World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                             Ann Brown 

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.