. We were stripped of our guns, and our division was going to Greece to try and avoid civil war because the Germans had pulled out of the Balkans. Half of our unit was being shipped over in L.C.I.’s (Landing Craft Infantry). Half were going on the troopship “Empire Dace” with our lorries. I was picked to go on the troopship, for some reason I wanted to go on the first ship, so my friend Lofty said. He did not mind changing with me. This we did, little realising the consequences this action would have. We landed safely at Missalonghi opposite Patras. “Empire Dace” came two days later but on entering the harbour she hit a mine. My pal Lofty paid the supreme sacrifice and he lost his life. His name is on the Athens War Memorial, ‘Alexander George Alldis Gunner Royal Artillery’ who died 1st December 1944 aged 20. I can’t ever forget till the day I die my name could easily have been there instead.

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‘Guy Fawkes Night’ with the Kiwis

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mr. F Burditt
Location of story: Cassino, Italy, Sheffield, England

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. F Burditt.

‘Guy Fawkes Night’ with the Kiwis

By
Mr. F Burditt

In 1944, five friends and I were isolated from our unit, south of Cassino in Italy. A unit of the New Zealanders befriended us. They gave us blankets, a tent and fed us for three full days. I exchanged home addresses with two of the Kiwis, never thinking that when we parted, if we survived the war, we would ever meet.

In November 1945, after the war had ended, my two Kiwi friends were given a month's leave in England and travelled to my family home in Sheffield. They gave my family a big surprise when they arrived at our door because at that time I was still stationed abroad.

It gives one a warm feeling for our friends in New Zealand to think that when they were thousands of miles away from home, they still remembered a chance meeting in Italy and for the help that they willingly gave to strangers in hard circumstances, when it was needed.


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BURGIN Jack 

Squadron Crest 

BURGIN Jack 

 

A Dodge Truck and Vera Lynn

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Jack Burgin
Location of story: Burma/Assam border
Unit name: 216 squadron
Background to story: Royal Air Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jack Burgin.


In 1943/4 we were on the Burma/Assam border for about 9 months. Our job was to fly supplies to the front lines and bring wounded and prisoners back. We'd heard that Vera Lynne was in the area and one evening, she turned up at our landing ground in a 3 ton Dodge Truck.

There was canvas over the back of the truck which she used it as a stage and gave us a few songs by the light of 2 Kelly lamps. She was absolutely covered in flies and moths. How she managed to keep singing I don't know.

The "concert" lasted for about an hour with an audience of 200 or so of us gathered round. We gave her a wonderful reception.


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How to get a mule onto a Dakota

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Jack Burgin
Location of story: Assam/Burma border
Unit name: 216 Squadron
Background to story: Royal Air Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jack Burgin.

How to get a mule onto a Dakota
By
Jack Burgin

I joined the RAF in May 1940 and became an airframe fitter with a transport squadron. By 1943 we were stationed at airstrips on the Assam/Burma border, dropping supplies around Imphal. We’d carried many things in our Dakota aircraft including food, ammunition, water and fuel to front lines, and wounded men and prisoners back.

But here came a new challenge, mules. We were asked to carry Indian army Muleteers and their animals as far forward as possible, so that they, in turn, could take the supplies further forward to troops who were entrenched.

Imagine trying to coax a mule up a steep wooden ramp into a Dakota aircraft! Some of them trotted up with no problem, but others just didn’t want to go. They would stop stock still with their hooves out and refuse to move an inch. It needed one man pulling from the front and two pushing from the back to get them to shift at all! However, together we and the Indian army Muleteers did manage it. We had 4 mules to each aircraft, sectioned off with bamboo poles tied to the rail normally used for parachute straps. This stopped them from trying to run about in the air.

As soon as the engines started, the mules did what came naturally and the urine ran through the floor straight onto the control wires, which ran from the cockpit through to the tail of the plane. This meant taking up the aluminium floor of each plane (not an easy job!!) to grease and maintain the wires and stop them from rusting.

Once we’d landed at a remote airstrip, the next challenge was to get the mules out of the Dakota and down the ramp again. Once on the ground they were loaded with supplies and the Muleteers took them off to locations in the jungle. This was the only way of getting food, water and ammunition through to places where there were no clearings for us to drop supplies from the air.


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Vera Lynne on the Burma/Assam border

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Jack Burgin, Vera Lynne
Location of story: Burma/Assam border
Unit name: 216 Squadron
Background to story: Royal Air Force

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jack Burgin.

Vera Lynne on the Burma/Assam border
By
Jack Burgin

In 1943/4 we were on the Burma/Assam border for about 9 months. Our job was to fly supplies to the front lines and bring wounded and prisoners back. We’d heard that Vera Lynne was in the area and one evening, she turned up at our landing ground in a 3 ton Dodge Truck.

There was canvas over the back of the truck and she used it as a stage and gave us a few songs by the light of 2 Kelly lamps. She was absolutely covered in flies and moths and how she managed to keep singing I don't know.

The "concert" lasted for about an hour with an audience of 200 or so of us gathered round. We gave her a wonderful reception.

 

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BURNS Ted 

POST FALL

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Ted Burns
Location of story: Amirya, Cairo
Unit name: Royal Ordnance Corps
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Ted Burns.

By
Ted Burns

The last few days of June 1942 brought a great deal of changes for lots of us stuck out in a sunny climate and no finance to help us enjoy what was going to be months of hanging about. An iron structure of discipline of parades and marches, kept us occupied in case our thoughts took us back to the days beyond Matruh. Keeping ourselves busy doing a good job, left little time for pandering.

All along I had the feeling that I had a lucky star looking after me, if I could survive the debacle of France and now, as bits of the true story of the retreat from Matruh came to us, I was convinced that if I kept my head I would survive this army game.

At the time when we were told our evacuation of Matruh was imminent, and we heard the heavy armoured vehicles moving up to the front. We could not have been more wrong than to assume the unmistakable clank of tanks and mobile guns were ours. They were leading armoured divisions of the Axis.

Their patrols had discovered a stony part of the desert leading into the Quattara Depression, and whole armies had passed us by at Matruh, with only half a mile of sand dunes separating us.

Neither side knew the other was there.

After a couple of weeks of Amirya, work predominated for the few of us chosen to help with depot duties, including vigilante guarding. In the cold dawns of these guards, I found I was surprised to see so many people coming and going, and everybody seemed to know exactly what they were doing.

When on guard duties, I visited each of the men under my control at the specified time, their nonchalance was irritating, until one of them explained that my men were also being checked on by the garrison Regimental Sergeant Major. This was to me, not on. When the Company Sergeant Major dismounted us at dawn, I asked if I could "...have a word?" To my horror he opened up and told me he was having the same trouble, and asked what did I think he should do.

I had no answer, but it got things moving for me as I was required to attend the Company Office forty eight hours later. Arriving at the office a bit too early, the Sergeant Major took the opportunity to tell me I was the lucky one, he gave me the news of my being transferred to the Royal Ordnance Corps. I started to object - saying I was a Service Corps man. Cocking his head to one side and raising an eyebrow, he warned me not to look a gift horse in the mouth, as if talking to himself, he moved away muttering some- thing about men from the Corps should never be transferred to the infantry. That bit upset me no end, I thought I was far too tall for the infantry game, and it was with relief when I was told that a lorry was leaving for Cairo in two hours, and I would be on it, I was being sent to the Ordnance base depot at Abbassiya Barracks, situated on the outskirts of Cairo, close to the moneyed people's territory. At least that was what I was told by a regular who seemed to know his way around.


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BYFLEET Derek Thomas

Childhood Memories

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Derek Thomas-Byfleet
Location of story: Littlemoor, Newbold, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian

I lived with my mother and father Frank and Gladys Byfleet, and younger brother Roy, and my grandmother Mrs Theresa Jukes in Littlemoor Crescent. At the age of seven years old, I can recall being told to go to the Chesterfield Corporation bus at the end of Littlemoor Crescent to be fitted with a gas mask.

On the Sunday of September 3rd in the morning, I had gone to the Littlemoor Methodist church Sunday school, we all left early and I did not know why. As I was walking up Littlemoor Crescent, I saw my next door neighbour, Mrs Rigley and my mother Mrs Gladys Byfleet at the front gate talking and they were both crying. I asked what was the matter and they told me that war had been declared. In the evening of September the 3rd, I remember my mother putting up blackout curtains on the windows. I went to bed that evening and late on we heard the sirens, I got up and walked towards my mum and dad's bedroom and dad said, "You're alright, we're all here."

I remember my dad, Frank Byfleet with Mr Frank Lowe, digging a large hole in our back garden and putting in the Anderson air raid shelter, which we shared with the Lowe family. There were four of us and Mr and Mrs Lowe and Geoffrey their son. Then I remember on the Thursday night air raid on Sheffield, it was decided for safety that both families would go down to the Anderson shelter, and later came out from the shelter back to the house. Shortly after, Littlemoor Crescent was lit up with an incendiary bomb which dropped in a nearby garden in Littlemoor Crescent, and my dad went outside to look what was happening. I remember David Mettham shouting to my father, "It's like a bonfire night Mr Byfleet." It became very foggy after the raid.

Next morning I did not go to Newbold Church School; we had been up all night due to the raid. The boys from the Crescent decided to go looking across the fields at the back of Littlemoor Crescent, finding a white circle of powder with a fin stuck in the middle of it, these where what we collected. In the afternoon the older boys, Jack Rigley and Leonard Harper come with us with spades, and dug up the bases of the incendiary bombs. The incendiary bomb base we had at home was stamped with the date of 1936.

On the following Sunday night the Germans came back to bomb the Sheffield area. We were in the air raid shelter and heard the bombs screaming down, and again, it was very frightened. We wondered whether it was going to be us next.

In the early part of the war, we had a long school summer holiday because they were building the air raid shelters in the garden of Mr Gilthorpe, which was next to the school. I remember the shelter was long and narrow with seats down both sides. I remember reading books and chatting to other school children. I only used the school's air raid shelter twice during the daytime whilst at the school. At times the air raid shelter got flooded with water and the older boys including myself would pump it out with a hand pump.

I remember going round the houses in Littlemoor with other boys at Mr Boden's, the headmaster and ARP (air raid precaution) warden's instructions collecting the styrup pumps for testing in the playground. These were used to put out the fires caused by the incendiary bombs. As I remember, it was great fun playing with the hose pipe which was attached to the pump. I remember that the check was made to see that people had the long handled shovels putting incendiary bombs out.

The thing that I remember was my mum being short of sugar and soap and I remember all we had to wash with was a shaving stick.

After the blitz in Sheffield I went to the city on the bus with my mum and aunty Nellie Fellows, who was from Dudley. She wanted to see what damage was done by the bombing. We walked to what was left of The Moor and remember standing and looking at the remains of the buildings in particular FW Woolworth's, also the shell of Montague Burtons. We walked down High Street to Fitzallan Square, passing what was left of the Marples Public House. There were wreaths put on the remains on the floor. My reaction to this was of being very distressed and the feeling of wanting to get out of Sheffield, as I thought that the German aircraft would come back whilst I was still there, I had this fear for a very long time of not wanting to revisit Sheffield.

The Newbold group of the ARP put on a concert once a year at Highfield Hall School, and the pianists being Mr Trevor Quick and Mr Norman Clarke, I remember the concert party choir singing 'Land of Hope and Glory', and the lights were switched off on the stage and all you could see were the impression of a V sign on the torches that were being held by the choir members.

On the day that war was declared over in the evening, I remember that I was on my own, and drawing back the blackout curtains and switching on all of the lights, then going out onto the lawn and standing, just looking at it as it had been the first time in five years that I had ever seen this sight.

I remember the families in Littlemoor Crescent getting together and organising a bonfire on the road in the cul-de-sac, and burning a hole in the middle of the road. This was our way of celebrating the end of the war. The residents of Littlemoor Crescent decided to hold a VE (Victory in Europe) party at the Miner's Welfare in Newbold Road, the Mayor of Chesterfield attended the party.

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CADE Sheila 

How some Children helped the War effort in their small way- with a lot of help.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Sheila E Cade, Mr Arthur and Mrs Harriet Williamson and Claire Williamson
Location of story: Bradford, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Sheila E. Cade.

How some Children helped the War effort in their small way- with a lot of help.

I was almost 6 ½ years old when the war was declared, my sister was about 15 months old. Mother was the archetypal housewife of those times. Father was a master butcher with a business in Bradford. He had served in WW1, mostly in a prison camp I understood, and in 1939, was a little too old to be called up, and so was one of the first members of the LDV, later the Home Guard. We shared an Anderson Shelter with the next door neighbours, fortunately only used once, when bombs fell on the city centre after an abortive raid on the Avro Works at Yeadon.
My favourite activity at the time was attending a dancing class for tap and ballet. Every week we went via two bus services right across Bradford to the Sunday School building of a Chapel to the ‘Lorraine School of Dancing’. This was run by a lady known to all as ‘Auntie Elsie’, who was a former Tiller Girl. We had two gentlemen who came in turn to play the piano, one called Charlie, whose surname I never knew, and Frank Robinson who also had a small dance band- he was one of those pianists I envied at every one of my piano lessons, ‘you hum it and I’ll play it!’ His daughter Molly also attended the class.
We had ballet practice for half the time (some of it on points) and tap, my favourite, for the other half. I don’t know how long the war had been going on, but after some time we began learning specific dance routines in both forms including some of the high-kicking routines, Tiller Girl style. There were 12 in a team and Auntie Elsie was a hard taskmaster here, "Keep that line straight, get those knees up, get them all the same height," until we were almost worn out! But it was good fun.
It turned out that we were going to be a kind of concert party going to many districts of Bradford (and even to Pudsey) to church or chapel halls etc. with a platform performing on many a Saturday evening. Some places had hardly room for a line of 12 on the platform and one place I remember had sturdy wooden tables at the side of the platform for the ‘wings’, so we didn’t fall off the edge as we danced our way off. We always seemed to have a full house, because the point of all this work on everyone’s part was to raise money for the Prisoner Of War Fund, which sent parcels to the POW camps in Europe. Later on, a few boys were recruited so that the repertoire could be extended to include humorous sketches etc.
I have wondered since how our mothers managed to supply the costumes for these shows on the few clothing coupons available, perhaps some on the business world donated fabrics etc, and/or there would be a lot of ‘make and mend’. There was always a lot of dress making going on by our mothers.
The Bradford Telegraph and Argus who had a children’s club called the Nignogs, were very supportive and on many occasions, we would travel by a special bus which I think may have been supplied by them. There always seemed to be a report of our activities in the paper and probably a tally of the funds raised, but I am not certain of that.
When I was 11/12 we did a grand show for a whole week at the Alhambra Theatre, we were very excited and felt very important.
I had a very special present for my 12th birthday, VE Day!


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CAMPBELL Pat

The sound recording from which this interview was taken can be heard on the Audio Recordings page


Austere Years

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Pat Campbell
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Pat Campbell.

The story was transcribed from audio tape recordings.
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When the war started, I was four years old. I don’t remember the war being declared, but when we had the blitz, I do remember that we had an Anderson Shelter. I was taken out of there and I put my father’s tin hat on. I saw the Doodlebugs – V1’s and V2’s. I remember seeing one of them coming over with its tail on fire. Where I lived, at Grimesthorpe, there were wooden huts that were known as “the huts”; they were wooden houses, all along the road there. We were quite near the industry. At the beginning of the war, they burnt them down because if the enemy had bombed them, they would have lit the sky up for many miles around. They did it there and also on Holywell Road.

My first memories are from 1940 when the V1,s and V2’s went over. My mother was permanently in hospital. She was bombed out of the City General (as it was then), then they moved her to the Nether Edge Hospital where a bomb dropped outside the main block in front of the main door. They couldn’t take her out, so they just placed her under the bed and smothered her with pillows. They had to send her home; she couldn’t walk because she was paralysed. She had to have nursing all the time; it was six months before they could get her back to the hospital.

One of my memories was of the gas masks, the Mickey Mouse gasmasks that they would put babies in. I remember going to be fitted with a gasmask and seeing these big ones, and of course, we got to know our identity number, which is now the medical number, so that’s a thing you never forget. I can remember that from me being little. They were very austere years, but I was never hungry, we were never deprived of food; my granny was a very good manager. She could make a meal out of almost nothing. I remember the points – A’s and B’s, of food rationing – we got about 2 oz (ounces – 35 to a Kg) of sweets, then there were clothing points.

Granny used to make under slips. She used to cut my dresses down, the ones I had grown out of, and she’d cut them away so that she could make, whatever them in colour. We had to wear them underneath, for wamth.

One of my favourite foods was reconstituted egg, and mashed potatoes, when we could get it. I remember saccharin being on the table, there was never a lot of sugar. There was dried milk, but I was never hungry. We tried growing vegetables on top of the air raid shelter – there was a slogan: “Dig for victory.”

We had two rabbits but they disappeared. I found out what happened to them and I never ate rabbit after that. I can’t even eat it now.

There was queuing for cigarettes – a neighbour would come to my granny (whom I was brought up by) and say, “Mrs. Ashmore, Mrs. Ashmore, they’ve got some cigarettes at such and such a place," or “they’ve got some tomatoes.” There they’d go and get them. I remember going down Attercliffe when it was a proper shopping centre, with Banners, a big departmental store. We didn’t need to go to the city. Granny went in with a head scarf on, queued up, then she came out, took her headscarf and glasses off, then went in again. But, I’ve still got my own teeth, there weren’t many sweets and I think on the whole, it was a healthier diet, much healthier than now.

I didn’t like school, I went to Grimesthorpe School until I was eleven. We had double summer time which was lovely, because we had late nights when it was really light. That was brought in to help the farmers and to hinder the enemy aircraft, so when the bombers came over from Germany, they wouldn’t be able to bomb as early in the day. There was also the barrage balloon on Petre Street – sometimes the balloon would be up, or it would be down – it just seemed so normal.

When the war finished, my granny took me onto the hill on Petre Street and I saw the lights for the first time, all across the east end and Attercliffe. It was the first time I’d ever seen lights on. The first banana I ever saw was when a soldier brought one back from somewhere; I was at Sunday School. Rationing didn’t finish until the 1950’s. During the war, there were no road signs anywhere. A gentleman I knew used to deliver around the countryside and there were no signs to say this way, or that way to wherever he was going.

