World War 2 Stories for Sheffield


The First Nine Years of my Life

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Brian Upstone
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 Brian Upstone.

The First Nine Years of my Life

Brian Upstone

I was born in Barrow Road, Wincobank. I was the youngest of four children in a block of back-to-back houses. My mother’s parents lived in houses at the back of us in the yard with five other families. The toilet block was in the centre of the yard and was shared by two families per toilet.

I was about three years old when war broke out and my father had to go into the army, as many fathers had to. I didn’t understand about the war then but in the next few years, we had to learn what it was all about. There weren’t any streetlights, windows had shutters or thick curtains to the windows and we had to be careful not to let any light shine out of the doorway. When we went to bed, we had to place our clothes in a special way, in case there was an air raid when the siren went off.

The men and women left at home had to help to dig holes and put Anderson shelters in the ground in the back yard. When the siren did go off, my granddad and other people used to come round banging on people's doors telling us to get to the shelter quick, this went on until all in our area was safely in the shelters.

We often had to stay there all night and sleep on bunks as best we could.

Our area on Barrow Road was yards away from a very big gas tank and we found out that if that had gone up, so would half of Sheffield.

I still remember the air raids, the black outs and fire wardens in shelters built in different areas, with a purple light for air raid or not.

We had to practice at home and at school with gas masks and using the shelters in the school gardens.

As we got older, we often had to leave the local picture house because of an air raid.

I remember my dad on leave from the guns at the coast, the bonfires on V-E Day and V-J Day.

When the war was over and I was still young, it was hard to understand all that went on in the past years and that we all had to build for the future.