World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Rita Walker

Fate takes a hand

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Rita Walker (Nee Winterbottom)
Location of story: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Rita Walker.

Fate takes a hand
Rita Walker

My story is about the time when during an air raid in Sheffield, the hotel Marples was
destroyed and almost everyone inside was killed.

We were visiting my grandma who lived on Brightside Lane, when the sirens went, mum dad I, and my sister. We were both off school because, we lived on Papermill Road, Shiregreen, and our school, Beck Road junior had closed for the day pending the promised raid on Sheffield by ‘Lord Haw Haw’, who used to tell everyone where the bombs were going to be dropped when he made his broadcasts.

He said he was coming for the steel works and dad was worried about gran because she was in the path of the bombs. She would not budge, so mum and dad grabbed us two and ran out into Brightside Lane.

We needed to get the tram back to Firth Park, but all we could get was one going into town. I remember it was so full, we could hardly breathe, everyone had to get off in the square, dad told mum to make for Marples, which was a big pub just up from the square, but when we got there, it was full to the door. Dad begged them to take my sister and me because we saw several children being passed over people's heads into the safety of the pub, but they said there was no more room. By this time, panic was everywhere, a man in a tin hat with A.R.P. on the front grabbed dad's arm and said, "Get down to Bridge Street, that shelter still has some room in it."

I remember my sister and I holding hands between mum and dad, running so fast our feet didn’t seem to touch the ground. We just got in the shelter when the raid started full belt. All we could hear were loud bangs and people screaming. We stayed there for what seemed an eternity, then we heard the all clear.

When we came out, it seemed like the world had changed. People-were calling out names looking, for families that had got split up; everyone was crying. I heard dad telling mum that Marples had taken a direct hit and all inside were dead. And so, if they had taken my sister and me in that pub when dad begged them to, I would not be here to tell my story.