World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

May Burbridge

An Office Worker's Story

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: May Burbridge
Location of story: Sheffield, England.
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 May Burbridge.

When I was about 23 years old and single, a friend and I went to the cinema, namely The Hippodrome, which was in the centre of the city (Sheffield). It was December 1940. The main feature was a film called, “Jamaica Inn”, and it had not been running very long when an announcement was made that the sirens had gone, and bombs were already being dropped, so the audience was advised to go to the nearest shelter.

Everyone rushed out, and in our panic, my friend and I started to run down The Moor, which was already partly on fire. A car stopped and the driver asked us if he could drop us off somewhere. We accepted and he took us to our homes in Nethergreen. My mum was eagerly waiting for me to come home safely, because she was herself, an air raid warden and should be on duty. I went next door where the neighbour had two or three soldiers billeted, so I felt safe there.

Eventually, one of those soldiers became my husband. Next morning, as far as I was concerned, it was work as usual, so I walked all the way to Attercliffe, which is on the other side of Sheffield. I was horrified by all the destruction I encountered on my long walk. Although it took over an hour to get to and from work, it wasn’t an excuse to miss doing my job; there were others who felt the same also.

Exerpts from May's 1940 diary: New year's resolutions: 1) Always try to be as cheerful as possible, 2) Count my blessings more oftn, 3)Brush hair evcery night, 4) Never put new make-up on top of old, 5) Never eat before meals except on special occasions, 6) Always try to do what I intend to do.

January 22rd: Went to Dorothy's with Harold and Les. Had a lovely time and walked home with Harold through Endcliffe Woods. We kissed each other by the waterfall, but when I said goodnight, he didn't make another date until Monday. Oh dear, I'm afraid I have got it bad, but I don't think it's reciprocated. I have been miserable ever since because I love him and it's all so hopeless.

January 23rd...I did a foolish thing this morning. I wrote a letter to Harold asking him to mend my shoes. I bet he thinks I'm a bright spark. I would do anything to get that letter back. I didn't mean anything, I wish I could get rid of this feeling inside. Went to The Empire at night with Wilf to see 'Band Wagon'. Poor Wilf, will he be next?

January 24th: Went to Wigfalls' dance and had a lousy time. There was a most objectionable man there and he was dead drunk. Still thinking about Harold and regretting about that letter. I do wish something would happen, something nice!

January 25th: Am going to bed early tonight to cry myself to sleep, and then, after tonight, I'm going to get over it. Instead of the above, got a letter from Margaret about my letter to Harold. I went up to have my shoes mended. Felt an awful fool. He's going home this weekend. Can't make him out.

January 29th: I have finished with Harold. He came up with Des and seemed very remote. He says he is going home again. I think he has a girl there. Anyway, we can't go on like this. Pity I allowed myself to like him so much. However, shell get over it, no doubt.

December 12th: Had terrific air raids. Started at 7.30 and then dropped bomb aftyer bomb until 4.15. Was in Hippodrome. They stopped the show and when we got outside, found all The Moor ablaze. Ran home with bombs dropping. Got a lift so far. Thought every moment was our last.

13th December: Walked to down work, houses bombed right and left. Cars burnt, all Moor gone. Atkinson's, Walsh's burning like merry hell. C&A, Cockaynes, Boot's, Mark's and Spencer's and many others. Thousands killed and injured. Many more thousands homeless. East End, where all Military objectives are, not touched. So this is war.

31 December: So the old year comes to an end. On the whole, had some good times, had some worrying ones too. Met and fell in love with Harold, met Les, Wilf & Eddy Snow. Wonder if war will be over next year. Certainly it was brought right onto the doorstep this year. Haven't kept all my resolutions, but still trying.