None of my family went away to fight, because we didn’t have a big family, but my father was called up after the war; he said, “I’ve got an ulcer.” He was told, “Don’t worry son, it’s all in yer head.” Six weeks later, they invalided him out; he’d got an ulcer. During the war he had been in the steelworks, as was my grandfather. They worked at English Steel and an incendiary bomb did drop there, but they must have put it out OK.

There was a lot of tension in the families because nobody knew what was going to happen the next day. My father was in the armed guard and my mother would get upset every time he went out, in case he didn’t come back. I think housewives had it hard because they had to manoeuvre the budgets and the food coupons. I had to have my feet measured to see if I could have extra coupons because I was so tall and needed bigger shoes. I had to have boys’ shoes. I think that after the war, little boys and girls would see their fathers came home, and it wasn’t always a happy reunion; it was like having a stranger coming in.

Because of the war, many women in Sheffield had to work in the steelworks and I remember them coming home, smelling of oil. Women started wearing trousers. That was the beginning of the emancipation of women. They were recognised as, although not independent, certainly a contributory factor to the economy because of what they were earning and how they could do things. I think some of them were dis-satisfied after the war. The whole workforce seemed to be mobilised because there didn’t seem to be anyone who didn’t work, whether it was in the Land Army or whatever, guards on trains and things like that.

There were some single storey pre-fabricated cafes called the British Restaurant, where we could get dinners at reduced prices. They were run by the council, they had them in Leeds, at the Town Hall and would produce food for people who wanted to come in and eat, and it was for anybody.

People didn’t go our much; going to the cinema was quite an adventure. We used to go to the cinema to see the news. At the end of the war, I went to the Coliseum in Spital Hill. They showed us Belsen; the ovens at Belsen. I never forgot seeing that. They always used to play “God Save The King” at the end of a performance, but they don’t do that now. One aspect of the war was that we were shown how to manage on what was available, rather than taking things for granted, as is the case today.

In Attercliffe, on Brightside Lane were houses on one side, and a wall with the sidings over on the other, and it was amazing how much coal used to go over that wall on dark nights. People used to take wheelbarrows and cans and they got bags of coke too. That was to supplement the coal that they already had.

The war was a very good time for some people because a lot of people made a lot of money, producing armaments for a start. My granddad used to bring wedges home from work. He had a case with his lunch in it and he used to come back with this wood in it, again to supplement the heating.

Things changed here when the Americans came over, things became more glamorous. There were films such as, “The Yanks Are Coming, The Yanks Are Coming”. I think a lot of the girls fell in love with the Americans.

Again, I say that we should appreciate what we’ve got here, because that little stretch of water saved us; it was down to a few men. Being in this country, we didn’t know what was going on with the Jews in the labour camps. I think a lot of people didn’t actually believe it anyway when it was brought to the fore. You can imagine it was just a kaleidoscope in a melee of different emotions, spiritually and whatever. It was just a time we had to get through.


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CARROLL Terry

 

Young Terry's War

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Terence Carroll
Location of story: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

When the war broke out, I was on my way back from a holiday in Blackpool with my Mother and Father. When we got home there was panic because we had to put up Blackout curtains and we didn't have any, and you could get prosecuted if you didn't blackout. From then on all children were issued with a Gas mask which had to be carried at all times. At one period during the war, we had school at different people's houses instead of at the school. As the war progressed I can remember various things that happened, such as when I was about 12 years old, I was playing in our back garden when I heard a plane droning overhead. It flew right over the top of our house and as I looked up, I saw about 3 crew members bail out and their parachutes opened. From then on the plane, which I am sure was a Wellington, was directed by the pilot to Concorde Park, so that the plane did not crash into any houses. I am not sure if the pilot survived but if he hadn't taken this evasive action, a lot of people could have died. When it crashed you could see a massive pall of smoke and flames, I lived over a mile from the park but I saw it way into the sky. I ran down to the main road which led to the park, and what seemed to be hundreds of people and kids were running towards the park. At the park gates the Police were already there stopping people from entering the park.

I can remember the Sheffield Blitz and spending two nights in the air raid shelter, Tuesday night and Sunday night. It sounded horrific, all the bangs and ack-ack guns which were stationed on all the hills around Sheffield. After the raid was over the next day I went into the street and there were pieces of shrapnel all over, which people picked up for souvenirs.

As the war progressed, in the summertime, we heard a number of planes flying overhead and it was unbelievable, the sky was full of Lancaster Bombers.

I can remember hearing a strange noise in the sky and when I went outside and looked up to the sky, I saw a Flying Bomb or Doodlebug flying towards Rotherham, but I am not sure where it eventually came down.
I can remember someone coming round shouting that the local shop had got cigarettes and people would rush round to buy them. Woodbines were the premium cigarettes at the time, but there were others like Passing Cloud which weren't too bad, Turf, Bar One and Pasha which smelt horrible.

Due to rationing there were long queues at the chippy. If you didn't get in the queue early enough, you didn't get chips, fish or even fishcakes because what few they had were soon gone.

I can remember that as well as food being rationed, clothing was too, and sweets were rationed but were very hard to get hold of and were a luxury. Sweets stayed a luxury till about 1950.

People used to bake their own bread using flour which had a lot of other strange bits in, so to get rid of these bits, the women would lay a silk scarf across a big baking bowl and they would sieve the flour to get rid of all the impurities.
My cousin who had joined the army in about 1938, to get away from the mines, was captured in Belgium at the begining of the war and remained a prisoner until the end of the war. My mother used to bake a food parcel for him, mince pies, cakes and things, which she would put into a box and send to him via the Red Cross.

As the war progressed, I joined the Boy Scouts. One way of earning a badge was to deliver messages for the ARP.


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CHARLESWORTH Walter - re Joe Simnet

Sheffield Blitz

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Walter Charlesworth and Joe Simnett
Location of story: Musgrave Crescent Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian



 Above: Rescue from the air raid shelter Musgrave Cres. Sheffield.

 

Right: J Simnet's Civil Defence Medal

 This story was submitted to the people's war site by a volunteer from Radio Sheffield Actiondesk on behalf of Walter Charlesworth,

It was 7 o’clock on the 11th of December 1940, and I was at my future wife’s, Jess Simnett’s, house as it was her birthday, when the air raid siren sounded. The Simnett family headed for the Frosts' air raid shelter. Suddenly my future father in law, Joe Simnett shouted, "There is a parachutist coming down." As he set off to confront the parachutist, there was a sudden gust of warm air and then cold, first one way and then the other. It was a parachute bomb and it had exploded, badly damaging approximately 12 houses in a horseshoe shape in Musgrave Crescent at Shirecliffe.

 I escaped any serious injuries although my ears were bleeding, but Joe whom we couldn’t find at first, was badly cut when he finally emerged from the rubble. We then started to help get the seven people out of the air raid shelter, two of whom were elderly, and Joe had to carry them to safety. When the First Aid people arrived, Joe insisted that the others were helped first despite his injuries. For this he received the Civil Defence Medal, a medal for brave conduct and a commendation letter from the Regional Commissioner for his services, notice of which appeared in a supplement to the London Gazette

Mr and Mrs Kenny, who were neighbours, had both been killed; shot by machine gun fire from the bomber, whose target had been the gun emplacement at Shirecliffe.
The shops at Shirecliffe were also badly damaged in the raid. Hammond's the bakery and Hammond's the fruit shop, owned by two brothers, and Maxwell's the Chemist all having there windows broken.

Father Bell from St Leonards came to the scene, and took all those who could walk back to the church to sleep for the night. The funny thing was that the church was still being built and didn’t have a roof.

We returned to the house the next day to find Jess’s birthday cake had been splattered all over by the raid, but her new coat was nowhere to be found.

On Sunday we were billeted out to George Wilkinson's Builder's yard at Calvert Street Darnall, whilst the houses at Musgrove Crescent were repaired. My future wife’s family Jess, Rosina and Joe Simnett were first billeted to Longley, and then Shirecliffe road. This meant courting had to be conducted from a distance and involved travelling on the old Circular bus route.

Please also see Stories entitled Musgrave Crescent Sheffield 2 and 3 for further pictures.


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CLARKE Frank William 

Frank William Clarke

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Frank William Clarke, Kathleen Clarke
Location of story: Leeds, London
Unit name: Royal Signals
Background to story: Civilian

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Maggie O'Neill of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Kathleen Clarke.

Frank William Clarke born 10th November 1916 died 20th June 2005

Frank was born in Islington, North London. He was the eldest of three children and his sisters, Ivy and Vera are still alive. On leaving school he joined the Post Office as a messenger boy, walking many miles around the city of London delivering telegrams. He graduated to the Sorting Office in Mount Pleasant London, not Batley!

His career was put on hold soon after the start of the Second World War, when he received his call-up papers and joined the Royal Signals, where he became expert in using Morse code. Frank couldn’t wait to join the army to escape the dreadful bombing in London, but believe it or not, soon after his initial training, he was actually posted to the Tower of London.

Later he was transferred to Langton, near York, and was there for quite some time. During this period he had a chance meeting with Kathleen on Leeds City railway station on Sunday 2nd January 1944. No addresses were exchanged, but a letter from Frank addressed to “Kathleen, West Ardsley Post Office” eventually did reach her. (Kathleen still has that first letter – no email in those days of course.) However, Kathleen’s reply to Frank took three months to find him, because Kathleen omitted to include his army number in the address. Once contact has been established, regular correspondence flowed and love blossomed. But it was in fact 13 months before they met again. In the meantime, Frank was on duty with the Guards Armoured Division in Belgium, France and Germany.

In February 1945, Frank went to Batley in Yorkshire to meet Kathleen’s parents, and permission was given for Kathleen to return with Frank to London to meet Frank’s mother and father. In spite of all the bombing, they had a wonderful time together and at the end of a blissful seven days, Frank proposed to Kathleen. However Frank’s leave was now over and it was left to Frank’s father to place the ring on Kathleen’s finger!

On the 22nd September 1945, Kathleen and Frank were married, just before Frank’s planned posting to the Far East. The dropping of the atom bomb on Japan meant that instead, Frank returned to Germany to await demobilisation. On return to civilian life, he returned to the Sorting Office, but soon passed the entrance exam to join the Civil Service with flying colours. He was based at Whitehall.

On 21 February 1948, Frank and Kathleen became the proud parents of Robert. Family life in one room soon became difficult and this, plus the shortage of accommodation in London and a desire to live in Yorkshire, led to Frank requesting a transfer to the Ministry of Health in Leeds. Within two weeks of arriving in Yorkshire, they were successful in buying a brand new house and have lived in the Hanging Heaton area ever since.

Kathleen’s interest in amateur operatics with Batley Amateurs led to Frank becoming Secretary, a role which he carried out with dedication for 33 years. Frank was given the honour of the presidency of the Society in 1981 and made many friends during this time.

In 1977 Frank was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for his work with the Civil Service. He retired after over 40 years service at the age of 62.

In retirement, he was introduced to Probus by Dr Eric Sarraff, a long-standing friend. Regretfully, due to his immobility Frank was less and less able to attend the meetings he had so thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to. As Frank’s mobility worsened and the permanent discomfort increased, day-to-day activity became more difficult. However, his natural good nature and sense of humour never left him, especially when his two beautiful granddaughters, Helen and Jill were around him.

Frank was a gentleman; he was kind, thoughtful and never did anything in anger. He was respected by all. Frank and Kathleen would have been married 60 years this September but unfortunately he died on 20th June 2005.


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A soldier's recollection of liberation in Belgium

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Frank William Clarke
Location of story: Belgium, Brussels, Paris, Arras, Somme, Vimy Ridge, Normandy
Unit name: Royal Signals
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Maggie O'Neill of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Kathleen Clarke.

Letter from Frank William Clarke to his sister Vera - Thursday 7th September 1944

Dear Vera

I just had to write and tell you of all the wonderful things that have happened to me during the past week. You have no doubt read and heard all about the sensational advance of the Guards Armoured Division, culminating in its liberation of Brussels. We travelled across France, North of Paris, across the Seine, through Arras and the battlefields of the last war, over the Somme and across the border into Belgium – 430 miles in less than six days. It must have been the greatest advance in history. It was very, very interesting and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. During the whole journey, we had little opposition, for the German army was in full retreat. It took us all our time to keep up with them.

When we left Normandy, we were told that our objective was across the Seine. We went across on a pontoon bridge, for the RAF had blown all the permanent structures. Once over we soon captured the first flying bomb sights. I took the message over the wireless and you can imagine the excitement it caused. This was our first real triumph V.

We drove on, liberating town after town, village after village, and we were madly cheered on our way. Some of the places we went through had been occupied by the Germans less than ten hours ago. The excitement was intense! The journey across the battlefields of 1914-18 was most interesting – the Somme, Arras, Vimy Ridge. The whole of that area is now fertile farming land, peaceful and beautiful and it is ghastly to imagine that thirty years ago, those fields were littered with the smashed bodies of good men. Their bones ploughed into the earth by shell-fire! No wonder the soil is fertile. Along the route we passed a number of war cemeteries, housing their wasted dead, and they were a vivid reminder of the futility of war. The Canadian memorial on Vimy Ridge looked most impressive.

We continued, riding right through the long days, stopping only a few hours each night for refuelling and a bit of sleep. The pace was terrific, V and all the time we were heading for the Belgium border. Then on Saturday night, we were told that early next morning, we would be setting out for Brussels. What an objective, for it was 90 miles away! It seemed impossible that we would ever make it, for if we did, we would achieve the distinction of advancing faster in one day than any other formation before us.

We set out early and we were soon being cheered on our way, some people even waving to us in their pyjamas and nightshirts. It was amazing! But the most amazing part was yet to come when we crossed the border in Belgium. The French people were glad to see us but the Belgians went mad. Their villages and towns were gaily festooned with flags, Belgian and Allied, and the streets were a mass of colour. Before we had gone many miles, our vehicles were covered with flowers and every time we halted, we had fruit and wine showered on us. We looked like flying greengrocer’s shops. From early morning till we arrived I ate, ate, ate cakes and biscuits, fruit and wine. My god how hysterically crazy and excited were these people to see us. Across the roads were banners, “Welcome to our Allies,” etc. and bands played in the path of this advancing army.

On and on we drove towards Brussels, the excitement getting more intense every hour. The people were getting frantic! The route was a blaze of colour and my arm fair ached with waving to the excited crowds. At times it was almost impossible to move through the seething masses, for they climbed on to the trucks kissing us and crying. These people had been four years beneath the Nazi yoke, suffering, unhappy and now they were free. The Allies had fulfilled their promise. Liberation was theirs.

And then we entered the suburbs of the capital! Our Brigade was the first formation to go in. Well V I don’t know how to describe it. It is almost impossible for I can never put into words the reception that greeted us. To put it mildly, it was stupendously terrific. The city went raving mad. Bands, screams, singing, crying, all these sounds rent the air. It was the proudest moment of my life. We had brought freedom and happiness to these good people. As we progressed further in the crowds began to get out of hand for they climbed into the trucks, on the tops kissing and hugging everyone. The vehicles were absolutely covered with flags and streamers. It was the most amazing sight!

As we neared the centre of the city, progress got very slow for the crowds were blocking the roads. The whole of Brussels had come out to welcome us. It took us over three hours to get from the suburbs to the Centre. We entered the town at 8.00 pm and we parked at about 11.00 pm. It got dark but lights were blazing in the cafes, the noise got even louder as radios blared out their greetings.

Eventually we reached our destination. There was a red glow surrounding the centre of the city, for the Germans had set fire to the tremendous magnificent Palace of Justice. It was a blazing inferno! The red ominous glow was the Germans' welcome to us. High up in buildings we could hear the occasional crack of rifles. Snipers! The enemy was still with us.

And now came the most amazing sight of all V. In the cellars of the Palace of Justice, had been stored by the Germans, thousands and thousands of bottles of wine and champagne. They were all brought up into the streets and Brussels fairly swam in wine. The celebration was tremendous.

We spent the night under our trucks on the fine squares and boulevards of that grand city. So ended a remarkable journey, - an awe-inspiring day.

Vera, I shall never, never forget Brussels. It was the most exciting moment of my life. A moment I shall always remember. Our Division had made history. I shall never forget Sunday the 3rd September 1944.

We were up early on the Monday morning and very soon, the squares started to fill with the good people of Brussels. They had come to see their liberators, those English soldiers that had fled the continent four years before. They knew we would return and never were people more genuinely happy to see us. It is difficult for the English to realise what this day meant to them. The Boche had been driven out- they were free again. What greater cause for celebration!

They visited our vehicles, invited us to parties, in fact did everything they possibly could do to make us at home. They treated us like gods. I made numerous friends, in particular with an English-speaking girl. She showed me all round the town. I had a marvellous time, V, I had my photo taken dozens of times, I nursed babies, kissed them, was kissed, hugged and applauded. Never have I been so excited. I have been unable to eat for three days now. The Belgian people are the most marvellous, greatest people in the world. Never will I forget them. I should feel very proud to belong to such a nation. I will certainly visit Brussels after the war for it is a wonderful city.

Our story, unfortunately, was short-lived V for the war is still to be won. I am writing this out in the wilds, somewhere on the road to Berlin. You’d be surprised if you knew where, but just keep on watching the newspapers. History is being made.

As I sit here thinking of the thrilling, exciting times I was enjoying not so very long ago, it makes me feel sad. Although so fleeting an experience I shall always treasure the memory of our glorious entry into the Belgian capital.

I do hope it will not be long now V before I am with you all once more. I have so much to tell you. But until then I’ll say goodbye and God Bless you all.
Love Frank xxx


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CLARKE Hilary - re Longstone Local History Group

  

Ann Mallinson

Ann Mallinson's war memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Ann Mallinson (nee Holmes)
Location of story: Longstone, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian



This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team from Mrs Hilary Clarke on behalf of the Longstone Local History Group.

The memories are taken from a special edition of a newsletter kindly submitted by Longstone Local History Group. It was edited by Liz Greenfield and published in Autumn 2002. Longstone was a village which sheltered evacuees and was comparatively unaffected by air attack, although the night sky was often lit by the fires of the Sheffield Blitz.

At the outbreak of war, I was just starting at Bakewell School on Bath St. I remember the cookery centre in some cottages next to the school. We learnt all kinds of cookery there as well as housecraft and we had our school dinner there too. I left school at 14 and went to work at Granby Garments (now Aitch’s Wine Bar). I was a seamstress on piece work. We made ‘rat traps’ for the ATS girls; they were bloomers, elastic top and bottom.

