World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                            Roy Foulds 

The Forgotten War Widows and their Children

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Roy Malcolm Foulds, Terry Foulds, Joan Foulds, G.M. Foulds and Valerie Foulds
Location of story: Worksop Nottinghamshire
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Katherine Wood of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Roy Malcolm Foulds.

The Forgotten War Widows and their Children

We would be as happy as little larks going to meet our father at the railway station, and taking him his two ounces of twist for his pipe. He would be asleep and I would wake him up and ask for a push on the swing he had made for us. My brother and I would drag his rifle upstairs, point it out of the window and pretend to shoot the enemy in the next street. Its a good job there were no bullets in the gun, we might have killed somebody.
We would feed the hens, get the eggs and watch the young chickens hatching in the incubator. When the German bombers came up from the east coast, following the railway lines in the evening you could see the planes coming and hear the droning of their engines, they would pass the bottom of our garden on the way to Sheffield. Mother would tell us to get under the four legged barley twist table, pillows and red post money boxes were taken with us, and should a bomb drop on the house to rattle them as loud as we could. When the planes had passed overhead we would venture out to the back field looking towards Sheffield, you could see the bright flashes in the sky as the bombs attacked their targets.

My dad’s compassionate leave had come to an end. We went with father and mother to the station. This is where we said our last farewell, as the train pulled out of the station. Mother took us to have our photos taken in the back garden of a house on Stanley Street, at the bottom of the station approach.
I remember crying all the way home and an old lady, asking what I was crying for. I told her "It’s my dad and he won’t ever be coming back home again." “Don’t cry he’ll be coming home again," she said. In the early hours of the morning there was a loud bang on the back door. Terry and I jumped out of bed shouting, “It’s me dad, he’s come back home!” We looked through the curtains but there was nobody there. Father had always told mother jokingly that if anything happened to him, he would come back and let her know. On the 4th or 5th day of December 1942, his life ended 20 days before Christmas. Mother got the telegram informing her that he had been killed. I still have the letters from the Padre and the Captain. The photo we had taken just before he left was sent out to him but he would never see it. The photo and his mail was sent back to mother, which I still have. The photos of his grave, with a cross stating his name and army number, were delivered by telegram. I remember mother on a chair with the back cut off, crying her little socks off. I went up to mother and touched her hand with my little hand and said, “Please don’t cry anymore mummy, please don’t cry anymore mummy”. Some people say I should forget about it, but how can you? Probably if we’d have had some help from the British Legion, it might have helped.

From now on the family would have to pay dearly for that war. Our battle for survival had just begun. The hens would have to go, the incubator, the sheds, the lot. Strange men in long overcoats and trilby hats would remove the lot. No more pleasure of feeding the hens and watching the little yellow chickens hatching from their shells. Mother went to the British Legion for some kind of help and was told to go and find a job. With four kids in four and a half years. At times in winter we would be cold and hungry, and cry, “Mummy we are cold and hungry”. She would tell us to put a coat on the bed and pray to Jesus and think you had something to eat. Well he never came to visit us. In November, around Poppy Day, I ask the old war heroes would you tell me what happened to the war widows and their kiddies? Their reply in always the same, that we were well looked after by the British Legion. I then inform them that I am the son of a war widow and we never got any help from the Legion.




Childhood Anecdotes of World War II

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Roy M Foulds
Location of story: Worksop
Background to story: Civilian


Childhood Anecdotes of World War II

1. Mums letter to Dad and a little prayer that I made up:
From your darling wife Gwen with the best of love and kisses, may God be with you
always George love, the best of health and good luck from the children.
Here's a little prayer that our Roy made up:
'God bless Daddy and me Mammy and bring Daddy safely back to me Mammy and may
victory be ours, so that the sun will shine on us again and teach me to do all that is right, so that I may bring all the happiness to Mammy and Daddy Amen.'

They say this little prayer every night before bed, they shut their eyes and think of you. Well sweetheart again I wish you luck and the best of love so happy dreams from your wife Gwen.

2. Scarlet Fever, Joan taken into hospital:
A girl a couple of doors down the street from where we lived went down with Scarlet
Fever and had to be taken to hospital by an army ambulance which had a great big red
cross on both sides and its back doors, then my sister Joan developed the fever and was taken into hospital. Terry and I were fascinated by the action and by the two men dressed in white boiler suits and masks. They fumigated the bedrooms with DDT and sealed the doors with masking tape. How long the doors were sealed for is anybody's guess.

