World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        Malcolm Nunn 

Living On A Farm In Wartime

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Mary Hannah Nunn (nee Buckley)
Location of story: Bradfield, 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 Malcolm Nunn.

During World War II, I lived at Agden House Farm (now demolished) with my mother and father and my younger sister, I was only fifteen at the time when war was declared and I don't think it meant a lot to me at the time. I had already left school and was working as a domestic for a local Doctor, cleaning and cooking etc. My father farmed land around the farm that was at the head of Agden Reservoir at Bradfield and was approximately 7 miles from Sheffield.


On the night of the Sheffield Blitz by German Bombers in November and December 1940, I can recall that looking down the valley, the night sky above Sheffield could be seen as a huge orange glow. There were no streetlights and all dwellings had to put up thick curtains to prevent light being seen from above or below, I remember my father saying, "It looks as though Sheffield has had it tonight". The full moon seemed to light up the whole area around Bradfield and such was the extent of the sound of the bombers which circled above to return more destruction on Sheffield that we decided to saw wood outside the stables in readiness for the w-intec..abead.


Following the air raids on Sheffield, the authorities decided to make a "mock village" on Ernlin Moors that are were about a mile beyond our farm. The purpose of this was that when enemy aircraft were expected a unit from the Defence Regiment would go onto the moors and light the powder charges and make the enemy think that they were bombing a large area. This proved to be unsuccessful on two counts, one being that the Germans had far better surveillance and navigation aids than the British thought, and secondly the Defence Regiment could not find their way in the dark. It was then decided that local farmers should act as guides and lead the Regiment to the spot.


When Britain decided that the way to incapacitate the German production line was to breach their reservoirs British planes used the local reservoirs for practising. They used the Langsett, Ewden, Bradfield and Derwent Reservoirs for practice runs and Guy Gibson who led the command stayed at Broomhead Hall at the head of the Ewden Valley with the Reminington Wilson family to oversee the practices. When Britain had made the successful bombing raids on the German Reservoirs, it was feared that reprisals would take place, it was Bradfields four reservoirs which were now considered vulnerable (It was said that if the reservoirs were breached Sheffield would be wiped out within fifteen minutes). Again a Defence Regiment (I think it was The Green Howard's) was put into action. Firstly a huge mast approx. 100 ft. high was erected on either side of the each reservoir with a connecting wire and wires with weights on them hung from the cross wire which was to stop German bombers getting low enough to bomb the reservoir embankments.


Secondly smoke generators were positioned around the sides of reservoirs, and when the alarm sounded the generators would pump a smoke screen across the water in order that they could not be seen from above. As farming for food production was in great demand, girls who were not in service were called up to help on the land, the were known as "Land Army Girls", and several of the farms in the area employed them, we did not have any on our land although some of them stayed at our farmhouse overnight where accommodation was limited on the farms in which they worked.


One I got to know quite well came from Grenoside and was used as a ratcatcher and travelled around on a motor cycle. Also local schools were asked to co-operate and many operated a "Dig for Victory" campaign where they were encouraged to plant crops etc. in any land within the school grounds. I cannot recall any bombings in our area, although a couple of land mines were dropped into Damflask Reservoir and one of them caused a large fall of soot in a nearby farmhouse, much to the annoyance of the resident who claimed what she would do in return if she ever met Adolf Hitler.


 Another local character set about defacing anything which would enable the enemy to find his whereabouts should he ever set foot in the area. He also thought that if they did land in the area, they would come looking for him as he claimed to be a spy in World War 1. He would also delight in telling his experiences to local children. As holidays were cancelled during wartime the local Scoutmaster and his Scouts came to stay during the summer holidays, sometimes up to a week at a time, when another batch would take their place. I still see some of them now and they often recall how they enjoyed their holidays on our farm.


When the war was finally over, I recall almost everyone from the village and surrounding area turned out to celebrate the end of hostilities by having a party in the Village Hall with home-made teas and cakes etc. It was the first time the Village Hall had been used for about five years due to the Defence Regiments being billeted there, and people turned out to clean and prepare the Hall prior to the party.


A few incidents I can recall during wartime that seemed amusing to me at the time although probably not to those directly involved were: 1) On one occasion whilst helping father deliver milk and eggs around Hillsborough we were delivering to Patnick's shop on Langsett Road, father asked a young man (probably Edward Patnick) if he could have the milk and egg money due to him. He replied that his father was out and his mother ill in bed and could not get access to the money. Whilst in the shop and number of people came into the shop asking if the could buy a bed or mattress or something to sleep on as their home had been damaged in an air raid. The young man replied they had had a run on these items due to the blitz and his father was trying to obtain more supplies. At that moment Mr.Patnick Snr.. came in and explained that he could not get any more due to excess demand. One family described their ordeal to him and he promptly got Mrs. Patnick off her sick bed and sold them the bed as not to miss a sale and my father got his money!


2) On another occasion when we visited Patnick's they had just come into possession of some German parachutes which as you are probably aware were made of silk and much sought after. After some bargaining we purchased one from them, took it home and mother made me and my sister some dresses from the material and the left-overs were made into dresses for the children at the village school. I think their were some comments made when a number of children turned up at school all wearing the same style and colour of dresses but I don't think anyone was aware of where they originated from.


3) On another occasion after delivering milk and eggs we were returning home towards Bradfield, it was almost dark and we were approaching Bradfield when stopped by the local constable who informed my father that he was not using the headlight cover correctly on his motor cycle and any German planes could spot it from the air and ascertain their location and would have to book him for this offence. The policeman's wife came out to see who her husband was talking to and asked if she could have some more milk and eggs as she wanted to do a batch of baking and returned with some large bowls for the milk. Father thought of a way of getting round this problem by first filling the two bowls with milk and putting one under each of the policeman's arms and filling his helmet with the eggs.


The policeman could not do anything about the original incident for fear of spilling the milk or breaking the eggs and father drove off leaving the policeman red faced. The policeman caught up with father some weeks later about the incident, father reminded him that he had not been paid for the milk or eggs and that was the last we heard of the incident. 4) During wartime with petrol and diesel in short supply the bus company hit on the idea of running their buses by gas, this involved a normal bus towing a trailer with a type of balloon filled with gas. The route chosen for the trials was that from Hillsborough to Bradfield as this was the flattest route out of the city. I think trials were going well until one day the bus was approaching Damflask Reservoir when it caught fire. The Defence Regiment brought the fire under control as they had ready access to water from the Reservoir but as far as I can recall this was the end of the experiments and buses we again run by the more traditional fuel.