World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                            Irene Hall 

Irene B. Hall’s (nee Gleed) Story

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Irene B. Hall, William Ambrose Gleed
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 Irene B. Hall.

Irene B. Hall’s (nee Gleed) Story
Irene B. Hall

I was born November 03, 1922 at Jessop Hospital, Sheffield.

Mum and Dad had a General & Bakery business on Hodgson Street, off Ecclesall Road. Then they left and took a Beer-Off (Off Licence) Shop at Abbeydale.

I was almost 17 years of age when war was declared on Sunday, September 03, 1939. In 1940, Mum and Dad took over a Public House called ‘Broomhall Tavern’ on Broomhall Street and the corner of Thomas Street, which was very near to The Moor.

Also in 1940, at the age of 20, my brother, William Ambrose Gleed, was called up for service in the army, joining the Green Howard’s Regiment. He reported to Richmond in North Yorkshire, the headquarters of the Green Howard’s who are now disbanded and attached to another regiment. When he enlisted he was sent for training to Cheddar Gorge.

I worked at the Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-Operative Society Store at the bottom of Ecclesall Road until all the single girls had to do war work.

I remember the night of the Blitz on Thursday, December 12, 1940. The ‘Broomhall Tavern’ was very badly damaged with no windows intact, doors were blown off their hinges, and the trap door to the cellar through which the brewery men rolled the barrels of beer, was missing. The cellar was very big and arched, and so it was very safe to shelter there from the bombing.
People, strangers and four soldiers all came into the cellar, I did not know half the people, they just dropped down into the cellar from the street above because it was all open. My brother, who had been a joiner in Civvy Street, was home on embarkation leave so he boarded all the windows up. We found the trap door and he refitted it.

Mother and I went down The Moor after the all clear; it was unbelievable, trams were all entangled with the overhead lines etc.
Some were burned out shells, as was Atkinson’s department store and all the shops were on fire. This was the bottom part of The Moor from Button Lane to the bottom of Ecclesall Road.

My future husband (I did not know him until later years), his mother and father had a table as a shelter. I think they were issue, steel. They lived on Havelock Square. They owned their house and also the one next door. They received a direct hit; his mum died and the day of her funeral his father passed away. My future husband couldn’t attend either funeral because he was in the Royal Hospital on West Street, for one year. He was on a sand bed and the doctors said he would never walk again, but he did. Havelock Square in those days was very residential, not like it became in later years.

After the training period, my brother went abroad and was in the Eighth Army. He saw action with the ‘Desert Rats’ fighting against the Axis Armies, led by General Erwin Rommel in North Africa at the battle of Tobruk on the coast of Libya. On November 18, 1941 Aucninleck and the recently formed Eighth Army went on the offensive, which resulted in the end of the German siege of Tobruk on December 04, 1941.
It was during this time that he was captured by the Italians and put into a prisoner of war camp in Italy. My parents received a telegram notifying them that my brother was missing and we knew nothing of his situation for nearly a year

In 1943, I applied to go into the Police Force but because I lived on licensed premises, they could not accept me. However, they offered me a civilian position which I accepted, and became the telephonist at West Bar Police Station, I was 20 years of age. The telephonist room was on the ground floor, and it was in the cell that Charlie Peace had occupied at one time.

When the Italians capitulated on September 09, 1943 the Germans rounded up the allied prisoners of war and marched to the nearest railway station. The Italian civilian population saw the prisoners and spat on them as they marched passed.

It was early one morning and I was getting ready to go to work when we received a telegram. I took it from the letterbox and I was scared to open it because I knew that it would say either that my brother had been found or that he had been killed. After a while I had to open it and what joy it was to know that he was alive. The telegram said that he was a Prisoner of War of the Germans, imprisoned in Stalag VIIIB. This camp was run by the Wehrmacht and was located at Teschen near Lamsdorf in Silesia the coal mining area of Poland in the district Wehrkreis VIII Breslau (Wroclaw). The camp had been opened in 1939 and was renamed 344 in 1943.

I ran upstairs to Mum and Dad who were still in bed. I just waved the telegram at them and said, “Good news,” and left them, to comfort each other, then I went to work. It was free drinks all round in the Broomhall Tavern Public House that night

There were organisations for Prisoners of War, so every month or six weeks, we were allowed to go to The Red Cross that was located at Kemsley House, which was and still is the office of the Sheffield Telegraph and The Star newspapers. On arrival, my mother and I would be given a box, maybe a shoebox or a bigger one, and we were allowed to choose what we wanted to buy and send to my brother. In winter we would always select woollies, and in summer, lighter clothing. We always bought some chocolate and The Red Cross would always give us a present, maybe a woollen hat, gloves or socks.

My brother never spoke of his experiences in the camp, except to say that the prisoners would be out in the morning at 5.00am to march to the factory, which took one hour, and return at 6.00pm at night. Each prisoner was attached to a civilian. My brother’s German was called Wilhelm, William in English, which was my brother’s name but he was always known as Bill.

Wilhelm was older than my brother of course, and in his younger days had played professional football for Germany. When my brother was lucky enough to receive his Red Cross parcel, he always took some of his chocolate to Wilhelm for his grandchildren because they did not know what chocolate was. The Germans received one egg per person per month and Wilhelm always brought one for my brother, but my brother never accepted it; he would say, “Keep it for the children.”

My brother was in the prisoner of war camp until it finally closed following its liberation by the Russian Red Army on March 17-18, 1945.

They were ‘Happy Days’ when my brother returned home. Thomas Street had been trimmed up from top to bottom but, wishing to avoid any fuss, he arrived home at 1 o'clock in the morning.

His face was all blown up and swollen, a sign of malnutrition. Mum soon got him built up again with her good Yorkshire cooking. In latter time, maybe six months, he went to the doctor's and whilst he was there, the doctor examined him and he sent him for an X-ray. Apparently he had contracted T.B. in the prisoner of war camp. The scars were shown on the X-ray but it had healed, T.B. scars always show up on X-rays even when you are a recovered patient.

My brother will be 86 years of age on May 09, 2006. He still has a good physique, tall without a stoop, and still has a very good appetite, but unfortunately he is in the first stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

By way of coincidence, following my marriage to my husband, we had one daughter who is now 51 years of age. She was born on December 13, 1954 fourteen years to the day after her maternal grandmother was killed in the Sheffield Blitz.