World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                       Dennis Smithies 

Broadcast to Father

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Dennis Smithies
Location of story: Criterion Theatre, London
Background to story: Civilian


Broadcast to Father
Dennis Smithies

This story covers the trip to London accompanied by mother Dorothy and baby sister Marie, for the purpose of broadcasting a message to father Albert.
When the war started, I was only 5 years old, which means that the memories I have are limited to what would be impressed on the mind of a child of 7/8 years.

One day mother told me that I had to think up a message to send to dad over the wireless. He had of course been called up, done his training and been shipped abroad to wherever. We did not find out until what may have been on his return, after the end of hostilities.

North Africa and Palestine, as it was then: The only recall of the message was a mention of bananas, about which I had been mad but of course no longer saw.

One very early morning we set off. It was dark, cold and wet and must have been early Spring or late Autumn. There has been no way to find out as in later years mother would not discuss it. The train left from Leeds Central Station and I remember that a man gave self and sister a snack. Mum would be too proud to accept.

Arriving at probably Kings Cross railway station late morning we had to find the way to the Criterion Theatre, which I think is near lower Tottenham Court Road. Still cold and damp, when we went into theatre, we were told that it was too early and we had to leave and return at about 3 or 4 o'clock as I remember. I also remember that we were strangers, two young children, cold and wet out.

Anyway we toddled off and wandered. I remember flights of stone steps and monuments, and eventually, a park which I later worked out must be Green Park.
Back to the Criterion in due course for the big event. We had been told that we would be fed and the BBC used to make what we now call `a big deal' about how they treated the poor waifs who were their visitors. The food was a couple of small pieces of dried up potted meat sandwich and a similar bun.

At home bread and confectionery was baked by mother.
When I came to read out my message the supervisor had the temerity to ask mother if I could read it from the paper. I can remember that mother was a bit short with her. It's all a bit blurred but I remember a large metal machine which must have been the recorder. Someone sang. The names were familiar to us. One was Sam Browne and another Vera Lynn,
I remember nothing more after that. The train home must have been a mail carrier. When we got back to Leeds it was still dark and wet.

Mum used to help at St James' as it was just across the road. One day she came home in tears. So heartbroken, it frightened us kids. Her friends came. She was still weeping and said that she couldn't go back to the poor men who had no faces left.

My father said later “The troops knew nothing of this service.”