World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Ruth Webster 


By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Ruth Webster nee Huckle, Flight Sergeant Horace (Bob) Huckle
Location of story: Lyme Regis
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 Ruth Webster.

Ruth Webster

My father Flight Sergeant Horace (Bob) Huckle was in the R.A.F. Reserves and was called up about 10 days before war was declared, we were hoping it wasn't going to happen and that he would be soon home again. I was in the Baptist Church in Lyme Regis on September 3rd when war was declared, the minister's son had been listening to the radio and came in to tell his father it had happened, we sang a hymn had a prayer and went home. My father's brother, his wife and son had been staying with us for a holiday, they were going back to London and decided to leave their son Durley with us. My father had weekend leave the following week, and was then posted to Arras in France. I was 11 years old at the time.

Soon the evacuees began to arrive, we discovered they came from Paddington which happened to be where I was born as my father was a Londoner, they were billeted with local families, though mothers with babies and younger children were put in hotels. Schooling presented a difficulty, and for the first term at least we local children were taught at our school in the morning and in a church hall in the afternoon, and the evacuees did it the other way round. As there had been no bombing in London by Christmas a lot of the children had gone back home., my cousin being one of them, his parents came for Christmas and took him back with them. It was our first Christmas without our Dad, he didn't get leave until the New Year and even now I remember the tears we shed when he went back.

Schooling became a bit easier and we were able to be taught in our school building, there were two lady evacuee teachers younger than our local teachers and there were things we could do with them we hadn't been able to do before such as dancing, games and believe it or not we had swimming lessons in the sea, and gain certificates. Domestic Science was taught in an old school across the road and on the edge of the cliffs, after a while we were unable to do cookery and so did laundry, each week taking certain articles, one week pillowcases, another towels, perhaps hankies or socks ( the only way you can tell they're clean, is to smell them!) We were shown how to wash, dry and iron them, with a flat iron heated on a range, I still have a slight scar where I dropped it on my arm. We also learnt how to keep the room clean, dusting, polishing brass etc. Some evacuees would bring their weeks washing.
In 1940 my father was posted to Scotland, the cold winter in France had aggravated arthritis in his knees. My mother had a sister who lived in Bradford and she suggested we came and stayed with her for August as my father could get there for a weekend but not get to Lyme. We did this and when we got there my Aunt said my cousin Joan was getting married in September and we would have to stay. I'd always wanted to be a bridesmaid and my Mum had said "You can be Joan's" never thinking we would be up there, so Joan who was going to have a suit wedding changed her mind and had a white one and I was a bridesmaid, her husband Frank was in the Army.

My brother and I had to go to school up there, he was alright, but it was the only time I hated school, they couldn't understand my dialect nor I theirs. I always remember the teacher saying that sheep up there were black because of the soil and ours were pink because the soil was red, well it wasn't where I lived. We had about the only raid on Bradford whilst we were there, the Battle of Britain had started and my Aunt said we couldn't go home until my Dad got leave to travel down with us, and so it was the beginning of October. We left Bradford at 8 o’clock in the morning, I don't know which way the train went, we were still on it when it was dark and there was little light. I remember seeing searchlights and fires in the distance and we eventually arrived at one of the Yeovil stations where the porter took us into his room where there was a blazing fire and made us a welcome cup of tea. I think my brother and I went to sleep until the early morning train arrived to take us as far as Axminster where we got a taxi, arriving home at 8a.m, 24 hours travelling.

We did have two evacuees for short times, I think when the Battle of Britain started they came from other parts of London, one went back home and the other was caught stealing and went into a hostel. When West Country cities were bombed evacuees came from Plymouth, our next door neighbours had relatives living in Exeter and the day after that city was bombed mother and daughter caught the train down to Exeter and came back in the evening with these relatives who had just what they could carry. It was said the German bombers used The Cobb-harbour as a marker, when they saw it as they crossed the Channel we would hear the planes turn in whatever direction they were heading for. We used to watch and count our Lancaster bombers go out on raids and count them as they came back next morning. There was a permanent R.A.F. base in the town with three boats always at anchor.

Various regiments were stationed in the town throughout the war, they had some of the hotels and other large buildings, and in 1943 the Americans came. They had their own church service in our building early an a Sunday morning and many of they came in the evening also. My mother was always kind and hospitable, we only lived in a council house, but these soldiers would be glad to come home for a cup of tea and whatever we might have to eat, it was home, sadly quite a number of them were killed on D-Day.

My Dad had to leave the R.A.F. in 1943 because of his arthritis.
I left school at 14 and worked in a grocer's shop, cutting up 2 ounces of lard or 2 ounces of butter etc., weighing out ½ lb. Sugar and anything else that was rationed. Health and Safety wasn't in it, I cringe when I think of the bacon and cheese. I used to go out and collect orders once or twice a week and people would write down, And anything else you have nice. We delivered them in an old Austin 8 van which was past its sell by date and going up hills it would start to bubble up and we'd have to stop and let it cool down. I was there when the war ended, we closed mid morning and I paraded round the town with my friends. In the evening I went out with my Mum, everyone was an the sea front, I can't remember what happened, when we got home I went upstairs to my bedroom, the window was open and there were these maybugs flying and bumping around the room, it was a jab to get them out, but they scared me. Soon after I left the grocers and went to work at a drapers and outfitters, it was clothing coupons there.

I look back and think of all the men who were killed, some were only sons, same had young families and when you live in a small town you know most people, or you did in those days, they are remembered