World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Betty Wigglesworth 


By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Betty Wrigglesworth, Mrs Worsfold, Mrs. Beatson, Winnie Lovell
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 Betty Wrigglesworth.


Betty Wrigglesworth

"Betty I want you to come back on Monday, whether there is a war on or not," Mrs Worsfold said as she handed me my sixpence for running her errands during the week.

When I look back over the Sixty Five years that have passed since that Friday in September 1939, I recall it as being the start of World War Two for me.

I was just two months short of my tenth birthday.
In the previous months I had observed along with everyone else, flat and curved sheets of corrugated iron that made up the Anderson Shelters being delivered to every house in the street.

I watched as neighbours helped each other to dig deep and erect them in their back gardens.
I helped my Mom measure the doors and windows to the blackout curtains.

I saw her pattern the windows with brown sticky tape to prevent flying glass if and when the bombs were dropped.

I had been fitted with a claustrophobic gas mask that had a nauseating smell of rubber.
I started using ration books for all the family groceries.

And I learned that whistles being blown by the A.R.P. wardens was the sign for an imminent air raid, so we put all lights out.

Rattles was the sign for gas, and church or school bells being rung was the sign for an invasion, though what we would have done in those circumstances, I don't know as there would have been nowhere for us to run to. Probably the most significant sign of all, was the call up of all the fit young men I knew into the armed forces.

My friend Jean's brother George became a pilot in the Royal Air Force, his cousin also George, a navigator on the bombers. He was posted missing, presumed killed. His young wife died soon after him. Does anyone die of a broken heart? I would say yes! His mother spent the rest of her life visiting mediums in the hope of finding out what happened to him.

The three Brown boys across the road, Tommy at Dunkirk just nineteen years old and his brother Georgie, wed in Italy, I can remember to this day him going back off leave, waving goodbye, and their younger brother Harry went into the Royal Navy.

My own father was called up at the age of thirty-six into the Royal Artillery leaving my mother with three children to take care of.
He was stationed at Swansea docks helping to man the big guns there, where they were having a very bad time; raids every day and night as the Germans tried to stop the supplies getting through.
My mom's army allowance was 42/- ( £2.10p) a week that included myself 7/6 (37.5p) my brother Ken 6/6 (32.5p) and my sister Brenda 4/6 (22.5p). So after taking off 12/- (60p) for rent, it left her with 30/- (£1.50p) for everything else, coal, gas, food and clothing. So she had to think of something else to help out a bit.

The government had drafted young women from other parts of the country to work on munitions, and people were asked to take them in, so for a time we had three billeted with us.

When they moved on, my mom took a job herself working at Ibbertson’s in Bowling Green Street, 9am till 4pm, helping a man load and unload a furnace, relying on neighbours to keep an eye on us three children.

White all this was going on, we lads were learning to adapt to nights disturbed by air raids. When school was shut down for some reason or another, we attended what was called Home service in someone's front room, which entailed two or three hours with a teacher. We used to like this, the lady of the house would bring us cocoa and a bun. Her name was Mrs. Beatson, her husband was the ARP warden for our road.

About this time, my mother became tired out with working on munitions and caring for three children through these difficult times. She began to refuse to get up when the sirens went. She had formed the opinion if a bomb had your name on it, it would find you whether you were in bed or in the shelter. This worked fine unless I heard the sirens. Terrified, I would beg her to get up. I once dragged my younger brother who was half asleep, out of bed and dressed him with two legs down one trouser leg, causing him to fall headlong down the sum, proving to my mom that I was more of a threat than the bombs.

The only injury I sustained throughout the war was not due to air raids, but to me one evening falling on to the painted railings we had round the front door, the spike speared my neck and I was rushed to the Royal Infirmary where I was operated on straight away. Apparently the whole street stayed up until it was confirmed that I would pull through. I was in hospital for a week, I remember someone gave me a banana; I hadn't seen one for years. The irony of this story is that a month later, the railings were cut down and taken away for the war effort.
Next thing to happen was, a young lady with her two children came to see if my Mom would take her in. She had been sent to Sheffield from London and was very unhappy at the place she was staying. The woman made them sleep and have all their meals in the attic. My Mom felt so sorry for her that she couldn't say no.

The young lady's name was Winnie Lovell and her two children were Pat and Pam. That was the start of a friendship that was to last the rest of their lives and we the children are still in touch to this day. We have attended weddings and funerals over the years.

Lots of things happened during the five years of the war, some traumatic, some funny, and some heartbreakingly sad.

Why then, when anyone talks about the outbreak of World War Two, the first thing I remember is Mrs. Worsfold reminding me to turn up on Monday as usual to do her errands?