World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                     Peggy Ainsworth 

Life in Wartime Britain

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: John Tobin, Vincent Tobin, Doris Tobin, Bessie Tobin, Peggy Tobin
Location of story: Bradford West Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Maggie O’Neill of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Peggy Ainsworth.

Life in Wartime Britain

3rd September 1939 - 7 years old

My earliest memory of the war was air raid drill at school. We had these brick shelters in the playground. My father erected an Andersen Shelter in the garden. Being fortunate, the only time we were in the shelter was the last Saturday evening of August 1940. My grandfather retired that day. The centre of Bradford was bombed. It was thought they were unloading bombs for a quick return home. I remember black out material for curtains, restricted light in torches and shortages of coal. I lived in the bedroom because of gas fire. Soldiers were billeted in schools and big houses. Ration books: being a child 2 ounces (50g) of sweets a week. People used to exchange food. My mother made rabbit stew (lovely).

My father was a painter and decorator and worked at the Royal Infirmary, and because there was a lot of leftover food, the workmen formed a pig club. I remember going with my father to feed them, there was good accommodation for the pigs and boiled up food. We ate pigeon. I was lacking vitamins and the lobes of my ears were coming away from my head. The specialist, a Mr Bingham prescribed Borax, which did the trick. I remember Winston Churchill being driven in an open jeep down past the drive where I lived and waving to people, queuing for bread, Marks and Spencer’s for fruit cake and cinemas. Unlike today, we had many ‘uplifting our spirits’ films, musicals with Fred Astaire, Laurel and Hardy, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry being my favourites. Photographs of Belsen were on display at the Co-op Hall I went to with my mother.

My brother was killed aged 19 years, on the way from Anzio to Rome. Whitsuntide holidays at home in bed, woke to my mother crying after receiving the telegram. We went to my father’s work to tell him (no phones). My brother had worked at John Lipton’s Wine and Spirits Co in the centre of Bradford near the railway station. My mother remarked, after going to his workplace to inform them of his death, that many soldiers were making for the railway station. Later we heard about D Day on 6th June 1944.