We also made the bindings for parachutes; some girls put their names and addresses in the binding hoping a handsome RAF man would contact them. Auntie Myra (Saunders) was our supervisor. I sometimes cycled to work, and sometimes caught the bus, 7d (3p) return. We used to go to dances in Longstone Institute and soldiers from the Rifle Brigade lodging down in Monsal Dale would come.


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Child's view of the war

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: George Jackson (father), Doris Jackson (mother), Barbara, Hilary Clarke, Pam (daughters)
Location of story: Hull, East Riding, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mrs Hilary Clarke.

My earliest memory is listening with my parents and sisters to the announcement on the radio of the outbreak of war. I had only been to school about 2 days and the school was closed for a long time, until the air raid shelters were built. When we went back we had gas masks and a little tin with a homemade scone in it as emergency rations. We were taught what to do in the event of an air raid – lying flat on the floor with our hands over the back of our head. At home we had an Anderson shelter. We girls slept in it all night during the summer. My father lined it with cork granules to cope with the condensation and we slept on bunk beds. The air raids were more like firework night to us – I remember seeing the night sky alight when the docks were hit, but we didn’t take in the significance of it. We all had collections of shrapnel.

 

My mother managed the rations very well, although we had to stop having sugar in our tea. She made bread in the side oven. The big treat was tinned fruit for sunday tea and later in the war, tins of spam. When Thornton Varley’s department store was bombed they moved into the museum – I was fascinated by the stuffed bear and other curious objects.

I was in an isolation hospital with scarlet fever during the war – the food was awful – lumpy porridge , bullet sago, and although only 6 years old, I had to look after myself.

In 1943 I moved to Morley, near Leeds, where the war did not impact on our lives in quite the same way – apart from rationing – especially sweets!


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Bill Oliver

Delivery boy

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Bill Oliver
Location of story: Longstone, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team from Mrs Hilary Clarke on behalf of the Longstone Local History Group.


The memories are taken from a special edition of a newsletter kindly submitted by Longstone Local History Group. It was edited by Liz Greenfield and published in Autumn 2002. Longstone was a village which sheltered evacuees and was comparatively unaffected by air attack, although the night sky was often lit by the fires of the Sheffield Blitz.

I was at Bath Street School during the war. It was mixed then and we all went down to the Derbyshire Café, Matlock Street for our school dinners. I remember evacuees coming into the village. We never went hungry but food was basic, toast and dripping for breakfast and bread and butter pudding made out of stale teacakes. Everybody had a bit of a garden where they grew vegetables and kept a few hens. I wasn’t greatly affected by the war. We could see in the night sky when bombs were dropped on Sheffield and I think I heard talk of a bomb being dropped on Bakewell, possibly aimed at the DP Bakewell Company, which made batteries for submarines.

After school and on a Saturday I was a delivery boy for Mansfields, the grocers (now Bay Tree House). I delivered in Great and Little Longstone and one day, I fell off my bike in front of a lot of people by the bus stop; I was so embarrassed. I liked to deliver to Mrs Hambleton up Sunny Bank, because she gave me a homemade teacake. I didn’t get much money but plenty of broken biscuits. I also did a bit of gardening for Lady Stephenson when she lived at the Lodge, Station Road, and she used to give me duck eggs. Then, when I left school, my first job was as a gardener at Hassop Hall, where I was when the war ended.


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Edna Beresford's war memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Edna Beresford(nee Unsworth)
Location of story: Longstone, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team from Mrs Hilary Clarke on behalf of the Longstone Local History Group.


The memories are taken from a special edition of a newsletter kindly submitted by Longstone Local History Group. It was edited by Liz Greenfield and published in Autumn 2002. Longstone was a village which sheltered evacuees and was comparatively unaffected by air attack, although the night sky was often lit by the fires of the Sheffield Blitz.

(Hilary Clarke talked to Mrs Beresford and wrote this extract)

Edna Beresford was 19 when war broke out. She was working for Mr Dawson, the village butcher. Previously she worked as an overlooker at Miss Frost’s dress factory near Bakewell Station. She learnt to drive and delivered meat with Mr Dawson to the surrounding villages of Eyam, Calver, Litton, Cressbrook, Rowland, Little Longstone and Monsal Head. He often kept her waiting whilst he chatted to the customers. Every Saturday he gave her a butcher’s breakfast, which her dad ate on Sunday mornings. Her father worked on the railway at Rowsley sidings and got there by bicycle. Edna and her pals also used their bikes when they went to the dances or the cinema in Bakewell. If late back from the dances, they crept in so that their parents wouldn’t hear them!

Her father was in the Home Guard and did manoeuvres on the moor.


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Heather Reeves' War Memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Heather Reeves
Location of story: Longstone, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian


These stories were submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team from Mrs Hilary Clarke on behalf of the Longstone Local History Group.

These memories are taken from a special edition of a newsletter kindly submitted by Longstone Local History Group. It was edited by Liz Greenfield and published in Autumn 2002. Longstone was a village which sheltered evacuees and was comparatively unaffected by air attack, although the night sky was often lit by the fires of the Sheffield Blitz.

Heather Reeves:
At the outbreak of war I was on holiday in Bangor with my parents. We came back early and my father, the Vicar of St Giles, announced the commencement of hostilities. Nothing much happened at first, and then I went to boarding school, so I was only here in the holidays. We used to go up to Miss Reece’s cottage on Spring Bank and do country dancing, using an old fashioned wind-up gramophone. My mother, who produced plays for the St Giles Players, organised an entertainment at the end of 1940 for the local spitfire fund. It consisted of recitals, piano solos and four plays, and half the proceeds went to the war weapons fund. Otherwise she helped with all the activities of the WI.


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Herbert Bennett's war memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Herbert Bennett
Location of story: Longstone, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian



This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team from Mrs Hilary Clarke on behalf of the Longstone Local History Group.

The memories are taken from a special edition of a newsletter kindly submitted by Longstone Local History Group. It was edited by Liz Greenfield and published in Autumn 2002. Longstone was a village which sheltered evacuees and was comparatively unaffected by air attack, although the night sky was often lit by the fires of the Sheffield Blitz.

(Hilary Clarke and Sheila Hurst recorded this extract in 1994 when Herbert Benett was 89. He died soon afterwards.)

I was in the APR in the war and took training for mustard gas and all that at Bakewell. An advert came in the paper; they were asking for volunteers up and down the country. We had thorough training, not difficult. I enjoyed it. I remember the bombs dropping on Crowhill Lane. We were out singing with Mrs Goodwin’s choir and she packed up, but I wanted to carry on. There wasn’t much else, a few incendiaries at Youlgrave and a bomb that burnt down Earl Sterndale church. I went to see that. Longstone church was all sand bagged and there were ladders ready to get up on the roof. The village was empty of young ones; a lot went out of Longstone really. I was at Thornhills on the farm, not poultry. We grew crops mainly and didn’t go short of anything in the war. I had a pig up at Thornhills. We grew a lot of our own stuff. All the farmers grew potatoes, corn, cabbage, anything you like to mention.


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Jane Lincoln's War Memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Jane Lincoln (nee Davison)
Location of story: Longstone, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team from Mrs Hilary Clarke on behalf of the Longstone Local History Group.

The memories are taken from a special edition of a newsletter kindly submitted by Longstone Local History Group. It was edited by Liz Greenfield and published in Autumn 2002. Longstone was a village which sheltered evacuees and was comparatively unaffected by air attack, although the night sky was often lit by the fires of the Sheffield Blitz.

I came to live at the Woodlands near Thornbridge Hall with my mother and father at the beginning of the war. Mr Boot was our landlord, and I remember him coming to collect the rent. He had a little goatee beard and he wore tweeds. Some land girls worked at the Hall and my mother got very friendly with them. I had a Mickey Mouse gas mask, which I carried in a brown cardboard box over my shoulder. I hated having it forced over my face when we practised using it. My greatest diversion was watching the trains come in, seeing all the people getting on and off, and the lovely colourful station garden. Our neighbours were the Gilberts and I thought Reg Gilbert looked very dashing in his RAF uniform; he took me sledging down a steep hill nearby and terrified me. I also went haymaking with his father, which I loved, even though I felt sorry for the scuttling rabbits! My father was in the army and when he was home from leave he would take me on rides down the drive on the back of his bike. One day, out of the blue, my Scottish grandmother appeared on the doorstep; she wanted to see her daughter and granddaughter. A day or so later a telegram boy came with the news that my father, who was 33, had died of typhus in North Africa.


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CLARK Kathleen

See Frank Clarke Story

CLARKE Peter 

WARTIME MEMORIES - The Day War Broke Out (Apologies to Rob Wilton)

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Peter Clarke
Location of story: Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Peter Clarke.

WARTIME MEMORIES
The Day War Broke Out (Apologies to Rob Wilton)
By
Peter Clarke

When war was declared, my friends and I were ‘fiveish’ and just beginning to find our feet. We were not unusual in any respect, just a normal set of scruffy country kids living in the small town of Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex. I can't say I remember the actual start of things, but without a doubt as the years ticked by, we became increasingly aware. By 1945 we were avidly plotting the advances of the Allied Forces towards heartland Berlin.

Our small town was, and still is, an important yachting centre on the East Coast, certainly strategically placed as a point to invade from mainland Europe, or indeed, as happened subsequently, to prepare an attack.

The first infringement on our freedom, as we saw it, was the virtual take-over by the navy and army. Many of our favourite knock about places within an area of half a mile or so of our riverfront, together with the `posh' yacht clubs, were requisitioned for the duration, to enable the eventual invasion fleet of small landing craft to be built up. Probably consisting of around five hundred or so barges. They seemed to fill our river opposite the town. They were all in an area a mile long and half a mile wide. To prevent any undesirables or foreign agents entering the restricted area, armed sentries stood guard at the entrances on the quay front. We, of course, used to swim a lot in the river and consistently encroached and entered forbidden territory. I can safely say that we caused more harassment to our own side than the enemy ever did.

A few hundred yards away, and parallel with the river, the main road ran. Generally speaking this was quiet, but occasionally frantic when military exercises involving armoured cars, Bren gun carriers and lorries, together with, it seemed, thousands of soldiers dashing around urgently doing things. My father had a men's outfitter’s shop overlooking the town centre. This made a wonderful grandstand from which to watch the various events, parades and shenanigans, that went on from time to time. I well remember leaning out of an upstairs window as a German Messerschmidt beat up the town, flying not much above roof top height, followed by my mother's frantic yanking on my collar to get my head in.

The Battle of Britain seemed to take place immediately above us. It was all very exciting. However, I don't suppose my parents thought so at the time. All we could really see, of course, were the endless high altitude vapour trails wheeling and looping in almost impossible shapes. Intermittently, one could hear the rat-tat-tat of machine guns in a war once removed it seemed. It was not unusual, when the London blitz started, to see German bombers trailing smoke, high tailing it for home. When they sometimes crashed we were not allowed near the site, but eventually the remains were picked up. If the low loaders carrying the bits and pieces paused in our High Street, this provided a great opportunity for all us lads to pinch bits. It's an extraordinary thing it was one of those events that caused me to begin to realise what `war' really was about, that men were actually dying. It was a small piece of fuel pipe and a gland, burnt and acrid smelling, tucked triumphantly into my pocket. This piece of material, I began to realise, was made by our enemy and fitted to one of their warplanes, which then tried to kill us. I grew up considerably that day.

Our town didn't experience the bombing that London did, but as I indicated earlier, if enemy planes were hit, they made a run for it, sometimes jettisoning their bombs whilst fleeing. Such a scenario brought about our little town’s only bombing. One or two roads were destroyed, killing if I remember correctly, eight or nine people. Not many compared with London, but certainly enough to raise our anxieties. There was a rush to survey the damage. Dad returned with five or six fins from incendiary bombs and one, yes one whole unexploded specimen, about fourteen inches long and two inches wide. He kept it for years under the counter in his shop, displaying it occasionally to demonstrate how he had won the war. Many years later I scraped some material from the casing and threw the dust onto the fire. The resultant flare up almost set the chimney alight. Thankfully he got rid of it after that, as the entire casing was pure magnesium.

Another memory was the funeral cortege of a German bomber crew, who died when their plane came down. A similar type of recollection was when the covered body of a local man was brought ashore, having exploded a German sea mine further up the river.

Food was a problem to many during the war, and our community was no different to most I imagine. Rationing of food and small portions seemed quite the norm, and although we could certainly have done with more, we survived on what was available. Any complaints were generally met with what became the standard chant from our butcher, "Don't you know there's a war on?" Generally, living in the country meant that food shortages at least were not so acute. We always kept six hens in the backyard and my father had an allotment, so I never remember being hungry. Dad and his mates, together with yours truly, spent many a Sunday ferreting for rabbits in the countryside. Twenty or more were usually caught and this took care of our protein requirements. Of course, we had a couple of illicit pigs, which were housed down on bleak adjacent marshland. It was actually illegal to keep unregistered pigs, so we all kept mum about it. When finally slaughtered, they were cut up and left to pickle in our bath. It sounds a bit messy maybe, but when the chips are down, survival is the name of the game. A Thames barge ran aground somewhere near the mouth of the river, word got around that she was loaded with unrefined sugar and it was rationed and in short supply. A flotilla of small boats rowed by locals, decided to investigate. In a scene reminiscent of `Whiskey Galore', they returned loaded to the gunwales with this coarse raw sugar, which lasted us for the rest of the war. Our next-door neighbour was the local grocer and a number of quick deals went on over the back wall, swooping small amounts, of say cheese with items from Dad's shop, say a pair of socks. These were highlight days. However, it was not an everyday occurrence, as the grocer had to work on his points system and Dad on coupons to get replacement stock.

A naval officer brought my father a seal, which he had shot and Dad was able to skin and preserve the pelt for him. As the motto was `waste not want not', the remaining carcass was cooked up, mixed with meal and fed to our hens. The resultant, almost blood red yolked eggs were not wasted. The blubber was rendered down to oil, rather like the Eskimos I suppose. This he doused his gardening boots with, "To make them waterproof," he said. The trouble was that anyone could smell him coming two hundred yards downwind. He was never allowed to forget this.

Another incredible escapade was the shooting of a swan, quite illegal then as it is today. His reasoning, in times of emergency, i.e. the war, what was good enough for Henry VIII was good enough for him. My abiding memory is of him sitting in our small kitchen, waist deep in feathers, which even covered his hat. The cooked bird was an absolute disaster. Black, tough and stringy - ugh! Since then swans have been completely safe in our families estimation, whether legal or illegal.

As the war dragged on, D-Day came and went, and after trekking down to the riverside we were amazed to see what had been a very crowded anchorage, was now suddenly empty. All those hundreds of landing craft had gone to France and the beginning of the end was in sight.

Another pastime our `friend' Adolph dreamt up was of war winning secret weapons. The two most visible, and felt by us, were his V-1 and V-2, or the doodlebug and the rocket. I suppose the doodlebug, using probably the first operational jet engine, was an unmanned bomb, fired from ramps in France, aimed mainly at London. They were not very precisely targeted and crashed when their fuel ran out. Our town was on their flight path to London and we generally ignored them as they passed over. Their engine note was quite markedly specific - a rather grim rasping roar. When that suddenly ceased whoever was underneath could expect to be blown to smithereens. Whilst I was in the bath one night one of these fiendish things passed over, the engine stuttered and for one horrible moment I thought I might become a war statistic. Thankfully that was not to be as the thing picked up again to devastate some other poor individual further up the line, this was my only near miss.

Towards the end of the war we began to see the arrival of German and Italian prisoners for agricultural work. I don't know quite what I expected to see; perhaps two headed ogres with tails - but no. Do you know they looked quite normal, and after a while I realised they WERE quite normal.

The end of the war was felt to be a tremendous relief, no more rationing, everything would be as it was before the wretched war. It wasn't quite like that. There was a tremendous street party for us kids on VE Day and I can tell you to this day where I sat and what we ate. The street, so recently before throbbing to the sounds of the military, was back to its usual quiet self. Areas which had been forbidden to us, were now open territory for exploring - a new adventure. Our gang survived but many men and women, who had been our neighbours for four years, did not. War was not quite the lark we thought it was at the time. People get killed or injured, families are broken up, nobody really wins, and everyone loses, don't they?

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CLARKE Sylvia

Sylvia

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Sylvia Clark
Location of story: Sylvia Clark (nee Rowding).
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Sylvia Clark.
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I was born on the 6th of April 1945 in the Firvale area of Sheffield, the youngest daughter of William and Lucy Rowding. I have vivid memories of taking our dog Judy, walking over Osgathorpe Road, down Ellesmere Road, to the top of Gower Street, to meet my father coming home form working at Firth Brown Tools. I was about eleven years of age at the time and as along as I had Judy with me, I felt safe.

I can remember my (late) father telling me how I was Christened on V.E. Day at All Saints’ Church on Ellesmere Road, as we were walking along Ellesmere Road. He always seemed to be proud of this; he also used to point out where buildings had been blitzed. Life was hard then however, we all had jobs to do, e.g. errands for neighbours or selling newspapers to earn a bob or two.

There has always been bullying and thuggery in the world; it is a lot worse today than in the fifties or sixties. Now retired from the caring profession, and the mother of four and grandmother of eight, I am thankful that they (my children and grandchildren) have never had to do what I did. But then, on the other hand, my childhood taught me a lot. We all have our own memories and I’ll hang on to these.

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CLULOW Kenneth 

The Pioneer Corps

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Kenneth Clulow
Location of story: Italy, North Africa
Background to story: Army

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Kenneth Clulow.


Kenneth Clulow was called up into the Pioneer Corps, and after his initial training, he was sent to North Africa. A while after that he was posted to Italy. When he was in Italy, he was building and repairing bridges and docks. One day, after the Germans had cleared away from the area, Ken came across a damaged aircraft and just for a laugh, he climbed into the cockpit. Someone took a photograph and a long time after the war, someone showed him a copy of the News of the World, and there was a photograph of him in the plane. It must have been a press photographer who had taken his picture.


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COLLIE Josephine 

A Blissful War

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Josephine Collie
Location of story: Elie, Fife, Glasgow, Firth of Forth
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Josephine Collie.

A Blissful War

By
Josephine Collie

When war was declared I was just a year old. My Father went into the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and was stationed in Fife in Scotland. My Mother and I were evacuated to a village called Elie, Fife.

