World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                         Barbara Pettit 

Barbara’s Memories 1942 – 1946 Fishergate School York

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Barbara Pettitt
Location of story: York


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

Barbara’s Memories 1942 – 1946 Fishergate School York – living in Horsman Avenue, York.

My dad was a boiler man in charge of 11 boilers at the Imphal Barracks and Cavalry York, on Fulford Road. He used to work long hours, 4a.m. until 12 noon, 6a.m. until 3p.m and 3p.m. until 12 midnight, 7 days a week. We lived near the War Office of Northern Command Offices in Fishergate. As a child I can remember a lot of Canadians, Australians, Polish and Army Personnel going up and down our avenue. There was a lot of Nissen Huts built on Apollo Street at the top of Horsman Avenue, it was Headquarters for the Royal Signals and R.EME Regiments (Dining Hall). As kids the soldiers used to give us sweets, we use to say to the Yanks, "Have you any gum chum?" My sister Sheila was eight years older than me, and worked at Rowntree’s Chocolate Factory in York, making and packing bullets on shift work for the Army. I used to have to go and cancel “dates” with different men (Airforce/Army) she had met in York with friends as they had to work a lot of overtime.

I remember them digging all our school playing fields up and allotments were made instead to grow stuff or to keep hens or rabbits. When I was 8 years old, my sister got wed. I took a size 4 shoe, I was a bridesmaid. I had to wear my aunt’s gold tap shoes. She was a dancer on the York Empire. My mum had the taps taken off so I would not make a noise in Church. I was very upset as I thought I could copy Shirley Temple up the aisle of St. Lawrence Church. My mum used to have all my clothes made out of my sister Sheila’s hand-me-downs. The material was turned inside out and a lady seamstress used to make me new dresses out of old material. My mum used to knit all my jumpers. As I grew, so did the jumpers. Mum used to unpick the cuffs and re-knit to the size I needed with wool she had left over. My best memories were when the windows of our house in Horsman Avenue were blown in with shrapnel from a bomb that hit the local cemetery nearby. They bombed the white statues instead of the Barracks. All the soldiers were camped outside in the white tents on Low Moor awaiting departure. I do recall saying to my mother on V.E. Day 1945. 8th May “Mam come outside the street has coloured lights”. She laughed and told me, it was all the curtains without the blackout behind.