World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Sheila Cade 

How some Children helped the War effort in their small way- with a lot of help.

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Sheila E Cade, Mr Arthur and Mrs Harriet Williamson and Claire Williamson
Location of story: Bradford, Yorkshire
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 Sheila E. Cade.


How some Children helped the War effort in their small way- with a lot of help.

I was almost 6 ½ years old when the war was declared, my sister was about 15 months old. Mother was the archetypal housewife of those times. Father was a master butcher with a business in Bradford. He had served in WW1, mostly in a prison camp I understood, and in 1939, was a little too old to be called up, and so was one of the first members of the LDV, later the Home Guard. We shared an Anderson Shelter with the next door neighbours, fortunately only used once, when bombs fell on the city centre after an abortive raid on the Avro Works at Yeadon.

My favourite activity at the time was attending a dancing class for tap and ballet. Every week we went via two bus services right across Bradford to the Sunday School building of a Chapel to the ‘Lorraine School of Dancing’. This was run by a lady known to all as ‘Auntie Elsie’, who was a former Tiller Girl. We had two gentlemen who came in turn to play the piano, one called Charlie, whose surname I never knew, and Frank Robinson who also had a small dance band- he was one of those pianists I envied at every one of my piano lessons, ‘you hum it and I’ll play it!’ His daughter Molly also attended the class.
We had ballet practice for half the time (some of it on points) and tap, my favourite, for the other half. I don’t know how long the war had been going on, but after some time we began learning specific dance routines in both forms including some of the high-kicking routines, Tiller Girl style. There were 12 in a team and Auntie Elsie was a hard taskmaster here, "Keep that line straight, get those knees up, get them all the same height," until we were almost worn out! But it was good fun.

It turned out that we were going to be a kind of concert party going to many districts of Bradford (and even to Pudsey) to church or chapel halls etc. with a platform performing on many a Saturday evening. Some places had hardly room for a line of 12 on the platform and one place I remember had sturdy wooden tables at the side of the platform for the ‘wings’, so we didn’t fall off the edge as we danced our way off. We always seemed to have a full house, because the point of all this work on everyone’s part was to raise money for the Prisoner Of War Fund, which sent parcels to the POW camps in Europe. Later on, a few boys were recruited so that the repertoire could be extended to include humorous sketches etc.
I have wondered since how our mothers managed to supply the costumes for these shows on the few clothing coupons available, perhaps some on the business world donated fabrics etc, and/or there would be a lot of ‘make and mend’. There was always a lot of dress making going on by our mothers.
The Bradford Telegraph and Argus who had a children’s club called the Nignogs, were very supportive and on many occasions, we would travel by a special bus which I think may have been supplied by them. There always seemed to be a report of our activities in the paper and probably a tally of the funds raised, but I am not certain of that.

When I was 11/12 we did a grand show for a whole week at the Alhambra Theatre, we were very excited and felt very important.
I had a very special present for my 12th birthday, VE Day!