At the beginning of May this year (2005), I returned to Elie, having not been there for sixty years, anxious to follow up my little splinters of memory, which made up my war experience. It was like walking back into a dream, and though perhaps strangely, it didn't bring back any more memories, it helped me to realize what a wonderful free war I had had. The flat that we lived in had a garden gate, which opened, straight on to the beach, and I remember the sand coming into the garden. Miles of golden sand without a stone or a rock to be seen. In my memory the sky was always blue and I had playmates, and I am told that I went out there everyday. Indeed a blissful war.

Amongst the positive splinters of memory were the Polish soldiers stationed nearby. Receiving peppermints from them being a very clear memory! Another memory I have is at the age of three staying with my Father in a hotel in Glasgow, and playing a game which involved watching someone going out of the hotel revolving doors (which were covered in blackout material), and then guessing who they would come round as, when someone else came in. I also remember travelling on the underground in Glasgow, and being fascinated by the colours painted on the walls of the stations indicating the destinations, as I believe that the names were blacked out.

In my blissful war, there were only a few negatives. I am sure that I missed my Father, but as I only remember the joy of him suddenly appearing, I can't count that. I am to this day, unreasonably afraid of tanks; this is explained by the fact that soldiers used to learn to drive them down our village street! Barrage balloons also made me afraid, I felt that they were horrible monsters suspended in space. I also remember very clearly the instruction never ever to touch light switches. I understood that this instruction was very significant though I never knew that living on the edge of the Firth of Forth, meant that our blackout was exceedingly important to our safety. I still can feel the seriousness of that instruction today.

When I was two or three yrs old, I was in Leeds during the only night that it was bombed, but I can't say that it was a negative experience, as the only thing that I can remember was wondering why so many grown-ups were under the mahogany dining table with me! That I was under the table was not odd, it was the sort of place that I might play, but I do remember finding it odd that grown-ups were there also! I recounted this memory to my parents years later, and was told of the Baedeker raid.

The war ended with a special treat, my Father said that we could have a dog when that happened. I remembered my Mother cycling down the road with a golden cocker spaniel buttoned into the top of her coat. What joy!
So for me the war enabled me to have a very free, open-air healthy existence, which perhaps I would not have had otherwise. But of course, it deprived me of some time with my Father, in common with a great many others, although I was exceedingly fortunate that mine came home.


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CONNAUGHT Sheila

Day Before V.E. Day - The First To Know

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Sheila Connoughton
Location of story: London, Whitehall
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Jo Thomas of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of JD Barwick and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Sheila Connoughton, my mother, worked on the teleprinter and received word from Germany that the Axis Forces had surrendered that day.

This was then passed on, when it was decided to announce this to the general public on the next day.

While on her way home on the bus, two women sat in front of her said, "It can't be long before it is all over." My mother was going to tell them it WAS over, but then remembered the Official Secrets Act.

My mother was the first person in the UK to know the war was over.

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COOK Elizabeth Ann 

The W.A.A.F. Driver and the Pre-Select Gears

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Elizabeth Ann Cook, Squadron Leader Shields
Location of story: RAF Coltishall in Norfolk
Unit name: W.A.A.F
Background to story: Royal Air Force


I, Elizabeth Ann Cook, was born in 1920, in a little village called Paulers Pury, which is in Northamptonshire, I stayed there until I was 16 when I went to work at the John Lewis shoe factory in Northampton.

In 1941, I decided to join the W.A.A.F. and after some initial training in Birmingham, I was sent to Blackpool to be trained as a driver. We were based at Ribble Bus Garage and besides being taught to drive, we were given lessons in map reading and routine car maintenance. From there I was posted to Pwllheli in North Wales, then we moved onto training in driving lorries, anything up to 3 tons. We also had to know how to change a wheel, not an easy job in those days.

The training lasted for about 3 months and it was a great day when I received my first driving licence. After a couple of weeks leave, I was told to report to a Depot in St John's Wood. The depot they used was actually Lords Cricket Ground and we were billeted in beautiful big houses in the area. It was only a brief stay though because within a month, I was sent to RAF Coltishall in Norfolk where I was to be stationed until the end of the war, although there were times when I would be sent to other airfields around the area.

By this time I was mostly driving an ambulance, and one night we were told to go and find a bomber which had come down at Cromer, on the coast. There were no road signs during the war and I had to go and ask the Officer in charge to give me rough directions. He pointed to
the place on the map and told me to look out for a mushroom cone of smoke. A Squadron Leader and a medical orderly accompanied me, but sadly when we found the bomber all the crew were dead. This was quite a common job for me, and looking back, I realise how I just accepted the horror of it all. We just had to get on with it!

Although I didn't know it at the time, that night was a very special night. After we had finished our work at the bomber, Squadron Leader Shields suggested that we go up onto the cliffs. Looking out over the North Seas, we were amazed to see hundreds of ships sailing towards France. Later I was to discover that this was the beginning of the Normandy Day landings.

One day I was sent with 4 other WAAF's to Ludham airfield. This was where 610 Squadron was based. They acted as escorts for the bombers, going out with them and meeting them coming back from their missions over Germany. We were billeted in a farmhouse quite close to the airfield but there were no toilet facilities for us on the base until much later, and I suppose we had to go back to the farmhouse if we were desperate.
It was quite common for me to take badly injured pilots or crew to a Hospital in Ely, where they specialised in skin grafting. One day I had to take a Redcap to an isolation hospital near Sandringham. The poor chap had jaundice, which he had picked up during a spell in the Middle East. When I got back to base at Coltishall, the orderly said that he would have to fumigate the ambulance and all the bedding, as the Redcap had a highly contagious disease, (known now as Hepatitis) I said, “Well, what about me?” He replied, “Well stay in the ambulance and I'll fumigate you as well,” which he did!

Arriving at the officers' mess one day, one of the batmen informed me that a young officer had mentioned that he wanted to see me. The batman said, “Will you hang on a moment and I will see if the aforesaid officer was in his room?” He was and came out with the batman. He said that he had been given my name and would I be free on Saturday morning to help him out. “Of course, if I can help you,” I replied. So I met him at the WAAF compound and went up to Norwich Railway Station with him. He was going on a course, it would be something to do with flying but we did not ask questions. On arriving at the station, he got out of the car, picked his bag up and disappeared. I got into the driving seat, turned the key and started the car. To my amazement it was the first pre-select gears I had come across, so you can imagine it was a new experience for me. I was very relieved when it was in the garage and the door closed. It was a new trial and the loveliest MG sports car, and I still like the gear stick after 60 years on the road.

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COOPER Bill 

My father, the ARP warden

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Robert Cooper.
Location of story: Darnall, Sheffield.


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Bill Cooper.

September 3rd, 1939. Time 11-15,a bright and sunny Sunday morning. Neville Chamberlain, our Prime Minister had just been on the radio to announce that he had issued an ultimatum to Germany to withdraw their troops from Poland, and that should Hitler fail to submit such an undertaking, cf)~ England would declare war. No such undertaking was given, so for the second time in just over twenty years, our country was at war with Germany.

I remember standing with my father at the bottom of our passage, basking in the Autumn sunshine. All at once the eerie sound of the air raid siren was heard. We expected bombs to rain down on us immediately, but life went on just as before. Our family used to like Sunday for the simple reason that the radio series ‘Hippodrome’ was broadcast on Sunday night. Its main characters were Harry Korris and Enoch, who played the stooge.

An air raid shelter had been delivered to our humble home, and had been erected in our back garden. My father planted mushrooms at the back of the shelter, of which he was very proud. My eldest sister, who was named Gladys, and my elder brother Robert used to volunteer to clean the shelter out after it had rained, as the water used to settle on the shelter floor.

There was another reason that they were so keen, and that was that they had both started to smoke. Eventually my father found out about this and caught them. He pulled both of them out of the shelter and made them smoke a cigarette each. After smoking about half of it, their complexions turned a funny gray. For the moment both smokers decided that it was bad for their health in more ways than one.

My father was a labourer at Kayser Ellison’s steel works which was about a mile from where we lived. During the next few months, we went through what was called the Phoney War. The Germans mounted a few nuisance raids and we did the same. At this moment in time the war was not going very well for us and the miracle of Dunkirk had just been accomplished. After this, the raids began to be more frequent and mostly at night.

My father, Robert Cooper, who had been injured in a steelworks, joined the ARP as a warden. He would come home from work, have his tea, don his ARP overall and helmet and report to the local ARP post for duty. After Dunkirk, the sirens were sounded more frequently. When my father came off duty he would tell us what state of alert the town was in.

The highest state of alert was the purple. When he told my mother that the purple was on, she would gather us all together and we would sleep in the shelter. This went on, on a regular basis until my father put his foot down. He said that we might as well get killed by a bomb as die from pneumonia in a damp shelter. My youngest brother John, was only six months old at the time. When the ack-ack guns had been firing at passing raiders, my friends and I used to go round the roads looking for shrapnel from the spent ack-ack shells.

My father gave his life during the Sunday night blitz, along with nine of his comrades; they did not find his body for a week. Our home had been completely destroyed and we were living with our Aunt Ada, my father’s sister. They brought my father’s body there for burial. It was screwed down with orders that it was to remain that way, but my mother had other ideas. She wanted to say her goodbyes and to see who she was burying.

Waiting while we were all in bed, she unscrewed the coffin lid and took her last look at my father’s body. His body was so badly damaged that she could only identify him from his clothing. At the time of the Sunday night blitz, my father was working. As soon as the sirens went, he came home in his working clothes. He always wore a waistcoat. Somehow or other, my mother got hold of this waistcoat, and she treasured that piece of clothing for thirty years, until she was persuaded to throw it away. The bizarre thing about the waistcoat was that you could still see the bloodstains after all that time. With my father gone, my mother had the task of bringing up six children. A few months after my mother’s sister Nellie died in childbirth, leaving two young children, which my Mother, Annie Cooper, added to her own brood, therefore bringing up eight children in all.

By this time my sister Gladys and brother Robert were of working age, but at the time of my fathers funeral, there was no state benefit. Through his kind generosity, my Uncle Cedric, paid all expenses for the funeral and our funeral clothes. Those two nights, Thursday and Sunday, the 12th and 15th of December, 1940, even at the age of 75 are still fresh in my mind.

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CRABTREE Derrik
 

A 13yr old's Memory of the End of Japanese Hostilities.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Derek Crabtree
Location of story: Otterburn to London


This story is intended to show how rapidly the war ended - through the eyes of a 13-years-old boy.

My most memorable cycle ride was in the summer school holiday of 1945.

My parents allowed me much more freedom than a 13-year-old boy would expect today. After attending the camp for Hanson Scout Troop (9th Bradford East) at Otterburn, near Malham, for a week, I was permitted to set off for a fortnight’s cycling tour with Jeffrey Aston, another boy in my class.

We had planned the route so that every night we could sleep at a youth hostel. Advanced booking vouchers had been bought at the local cycle shop and we reserved accommodation and meals at hostels about 50 miles apart.

On the first day we pedalled from our homes in Bradford to the hostel at Tickhill, near Doncaster. We continued the next day along the Great North Road to Grantham. The following morning we bought a newspaper and learned of the splitting of the atom and of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

We knew that a former pupil of our school, Sir Edward Appleton, was Britain’s chief scientist during the war, but it was not until later that we grasped fully the implications of what we learned that morning in Grantham.

We were accompanied on the next leg of the journey by a fellow hosteller from North of the Border, who objected to being called a Scotchman. I have always remembered since that day that he was a Scotsman and that the only Scotch to leave Scotland was whisky.

Our next night was at the famous 18th Century Houghton Mill, near Huntingdon, which was then an unforgettable gem of the Youth Hostels Association, but which is now in the care of the National Trust. After that we meandered westwards across Hertfordshire, until we arrived in Buckinghamshire and heard that a second atomic bomb had been dropped, this one on Nagasaki. The halfway point of our tour was the hostel at Speen where we stayed for three nights, the maximum allowed.

The only promise my parents had demanded was that we did not ride our bikes into London, so we cycled to High Wycombe railway station on Tuesday morning, August 14. We put our machines in the left luggage office for a small charge and caught a train to Paddington where we were met by an uncle who was working for the Air Ministry.


My relative introduced us to some of the principal sights and we went for lunch at the Lyons Corner House, in The Strand, near Trafalgar Square. At about 2 p.m. we emerged into the street to find the Second World War had ended and the impromptu celebrations began.

The memory of servicemen and women of many nations, with civilians young and old, demonstrating their joy in every way imaginable has never left me. Every lamp-post seemed to be climbed by someone and streets were littered like a New York tickertape parade.

Unfortunately, at 4 p.m. we had to catch the train back to High Wycombe so that we were sure to be at Speen before the hostel curfew. The next day we began the journey home on our bicycles again and we arrived in Yorkshire in time for the real VJ Day celebrations.

The next time I was in London was five years later, as a soldier working at the Royal Army Medical College in Millbank.


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CZERWINSKI Beatty

Days Gone By - the Sheffield Blitz

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Beatty Czerwinski (nee Garrett)
Location of story: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Norman Wigley of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Mrs Beatty Czerwinski.

When the blitz came to Sheffield, I was 10 years old. We lived in Hannover St. Sheffield, near the bottom of Ecclesall Rd. We lived in a big house that had been converted into flats.

When the sirens went on Thursday night (12 December 1940), it was about 7.00 to 7.30 pm. We had had lots of false alarms before, but could tell this was a real raid – we could hear lots of bangs. My brother came home and said it was a purple alert (the highest level), so we went into the shelter which was part of the house and was reinforced.

For about an hour we could hear lots of bombing and could hear screaming. We then heard that most of the street was on fire and we had to leave the shelter and come into the street – everything was ablaze. We were taken by the Home Guard to the bottom of Hannover St., and just down Ecclesall Rd., there was a shelter under a furniture store but this was flooded. We went back up Ecclesall Rd. to a shelter near the Star Picture House.

The morale in the shelter was great. Everyone was singing. I had no shoes on – just a coat over my nightgown and I was freezing – it was a clear, crisp, frosty night.

The all-clear sounded about 4.30 am., but we had nowhere to go because we discovered our flat had been totally blitzed. We found accommodation with a friend on Clarence St. We could only stay until Sunday because a time bomb had been found at Viner's Cutlery Works nearby. We went to my auntie's at Havelock St. and we had just got settled when there was a further big raid on Sunday night, which luckily missed the city centre.

We then found rooms somewhere until the Council found us a place at Parson Cross.

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COPLEY Frank

My War Work...Pharmaceutical supplies and Photography

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Frank Copley
Location of story: Nottingham
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Frank Copley.

My War Work...Pharmaceutical supplies and Photography
By Frank Copley

I was born on the 3rd of February 1914, into a family of metal workers, in Sheffield.

My Father, then in his thirties, volunteered and enlisted for the army, serving in WWI. He was wounded and returned to Blighty, recovered and went back to the front with the Black Watch regiment. Again, he was invalided out and spent the final months of his service looking after POW's on the Curragh, in Ireland. I was invalided out too, hospitalised during my early years, with pleurisy, as a result of double pneumonia, a serious thing then.

Too young to appreciate the significance of my Father's absence, I now realize how hard it must have been for Mother, with two growing boys in their teens, me poorly, and expecting another child, my sister, born 1916.

They were tough times. My father came back to his job in the foundry. He spoke little of his wartime experiences but his love of music, especially opera, and walking in the countryside, became firmly established then, as if to erase the memories. We grew up, my sister and I, happily enough. I was considered 'delicate' until, in my teens, I acquired a bicycle. Cycling was the 'making' of me, my sister maintains. Indeed it did build up my strength, both physically and spiritually. I do recall, it was a bit later though, we'd think nothing of cycling to the coast and back, from Sheffield I mean.

I had finished school at fourteen and been employed for two years as an office boy for a firm of printers and stationers. I rather enjoyed it, but as soon as you got to sixteen you were too expensive. You were finished and they'd start again with a younger boy.

And so at seventeen - I had energy and enthusiasm in abundance, but no work. The queues at the Labour Exchange in the late 1920's and 1930's were legendary; I joined them. Father knew one of the officials in the Employment Office. He lived nearby.
The prospect locally was bleak, he admitted to my father, ".....however, there is a chance of work for lads your Frank's age, if they're prepared to leave home."

Of course, any excuse for an adventure. I packed my bags and travelled, with other boys, down to London by rail. My 'chance' was a government-sponsored scheme for young men, from areas of the country where unemployment was causing economic and social deprivation. Regions like the industrial Midlands, the North East and Wales.

We were given board and lodging and began an induction course at a designated training centre. From there, we were individually selected for a variety of 'trades', where young labour was needed.
I went into glass; to be specific, glass for neon lighting, at that time an innovative science. We learned how to heat, blow and bend glass tubing, into words and images, and then to fill it with various gases, to give the different colours. It was mainly for the advertising industry.
We used to compete among ourselves to see who could make a "Burton's" (the tailors) sign the quickest. They were great days. I made some good mates of the lads I was set on with.

Of course London was quite something. I loved exploring. Later, I would pride myself on acting as an expert tour guide for visiting friends and relatives. And I'd be sure to show them, in Piccadilly Circus, a big neon clock on one of the buildings, all lit up at night. I had a hand in making that!

Then the War came. Naturally there was no call for neon. Total blackout was the thing. We had to re-think, 'diversify', I believe, is the modern term. We had the skills, to cut, mould and finish glass tubing. We had the will, to work for the War effort. The answer? Glass pipettes, ampoules, and a 'dropper', for medicines needing to be administered in minute quantities. A disposable dispenser with an easy snap off top, essentially, light and portable, for the administering of a measured dose of liquid, usually to be injected. Speedy and trouble free access to necessary drugs was to be imperative in the theatre of war.

Up until now, these goods had been imported from Germany and France. They had been made by hand in relatively small quantities.
The industry needed a manufacturing home base. It needed a means by which to produce these things in quantity, without losing quality. I had always been inventive and this notion was a challenge to which I rose with enthusiasm. I designed and built gas-fired machines to cut, heat, shape and finish glass pipettes and ampoules, from long lengths of glass tubing. Two of us, my partner on the clerical, myself on the practical side, established a going concern, supplying the pharmaceutical companies with these items.

