World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                              J Rogers 

Grandad is covered in soot

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Mrs. J. Rodgers
Location of story: Sheffield,Pitsmoor
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Doreen Partridge of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of J Rodgers.

Grandad covered in soot; Sheffield Blitz- Pitsmoor

I was born in Sun Street, Pitsmoor, Sheffield and was living there with my parents when the Second World War started. My grandparents and aunt lived just around the corner from us and when war was declared, my aunt, like many others, quickly married her boyfriend. This was because all men under 40 years of age expected to be called up straight away to serve in one of the armed forces.

When the bombing of Sheffield began it came as a shock although we had been preparing for quite a while. All the windows had to be blacked out, either by shutters or black curtains, strips of tape were applied to windows to prevent flying glass. Stirrup pumps (small foot operated pumps that were placed in buckets) were allocated a certain places and “SP” was written on the wall to signify where they were.
The government supplied Anderson Shelters to those who required them – these were corrugated dome shaped shelters, which required large holes to be dug in the gardens, and the shelters placed into the holes until they were almost buried. Some were made quite cosy inside and had flowers planted on the top.
The people, who did not have a garden in which to put a shelter, but did have a cellar, were told to go down to the cellar when an air raid was taking place. Workmen came and knocked a way through to the next-door cellar (with a door and a lock), until all the terrace houses became accessible. This was to make it easier to escape if a house collapsed and people were trapped.

If there was no garden or cellar, the alternative was a re-enforced table. This was very large and made of iron with a wooden top. The family could use this as a dining table and hide under it during an air raid.

My father was too old at 42 years to join the services, so as well as working he was also an Air Raid Warden.
When the air raid warning siren sounded on that fateful night in December, no one was really worried, it had happened before. Sheffield people had grown complacent because although many other major cities had been bombed, Sheffield hadn’t, so most people didn’t bother to go to their shelters on the night. Soon, however, the planes came over, bombs were dropped, the guns were firing at them and the noise was tremendous. My father had gone on his A.R.P. duties. My Grandma and Grandad came round as soon as the siren went, as they always did, and we were trapped in the house, too frightened to go down to the shelter. My Grandma, mother and myself sat on the cellar steps, my Grandfather refused to and he sat by the window. Suddenly there was a mighty explosion, the door and windows blew in, soot came down the chimney and all the lights went out. Grandad was thrown across the room and was covered in soot. My father appeared and ushered us and our next door neighbour, who was carrying a new born baby, down the garden, we nearly fell into the shelter and we were all panic stricken.
We sat in the shelter for about 10 hours. When we emerged the sky was red and there was the smell of burning in the air. Grandma and Granddad’s house was badly damaged and their budgie had died. They had to move in with us. That was a tight squeeze but we had all survived, unlike many people who weren’t so lucky. The town centre was devastated and the Moor was gone.

We had no gas or electricity, and water was delivered to the street every day.
We had no way of knowing if the rest of our family were still alive, fortunately they all survived.

Three nights later the planes returned and blasted the steel works this time.

My father was in the building trade and this helped him to rent a house for us at Ecclesall; this area hadn’t had much damage and the residents didn’t go down to the shelters anymore. After our experiences, we got up every time the sirens went and ran down Ecclesall Road to a communal shelter by the side of Wood's Funeral Directors. I presume this underground shelter is still there or it may have been filled in. There was never more than eight people in that shelter and gradually we stopped going.

We all lived together until after the war, having several more years of fear, queuing, making do. No toys, only what Grandad made out of wood, disrupted school, gas masks to be carried everywhere.

My mother went out to work and my father had to work for the government, building aerodromes and helping to rebuild London.
My father’s mother was a tailoress and she would make a coat, matching hat and handbag for any woman who could supply a wool blanket. She also made dolls by the dozen from little scraps of material; luxuries like this were practically non-existent.

The war years were very drab and dark, but we survived… counselling in those days. We learnt how to make do, to cook from few ingredients; we picked blackberries, rosehips and bilberries. We were happy if we got a comic or Sunny Strories by Enid Blyton. We learnt to be happy with little but there were a lot of tears shed by mothers.

After the war was over, things would never be the same; men coming home from war must have found it difficult to adjust. My best friend hadn’t seen her father for 5 years and she was really excited when he was on his way home. When he arrived, prepared to carry on where he had left off, she hated him. She had lived alone with her mother in a woman’s world; her mother had a job and was independent. Things were difficult and it took a few years for it to settle down.
We had survived!!! But when it emerged on the cinema news, the horrors that the Nazis had perpetrated, we were horrified!!!