Sunday, 2 October 2011

What was it like Grandad?

I believe that at the recent National Family History Fair in Newcastle, England, one of the speakers urged the members of his audience to record something of their own lives for future generations. This is something I have always meant to do but have kept procrastinating. How many times have I started to keep a diary and given up after a short time! However, better late than never! One of my grandsons recently asked me to contribute to his school history project by telling him what it was like during the second World War. The following four paragraphs is what I sent him. It occurs to me that it would be a great contribution to this blog if some of its readers would put pen to paper and send me a paragraph or two or three about some aspect of their early (or just earlier) lives - please!

I was only 6 when the Second World War broke out, so it's difficult to remember things in order. I lived in Wallasey on the River Mersey opposite Liverpool, which was one of the Industrial places that the Germans wanted to destroy, so there was a lot of bombing, which always took place at night. The biggest 'blitz' was in 1941. We could hear the planes approaching from the south and hoped they would miss us. There would be an air-raid siren, a very loud wailing noise which would mean that everyone ran for shelter. People built brick shelters (called Anderson Shelters) in their gardens where we would wait for the 'All-clear' siren, a long single note. The shelters were dark and smelt damp. If there was no shelter available we would hide under the stairs or even under a table for some protection. The next day we would go outside to see if we could see any bomb damage. Sometimes whole houses or whole streets were destroyed. We were very lucky. Our house was never hit. It was on a ridge and after the 'all-clear' you could go outside and look towards Liverpool where the sky was all red with the burning buildings.

Among the things I remember were the Barrage Balloons, like huge Elephants in the sky. I imagined they were somehow there to catch low-flying aircraft or to get them to avoid the area where they were moored by long steel ropes. We were all issued with gas-masks in case we were attacked by gas bombs, We had to carry them with us in a cardboard box slung over our shoulders and we had to practice putting them on. Your chin went in first, then you pulled the mask over your face. You could look through an oval window, until it steamed up. I hated their smell of rubber, and thought they made breathing difficult. We all had Ration Books with tear-out tokens to get all the basic foods. There was a shortage of a lot of things and I was very surprised one day when my father came home from work. He'd visited a farmer who had given him half a pig, which we hung in the pantry. I think it was probably illegal to have it, and we couldn't tell anyone we had it.

My father was a Jute Merchant and his office and factory were in the centre of Liverpool. He often went on the ferry boat across the Mersey until the two boats, the Daffodil and the Iris, disappeared to help the War in the North Sea. After the war they came back and were allowed to be called the Royal Daffodil and the Royal Iris for the good work they had done. At night we had to put blackout material on all the windows so that planes couldn't see us and make us a target. Often my father would then go out as a 'fire-watcher' with the ARP (Air Raid Precautions). He might be stationed on the top of a building and when they saw a fire starting (where a bomb had fallen) they could tell the police and fire service quickly, and go and help to rescue people. The ARP was trained to help with casualties. In the worst blitz there were 300 casualties in Wallasey in one night, and the next day there was no water. Rubble was everywhere and people had to be careful to avoid unexploded bombs.

A lot of children were evacuated to places of safety. I think a lot from Wallasey went to the country villages in the Wirral and North Wales. We were not evacuated until one night my father's office was bombed and he and his partner had nowhere to work. They decided that our family (the four of us) would go and share his partner's house near Southport, which was a safe place on the Lancashire coast. So for a time we went to live in this lovely old farmhouse which had its own swimming pool and lots of grounds to play in. You could walk from the house through some woods on to a golf course then down to the sea. After a few months we were able to go home to Wallasey. Except for that time I don't remember school being interupted. By the end of the war I had started Secondary School (Wallasey Grammar School) and had to cycle nearly three miles each way twice a day, morning and afternoon. In 1945 when the war was over there were great celebrations, with parades in the streets, and at last we could get things which no one had seen during the war, like sweets and bananas!

No comments:

Post a Comment