World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        Kathleen Hope 

The Home Front

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Kathleen Hope
Location of story: 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 Kathleen Hope.


I was ten years old when war broke out. I was living in a village in Derbyshire at the time. On the Sunday morning, I returned from Sunday School to find my mother in tears; she had just found out that war had been declared. We had lived in the country for about six months when the evacuees (children) were brought in. I remember standing at the gate shouting “Townies!” at them

We had to move back to Sheffield. My father went to work at TW Ward in The Wicker. When the air raids started, we slept downstairs in siren suits so that when the sirens went, we could get into the air raid shelters straight away. Ours was an Anderson Shelter in the garden.

There were several air raids on the main blitz night; I remember it was very cold and clear. I was in the shelter with some of my family where I spent the night sitting on a shovel across a bucket; I could hear bombs and the sound of glass breaking.

The bombers were following the railway line into the city centre and on to the steelworks. My father had been to work so wasn’t with us at the time. He set off to walk home from TW Ward through the city centre whilst the blitz was going on. He was diving from one shelter to another. A policeman was killed right beside my father.

When he eventually reached us, he came into the shelter but he was so dazed, he looked at my brother and said, “Who is this young man?” He just did not know him. Dad was a good provider. He arrived through the bombing with a chicken under his arm. He brought lots of food, usually tins that he had salvaged from burnt out warehouses. The labels on the tins were destroyed, so we didn’t know what the contents of the tins were. They could have been anything from pilchards to plums for all we knew.

The day after the blitz, I walked through Barber's Fields (now a housing estate) to Abbey Lane school, only to find it closed. I was stopped from walking back the same way as an unexploded land mine had been found there.

During the early part of the war, it was considered dangerous to have children congregated together in schools, so we were split into small groups and taught in private houses. This scheme was called ‘Home service’. When at school we had regular air raid drills; we would file out to the shelters or under the benches carrying our gas masks, which went everywhere with us.

During my years at Grammar School, for three years running, parties of us went to Lincolnshire in September to pick potatoes. Agricultural labour was in very short supply. The work was very hard and we slept in Nissen Huts and stables for two weeks, but we were young, away from school and it was an adventure. I received 27/6 (£1.37.5p) for my two weeks, my first earnings. Working in nearby fields were Italian and German prisoners of war. Most of us had never seen a foreigner before, let alone ‘the enemy’.

When I was about fourteen, I joined the girls’ Training Corps, the equivalent of the boys’ Army Cadets. We drilled behind the City Hall on Sunday mornings and learned map reading etc. I made myself a battledress top out of an old coat of my sister’s and a navy skirt out of a pair of my father’s old trousers. There were no spare clothing coupons to buy such things.