World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Derek Thomas Byfleet 

Childhood Memories

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Derek Thomas-Byfleet
Location of story: Littlemoor, Newbold, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Background to story: Civilian

I lived with my mother and father Frank and Gladys Byfleet, and younger brother Roy, and my grandmother Mrs Theresa Jukes in Littlemoor Crescent. At the age of seven years old, I can recall being told to go to the Chesterfield Corporation bus at the end of Littlemoor Crescent to be fitted with a gas mask.

On the Sunday of September 3rd in the morning, I had gone to the Littlemoor Methodist church Sunday school, we all left early and I did not know why. As I was walking up Littlemoor Crescent, I saw my next door neighbour, Mrs Rigley and my mother Mrs Gladys Byfleet at the front gate talking and they were both crying. I asked what was the matter and they told me that war had been declared. In the evening of September the 3rd, I remember my mother putting up blackout curtains on the windows. I went to bed that evening and late on we heard the sirens, I got up and walked towards my mum and dad's bedroom and dad said, "You're alright, we're all here."

I remember my dad, Frank Byfleet with Mr Frank Lowe, digging a large hole in our back garden and putting in the Anderson air raid shelter, which we shared with the Lowe family. There were four of us and Mr and Mrs Lowe and Geoffrey their son. Then I remember on the Thursday night air raid on Sheffield, it was decided for safety that both families would go down to the Anderson shelter, and later came out from the shelter back to the house. Shortly after, Littlemoor Crescent was lit up with an incendiary bomb which dropped in a nearby garden in Littlemoor Crescent, and my dad went outside to look what was happening. I remember David Mettham shouting to my father, "It's like a bonfire night Mr Byfleet." It became very foggy after the raid.

Next morning I did not go to Newbold Church School; we had been up all night due to the raid. The boys from the Crescent decided to go looking across the fields at the back of Littlemoor Crescent, finding a white circle of powder with a fin stuck in the middle of it, these where what we collected. In the afternoon the older boys, Jack Rigley and Leonard Harper come with us with spades, and dug up the bases of the incendiary bombs. The incendiary bomb base we had at home was stamped with the date of 1936.

On the following Sunday night the Germans came back to bomb the Sheffield area. We were in the air raid shelter and heard the bombs screaming down, and again, it was very frightened. We wondered whether it was going to be us next.

In the early part of the war, we had a long school summer holiday because they were building the air raid shelters in the garden of Mr Gilthorpe, which was next to the school. I remember the shelter was long and narrow with seats down both sides. I remember reading books and chatting to other school children. I only used the school's air raid shelter twice during the daytime whilst at the school. At times the air raid shelter got flooded with water and the older boys including myself would pump it out with a hand pump.

I remember going round the houses in Littlemoor with other boys at Mr Boden's, the headmaster and ARP (air raid precaution) warden's instructions collecting the styrup pumps for testing in the playground. These were used to put out the fires caused by the incendiary bombs. As I remember, it was great fun playing with the hose pipe which was attached to the pump. I remember that the check was made to see that people had the long handled shovels putting incendiary bombs out.

The thing that I remember was my mum being short of sugar and soap and I remember all we had to wash with was a shaving stick.

After the blitz in Sheffield I went to the city on the bus with my mum and aunty Nellie Fellows, who was from Dudley. She wanted to see what damage was done by the bombing. We walked to what was left of The Moor and remember standing and looking at the remains of the buildings in particular FW Woolworth's, also the shell of Montague Burtons. We walked down High Street to Fitzallan Square, passing what was left of the Marples Public House. There were wreaths put on the remains on the floor. My reaction to this was of being very distressed and the feeling of wanting to get out of Sheffield, as I thought that the German aircraft would come back whilst I was still there, I had this fear for a very long time of not wanting to revisit Sheffield.

The Newbold group of the ARP put on a concert once a year at Highfield Hall School, and the pianists being Mr Trevor Quick and Mr Norman Clarke, I remember the concert party choir singing 'Land of Hope and Glory', and the lights were switched off on the stage and all you could see were the impression of a V sign on the torches that were being held by the choir members.

On the day that war was declared over in the evening, I remember that I was on my own, and drawing back the blackout curtains and switching on all of the lights, then going out onto the lawn and standing, just looking at it as it had been the first time in five years that I had ever seen this sight.

I remember the families in Littlemoor Crescent getting together and organising a bonfire on the road in the cul-de-sac, and burning a hole in the middle of the road. This was our way of celebrating the end of the war. The residents of Littlemoor Crescent decided to hold a VE (Victory in Europe) party at the Miner's Welfare in Newbold Road, the Mayor of Chesterfield attended the party.