We were then in Portsmouth, increasingly threatened by enemy bombardment. This, and the fact that Boots of Nottingham was our biggest customer, persuaded us that to re-locate there would be to our advantage. It was a good move. The business grew. We rented factory space in the Swiss Mills, an old lace mill in Beeston, on the outskirts of the City, and employed a team of cheerful local women to operate the machines and pack the produce. However, that wasn't our family's only contribution to the war effort. The front room of our home in Beeston became a temporary photographic studio. I had always had a keen interest in photography and began in a small way, offering a service to POW's billeted nearby. They wanted pictures of themselves to send to loved ones, back home.
We set up a little venture, my wife, my sister and I.

I took, developed and printed the photographs. My wife Nellie and sister Ida finished and mounted them onto card. Sometimes they would hand colour them.
It was hard work but rewarding, the men were so grateful. On occasion we would continue well into the night to satisfy demand.

Ida recalls the nightmare of transcribing the unpronounceable foreign names, for the necessary paperwork. She would ask the prisoners to write them down. Most of them spoke not a word of English. Most were bemused and bewildered. We had been extremely fortunate to escape direct involvement in the War (Ida had been in the Sheffield Blitz but that's to be her story).

They were ordinary men, with families, just like us. We were pleased to be able to offer in this small way, a facility to enable them to re-assure their people back home that they were alive and well. The photographs of course came to an end, at least in that context. I continued with amateur photography, enjoying the advent of transparencies and cine.
The business continues to this day (December 2005), my sons and grandson have, in their turn diversified, into electronic laboratory equipment for the testing of pharmaceutical products. Their horizons are now global. My modified (many times over the years) machines for manufacture have gone, but they lasted well into the 1990’s!
It's true to say that little bit of 'war effort' had long lasting influence on our lives, indeed was the basis of our subsequent livelihoods for at least three generations.

I'm ninety-two next. Times have changed, some aspects for the better, some not. My daughter assures me that stories like mine have a place in history. You didn't think you were making history at the time but it's all part and parcel of where we are today.


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CORBRIDGE Herbert

Marshall St. in the Blitz

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Mr. Herbert Corbridge
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian



This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Anne Payne of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mr. H. Corbridge.

Mr. Corbridge remembers the Sheffield Blitz and said, “I remember the explosions when we were in the cellar of our house. It was just like a whirl-wind going through. I was round the corner from Marshall St. when the delayed action bomb went off. The houses were completely flattened and they were digging bodies out of the cellars. It was terrible. I knew some of the people who had been killed, including one girl who I used to go to school with. Another lady, Mrs. Beatson, had been visiting her daughter when the delayed action bomb went off after the Blitz and both were killed. I also remember another time when going to work at J.P.Hindley’s on Meadow St., I was on my push-bike with a tiny light on and I was stopped by a copper and told to turn it off and walk.”

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CRABTREE Derrick

A 13yr old's Memory of the End of Japanese Hostilities.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Derek Crabtree
Location of story: Otterburn to London

 


This story is intended to show how rapidly the war ended - through the eyes of a 13-years-old boy.

My most memorable cycle ride was in the summer school holiday of 1945.

My parents allowed me much more freedom than a 13-year-old boy would expect today. After attending the camp for Hanson Scout Troop (9th Bradford East) at Otterburn, near Malham, for a week, I was permitted to set off for a fortnight’s cycling tour with Jeffrey Aston, another boy in my class.

We had planned the route so that every night we could sleep at a youth hostel. Advanced booking vouchers had been bought at the local cycle shop and we reserved accommodation and meals at hostels about 50 miles apart.

On the first day we pedalled from our homes in Bradford to the hostel at Tickhill, near Doncaster. We continued the next day along the Great North Road to Grantham. The following morning we bought a newspaper and learned of the splitting of the atom and of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

We knew that a former pupil of our school, Sir Edward Appleton, was Britain’s chief scientist during the war, but it was not until later that we grasped fully the implications of what we learned that morning in Grantham.

We were accompanied on the next leg of the journey by a fellow hosteller from North of the Border, who objected to being called a Scotchman. I have always remembered since that day that he was a Scotsman and that the only Scotch to leave Scotland was whisky.

Our next night was at the famous 18th Century Houghton Mill, near Huntingdon, which was then an unforgettable gem of the Youth Hostels Association, but which is now in the care of the National Trust. After that we meandered westwards across Hertfordshire, until we arrived in Buckinghamshire and heard that a second atomic bomb had been dropped, this one on Nagasaki. The halfway point of our tour was the hostel at Speen where we stayed for three nights, the maximum allowed.

The only promise my parents had demanded was that we did not ride our bikes into London, so we cycled to High Wycombe railway station on Tuesday morning, August 14. We put our machines in the left luggage office for a small charge and caught a train to Paddington where we were met by an uncle who was working for the Air Ministry.


My relative introduced us to some of the principal sights and we went for lunch at the Lyons Corner House, in The Strand, near Trafalgar Square. At about 2 p.m. we emerged into the street to find the Second World War had ended and the impromptu celebrations began.

The memory of servicemen and women of many nations, with civilians young and old, demonstrating their joy in every way imaginable has never left me. Every lamp-post seemed to be climbed by someone and streets were littered like a New York tickertape parade.

Unfortunately, at 4 p.m. we had to catch the train back to High Wycombe so that we were sure to be at Speen before the hostel curfew. The next day we began the journey home on our bicycles again and we arrived in Yorkshire in time for the real VJ Day celebrations.

The next time I was in London was five years later, as a soldier working at the Royal Army Medical College in Millbank.


Pr-BR

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CUTTRISS John 


Contributed by 

Old Whittington Library, Chesterfield

People in story: 

John Cuttriss

Background to story: 

Civilian

Article ID: 

A4144439

Contributed on: 

02 June 2005

I was born in Old Whittington and although very young at the time of WW2 I have many memories. The blackouts spring to mind and the council coming down the street sawing off the railings, the pig bins, collecting pans, scrap metal and the air raid shelters, of going to the panto in Sheffield after the blitz and of brown gum paper on the classroom windows.

One other vivid memory was of my father, George William Cuttriss, he was called up when in his late thirties and served in the Royal Artillery, he had various postings, Pembroke Docks, Falmouth, Romney Marshes, Dover. Latterly at Aldebrugh Suffok where he was engaged with shooting down "Doodlebugs". When he came home on leave he used to sit me on his knee and draw one as well as the guns used to shoot them down.

During the war mother took my brother and I to Nottingham to stay with our Grandmother. I can remember going into a large brick shelter, which was built in the middle of the street, it was quite big and made of reinforced concrete, sufficient to accommodate the whole neighbourhood. We also went on holiday in Norfolk to be near my dad, he met us at Liverpool Street station in London. I can remember travelling to Norwich behind a steam engine called "The City of London" it was a streamlined engine of the L.N.E.R. All engines were painted black during the war years.

When we went to Norfolk we stayed with the family of a friend of my dads who was stationed in Chesterfield with a searchlight battalion. He used to take us down to the nissen huts where they had silhouettes of aeroplanes on the ceiling so that they could recognise them in the searchlights.

When we went to Norfok we stayed in the gamekeepers cottage with the gamekeepers family. This cottage was remote, 2 miles from R.A.F. Swannington. There was no electricity, it was candles to bed and no running water a pump was the only supply. We used to sit up in the bedroom watching the Mosquito aircraft taking off on night raids as well as the Barn Owls raiding the wild life. On one occassion a Mosquito, which was returning from a mission, crashed in a cornfield and caught fire, we all rushed across the field as the fire tenders were coming down from the camp. We found a forage cap and kept it as a souvenir, although I believe it could have belonged to the fire crew.

I was able to return last year although the runway is still visible most of the buildings are derelict.

When the war ended my dad came home and brought two wooden carved Spitfires, all authentically painted, these were placed on the mantle shelf along with two brass ashtrays made from shell cases.

There were of course many parties and as a child I was absolutely fascinated with the collections of memorabilia as soldiers, sailors and airmen returned to "Civi Street", tins full of badges, buttons, shrapnel etc. We also had a wedding to celebrate on our street between a soldier and his Maltese girlfriend who had come back with him to England.

I have many photographs to support my memories and although I cannot recall any shooting or bombing I can remember the drone of the German Bombers going over to Sheffield and of course the sirens.

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DALBY Doris

Elizabeth Street

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Doris Dalby (nee Greener), Margaret Canonville (nee Greener), Thomas Greener and sarah Greener
Location of story: Bradford
Background to story: Civilian

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Doris Dalby (nee Greener).
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Dad served time in the army abroad but was discharged with a perforated eardrum leading to Meniers disease. We lived in Elizabeth Street Bradford West Yorkshire. We two girls were only aged 4 And 2 but
have memories of the British Soldiers and the Italian Prisoners of war using the Swimming Baths that we lived opposite. Both the British and Italian Soldiers used to come to our house and use My Mum’s piano.

Dad also used to paint pictures and frame them, which we believe he possibly sold to the soldiers to make ends meet. I myself have very little memory of this but my sister has filled in the gaps.
Later on the British soldiers were sent on their duty to fight abroad but the boat was torpedoed and sadly all the soldiers were killed.
Being the war days, money was very tight. My Dad was a master joiner so all our toys we got for Birthdays and Christmas he made himself. I can remember us both being so proud of our little wooden dolls that had a beautifully painted face and arms and legs that moved. To top this off we both had a wooden pram to push our dolls about in. We were very lucky girls.

Rations were scarce during the war and Mum was allowed clothing coupons and Ration Books for our weekly food. We had dried eggs, powdered milk and bread was 4 1/2d a loaf. I can remember queuing with Mum for four hours to get the 2/6d from the relief fund building. As a child it was just Mum getting money, but now I know this was embarrassing for her and other families in the same situation.
We can both remember having to go into the cellar when the sirens came. This I can only remember as being a little scary and still not too keen on cellars to this day. We can also remember having to carry a gas mask at all times. Times in the cellar seemed endless; we could be down there all night until the bombs ceased. If we were outside and the sirens came we had to make it to the nearest air raid shelter.

When I was at school, the evacuees that came to Bradford, stayed with some of our teachers at their homes.
I have great memories of watching Mum making some buns, this was a real treat (buns were not on our regular daily diet). We then took the buns outside, all the neighbours got together, each family brought what food and treats they could. There were buntings flying and Street parties were held everywhere.

This I can remember well, not really knowing the occasion but every child likes a party.
Now we know that this was the end of the war, fondly known now as VE Day.


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DALE Douglas

Douglas Dale Evacuee – A Sixty-Five Year Connection

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: DOUGLAS DALE
Location of story: WEST YORKSHIRE LEEDS & COPMATHORPE
Background to story: Civilian

 

I was born in Bayswater Street, Leeds 8, in November 1930 and was 8 yrs old when the war broke out. I was sent off as an evacuee with the second wave in Spring 1940, leaving our school Harehills on Roundhay Road with our gas masks in boxes, a big label on to tell who we were, a tiny bag of spare clothes and our ration book. Some cried but most laughed and got on with it.

I first billeted with Mrs. Renee Sanderson, her small son David and another evacuee from Leeds. Renee was wonderful, the house was wonderful with a big garden, a tree and chickens, and a great big bathroom and kitchen. It was a first for me. Mrs. Sanderson baked lovely cakes and was quite firm, but very nice and fair. She laughed a lot, although her husband was away in the forces. I had a hernia at the time and wore a truss to hold my lump in, a bit of a handicap but I managed.

For some reason, after about six months, I was moved to another billet across the village, to a Mrs. Sutton who was not too happy a person. She never baked or gave me any sweet things. So I began going back to Mrs. Sanderson’s, where I always had some cake again. From Mrs. Sutton’s I could watch at night when the horizon was lit up by the big blitz on Hull in the East; it looked awful.

After about a year, three or four of us decided to walk home, setting off for Leeds on the A64, but we tired, got downhearted and turned back at the Buckles Inn. As Leeds did not suffer much bombing, the evacuees began to go home and I returned in the summer of 1941 to a different house in Leeds,It was in Nowell Crescent. I remember soon afterwards going into Leeds General
Infirmary for an operation on my hernia – or rupture – as we used to call it. The ward was full, as there was a lot of injured folk from Hull and I was put in a bed that was lined up the middle of the ward, it was so full.

By this time, late 1941, my Dad was in the Home Guard and was issued with a Lee Enfield 303 rifle and sent to guard Arthington Rail Viaduct, two nights a week. The viaduct carried the railway link from Leeds to Harrogate over the river Wharfe Valley. When my eldest brother, Kenneth was eighteen, he took over from Dad in the Home Guard. He was a railway fireman and so was not called up. Leeds was very lucky and only had the odd bomb dropped on it. When this did happen, we lads would go out next day looking for shrapnel souvenirs. We always used to be on the look out for Victory V lozenges too which were the only substitute we could find for sweets. Fish and chips were also a big treat when available, as no ration points were needed. Times were supposed to be hard but it was the same for everyone so we didn’t notice.

I have kept in touch with Renee Sanderson over all the intervening years, she came to my wedding and all my children have been to see her at some time. I still visit her every time I am near York, and Renee will be 100 years old this year. She still manages to live alone with just a bit of help and still bakes her sons a Christmas cake each.

A truly lovely lady – and I am proud to have met and known her well.


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DARBY Harry

Harry Darby, Too Young to Serve

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Harry Darby
Location of story: Sheffield
Unit name: Parachute Regiment and Tank Regiment
Background to story: Army

 

Harry joined the parachute regiment despite being under age; he was 16 or 17. During one of his jumps he broke his leg and it was then that his true age was discovered. He was thrown out for being under age. This however did not deter him and he then joined the Tank Regiment, though he was still under age.

Whilst driving a tank during the war, he went over a land mine that exploded.
Harry was trapped, by his leg, in the tank and could only be freed from the wreckage by chopping off his leg with an axe. Upon reaching hospital he had to have both legs amputated above the knees, leaving only a short stump on each. He was still only 19 years old.

Later in life Harry worked in the maintenance stores at RAF Norton and in the control room at the Sheffield Fire Service. He maintained his interest in athletics through the Sheffield Disabled Ex-Serviceman's Association and was in the Fire Brigade Bowling Team.

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DARBYSHIRE Walter

My War from the Inside

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Walter DARBYSHIRE
Location of story: "Thorn" Camp 13XXA, Camp 35 at Guttowitz, Shippenstadt
Unit name: Duke of Wellington Regiment
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Olga Darbyshire.
My War from the Inside

By
Walter Darbyshire

The Duke of Wellington Regiment

I joined the Army in January 1940, in The Duke of Wellington Regiment, and after ten weeks' training and an issue of a 1914 rifle, five rounds of ammunition and a gas mask, we embarked for France on the Manxman, and duly arrived in Cherbourg. We were transported to somewhere near Nantes, where we were under canvas, and received a few more weeks' toughening up training.

Suddenly, we were dispatched by Army trucks, obviously towards the action, and we passed, on the way, thousands of refugees, fleeing back the way that we had come. We saw evidence all the time of the devastation caused by the German 5th Column and the Luftwaffe, we and the refugees were continually strafed from the air, but most of us did eventually arrive at Abbeville. Here we were ordered to dig in, facing an expected German attack, incidentally, still with only the same five rounds of ammunition. Somewhere along the line, I managed to acquire an anti-tank rifle, no ammunition of course, so it was never any use to me.

We did not have long to wait before, over the horizon, appeared numerous German tanks, closely followed by the Infantry. All hell was then let loose and, as you will know by the War Office Records, most of our Battalion was wiped out. The best we could do was to keep our heads down and pray. Eventually we got an order from somewhere, "every man for himself", so, along with the remaining four members of my own Platoon, we managed to head Northwards, away from the advancing Germans. We never, ever, saw a British tank and only one aeroplane, which, incidentally, was shot down.

We roamed about France for what must have been two to three weeks. We managed to avoid various groups of Germans, because by now of course, we had not got one round of ammunition between the five of us. We slipped up once and one of our group got shot dead. The other four of us eventually managed to make our way to Dieppe, only to find the harbour was blocked, so no boats.

We wandered down the coast to Le Havre, no boats again. The end was now in sight, we had joined up with a group of French soldiers and then, one morning, once more German Panzers came thundering towards us, we could do no more than surrender. The young German troops came up to us, took our rifles and smashed them in two on the ground, then led us to an area where they had some more prisoners. One of the Germans gave me a cigar and, in quite good English, he said, "For you, Tommy, the war is over." This, I think, was 12 June 1940. We were all then taken somewhere, I cannot remember where, to be interrogated. I do not think this was very awful, but I cannot really remember much about it.

During the next few weeks, we were marched, and transported in various ways, through Belgium on foot, through Holland by railway, through the streets, through France mostly on foot, and through Germany on foot and in cattle trucks, also partly up the River Seine in a barge, like cattle, through to Poland. We were issued with very little food and had to rely on what we could either steal or were given on the side by various civilians. I, personally, was once stabbed with a bayonet, whilst being seen accepting food from a French girl.

I finally arrived at what was classed as a permanent camp, which we called "Thorn" Camp 13XXA, which in fact, was an old fort. There was also nearby a Camp 13A, where I also had a short spell. Conditions here were atrocious, food was very scarce, a day's ration being one slice of black bread, one very small piece of either sausage, cheese or margarine and one bowl of very watery soup, if you had an old rusty tin, or even a tin hat to collect it in, and plenty of ersatz coffee, with no milk or sugar.

Things of any value that anyone had left by this time, e.g. gold rings, watches, etc., were exchanged, whenever the opportunity arose, with civilians, for, perhaps, a slice of bread or something similar. We were sent out occasionally on small working parties, doing such jobs as unloading railway trucks of cement or other similar commodities. I remember one particular time I was with a small working party, unloading foodstuffs, e.g. biscuits, etc., and, of course, even though we were always searched before being allowed back into the camp, we could not miss an opportunity like that. By devious means, we usually managed to get the spoils back into the camp. This particular time, I was not so fortunate and was caught. I was taken before the Commandant and given fourteen days' solitary confinement, which was in small cells within the fort and all you got each day was one slice of black bread and a bowl of ersatz coffee.

Following the solitary confinement, we struggled on for, I would imagine, somewhere round about six or seven months, when, along with about thirty or so other men, I was moved to Camp 35 at Guttowitz. Although this Camp left a lot to be desired, we did begin to live a bit. The beds were three tier bunks, with - straw palliasses, which were not too hygienic, as by this time, the first lice were beginning to appear, no doubt due to malnutrition and the filthy conditions that we were living in.

