World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                          Norma Hardy 

Norma's Wartime Memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Mrs Norma Hardy
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian


Norma’s Wartime Memories

Mrs Norma Hardy

Sheffield November 2005

I was born in Sheffield in 1931, so at the outbreak of war, I was only very young. I do have very strong childhood memories of the war. At the time I never realised the seriousness of the situation, it was what I was used to.

Mum and Dad both worked in the steelworks, so we lived in the Attercliffe district of Sheffield on Lumley Street. We all knew that if the sirens went, signalling an air raid, we had to go into the cellar. We were lucky, as a door led from our cellar into the reinforced cellar of the house next door. On the night of 15th December 1940, the sirens wailed and I hurried with my family and all our bunks into next door's cellar. There were about 4 families in there.

Attercliffe in the lower Don valley was a prime target for the German bombers, as it housed the steelworks and munitions factories. Throughout the raid, we could hear the bombs whooshing and whistling down and the loud bangs, thuds and crumps of them reaching the ground. Surprisingly, all remained eerily calm in the cellar. It must have been the Cadbury’s chocolate drops Mum gave me! The siren suit Mum had made me kept me warm. None of us knew what we would find when we eventually went back up into our homes. I remember the whole sky over Sheffield being red with flames.

Afterwards, there were some little raids, but nothing like the night of the Sheffield Blitz. I can recall that the Fitzalan Square area of central Sheffield, with all the trams just after the blitz. The Marples Hotel was flattened and many were killed.

The next day, an aunt and uncle arrived at our house with their 7 children. They had been ‘bombed out’ and we had to put them up at our house. We children had to sleep from top to tail to fit everyone in. One of my cousins was Freddy Furness, who a few years later played for Sheffield United as a full back. My auntie was very nervous during a raid, but would not go into the cellar. She insisted in sitting on a chair at the top of the cellar steps clutching her handbag containing all their insurance policies!

We got to know later that day that my mother’s sister, Cecilia Gascoigne and her husband, John Thomas; both ARP Wardens of Coleford Road, Darnall had taken a direct hit at home and sadly had been killed. I can remember their funerals, they left 3 children.

Everyday things changed for me. Where the swings were at Attercliffe, a large barrage balloon was tethered. We went to Carbrook Primary school carrying our gas masks. We practised leaving our lessons and going into the school air raid shelter. Everyone cooperated because we just knew we had to do this. I also went to Coleridge Road School. I remember clearly on the day of the D-Day landings, our teacher, Miss Macarthur led the assembly with prayers. I didn’t realise the significance of this day or know just how many men had been killed. We moved house, to Barry Crescent at Parson Cross. I had to go 3 times a week to lessons at a house on Pollard Road.

I never saw any fruit during the war. One day I was walking past the Co-op at the top of Attercliffe, and saw an apple charlotte in the window – it looked wonderful. To supplement our rations, my Dad, like many others, kept hens. Dad paid a man to kill 2 of the hens for us.

My Grandmother Oldham had a paper shop at Bull Street in Attercliffe. I used to help her. My job was to count out the cigarettes into bundles of 5 and roll them up in newspaper. Everything in the shop was Carter’s brand. They made ‘marry-me-quick’ at a shop in Attercliffe (Marry-me-quick was a sweet shaped like an umbrella; it was a little bit like rock). I also used to go to the Sarsaparilla shop. This sold only soft drinks. Here I tasted Vimto for the first time. If you went to the pictures everyone was smoking ‘pasha’, Turkish cigarettes. I can still remember their horrible smell. I was once in the pictures when the sirens went. We had just paid 1/6d (7½p)to see For Whom The Bell Tolls. We all had to leave and go home.

In 1944 I went to Shirecliffe School. Near here there was a wood off Henry Scaithwood Drive. The prisoners of war built prefabricated houses here. They worked under armed guard and those families who were bombed out were re-housed in these buildings. The ‘prefabs’ as they became known as were quite good.

When I was 14 I worked in the Norfolk Market Hall (off Dixon Lane/Waingate) at Caledonian Biscuits. I was near the centre of the market by the fountain. On Saturdays, some of the German and Italian prisoners of war would come down. I was really scared of them. One day I was given a little note by one of them asking me to meet him outside after work. He was there when I came out and he carried my basket to the Castlegate bus stop. My Dad met me here and I burst into tears when I got on the bus.

I worked with a girl called Nora. Her brother used to take me out. We would go to the Gaumont cinema. Mum encouraged me to keep seeing him until Christmas, because through his job, he might be able to get us some pork! I did not heed her advice and finished with him. Clothes were hard to come by and you had to save up your clothing coupons. I had been bought a blue mac. The first time I wore it was to the picture house in the Wicker. I kept it buttoned up so as to look my best, but everyone started pushing in the queue and all the button holes split. Mum was not best pleased, as there was no chance of a replacement.

I used to go to the Ritz at Southey Green. It was here that I met my husband Doug in 1949. The girls used to queue up outside. Later, all the lads used to walk down the cinema queue and push in. Doug pushed in near me and that was it. He was very sun tanned with sun bleached hair due to him being in the services in Aden. We married over 50 years ago and still live happily in Sheffield.

Norma Hardy