World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                       Dennis Saddler 

My Early Life

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Dennis Sadler
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 Dennis Sadler.

I lived with my parents in Nottingham Street, which is on a hill sloping down into Spital Hill, Sheffield. I was born in Birmingham where my father was working. He was a shoe shop manager and my parents were buying a semi-detached house there which cost about £500.00. My father’s parents did not see me much because they lived in Sheffield. This caused friction as I was the only grandchild at the time. My father had three brothers and a sister. They all married and had children, so my parents came back to Sheffield.

My father went to work in sales at Wigfall’s shop. My mother didn’t work because she had me. I remember having a pedal car, which I ran up and down Nottingham Street. We lived in a terrace house on Nottingham Street. A salesman who lived next door had a blue 1939 Ford Anglia 2 door car. He used to give me a Ford magazine to read. I remember looking at Christmas Catalogues in a magazine. We then moved across the road. They were rented houses so this could be done quite easily. This house was destroyed in the bombing. I remember looking in a toy shop at German toys, on Spital Hill. They had wheels on top of them, no electronics.

Our house was in a block of four terraced houses.
Blitz Night 1940: German planes came over prior to the war, to look for works to bomb. The planes came over Pitsmoor in Sheffield, where I lived. My father was in the army at the time. My mother told me this. Her name was Vera and she died in 2001 aged 96 years.

The bombing started on Sheffield; the house next door to us was hit in the attic by an incendiary bomb. The night was very black and the fire spread with speed into our house, sending up massive flames into the sky. The house was an inferno; I was in the yard where neighbours had to stop my mother from going into the house whilst her possessions were going up in flames. We had been in the cellar at the opposite end of the block (there were no air raid shelters in those days); the government wasn’t ready for this type of warfare (aerial bombing). The flames were the product of white heat phosphor bombs. The ‘rub’ (irony) was that they had been made in Britain and sold to the Germans pre-war; possibly even made in Sheffield.

I had a playmate who lived in Rock Street, Pitsmoor, and his house had received a direct hit with a high explosive bomb, which killed four of the family. The next day, we came out of the cellar; there were bricks all over the road. We went to look for my mother’s sister, May, who lived in Ellesmere Road. We had to walk. We walked everywhere in those days, cars were for the rich. As we got to Gower Street, I saw a double deck tram buried in a bomb crater with only the top deck visible.

I remember seeing Sheffield lit up and on fire. My mother’s sister was alright. The bombers were after the works but the line of bombs must have hit Nottingham Street and Rock Street. My grandfather came to look for us; he had walked from Southey and found us as we walked back to Southey. We had nothing left, apart from the clothes we were wearing. My mother found a burnt Silver Jubilee mug (1935) which had been bought for me, in the ashes. I still have this mug. We lived at Southey for a year with an air raid shelter in the garden. The Anderson shelters used to flood with water. The bombers still came. The council rehoused my mother and me in a flat at Western Bank, opposite the museum and close to Western Park. I had happy times there. My father was in the eighth army in the Western Desert. He sent me books showing battles of British and German tanks; that’s what the boys like to see in the war. We were moved again to a council house in Shiregreen, a house that had an air raid shelter. There weren’t many air raids after this, although the sirens sounded. They were false alarms.

I remember V.E. Day in 1945. We built a huge bonfire and closed the top of the street. Shirehall Road. I made an effigy of Hitler and put him on top, to be burnt.

Living through the war years was no fun at all; everything was rationed. I didn’t see a banana until 1945. Food was in short supply; we ate bread and jam. I used to like eating condensed milk on bread. I’d meet my mother at the bottom of the hill to help her carry the bags of food etc. On Saturday, I would go to the cinema with a friend to watch Flash Gordon and Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and a Western.

During the war, we never felt free from Hitler; he was like the devil hovering over us. I always felt that he would never go away. When victory came in 1945, and we heard that Hitler was dead, we felt as if something had been lifted off of us. It was great to be free again.

My mother worked in munitions in the war years. She was a shell inspector at Viner’s. She used to check and stamp shells for the war effort. She let me stamp one for hitting Hitler. My dad came home safely after the war in 1946. He was in the eighth army in Africa, Sicily and Italy. Sadly, both of my parents are dead.