There were some cold showers in this Camp, but at first we had no soap, and not even a change of underclothing. We were issued with wooden clogs and foot rags but not much else. This Camp housed, I would guess, about 500 or 600 men, most of whom went out daily in working parties. I was sent with a party to a works called Junker & Rube, and this was where we came into our own a bit by being able to perform numerous small acts of sabotage. I was put to work on a milling machine, which I had never done in my life before, so it came quite easy to spoil about 50% of the work. Of course, I was taken off this job and put with the labouring gang.

One job we had was to take up, from their concrete bases, some rather large Skoda machines and load them on to railway trucks for transportation into Germany but we took off various plates, etc., and filled up the inside workings of the machines with sand, bricks, etc., and so it went on until, once again, I was punished for not working hard enough.

I was sent to work in an Army Quartermaster's Depot where I was told I would have to work hard because it was supervised by all army personnel, no civvies, but I did not do too badly here, as there was quite a lot of food loading and unloading to do and, by now, we were experts at stealing, concealing and smuggling all sorts of things, especially food, into the Camp and, apart from being shot at once (he missed), and once being caught with a loaf of bread for which, I think, I got one week solitary, I did all right and was even able to feed my friends.

It would be around this time, early 1941, that the first Red Cross and St. John food parcels started to arrive and I am convinced that these saved many POWs lives. We were supposed to receive one parcel each week, but sometimes it would be three or four weeks, and even as long as three months sometimes, but then we sometimes got as many as three or four parcels each and fifty cigarettes with each. Also, at this time, mail from home was arriving more regularly, censored, of course, and also parcels of clothing, etc., which was a god-send, soap was an item that was greatly appreciated because we could at last clean ourselves up better. Lice had now become a very serious problem. The Germans used to take us, once every few months, to Konitz to be de-loused and, though this was a relief, it did not last very long.
Quite a lot of POWs were now becoming mentally affected, I remember that at least two in my own Camp were. One I remember, was an exceptionally tall man, over seven feet, he was of course a Guardsman. Even the Germans were humane enough to grant him double food rations, such as they were, but unfortunately his mind went and he went over-religious. He used to wander around our quarters, preaching etc., and he even used to walk out to the front of the parade on roll call, to preach. The Germans humoured him for a few days but, eventually, he was taken away. Another man's mind went and he thought he was a tough cowboy, he was always shooting it out with someone.

He also was taken away. We never saw either of them again. So life went on at Guttowitz for the next three years or more. We managed to smuggle into the camp, radio parts, obtained from the Polish civilians, whilst out on working parties, and some of the radio engineers amongst us managed to assemble a radio, on which we used to receive the news in English from, I think, Russia. Although this was not always good news, at least it was a link with our own forces and better than the propaganda that we used to get.

Naturally, we had to keep the radio well hidden but we had it for four years before the Germans finally found it. We also started concert parties, variety, plays, etc., and we got quite a decent band together and, over the years, put on some quite good shows. Even the Germans used to come to see them and they used to stand up for "God Save The King". We also formed six-a-side football teams and had a small league. We used to play the matches in the compound, inside the wire, naturally. Playing cards of course, were constantly used and we nearly all became experts at playing Solo.

Life was often disrupted by the cry of "Aller-ous", "Appel", someone had escaped again and we were then kept outside for hours whilst they counted and re-counted us. They also went inside and tipped, all over the floor, our few belongings and any Red Cross food, etc., which we had left. We did-not mind all this. The worst part was, that 99 times out of 100, our comrade was either re-captured or shot and in either case, we never saw him again. The best escapes were the properly organised ones, where we used to save all the German money we could lay our hands on and, when we had acquired enough, the escape was all arranged with civilian escape organisations and, from what we were told, these were nearly always successful.

Twice I was sent away to smaller Camps for a few months at a time, one of these I remember, was a village called Rittel. These camps housed approximately 100 men; and mostly were much easier going than the large Camps. The work consisted of clearing a way through the woods and levelling the ground for a motor-way, which we were told, would run from Danzig to Berlin.

So time slowly passed by, up to about the beginning of December 1944, when the worst period of all started. One morning, we were told, "Get together whatever you can carry", and we were then marched away towards Germany. We joined up with more POWs I think from Marienberg, making a column of, I would imagine, over 1,000 men. We were marched, or should I say shuffled, usually between 15 and 30 kilometres a day and then herded into some large building, barn or even in the open in perhaps, a football stadium, or similar. The weather of course, was freezing cold with snow and ice, and many nights we just flopped down on to the ground and slept. Frost-bite and dysentery were rife and we were never issued with any food at all, neither for that matter, were the German guards. We obviously were moving away from the advancing Russians and, if we had not been in such a weak state, it would probably have been our best chance, ever, to escape, but it was as much as we could do, even to keep moving.

The only food we had was what we could steal. Fields of any sort of food, cabbages, potatoes, etc., completely disappeared as we passed, so did pig swill or anything at all that was eatable. Men died through various reasons, pneumonia, dysentery, etc., or were even shot because they could no longer keep up with the column. I, personally, had one period of eight days without either food or drink, except for sucking snow and ice. I remember we once stopped near a river and the guards allowed us to take our clothes off and get into the river for a bath of sorts. This was the only time we had our clothes off in this period of about four months.

Looking back, one thing that does make me smile, is when I think of my pal at this time. He hung on to his toothbrush, of all things, and every day he used to brush his teeth with snow. I think we must all have been round the bend.

Anyway, quite a lot of us managed to survive and, after covering probably about 1,000 miles, we eventually arrived at a small town called Shippenstadt, where we were put into a large farm building, which, I remember, had a lot of sacks of potatoes in it. These, of course, were immediately eaten.

It was now either the end of March or the beginning of April 1945, and we had kept hearing little bits from some of the guards that the war was nearing an end and that the Russians were quite near. We were not moved this particular day, and I think it was about mid-day when over the hill tanks appeared, firing, so down on the ground we got, but this time we were delighted, because we could see they were American tanks. The Germans threw down their arms and were taken prisoner. The American soldiers gave us the small amount of food they had with them. They were only a small advance party and they told us to scatter around the nearby houses and acquire food and anything else that we needed, but we did not need telling, we were off. We fed ourselves well and thankfully, got cleaned up. Then we waited as more American troops. arrived.

After a few days, they got us all transported, by truck, to Hildersheim Airfield, where we were well looked after, and for the first time, we sent home an uncensored letter. I recall having American doughnuts for the first time, it was heaven.

Eventually, we were flown to Brussels, where we were thoroughly cleaned up I weighed just over six stones, and were issued with brand new uniforms, underclothes, etc. We then went to Ostedd and, by boat, to England. All our clothing was once more burned and we were issued with all new again. It was like being in Heaven, but the only thing in my mind was to get home, which of course, I did and I think it was the last day in April 1945.

I was granted eight weeks leave, after which I had to report to Otley in Yorkshire, where I was given a thorough medical examination and was down-graded to "B.2", so I had to transfer out of the Infantry and I joined the "REs" as a Driver. After moving around England and Wales, I was finally demobilised at Hereford in February 1946.

MY THOUGHTS TODAY
First of all, 1 do not hate the Germans. There are, and I have seen good and bad in every nation. After my first year out of the Services, l began to feel more settled and, as my health has stood up OK up to now, all in all 1 consider myself rather fortunate. 1 am now 63, have taken early retirement, 1 have a very good wife and I am enjoying life very much.
W. DARBYSHIRE

 

 

 DAVIES Gillian 

Evacuation from Leeds. An excerpt from "Thirties Child", the memoirs of Walter Bradbourne

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Walter Bradbourne
Location of story: Leeds, Otley, West Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Gillian Davies.

Evacuation from Leeds. An excerpt from "Thirties Child", the memoirs of Walter Bradbourne

by
Gillian Davies

I didn't sleep much the last night at home, before my evacuation day. Perhaps it was the uncertain circumstances surrounding this "holiday" adventure. I was awake when Dad came in to see me at around 4am. He gave me a big hug, saying, "Be good son, good luck and be brave". Dad was on early shift at Sammy's (Samuel Ledgard buses). But why should I be brave?

On reflection, it must have been very upsetting for Dad to say goodbye in this manner, knowing that when he returned home from work I would not be there. Nor would he know where I was. I'm so glad that I never had to do anything so devastating and psychologically draining when my two little girls, Gillian and Joanne, were young. There was no counselling for anyone in the war years, people just had to get on with life.

Mam gave me a cal! at about 5.30am. I was soon washed and dressed and downstairs. Mam went through my carrier bag of clothes for me to see what I was taking. It didn't seem much, a paper bag with a string handle, to take on holiday. However she assured me that I had everything that was on the list. She then asked me to repeat my identity card number, which I had been learning parrot fashion for weeks. "KNYF/63/3" I said smartly. She gave me a big hug, "Very good, love". We caught the number 50 bus at about 7.30am and Dot (my older sister) came along to see me off. She was on the afternoon shift at the GPO. The bus was full and I had to stand all the way to Leeds so I was glad when we arrived at the Town Hall.

When we turned the comer into Calverley Street we were surprised to see hundreds of adults and children congregating around 30 or so single deck buses. It was absolute chaos. Adults scurried around, children dawdled, worried mothers and harassed officials with clip- boards trying to sort everyone out and place them on the correct bus. Some children were excited, others, their little faces pale, bemused and obviously afraid. All were clutching an assortment of bags, bundles, and the inevitable gas mask.

It was quite some time before Mam found a lady that had my name on her list. I was "ticked off" and given two luggage labels to write my name and school on. Then, as instructed, Mam fastened one label in my top left buttonhole on my raincoat and the other on my paper carrier bag. Yet another Evacuation Official came and checked me over before disappearing into the crowd.
Mam was getting a bit upset by this time; it was 10.30 by the Town Hall clock, over two hours since we had arrived.

Some of the buses were Sammy Ledgard's and I asked Mam if Dad would be here. "No; she said, "He's on the Bradford service this week".

At last, a somewhat buxom lady shouted for my group to go to bus 15. As we approached we had to form a single file. Mam and Dot gave me a big kiss. I was checked again and the list was ticked as I climbed the bus steps. The two front seats were reserved, one for the teacher and official and the other was stacked high With paper carrier bags similar to mine.
I finished up towards the rear of the bus and was lucky to get a window seat so I had a good View of Mam and Dot, which I was glad about.

Soon, another boy sat beside me. He was very thin and pale faced and didn't look at all happy. He told me his name was Ray and that his mother had been unable to escort him to town because she had to work. I felt very sorry for him (he had travelled to Leeds With another boy and his mother). Looking around the bus there were many strange faces. Clearly, not everyone was from Kirkstall Road School, including Ray.

Our destination was unknown. Although Mam and the other parents had repeatedly asked the officials for information, the answer was always the same "When they arrive at their destination you will be informed".

Drivers were now starting their engines and very slowly the convoy snaked its way past the Civic Hall. I gave Mam and Dot a big wave and they waved back. Both were crying. In fact all the ladies in the crowd we passed were crying. Why? After all, we were only going on holiday weren't we?
I thought at first that all the buses were going the same way but they soon started going in different directions. Soon there were only two buses in front of ours and we seemed to be following them.

The teacher came down the bus giving everyone another paper carrier bag. They were from the stack on the front seat and inside there was some tinned food, a tin of Carnation milk and a bar of chocolate. We were told that this must be handed to the person we were going to live with.
I was getting very hungry by now and had a look in my carrier bag. Mam had packed me a large pack of salad sandwiches and some chocolate. I started to eat and asked Ray why he wasn't eating. He told me that his Mam had not had time to pack anything up for him so I let him have some of mine and he was overjoyed. He started talking more now, before he was very subdued. I also shared my chocolate with him. I felt so sorry for Ray, he obviously needed support and I would have to help him as much as possible.

Our bus started to slow down and I could see that the two in front had also stopped. A teacher from the bus in front came running towards ours and had a chat with our teacher. "Would anyone like to go to the toilet?" she shouted down the bus. All the hands went up! What a great idea! The boys left the bus first and went behind a hedgerow. The girls were taken across the road and into some dense woodland. Our "adventure holiday" had made most of us forget about the call of nature!

We were soon on our way again and passing through a village. I tried to see it's name however all the signposts were down and other identifying names were covered up for security reasons. One of the older boys said it was Pannal, but I was none the wiser.
We stopped again at another village and kids from the first bus got off; it must have been their destination.

Ray and I ate the bars of chocolate from the tinned food carriers as our journey seemed never ending.
Eventually we stopped outside a large building that looked like it was a factory. We were told to get off the bus and line up in twos. It was check time again and the teacher made sure we had our gas masks and personal belongings.

The last few children from the bus in front were now filing through a large doorway a few yards away. Three large stem looking ladies came out of the door and talked to the teacher from our bus. They were wearing yellow armbands that read "Evacuation Billeting Officer". The clip- board with our names on was handed over and we were told we would be following the other children shortly. As we started to move towards the large doors Ray and I were last in line; it was the way we had filed off the bus. On entering the building I was surprised to see iron railings on each side of us and there was a lot of noise ahead, shouting and general commotion. We were lead into a clearing that was almost circular: it reminded me of the circus ring I had seen when Mam and Dad took me to the circus on Woodhouse Moor. Men and women were shouting and pointing from the other side of the railings at the children in front of us. "I'll take that one", "I’ll have her", "I only want one, not two", "I want that lad; "I’ll take that girl but not her sister" and so it went on.

Eventually those chosen were led away with their prospective foster parents, though many were in tears, especially where brother and sister had been parted. Meanwhile Ray and I and two giris were asked to walk around the ring again, being the only ones not to be picked. It would appear that nobody wanted us as the four of us were led away to a comer of the building where we joined other children that had also not been chosen.

We sat on a type of bench seat, raised up above the ring. I looked round at the two girls that nobody wanted; they were sisters, both had runny noses and wore steel rimmed spectacles.
Some of the lads had spotty faces and I wondered if these were the reasons for not being picked - but Ray and I had none of these features so what was wrong with us?

We were glad that there was a toilet near to where we were sitting as we were able to get a drink from the tap in there by cupping our hands together, the first drink we had since leaving home. It wasn't that long before more men and women started to fill the outside of the ring. I looked in my carrier for my remaining sandwich. I soon found it, along with another bar of chocolate. Mam must have packed two. I put the chocolate back to have later and Ray and I had half a sandwich each, which we were both ready for; it had been a long day and it wasn't over yet.

Some more children were led into the ring, just as we had been. We had a very good view of the proceedings from our vantage point. The evacuees started walking round the ring amidst all the shouting. The older boys were chosen first by men who were obviously farmers, then the older girls were chosen by the women. There were fierce arguments between both men and women, pushing each other and shouting such things as "I said I'd have that one before you did". Two women were almost coming to blows over one child and it was only the intervention of two billeting officers that prevented a fight.

We both watched in total amazement at this awful spectacle.
One little girl remained standing there, alone. Everyone else had been chosen this time except her. The tears began to well up and she sobbed and sobbed. A lady took pity on her however and she was led away by her new "Mum".
I was beginning to have grave doubts about this so- called holiday now. Then again, Mam had said that I would be OK and she was never wrong; I had great faith in her. On the other hand, Dad had bold me to be brave, which made me worry a bit.

Soon everyone had left the cattle market (for now I know that is what it was) and the three Billeting Officers came over to those of us that were left. They told us we were in Otley, though none of us were any the wiser. I had never heard of Otley before; the time that the bus had taken to get us here made it seem as though we were a hundred miles from home. Of course I now know that the bus had gone via Wetterby and Harrogate to arrive there.
We were checked again and then lined up in the now customary twos before being led out to a waiting bus. I think there were about thirty of us and we all boarded the bus along with the Billeting Officers.

After a short ride of about ten minutes, the bus stopped and ten children and a Billeting Officer got off. Another ten minutes journey and this was repeated. Our ride was much longer but soon the inevitable happened and we were off the bus. We stood on the grass verge whilst the Billeting Officer checked her list again. Looking around, the place seemed OK with lots of trees and fields. We were soon walking up a road that led into an estate of private houses. The Billeting Officer would leave us waiting in suspense at each garden gate whilst she knocked on the house door and inquired in a stem voice "Will you take an evacuee?" She was quite intimidating in her manner, buxom, and wore a hat with a large feather in it very much like an Austrian Tyrol forester!

The first few houses were unable to take any of us, for whatever reason, and the Billeting Officer became somewhat annoyed and started telling people that it was their duty to help the war effort. We fared better in the next street as six of our party were taken in. Ray and I found ourselves last in line again and we were feeling very tired now. Both my hands and my fingers were sore and painful from the string handles on my carrier bags. I pulled my coat sleeves down to cover my hands to try and protect them a bit but the string kept slipping back.
Only one evacuee got a home in the next street, leaving just the three of us. Soon there was just Ray and me.

We walked up and down the next street without success and I could see that Ray was getting upset. He was almost in tears, his bottom tip starting to curl out, so I put my arm around him and said, "Don't worry Ray, if nobody wants us they will have to send us home". With that he cheered up a bit.

It looked as though we were going to be unlucky again in the next street, after six refusals, however it looked more promising when we got to number 8. There was a long discussion and I could hear bits of the conversation about whether one or two could be taken. I feared we would be split up, so when the Billeting Officer said, "Right you two, you will be staying here" it was such a relief. I don’t think we could have gone much further without collapsing.

We both walked slowly down the garden path towards the front door. The lady of the house didn't look at all welcoming as she received the documentation from the Billeting Officer (who left soon after, bidding us goodbye as she went).
We entered the hallway and the door was slammed shut behind us. It was clear that we had been taken in under duress.
She read us the "riot act" and no mistake; her index finger pointed at us both menacingly.
We were not to enter the front room at any time, the sitting room only with permission and must remain seated in the kitchen until told otherwise.

She took our carrier bags and emptied the contents onto the kitchen table whilst Ray and I were still standing on the door- mat waiting to be told where we could put our coats and gas masks. There was a coat stand next to us in the hail, with a mirror in the centre. What a sad state we both looked. We had chocolate stains around our mouths; my cap was twisted round to the left, with most of my hair to the right. Neither of us had been able to wash property since leaving home at ~5am. We felt and looked grubby as we stood watching Mrs Rudd (I think that was her name) sorting through our belongings. All the tinned food was put away in a cupboard and then I was mortified when she ate my bar of chocolate.

Footnote:
Dad was about seven or eight years old when he was evacuated. He and Ray continued to be mistreated by Mrs Rudd. They were often left hungry (despite the increased rations she received for them) and locked away in their bedroom. This culminated in them running away and living rough on the steep escarpment and heath-land that towers above Otley (known as the Chevin). A kindly policeman apprehended them during a desperate food foraging expedition into the town. He took them to the station and gave them a decent meat and then contacted their parents. The authorities dealt with Mrs Rudd.

