World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                            Jean Reed 


By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: JEAN REED, Miss Ingall, Mr. Ross
Location of story: Belton, Lincolnshire
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 JEAN REED.



My experiences as an evacuee during WW2.
In 1940 I was three years old and my sister was one year old. Dad was enlisted into the Army, and sent to Egypt, and later to Burma where he stayed until 1946.

So it was decided in 1940 that my mother, sister and I had to be evacuated away from Hull, and because we were both under five years old mother had to come with us. We were evacuated to Belton, a small village in Lincolnshire. Belton is close to Scunthorpe, and about forty miles from Hull. Although it may not seem far away we missed all the terrible bombing that was inflicted upon the Port of Hull at that time. We were in a small country village along with several other evacuated families from
Hull and Leeds.

My first recollection is of sitting in a large hall (the School Hall) with my mother, and my sister, and just waiting for someone to come along, and say O.K. you can come and stay with me. A kindly gentleman came along and said we could live with him, and he was the Vicar Mr. Ross. There was a housekeeper called Miss Ingall, a housemaid called Dora, and Mr. Ross living in a large old stone Vicarage. The large walk-in pantry, and the washing scullery both had stone floors, which had to be scrubbed clean. My mum had to help with the housework, and I have seen her on her hands and knees scrubbing the stone floors. Mum had to work in the fields and we would sit at the side picnicking while the women worked.

Miss Ingall was Scottish and did all the cooking. The porridge was smothered in salt, and both the porridge and the gravy were 'lumpy'. She made me eat this lumpy gravy, (even when I hid under the table) and ever since I was a child I have refused to eat any gravy. She loved to bake cakes with Sesame seeds on the top, which always got stuck in my teeth. Miss Ingall took charge of all the ration books and although she had a withered left arm she could knit, sew, cook, and was always busy.

One day my mum and Dora decided that they had had enough of this lumpy porridge that was reheated and served up every day. They decided to get rid of this salty porridge, which was several days old, so they carried the pan outside and attempted to throw this great lump of porridge over the very high brick wall into the field next door. The porridge stuck on the top of the wall, and the pan went over it, and mum was left holding the panhandle.

My granddad was a night watchman on Hull's King George Dock. He was not allowed to carry a torch, because of the blackout, and one night he tripped over a ship's mooring rope and fell into the dock and unfortunately died of a heart attack. We came back to Hull briefly in 1942 for Granddad’s funeral, and saw the devastation and destruction in Hull. A house with the side ripped off showing furniture to the world and torn curtains flapping in the wind. We had to go into the shelter, which had a lot of water in it or hide under the stairs, but in Belton we led an idyllic country style life.

After Granddad died Grandma, two aunties and a cousin came to live with us in a large farmhouse called Millfield in Belton. It was in the middle of crop growing fields and we could always get fresh vegetables to eat from just outside the back door.

Millfield was close to Sandtoft Aerodrome, and one day a large plane was attempting to take off from this airfield, but it was flying very low over our heads, and some workers in the fields were frantically telling us to 'get down'. When a plane crashed locally we went and collected some aeroplane glass, and a local person would make brooches and rings from this very thick glass.

We later moved into All Saints Cottage alongside the church. Two more Aunts and a cousin came to live with us in this one up, one down cottage separated upstairs with a wooden partition with a gap of about twelve inches along the top. We children loved to climb up one side of the partition and fall over the other side onto the bed. We used to rearrange the flowers off the graves, and give someone without any flowers a few from another one.

We had to walk to school every day. This was about 1 mile, and we had to stay school dinners. Pudding was always rice or semolina with a big dollop of jam in the middle, which we would swish around until the pudding became all pink. One day my cousin Beryl did not want to go to school, so Auntie Doris sat her on her bike and wheeled her all the way to school with my sister and I running alongside them. Beryl was kicking and screaming all the way, but Aunt Doris got her to school, pushed her through the door and left her there. At playtime Beryl ran home.

The next village was Epworth, the birthplace of Methodism created by the Wesley brothers, and there was a small cinema in Epworth, which we sometimes walked to, and we occasionally had visiting concert parties at the local school.

We were walking along the road to Epworth one day when three Swedish planes flew overhead, one of them crashed, and the pilot baled out, but he fell into a tree and was killed. The other planes flew on but one came back, and as he flew over the dead pilot he dipped his wings in salute.

One day a school friend told us that the vet was coming to 'kill the pig', and so we decided to go to see the pig being killed. We were peeping through the fence, and this poor little pig was stood up when the vet suddenly shot it right through the front of its head, and it fell sideways to the ground. I have never run home so fast in all my life. Ted Pickering was a local smallholder, and we bought a pig, which he kept and fed for us until Xmas. At Xmas his pig was very big and fat, but ours was positively skinny. There were ten of us in our house, but only four in his family.

I only ever saw one V 1 flying bomb, or doodlebug during the war. We children were watching this small plane with flames shooting out of the tail, when it stopped immediately above the church steeple, after a few seconds it started up again and carried on for another two miles before it dropped near to Epworth. We had no idea what it was, but I am still here to tell the tale.

In 1945 two men came to our school to teach us. One was very good at drawing, and I think he fostered my interest in drawing and painting. They were returning servicemen, but my dad did not come back from Burma until 1946. All the other evacuees had gone back home, but we were the last to come back to Hull, where our previous house had been bombed, and we were left with nothing.

All the villagers turned out to welcome my dad back from the war, and I remember walking down the lane to the main road where he would be arriving in a lorry. Out stepped this bronzed, handsome man in Army Uniform, with sparkling white teeth and bright blue eyes. Although I had been shown photographs of him, and letters from him, he was a stranger to me.

This was my dad who was a complete stranger to me, and I was nine years old.