World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                       Jack Arthur 

School Days 1939

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Jack Arthur, Harry Emerey and Richard Flinders
Location of story: Fence Council School, Woodhouse Mill, 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 Jack Arthur.

Schooldays 1939
I was a schoolboy when the war with Germany was declared. I remember that morning quite well; I was listening to the radio with my family, just waiting. My age then was eleven years; I am now 76 (2005).

Being at school in those days was different from the present time; I yearn for their return. We went to school with our gas masks in a cardboard box and an Identity Card in our pocket.

As war progressed, things began to change. Rationing started; there were no bananas, very few oranges, and even fewer sweets. Smith’s crisps were also rare.

I remember hospital trains passing through Woodhouse Mill station, going somewhere, no church bells and the blackout. We had to walk to school, and I remember the anti aircraft guns pointing their barrels to the east. I heard them firing their deadly shells, sooner than I expected.

As children, we never went short of fish and chips, it cost 1 penny (0.5p) then. It came to pass that the gun site at Treeton became redundant; the war changed course and eventually, that site became a POW camp at which Italian POW’s arrived. I will never forget the air raids in 1940 – 41, and the Sheffield Blitz.

Whilst at Fence School, the bigger boys had to pump the air raid shelters out. Harry Emery, Dick Flinders, and I, along with more lads who were big enough, got the job of doing that. The good thing about it was that we always missed the maths lesson, so we didn’t mind, although it mattered later.

We did our bit (digging for victory). The girls were knitting balaclava helmets for the troops. As the war carried on, I was beginning to think I might become involved, sooner of later. The nearest I got, towards the end of the war, was when I started work in the munitions factory at Attercliffe, helping to make mortar shells. At that stage of the war, I had left school at 14 years of age and my wage was 14 shillings and 7pence (73p).