Dad and Ray kept loosely in touch for a while after their traumatic time together. A short time later he saw a newspaper photograph of Ray with his Mum (she had remarried) and he thought they moved away from Leeds soon after. He never heard of him again.
Dad passed away in February 2005.

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DAVITT Barry

First Two Days In The Army

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Barry Shaun Davitt, Vincent Lawrence Davitt, Army No: 14896004
Location of story: Richmond, North Yorkshire
Unit name: Highland Light Infantry (H.L.I.)
Background to story: Army

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Barry Davitt.
============================================
September/October 1943.

My presence was required at the Green Howards Barracks at Richmond in Yorkshire. Here I was to be incarcerated with the barrack walls for ten weeks. On my final night at home my wife, son and I made our way to our respective parents’ homes on the Manor Estate. Here I said my goodbyes. The following morning I said goodbye to my wife and son and with leaden steps I made my way to the Midland Station. I handed in my travel warrant that had been sent to me and was informed which train I had to board and from which platform.

Trying to recollect that journey still fills me with loathing, at the end of the day I duly arrived at Richmond.

Never mind that ‘slop’ about King and Country it is a load of old codswallop. When they have finished with you, you’re fighting for yourself, King and Country do not exist. This is a battle for survival and you’re the survivor if you are lucky. Things must have been pretty rough when they sent for me, I didn’t have a notion how to win this war for them but I am glad to say it finally came to me in the end and we won. My primary task was to become a civilian as soon as possible but this was easier said than done. They had by devious means and ways landed me in India, China, Hong Kong, I was a long long way from home.



To be a raw recruit is humiliation to say the least. Life seems to have no meaning, there is no margin for error in anything. It seems to be an acknowledged fact to everyone in the British Army who has any authority that the new recruit should know everything about this strange new life that has been thrust upon him. He gets into trouble at every end and turn simply because he does not know and is repeatedly told he should know, and not knowing is no excuse, so begins this strange new life.



Confined to barracks is the first thing he encounters, there is a possibility we may abscond. What an absurd thought! Then the indoctrination begins, we were herded together in the barrack room by a Lance Corporal (this is authority with one stripe). Here we are met by two stripes and they three stripes, the Corporal and the Sergeant. The Sergeant introduced himself to us and then the two Corporals, and impresses on us all that although we are the worst looking bunch of humanity he has had the misfortune to meet he will, without any doubt make soldiers out of us; that’s what he things!, I think but he knows, I don’t. Anyway our first day is spent being inspected by Doctors (sorry M.O’s). The fashion seems to be nudism, we are very rarely dressed.



Somebody wants you to cough, somebody wants to look at something, somebody wants you to pass urine and so it goes on. They are satisfied eventually that you pass every requirement to be a soldier. That is in the way of a body. The next day comes the first taste of wakening, some fool stands out in the middle of the night blowing a bugle and before he has finished some other fool is removing the bedclothes from you. Then begins the realisation that this is the army. Shouting and bawling is the order of the day and out you get, faster than you ever though possible (no bouncing about laid in bed, pretending and trying to kid somebody that you are getting out). “Get ready and be outside in five minutes” nobody knows the time, there are no lights and everyone is trying to get washed and shaved in cold water. We still have our civilian clothes in which we dress and dash out into the pouring rain. A very hoarse voice is shouting to get into line but nobody knows what to do so we huddle together like drowned rats in the dark and try to fathom out if this place isn’t something of an asylum. The man with the three stripes comes tearing out of the darkness and threatens us with violence if we don’t get into line. We are lined up at last and the Sergeant calls our names out and shines a lamp on each man as he answer. He then tells us the time is 6a.m. sorry 06.00 hours and we shall be going for breakfast shortly at precisely 07.00 hours and it is still pouring down with rain and to while away the time he will read the rules and regulations.



Thee is a distinct possibility that the Military Hospital will be overcrowded before 07.00, we will all have got pneumonia. The Sergeant and Corporals have got army top coats and capes on but we are responsible for the rain, so the Sergeant tells us. Why did he have to have an unlucky mis-forgotten lot like us forced upon him. What had he done wrong to this British Army to be treated like this, we began to wonder who had the most misery, we or him. 07.00 hours arrives at last and we are paraded to the Dining Hall, we queue for breakfast, everyone is ready to eat anything. The cooks start shouting to us to get our plates ready. We have no plates or cups, somebody forgot to issue them. Alright get outside and line up. We get outside and line up, it is still pouring down, we are marched to the Stores and here we stand waiting for plates, pots until the storeman arrives at 08.00 hours. During this time the Sergeant and Corporals have left us, the storeman arrives and then tells us he can’t give us anything until the ‘Q’ arrives. What is the ‘Q’ we don’t know, he tells us he will be here at 09.00 hours so we must wait.



The ‘Q’ is a man we find out, actually the Quarter Master Sergeant and he will give us a plate and cup and a knife and fork and spoon, but the storeman says it will not do any good ‘cus you are all too late for breakfast now and it is still pouring down with rain. This is what makes men of us, I think they say. The Q.M. finally arrives at the stores but apparently does not notice us stood in the rain “What have we on for today storeman?” he says. The storeman replies “There is a bunch of Bods outside that wants an issue” (Bods means us). “Somebody wants an issue, where?” “There is going to be trouble for somebody, sending them at this late hour of the day”. This is sarcasm at its best, but as no one will see I am still thinking civilian wise, I am not adapting to my new life. Our Sergeant is sent for by the Q.M. and asks, “What’s the idea parading Bods at this time of the day?” The sergeant replies, “This is the new draft sir, they haven’t been kitted out yet.” “Right Sergeant, get ‘em back here on the double at 10.00 hours.” The sergeant then came out of the stores, lined us up and led us back to the barracks. Inside once more, se discussed among ourselves, “When do we eat? Where are we going to get our clothes dry? What kind of organisation is this? Are they all nuts? How can we escape? What can we do?” We soon found out.



The sergeant and corporals come in carrying wooden boxes, these they open up and hand each men 2 metal ‘eggs’ covered in thick grease. “Righto, clean them for now!” and with a last cautious remark, “If I hear any noise, there’ll be trouble.” The sergeant and corporals disappeared. Why should there be any noise and why should they disappear? Our spirits were more than dampened and all we got for our troubles were two live grenades each and not one piece of rag to clean them with.



It would be noticed that I was shedding my civilian cloak slowly, but surely, how else would I be thinking or *** at a time like that? I began to realise that this could be a dangerous place to be in. No one bothered to explain how to dismantle these things. I could see some of the lads tugging and pulling at the pins in these grenades. I decided to go out in the rain, but what did it matter if it was still pouring down with rain, as long as I could feel it? I began to wonder if that sergeant was a German spy sent to wipe out the ‘Green Howards’ barracks, or did he dislike us so much? The sergeant returned and asked me what I was doing, I told him my thoughts and he said, “The corporals are in there aren’t they?” I said, “No Sergeant, they left with you.” This he must have known but he galloped into the room and shouted to all and sundry, “Put the grenades down while you are all still in one piece.”



Happily, the grease was so thick that no one had been able to get the pins out completely. They managed halfway, but not altogether. After inspecting them all, the sergeant put them back in their boxes and commented bitterly, “If any one of you scruffy lot had done anything clever, I would have gotten a court martial and lost my pension. Him and his pension, all I had was a vision of a gang of civilians being scraped off the walls. All this, and we were to be taught how to kill German. I couldn’t see many of us managing it. So, once more, we lined up outside and marched off to the stores. Here, we finally had our plats, knives, forks and spoons, enamel pots, mess tins, jack knives, shoe brushes, hold alls, gaiters, boots (two pairs), steel helmet, socks, small pack, big pack, ammunition pouches, vests, pants and one pair of woollen gloves each.



Back in the barracks, we sorted ourselves out and were then instructed to put our regimental number on. All this had brought dinnertime along so we lined up with our plate, cup, knife, fork and spoon, and proceeded to the dining hall. There, we queued along the counter and the cook started to serve us our dinner. Plates at the ready, we moved along to receive stew, a spoonful of potatoes, a slice of bread and some tea. We found somewhere to sit and were soon devouring our first mal in the army. An officer came to our table and asked if there were any complaints. We had dozens, but who needs to complain when one is trying to fill an empty stomach. Complaints can come later. We ate our meal in no time at all and asked for more. But there were no second helpings. Did we think we were in the Grosvenor or something? “GET OUTSIDE AND ASH YOUR PLATES!!” etc. We were learning.



Once more, in the barracks, we were issued with little red discs. These had our names and numbers on. We were told to put them on string and wear them around our necks. “If you get killed, we will know who you are!” This was reassuring because we stood a good chance of being blown to bits or starving to death, and it would be good if someone knew who we were. Gradually, we were becoming a part of this great organisation. The afternoon was taken up being given advice on what the morrow held for us, and to me, it held a foreboding. We once again made our way to the dining hall for tea. Once that was over, we thought we had done, just like at home. Once more, we were learning. Some had to scrub the floors, some were held back to clean the dining hall. Some were told to report to the stores, in fact, everybody got a job to do, but we found out that the lucky ones were the ones in the dining hall. The cook gave them bread and dripping, and tea. This was where a man did his only volunteering in the British Army. Night falls and once more, it’s bedtime. Lights out and we turned in. I for one, lay and thought of home, wife and son. Sleep didn’t come too easily; in no time at all, the man with the bugle was at it again and once more, the bedclothes were unceremoniously ripped from our beds. “There must surely be an end to this madness, but where?” I thought. This created a train of thoughts of such things as, what must it be like to be an ex service man? What would it be like down a coalmine? What are they turning us into?



We went to see the tailor; he sized us up and down and shouted a number. A soldier handed us a uniform, which we were told to put on. There were no changing rooms, no privacy, we changed where we stood. Believe me, this was really something. An undersized chap was rigged out in khaki that would fit a six-foot man; a six foot man was dressed in khaki that would fit a five foot man and so on. The tailor, unperturbed, went to each man and made chalk marks on the uniforms. Then the men took their uniforms off and handed them back, supposedly for alterations. Such tailoring you have never seen before. Some were less fortunate, they were told theirs was a good fit and the unpractised eye could only see too well that they’d given the wrong size to everyone. The Germans would die laughing if they could see u. this was meant to demoralise us, surely.



We returned to barracks and proceeded to complete our dressing for now. We were wearing the King’s uniform. They told us the King must have been measured for them, we certainly weren’t. We soon found a way out of the difficulty, by exchanging with one another until we were more or less beginning to look human. Once we ha got everything in the right place, we were ordered outside on the double. We lined up and were marched off to a big hut. There, soldiers were handing out rifles and bayonets. Each man was told, as he got a rifle that this was his best friend and must not be let out of his sight. Wherever he goes, his rifle must go with him and he must memorise the serial number of his rifle. . He must always keep it clean,, inside and out and above all, make sure the safety catch is applied, and never point it at anyone. So much for best man’s friend.



Now, life changed again. From now on, we had to remember our numbers when it was called out. This created a little difficulty at first because we had two long numbers to remember, one for our rifle and one for us. This, we were assured, would come naturally to us after a while. But we doubted it. The next thing we knew, we were at the doctor’s...........sorry, M.O.’s again and we lined up and were requested to roll our shirtsleeves up. This we did, and the M.O. started to do Voodooism. He was sticking needles in everybody’s arms. Some were howling, some were dropping stiff on the floor; others were looking for a way out before it was their turn, but the stalwarts were blocking the door. Tales were circulating that the injections we had had would knock us out in a short time, so everybody was too scared to move out of the room. The sergeant and corporals soon altered that, and we were soon outside where we were paraded to the dentist who vented his spleen onus. By pointing and prodding in our mouths for bad teeth. We were not really fit for anything after this and were wondering how long do we have to be in before we can apply for sick leave, or is this how it feels when you are dying? Once again, the sergeant cures us and we set off at the gallop, back to the barracks. I was glad the sergeant didn’t know what I thought of him or would like to do to him. He was as bad as Hitler.

Well, we were finally kitted out and now the real torture began. I was selected to go to the dentist despite my insistence that my teeth were all right. A small kindly looking youngish man stared into my mouth at my teeth. He asked me how I liked the army, but I don’t think he expected a reply because he had inserted some kind of contraption into my mouth, which kept it wide open whilst he was pointing and jabbing. He also made other remarks about me telling him when it hurt etc. Then he said he would have to drill and put fillings in some of my teeth. I wanted to tell him not to bother but he went right on. My eyes must have told him that my teeth weren’t worth bothering with. I knew I would have to face the facts. This man was not going to be put off for anything, and then he brought the drill. As he drilled, I rose in the chair, gurgling and groaning, but he got the better of me by having a man lay across the chair and another one holding my shoulders from behind. . Smiling at me from time to time, he soon finished drilling and filling and then injected me with cocaine and proceeded to pull one of my teeth. This he did before the cocaine had time to take effect. The result being that I was sent back to the barracks. Here, I was told by the sergeant to change into P.T. kit and get out on a cross-country run. I explained to him that I had just had some teeth pulled out. “GET READY AND GET OUT!!” he shouted, so I did. Clad in a sweater, P.T. shorts, socks and army boots, I set off with the rest through the town and across country. Thirty miles (or so it seemed) we ran and as I stumbled back through the barrack gates, I was pulled to one side by an officer who asked me who had hit me. I didn’t know what he was talking about and tried to tell him, but my jaw wouldn’t work. It turned out that the cocaine I had been given had started to work whilst I was running and unknown to me, my jaw had dropped. Blood poured down from my mouth and all down my sweater. The officer thought I had been beaten to make me run, but that wasn’t so. He told me I should never have gone, which put the blame right back onto me. So much for dentists and cross-country runs.

 Now we were getting an idea of what our lives were to be like and it wasn’t very comforting. Next, we were told that we would have to learn how to drill and march on the Barrack Square. “This should be good,” I thought, “it’s surprising to find that there are other uses for the feet, than walking. It’s also surprising to find oneself in doubt as to which is the left and right foot.” This was where we were to learn.
So, the raggedness begins to wear off; we were learning to march in step and were overcoming the intricacies of about turn. Also, we seemed to be pleasing the sergeant by the cracks appearing in the asphalt when we stamped our feet, but he’d want holes to appear before we’d have gotten it right. I must admit, it did hurt the feet, all this stamping. So, we got over our stint on the Barrack Square, went back to the Barracks and the usual cry: “OUTSIDE IN FIVE MINUTES IN P.T. KIT” It wasn’t another cross country run, this time it was to the gymnasium. We entered the gym to find chaps in white sweaters waiting for us. These are known in army terminology as P.T.I.s, Physical Training Instructors. Big fine men who told us straight away that they were going to make us strong like them. I had a bit of a paunch, but nothing much. One of the P.T.I.s came to me and said, “Where are you from Laddie, what work did you do?” I said, “I’m from Sheffield and was a furnace man.” “Drink much beer?” he asked. “Oh, one or two pints, you know,” I replied. “Right, we’ll knock that belly off you for a start,” he informed me.

The things we had to try to do was unbelievable, the P.T.I. took a running jump, landed hands first onto a vaulting horse and said, “Right, line up and do that!” We lined up and in turn, ran to the vaulting horse and jumped. The younger lads managed to do it quite well, but me, I was at the stage where I couldn’t jump on a bus. I had to try, but my effort should have been filmed. The jump I did had never been done before and my landing neither. I went over the horse and finished upside down on the floor, wedged in some fashion against the vaulting horse on the back of my neck.
So, this was army life, is this the beginning of the end?


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DEAN Muriel

My Schoolgirl War Effort

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Muriel Dean (nee Kirby)
Location of story: Lincolnshire                                                 A4552878
Background to story: Civilian

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Muriel Dean,

 

My Schoolgirl War Effort By Muriel Dean I attended High Storrs Girls’ School (Sheffield) between 1941 and 1946. In October 1943, a group of girls were invited to go potato picking in Lincolnshire, as the men had been enlisted in the armed forces. We stayed in Irnham Hall (something to do with one of the Steel magnates in Sheffield), travelling to Grantham by train and continuing our journey on a tractor drawn trailer to the hall, which was empty. We had been told we needed overalls or trousers to wear, and wellingtons. When we arrived at Irnham Hall, our first task was to fill a huge sack with straw from the stack in the nearby field. This was a palliasse, which we were to sleep on. 

If someone had explained this, we really would have stuffed it full. By the end of the fortnight, we were literally sleeping on the floor, the straw having been squashed flat or disappeared. We had taken our own sleeping bags, Kapok filled. Four people were allocated to kitchen duties per day, cooking and water heating being done on huge Aga Cookers in the kitchen. 2 moved on and 2 new ones came each day, so there was always someone who knew the system.

 

A Domestic science teacher oversaw this operation. The other girls were collected on the tractor drawn trailer and taken to the field. This was a precarious ride and wouldn’t be allowed in today’s (2005) health and safety culture. The girls were each apportioned a length of the field and provided with baskets to collect the potatoes in. We had to keep up with the tractor, which drove up and down the length of the field with a spinner attached to lift and whiz the potatoes out of the earth. We cheered if the tractor stopped for any reason, and we could enjoy an unscheduled rest. We were provided with sandwiches and drinks, which we enjoyed at lunchtime. We went back to the hall for a substantial meal at 5.0 pm.

 

In the evenings, we were free to write letters home, explore and have fun together, but we were really tired and ready for bed. We all slept in the dormitory, a large empty room with no curtains and no electricity; just our torches to see what we were doing. I must have enjoyed the experience, especially missing lessons, because I went in 1944, but this time there were two teams of cooks, girls who were doing domestic science for their School Certificate exams. This time, I spent a whole week in the kitchen, gaining experience in planning meals as well as cooking and cleaning away; it was much less back breaking than picking potatoes. Nevertheless, I think we all enjoyed our experience and felt we had done our bit for the war effort.

 

The government set up Agriculture Camps after the war. You could go there for a holiday, you needn’t work there everyday but were paid for the efforts. I went with a friend to Merheringham in 1947, where we were billeted in an Italian POW camp. The Italians prepared the food for us. My friend, who had long blonde hair, proved attractive to one of the cooks who fondled her hair. Unfortunately, he had been peeling onions for the dinner, and I suspect she had to wash her hair again. Yes, we finished up picking potatoes again, but I have a lot of happy memories and photographs of a very happy fortnight.

