World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                   Patricia Barnes 

"Good Morning, Daddy"

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Patricia Barnes
Location of story: Chesterfield
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Doreen Partridge of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Patricia Barnes.

Patricia Barnes
Good Morning, Daddy
My first memory of the war was going with my mother to see my father off on a train. He was wearing his uniform and he waved a rolled newspaper as the train left. It was many years later that I discovered from my mother that I was only two years old at the time; he left in 1939. I would be almost eight years old the next time that I would see him. I remember the occasion so vividly. I was in bed reading a book and with my hair in “rags” (the earlier version of hair rollers!), when a man came in bringing me a tin of boiled sweets and a box of Turkish delight. I knew instantly who he was because, for all those years he was away, my mother and I had a morning ritual whereby we would say, “Good Morning, Daddy” to his photograph which hung on the wall in the “room” (lounge).

My father was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, stationed firstly in France, then in South Africa and for the most time in Cairo. Somehow, he managed to get a tin trunk sent to us which contained yards of lovely green flowered muslin, a doctor’s first aid kit, beautiful Egyptian leather handbags- one for me and one for mum. Also for my mum, he sent some items worth their weight in gold – several pairs of nylons. The spoils of war!
We lived in a road of modern semi-detached houses, but except for one other house, these all had their families intact as the husbands were working in industry or coal mines and were exempt from going in the forces. My father had worked in the Town Hall in a “Reserved Occupation” so was also exempt but he insisted on volunteering to join the army.

I started school aged five, so had three years there before the war ended. I was the only child in the class with just one parent visiting on Parents’ Day, so I was allowed to keep my school books to, hopefully, show to my father at some unforeseeable future. Only a few yards beyond the bottom of our garden there was an Air Raid Warden’s Station from which sounded a siren to warn of possible air raids. It was a dreadful sound and one, which terrified me into immediately rushing to find my mother. I cannot remember the sirens once I started school but this was possible because they were not so close as when I was at home. I do recall the large brick-built shelter at school; built into a bank in the middle of a large grassy park. We also had the “Anderson” shelter at the bottom of our garden; often it had water in it. I believe they could be purchased after the war for the sum of £1.00. I think they would have needed to be remodelled to make a garden shed. I also recall during the air raids of being put under the kitchen table with the dog and if at my grandmother’s house, we all sat on the cellar steps.

Being only twelve miles from Sheffield, we would hear the German bombers passing overhead on the way to bomb the city. I recall visiting Sheffield at some time and seeing all the mountains of rubble which had once been shops, houses and factories; a dreadful sight. There was also a barrage balloon on the ground, surprisingly large; one only usually saw them up high in the air on the end of cables to prevent low-flying bombers.

My grandmother always seemed to be knitting gloves, scarves, socks and balaclavas. These were for the troops and I believe she achieved a very high number of garments and was later awarded a framed certificate of commendation for her considerable efforts.
In our town centre, I recall seeing large metal pipes running along the gutters at the side of the roads. They were water pipes and I believe they were kept above the ground to make it easier to repair them in case of bomb damage. I was taken to see a German Messerschmitt that had been shot down (I don’t think locally) and for which we paid an entrance fee, a sort of sideshow.

Our house, being relatively modern, had French windows, but one night a man had tried to get my mother to open the door and next morning, there were signs of someone trying to break in through those French doors. So until the end of the war these grand features were securely boarded up.

Under the bed in the spare room was a box of carefully hoarded tin foods, used sparingly as rationing was quite severe. I remember the powered eggs and potatoes and the awful saccharins for sweetening tea. If one was lucky enough to have an apple, it was quite usual for a less fortunate child to say, “Save us the cog,” meaning the apple core. One of my real wants was a banana. I’d never seen a real one and for many years I had to be content to dream about one. I used to look at a large plaster one in the greengrocer’s window.

Although my father was never in the ”Front-Line”, I gather it was no picnic out in the Middle East and he did his bit. He never applied for his war medals, he showed no interest and I can only assume after being away from home and family for six years, all he wanted to do was to get back as quickly as possible to a normal life. Only a few months ago, I managed, finally, to obtain his medals and they will now be framed alongside that photograph of a good looking young man in uniform to whom I said, “Good Morning, Daddy,” on all those many , many occasions.