While my mother was visiting at the hospital, mother’s side of the family brought our great grandma from Creswell by taxi and left here for mother to look after when she came back home, she was not very pleased with the situation, granny had a hole in her leg; she also had a tube inserted to drain the fluid from her leg, the smell was vile. She would rattle the fireguard in the mornings for the smelly leg to be dressed, she wore a long black dress down to the floor. If she had put her Welsh hat on and a broom between her legs I'm sure she would have flown through the air casting her magic spells. Mother got a
taxi to have her taken back home. One hell of a row broke out; they accused mother of
being very ungrateful, as her grandmother had reared here from being a young girl. It did not seem to matter to them that my sister Joan had been taken into hospital for Scarlet Fever, so long as their ends had been satisfied.

As a sweetener they brought my little sister Valerie a new free wheel bike, I would take my sister out on it, she being stood on the back, holding onto my shoulders and we would go to fetch the ration from the Co-operative on Gateford Road. I can still remember the number for the dividends: 2590. On our way we would come across men cutting down beautiful ornamental iron railings on the tops of walls for the war effort, this was supposed to boost morale. I have only learnt this year that the metal was useless for the war effort, just think of the cost involved in removing it, it was done all over the country.

If school children look on the top of old walls they will see where the iron railings came from.
3. Mother goes out to work:
Mother tried to go out to work but that lasted one week, our 'Jack the lad', Terry got into some argument with the girls, we got fighting and I ended up tying Terry up with the clothesline, then went to fetch mother from work. When we got back home, he had cut himself free with a carving knife and was chasing the girls through one door and out of another, windows open and curtains flying in all directions. That was the end of mother going out to work again. She was broken hearted and said we would end up killing one another. My brother had caused the trouble in the first place he hit me for tying him up, the girls should have sat on him.

4. Looking at the bomb damage in Sheffield:
During the war, mother took us kiddies to Sheffield on the bus, I don't know what year it was but we all had a mug of tea and something to eat in the bus drivers' canteen on Pond Street. We may have gone to visit my dad's sister who lived in Sheffield. We were standing on a road-bridge with tall iron sides, I heard people saying that a bomb had been dropped during the night raid. I asked a soldier with his tin hat hanging from his back, if he would lift me up so that I could have a look, which he did. Looking down on lots of railway line, I thought I had had seen a white ambulance at the site.
We never got to my dad's sister's house that day; it must have been due to the bomb
damage. I have since worked in Sheffield in the Pond Street area and still cannot figure out exactly where that bomb struck to this day.

5. Jimmy and his magic patch:
When we went to school you were not allowed to wear long trousers until you reached
the age of 14, short trousers were the normal thing to wear, and when your backside
became thread bare, you would have the hole covered up with what we called 'our jimmy
and his magic patch', named from one of the comics (Dandy or The Beano, not sure
which). Nothing like kids of today, who have patches sewn on, thinking it’s 'cool' - as they call themselves. If your patch came adrift slightly, the other lads would delight in pulling it off so your bare backside could he seen, laughing at your predicament. No underpants then, you had to sit in school until a repair could be done on them.

6. Sugar squabbles:
We had endless squabbles about who had got the most amount of sugar, so mum had to buy us drinking glasses with our names on, so we all had the same amount. Terry and I would take out spoonfulls of sugar and replace the same amount back with salt. No wonder we had to have cod-liver oil and malt, plus orange juice. I would help to consume these supplements.

7. Jam Jars:
There was another family in our street that lost their father. They had two girls and one boy; they must have been poorer than us because they drank tea out of jam jars, I could not believe it was possible to put hot water in jam jars without breaking the glass. I was then shown, how to get the glass to accept the hot water. It was done by gradually pouring the hot water into the vessel, we may have had cracked cups, but not jam jars.

8. Cast off socks from Ned:
Oh Ned Coppack who lived a few doors down the street, would give us his cast off socks. Darned by his wife to fill the holes up. Terry and I would squabble like the blazes about who would get the woolly socks to wear. It was a luxury from our ‘spud holed’ socks (spud hole means a hole in the heels, when this happened you would simply pull the sock down and fold it under the toe and bingo! No hole could be seen).

9. Sherwood Forester to the Seaforth Highlanders:
My father was with the Sherwood Foresters stationed in Skegness. He left Worksop on 24/5/42. He boarded a ship, and what ship he sailed on is a mystery to me; also at some time he was transferred into the Seaforth Highlanders? He was in Egypt in September 1942 and was killed on the 4th or 5th December 1942, whilst laying land mines after the battle of El Alamein. He is buried in Bengharzi - Lybya. My father's name is in the Hall of Honour in Edinburgh Castle. My mother did not know this; she only found out when she went on holiday in Scotland. If anyone's father was killed in the 2nd World War, and they were in a Scottish regiment, their names will also be in Edinburgh Castle.