 

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DENNIS Mabel

DENNIS Mabel

Na Den Dee, It's Die Turn! Sheffield Dialect: Now Then You, It's Your Turn!)

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mabel Dennis
Location of story: Sheffield, England
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Mabel Dennis

 

On the 3rd September 1939, it was on the radio that we heard Neville Chamberlain made the dreaded announcement that we were at war. The next day, I went to Leopold Street in Sheffield to catch a bus to Matlock, eventually arriving at the Whitworth Hotel in Darley Dale, complete with Gas Mask and a tin helmet. I was starting work as a nanny to David and Diana Lee. Their mother, Mrs Kenneth Lee, her twin sister Mrs Wilton Lee and her children, had decided to move into the countryside away from Sheffield. The “Lees” were owners of a large Engineering Company in Sheffield, Sir Arthur lee and Sons. Two of the four sons, Major Wilton Lee and Captain Kenneth Lee were both in the Army. Shortly after moving to Darley Dale, the “Lees” acquired a house near Stanton, up the steep hill opposite ‘The Peacock’. In the Peak and from my window, I could see Haddon Hall.


The first winter, it snowed so much that the stonewalls and hedges were completely covered. The two Mrs Lees were unable to get back from a visit to Sheffield. When the roads cleared, we started having visits to Bakewell; we went to the market and the Bakewell Café, a real treat for the children. The Bakewell visits had to stop very soon because an army camp was established nearby. The camp tents were for soldiers who developed scabies and a contagious spotted fever, so Bakewell was out of bounds for us for a period. Mrs Wilton Lee, who also had a nanny named Hannah, for her children, Peter and Nigel. The gardener was Mr Nuttall, the local postmaster. As we had bicycles, on one of our half-days, we cycled to Chatsworth House. We met a group of schoolgirls from a public school who were living in Chatsworth House, because they had been evacuated to be safe from the bombing. I recently recognised some of them whilst watching a reminiscence programme on Television. I had to leave the Lee family because my mother was seriously ill, and unfortunately she died; she was only 49 years old. I, then, went to work for Sir Samuel Osborne (a stainless steel specialist in The Wicker), and lived in a flat above the offices. The six directors (Sir Samuel Osborne, Mr Fred Osborne, Mr Eric Osborne, Mr Brian Pye Smith, Mr Frank Hurst and Mr Cecil Hurst) had their mid-day meal in their special dining room above the back offices. I felt that all of these gentlemen were the backbone of Sheffield.


I had to swear on the Bible that I would not divulge Anything that I might hear whilst serving them, nor the identity of any visitors such as a couple of gentlemen from New Zealand. I was dressed in a black and white uniform and I used to use a dumb waiter to bring up the meals from the kitchen to serve them (silver service). One thing that I remember was that, as a seemingly tee-total family group, was that their gratitude for their excellent meal, cooked and served, was finally rounded with six different drinks: a cup of tea with milk, one without milk, one with sugar, one coffee with milk, one black coffee and one coffee with milk and sugar. The cook was an elderly lady of 76 years who was called Mrs Wilson, a Canadian who had cooked for soldiers in Nova Scotia earlier in her life. She was a diabetic and had to inject herself in her leg one day and the next day I had to jab her in the top of her arm. She was a fantastic cook and I had to do all the buying of food from the market and Davy’s (a good quality grocers). Mrs Wilson’s son had a post office job, which consisted of spraying telephone boxes and mouth pieces with disinfectant and giving them a thorough cleaning. The other member of staff in the kitchen was Joan Marks, a beighton girl. One night, Joan and I went to the “Wicker” cinema, which was only next door to our flat when the sirens started wailing at about 7 p.m. The sirens meant that an air raid was about to take place and we must quickly find an air raid shelter.


The wardens outside the cinema told us that the shelters under the cinema were not reinforced, so, in panic, having gone to the Wicker Arches shelter, we decided to run back across to Osborne’s shelter where we would have to show our identity cards at their safety gate. Joan was screaming hysterically and I remembered that some sort of shock would help her come to her senses. I was wearing a hat (our hats were our status), secured by a large hat pin so I stuck the hat pin into her bottom. She screeched, stopped screaming and started to sob but she wasn’t hysterical anymore. Mrs Wilson had already been taken down to the shelter (our allotted underground shelter was next to the main road (the Wicker) and we hadn’t been in there very long when we heard very frightening bombing, loud banging and shrill noises. The planes were enemy planes and they had been using the shining rail tracks to guide them into Sheffield. The tramcars had stopped running because they had been pre-warned that their flashing lights (electrical contacts on the overhead cables) could be seen from the air. The wardens shouted through to us to break the glass in the little box above the escape passage door (four feet high) and to open the door and crawl into the underground passage until we found the lads from the works under the (cable and wireless) shop shelter. We crawled along and we started hearing someone singing Vera Lynn songs, I then heard them talking in broad Sheffield dialect; one lad nagging at another who was apparently scared stiff to leave the shelter.


“Na Den Dee – Its Die Turn (Now then you – its your turn). It was his turn to go up onto the roof to put out any firebombs and was too scared to go. After the longest night of my life, scared out of my wits, it was a great relief at 4 o’clock in the morning, to hear the “All Clear”. Knowing that Mrs Wilson needed her insulin jab and tablets I went to fetch them from our flat, the enormous glass dome above our wide staircase which led up to the flat and kitchen was smashed and glass was splattered all the way up the stairs. We tidied up as much debris as we could, knowing full well that we wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be going back to work there again. Afterwards, Sir Samuel Osborne put his arm around me and said if I ever needed help in any way to go and see him. That was my fondest memory of him. I’ve never seen the 3 shoe cobblers, Curley, Larry and Mo, in the three windows, across The Whicker, since. At 8 a.m. I set off to walk the ten miles back to Beighton village where my family lived. I saw a tramcar roof hanging off; all the way up City Road, the signs of destruction were horrific. Cars were up lampposts, windows blown in, doors hanging off, roofs blown down and glass and debris all over the place but there was an incredible silence! Marples pub in Fitzalan Square had a direct hit and was completely demolished that night and many people were killed there because there was a shelter underneath the bar that people had run to.


Many years later, a friend of my son told him that he had had the awful job of clearing out the bodies, there were some barrels of beer still in the cellar, so they were drunk for the 3 days they had to work there. It helped numb the awfulness of it. I lived back at Beighton for a little while and there was another terrible disaster happened at Beighton station. From what I gathered later, there were some railway wagons stood on the track and one of the wagons had a girder sticking out across the other railway line. A train, carrying army, navy and air force personnel, was travelling at speed and came past through the level crossing. The wagons and the girder ripped out the side of the train. It was very dark because of the blackout and there were no lights on the train. We could hear but did not know why there was such a lot of screaming and shouting. It was terrifying.


My fiancé, who lived at Aston, and I were walking back to my home and wondered what had caused the lines to be littered with all sorts of debris, and quite a lot of it. Turning right, along the terrace, into Woodhouse Lane, within only a few minutes, we could hear but not see, what was causing the noise in the field. Many army and navy boys had been injured and other villagers also came to help. One sad instance, a doctor was going to the injured giving them injections to relieve their pain when he came to my boyfriend who was holding a badly injured soldier. The doctor looked at the poor soldier and said, “It is no good giving him an injection, he won’t last! “ The poor soldier was awake and heard the doctor. It upset my boyfriend and he spoke about it years later. The people of Beighton really turned up trumps, they took in anyone who was not seriously injured, giving the cups of tea, meals. Some of the lads stayed in Beighton for 2-3 days. In those days no one ever worried about locking doors when you went out.


One night when I was returning from a dance at Swallownest church, I walked into the kitchen and realised that the blackout curtains were not closed but the radio, which was plugged into the light socket above my head, was still on. I closed the curtains and as the radio was connected to the light socket, I climbed onto the chair to disconnect the radio. As I went to switch the light on from the hall light switch, I saw somebody move across the front door so I ran out of the backdoor as fast as I could. I stood trembling for 2 hours not seeing anyone about, it was very dark because of the blackout and then I plucked up courage and looked through the front door letterbox only to see that the movement had been the blackout curtain falling down! After the Blitz, one of the directors called Mr Cecil Hurst wrote a letter to me. It said “Dear Blondie, I’m sorry that this is how I’ve addressed you, but we (the directors) have never known your correct name, all of us used to refer to you as “Blondie”, I have been informed that you used to be a nanny, but was told that this was not exempt war work (that was why I worked at other jobs, but working with Mr. Cecil Hurst’s family would be OK). My wife and I need help with our two children: if you are interested please write. My address is enclosed”. I went to work for him at his home because after the bombing started on Sheffield, the directors went for lunch at the Rutland Road building which was further out of the city centre.

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DENTON Kathleen

Life As An Evacuee

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Kathleen Denton, Margaret Dunn, Mr. and Mrs. Squires
Location of story: Warwick
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Kathleen Denton.
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On September the first, 1939, I was evacuated with my school, from Birmingham. We boarded a train, carrying nametags and gas masks in cardboard boxes. We were waved off by our anxious parents as we left for an unknown destination. This turned out to be Warwick. There, we were taken round the streets in ‘crocodile’ fashion and allocated, in pairs, to any household that would take us. We felt very apprehensive.

My friend, Margaret Dunn and I stayed with a very kind couple, Mr. And Mrs. Squires; not used to children, but they looked after us very well. I kept in touch for many years afterwards. The house did not have a bathroom, which we had been used to, so we had to use a tin bath.

While we were in Warwick, we attended the local High School, sharing the building on a part time basis. After a year with no air raids, we returned to Birmingham, but that’s when the bombing started.

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DEVONSHIRE Deborah

The Second World War, through the Eyes of an Eleven-Year-Old Boy

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Ron Varey, Deborah Devonshire - Duchess of Devonshire, Eric Oliver, Mr. Broom, Allen Titchmarsh and Gloria Hunniford
Location of story: Rotherham, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian

I was eleven years old when war broke out. I had a brother who was two years older. Because my Dad was too old to join the forces, he joined the LDV, which later changed its name to the Home Guard. My dad was a commissioned officer because he had been in the army before. The Home Guard later became known as ‘Dad’s Army’.

During the months of May, June, and July 1939, we were issued with Gas Masks and identity cards, my number was KHCI3514. In the previous February, we were given an Air Raid shelter, we had to dig a hole in the garden to almost bury it.
Blackout curtains, no lights allowed. Sunday, September 3, 1939 the Prime Minister spoke on the radio, there was no T.V. and there were very few private phones. His words at that time were these, “I have received no message from Adolf Hitler therefore we at war with Nazi Germany.”
Rationing of food was introduced in January 1940.
Bacon, Ham and butter, 4oz per week (100grams)
Sugar 12oz (300grams)
July 1940
Tea, margarine and cooking fats 2oz (50 grams)

March 1941
Jam, mince, syrup, marmalade, honey and cheese l oz per week (25grams)
Not rationed:- Fish, vegetables and sausage.
Big queues formed whenever these came into the shops. Eggs were scarce, in 1942 powdered egg and milk were introduced. Fresh milk was 2 ½ pints per week, one fresh egg every two weeks. A loaf of bread, called the national loaf was introduced, it was grey in colour because the flour was not refined. We were asked to share a bath with our families because coal was in short supply, coal was used to heat the water for washing clothes and having a bath. Clothes for children were bought one or two sizes too big then the hems were let down as the children grew. When fruit like bananas did get through only children could have them, some children thought you ate the skin as well. When ice cream arrived in the shops large queues quickly formed and sometimes the ice cream was sold before your turn came.
An air raid took place one Easter Monday and a stick of bombs fell in Clifton Park and Middle Lane.

I finished school in 1942, at 14years old, and before I started work, a school pal and I went on a camping holiday in Derbyshire. We had taken with us a hand painted camouflage tent; this was required by the Ministry of Defence regulations. We were allowed to pitch our tent in the stack yard of a farmer named Mr. Broom. He did not make a charge but asked us to help him on the land. We were working in a field one day, when a low flying German aircraft began firing bullets and buzzing around Chatsworth House in a village near Bakewell. This is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, more about this later. The plane was flying so low the air crew were visible from the ground. It later turned out that the visibility over Sheffield was so poor, the crew had to use all their ammunition and bombs to be able to get back home. What the Germans did not know was that the whole of the art treasures of Sheffield were stored in a barn on Mr. Broom's farm.

I was watching a TV programme in 1993; it was about Chatsworth House and the service it had performed during World War II. It had served as a college for young ladies from the London area, these ladies had been sent up to get them away from the bombing of the capital.
The two presenters of the show were Allen Titchmarsh and Gloria Hunniford. The Duke took Allen to show him round the gardens and Gloria accompanied the Duchess round the house. Whilst Gloria and the Duchess were inspecting one of the bedrooms, the Duchess pointed to a table and pointed to a hole in it. She went on to explain why this was so, it turned out this was one of the bullets the German bomber had fired when I saw it in 1942.

I was very excited and decided to write to the Duchess and tell her how I came to be there at that time.
Some time later a letter arrived for me from her Grace, she was so grateful that I had taken the time to tell her of my experience. I have since written to her again and you can now see both letters, which she sent me.
Transcript of the 1st letter from the Duchess of Devonshire to Ron Varey. This letter was handwritten with the exception of the address.:
(address removed)


Sorry for the poor quality of the photo of Eric’s note -
(Date illegible)
Dear Ron Varey
Thank you very much for your letter. You can imagine how interested I am to read what you tell me.
There are still Brooms at Pilsley (There is a Pleasley but that is 23 miles east of here, near Mansfield), and they still farm there.
I did not know the Sheffield works of art were stored in his barn so that is of great interest.
I enclose an account of the German plane you saw, by Eric Oliver, then a boy as you will see by what he says, now the Comptroller of this House.
I wonder on which occasion you saw them.

Eric’s second experience was the time when the bullet went into the table, from our own side that time!
Such memories are so important to get written down and so I am most grateful to you for your letter.
With best wishes and many thanks for taking the trouble to write.
Yours sincerely Deborah Devonshire

The following is a transcript of a letter from Eric Oliver to the Duchess of Devonshire dated April 4, 1989. This letter was typed However, ‘Her Grace’ and ‘Eric’ was hand written:
Her Grace
Chatsworth under fire – 1940-44
Early in the war, possibly 1942, the house was strafed when two twin engine German aircraft flying South, virtually over the West Front Garden, opened fire scoring some hits on the West side of the building.

These planes were flying so low, we could actually see crew members in the cockpits and front turrets. Both aircraft were shot down South of Derby.

Later in the war, before D-Day, the East side of the House came under fire from Allied troops training on the moors in the Ireland Edge area, resulting in one 303 bullet embedding itself in a Library Table and very recently, one being discovered in the lead over the South East door.

I remember both incidents clearly as these, along with seeing the glow over Sheffield when it was being blitzed, are my main recollections of the war.

On the first occasion I was playing along with other children from the Stable Yard, on the grass below the Strand Wood gate when the planes opened fire. In the second instance we were playing under the Beech trees at the bottom of the Cascade and heared the bullets whipping through the leaves overhead like a swarm of bees.

Eric

Transcript of 2nd letter from the Duchess of Devonshire to Ron Varey. This letter was typed however, the last paragraph and the ending was hand written:

(address removed)
24 July 2001
R Varey Esq
X Xxxxxxxx Xxxxx
Rotherham
Thank you very much for your letter, which I am very sorry I have been so slow to answer.
The contents are completely fascinating and I am so pleased to have your record
of what happened when the German bombers flew over this valley. It is now of historic interest and all of us here are very pleased to have it. On looking back all of us who were alive then remember what a strange time it was.
I am sure the children you talk to find it hard to believe.

With Renewed thanks
Yours sincerely
Deborah Devonshire


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DICKINSON Jean Allison 

Raw Recruits

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Jean Allison Dickinson
Location of story: Scarborough
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jean Alison Dickinson.

Raw Recruits

By
Jean Allison Dickinson

We marched along in perfect time
While the Sergeant Major shouted 1-2,1-2
And we sang as we marched near the sea and the sand
Our boots clattered on early pavements
And we came smartly to attention

The golden curve of the sand stretched away in the distance
But in the evening after the sun had gone down
We donned our best black shoes
And off we went to the Royal Hotel
To dance to the ragtime blues
The orchestra played its most romantic tunes
And the girls stood tapping their high heeled shoes.

The fishing boats were anchored near the pier
The smell of tar and rapes and gear
We remembered the whelks and the shrimps
And the fish and chips eaten an the pier.

And as we marched to come back we vowed
When the war was over and peace was declared
To smell the sea and walk on the beach
And squelch our feet in the wet wrinkled sand.

(The new recruits were billeted in a lot of the hotels on the South Cliff in Scarborough and the Royal Hotel was a well known venue for
the local girls to go and "pick up" one of the popular "boys in blue").


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The First Dance

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Jean Allison Dickinson
Location of story: Scarborough, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian

 

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jean Alison Dickinson.
The First Dance

By
Jean Allison Dickinson

The girls had practiced every week
With Mrs. Deightan, who taught P.E.
Slow, slow, quick quick, slow
The piano beat out every tune.

The day was approaching very fast
A dress had been sewn and shoes bought
With precious coupons and every thought
Was centred on which boy would ask her to dance

The time had arrived and she was ready
The dress looked quite well but her legs were unsteady
But off she went to the school great hall
And they all stood around like dolls on a stall

A boy was coming across the floor to ask her
Her legs felt like jelly and her heart beat faster
When into the air with a shrill crescendo
The siren sounded and all pandemonium
Broke loose and into the shelter they all had to file
The Jerries were dropping bombs but they missed by a mile
They were all in the dark but the teachers had torches

Then in came her Dad to walk her home
And that was the end of the dancing that night
So she didn't get to know how the lad held her tight
Or how it was to do the quick step
With a well dressed young man scrubbed clean and bright

All the weeks they had spent learning to dance
But her Mum said "Never mind
It could have been worse
You are still in one piece –
Your very first dance!!

(The German bombers came over Whitby practically every night to set the Moors alight thus giving them a marker for bombing either Hull or Middlesbrough, in the process many an incendiary bomb landed on the houses in West Cliff where the writer was living at the time - The Metropole Hotel suffered a direct hit and there were two huge craters in Stakesby Rd. near to a Petrol Pump near the old Station).


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