World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        Lorna Keating 

Memories Of A Teenage Girl In WW2

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Lorna Keating, Maurice Keating, Tom Womersley and Annie Womersley
Location of story: Bradford
Unit name: 152 Squadron
Background to story: Royal Air Force


1939 - It was the week before War broke out. I was fifteen and was spending my usual few days with my Aunties, who lived in Baildon, awaiting the Gypsy Carnival which took place every year. The day came and the young ones joined the procession on decorated floats around the village, returning to The Green to witness the marriage of Gypsy Petrolengo. In the evening I went to the show and I was surprised to see my Mum and Dad who had come a day early to take me home. The reason was I had to get ready to be evacuated the next day.

1st September 1939 - Our school left Bradford (with our Teachers) complete with gas masks and clothing, and a train journey took us to Nelson where we were allocated to people who offered to accept us in their homes. After a month, my parents brought me back home, and as the schools were closed, and I was nearly sixteen, I knew I could not sit my School Certificate, so I obtained an office post at English Electric Munitions Factory in 1940 and stayed there for two years.

1942 - I then left and started work at the Independent Order of Rechabites. Here, once a month, we took it in turns to stay overnight fire watching. By this time I was feeling guilty at not doing anything to help with the War. It was one of the staff who told me about the Ambulance Division, so I got in touch and was accepted; I was issued with my uniform. I attended Lectures and passed my first aid exam. The duties were, going to Lectures, staying overnight once a week and reporting for duty whenever the Sirens sounded. We also had mock up scenes and practises to deal with all kinds of injuries. I know once, I was supposed to be an injured person, having a label on me to say what injuries I had obtained, and at the time, I had a plaster on my finger but my injuries were serious, so I had to be put on a stretcher. On the way to the ambulance, some children, who were watching the event, saw me and I heard one child say, “Fancy, she only has a plaster on her finger, why can’t she walk to the ambulance?”

Another of our duties was to meet hospital trains bringing the war wounded straight from the field to be taken to hospitals around Bradford. They were taken to St. Lukes, Bradford Royal infirmary, Westwood and Menston.

To get an ambulance ready, you had four stretcher beds to make up, four hot water bottles and four drinking flasks of water. This was alright providing the train was on time. Sometimes it was altered so you had to refill the hot water bottles. When the train arrived, you were in charge of four casualties put in
your ambulance, and the first thing you had to do was see if anyone had a red cross on his/her forehead. If they had, they had a tourniquet somewhere which had to be released every ten minutes. You would ask if they required a drink of water, and really to look after them until they reached the hospital. The ambulances were a ‘Jeep’ type vehicle with metal beds and a roll down curtain at the back; not very comfortable, and the fumes used to come in. It was very upsetting to see some of the injured. One soldier was very upset because he had lost a wooden building block set he had bought for his child. I said I would see if I could trace it. Fortunately I did find it and was able to take it to him in the hospital we had taken him to. His face was a picture and he was so grateful. I often visited my patients in hospital to see if I could help them. I took buttered long buns and cakes to them, and one soldier was allowed to leave the hospital for a few hours, so he came and had a meal at my parents' house.

I often wonder what happened to the soldiers I looked after, and the four German soldiers I took to Westwood Hospital. One had his arm resting on his chest and all he could say in English was, "Amputation". All I could do was give a sympathetic smile, as I could not speak German. I would like to think they found us caring.

It took me a while to get over the shock of seeing the wounded soldiers, some of them very serious cases.

My father was an ARP Warden and he kept an eye on us, and I can still hear the Wardens shouting, "Put that light out".

I do not know how my Mother managed to feed us and provide some of the food I took to the soldiers in hospital on the rations we got. I just admired her. She and I did a lot of knitting, making socks, balaclava helmets and gloves in navy, brown and air force blue for the Forces.

What a relief it was when peace was declared and the street lights came on.

The result of the War stayed with me until my husband died nine years ago. He was a pilot in the Royal Air Force and was in Burma where he got spinal meningitis. He was told he would not be able to walk again but he persevered and was able to play rugby and cricket, but gradually his spine let him down and in 1982 he was confined to a wheelchair. In 1992 he started with panic attacks and Parkinson’s disease, then he developed lung cancer. I nursed him at home, he was so brave and never complained. He died at home as he wanted to. I still have his logbook and photographs taken when he was abroad.

He had a friend called Ian who came from Stirling. I often wonder if he is still alive.