My grandfather was killed in the First World War, and is buried in France. Now to come to my point, some people may not know that in the First World War, their medals, had their name and number stamped on them, no name or number was put on the medals in the Second War (they could belong to anyone?).

10. Game of football and sent to see the headmaster:
We went for a game of football on the rex. It was bitterly cold and a few of us lads decided we would not change into our football gear, I took it a little bit too far! "You get into your kit sir, its too cold" then I'd laugh at him.
"Go hack to school Foulds and report to the headmaster." The smile is now wiped off my
face. I go into creeping mode, I have already sampled the punishment on my first day at school and did not fancy going through that kind of pain again. "Sir you don't mean it, do you please? I'll do as you say and get into my football kit.”
"Get back to school."
I rode in the direction of school and came back to ask his forgiveness, but he was having none of it. I had to face the music with the headmaster and I could tell you that I was petrified of the expected punishment. I thought of legging it home, but instead I came up with a bright idea to deliberately rip my already frayed shirt, leaving it hanging on by a thread.
I was very apprehensive as I approached the headmaster. "What do you require Foulds?"
"Mr Wakeman has sent me to report to you sir 'cos I would not change into my football
gear sir."
"Oh and why not?"
"Well sir, my mum has not got a lot of money, and I was so embarrassed because of my tattered shirt sir." I showed him the condition of the shirt and to my amazement, there was no punishment, he had proved he was not such a bad old stick after all He kept on repeating the same thing over and over again, "You know you have been a silly boy." I just kept on saying, "Yes sir, I am very sorry for my bad conduct sir." He made me stand up in his study for about an hour after school. "You can go now and tell your mother to come and see me and I will see what help I can get for her."

11. My Granddad Frank:
My Granddad Frank was sent to Lincoln Prison during the war, the reason being that he had the 'flu, and he had not been to work for several days due to this. They put him in the hospital wing and fed him on dry bread and stale stinking fish, and made him find his own way back home. He came to our house trembling from head to foot, saying that they had taken him to prison and he ended up in the local hospital with pneumonia. He had been severely wounded in the First World War and all his mates had been killed, and if he had his time all over again he would have been a conscientious objector.
12. At Stanley Street School we did gas mask drill:
At Stanley Street School, we had to do gas mask drill sat at our desks. I hated every
minute of having that horrible smelly rubber mask on my face, I have hated the smell of rubber ever since. It was hot and clammy with that thing stuck on my face. Most kids' hair was wet through with sweat.
It was at this school that I got into a fight and the teacher, by the name of Miss Royal, sent me to see the headmistress up in the crow’s nest, this is where her office was.

I knocked on the door. "Come in," so I goes in and sees this little woman. She had thick rubbery lips and short curly hair, but not unattractive; no smile. "What have you been doing?" "I got into a fight, they attacked me first Miss Sturburtfield."
"I will not tolerate fighting in this school, do you understand?"
"Yes Miss Sturburtfield."
"Hold your hand out." She gets a size 9 slipper out of the other cupboard and slaps me across the palm of my hand, it just felt as if a fly had tickled me. "You can go now."

The others in the fight never had to go and see her, now that's a bit one sided. There was another teacher at that school called Miss Campbell, she was much nicer and gave me a present of Blackpool Tower. I kept that present and I still have it somewhere in the house.

13. St John's Boys School to be an evacuee:
I was selected to go on a day's outing, for the poor kids. I did not like the idea of looking like a evacuee with a stupid name tag pinned to my shirt, so I deliberately missed the train. I told my mother I would not go with a silly name tag pinned to my coat. She ran me out of the house, she thought I had gone to the station, but I had other ideas, I waited on Gateford Road, then came back and told her that I had missed the train, it had gone early. She told me not lie to her; I had now got over the first hurdle. "O boy," Monday morning
came round. The Headmaster was in a terrible rage. The partitions were flung back for assembly, in front of the whole school. "Come out here Foulds." He got hold of me by the scruff of the neck and shook me in every direction he could. "Where were you on Saturday morning lad?" “I had a headache Sir.” “By the time I have done with you lad, you'll have more than a headache.” It would have been better to have gone on trip, and saved the embarrassment. I suppose I deserved the punishment after all I did deliberately miss the train.

14. Old Ned the supplier of the woolly socks:
They told me at a later date, after the war when the German bombers came up from the east coast, following the railway lines to Sheffield, they were allowed to pass over the anti-aircraft guns and come back the same way. The reason being, they had got no ammunition to shoot them down. There was certainly an army camp at Skegness because my father was stationed in Skegness with the Sherwood Foresters, this situation must have occurred at the beginning of the war.