Memories collected for groups linked with Abbey Grange
Memories of Community Group member – Joan
I clearly remember the Butcher Hill Prisoner of War Camp. We lived in Wynford Avenue off the Ring Road and used to come and wave to the prisoners through the railings. When the war ended a German prisoner went to work at Rawsons Farm at the end of Moor Grange Road and a group of us kids used to go and help Herman with the cows. He was lovely. I remember lying in my bed hearing the drone of aeroplanes overhead, wondering if they were British or German.
When the siren started (on top of Lawnswood School so very loud) we had to put siren suits on and run across the road to the air-raid shelter and climb up into a high bunk. All the kids could look down onto the adults playing cards round a card table.
One day an incendiary bomb dropped in the playing fields behind West Park Parade of shops and we went to see it and watched while someone came to de-fuse it.
We took our gasmasks to school every day and had a practise and inspection weekly in the gym cloakroom which was Lawnswood School’s air-raid shelter.
Memories of Community Group member – Evelyn
Evelyn was 11 when the war broke out. She didn’t get taught about German history, only learnt about 1066 Battle of Hastings. Evelyn was waiting to get on a coach to be evacuated, and at the last minute her parents came and told her they had found some friends nearby for her to stay with. By the age of 11-12 most children had got used to the sound of the planes so much that they knew what the planes sounded like with or without bombs loaded. For food, some of her friends didn’t know how to open a Banana.
Memories of Community Group member – Elaine
Living in the Woodside area of Horsforth there were many air-raids because of Kirkstall Forge and the AVRO aircraft factory. Our air-raid shelter was built of brick and in our back garden. We spent many nights singing songs in the shelter. We had to practise every day putting on our gas masks it was an adventure. I’m not saying we weren’t frightened. At the top of Tinshill Lane there was a magnificent big anti aircraft gun which spent lots of nights firing at the German bombers.
Another memory is the POW camp. The German prisoners went to St James Church at Horsforth every Sunday. I marched up Low Lane with them. Many told me they had little girls like me at home and they were very worried about them. I was given lots of addresses which of course I lost but I still have memories of the prisoners reading the lessons in church in remarkably good English. My rabbit was killed in its hutch by shrapnel from the anti-aircraft gun. I cried.
Memories of Community Group member – Gladys
I remember going to my Auntie’s and sirens going off and a German plan flew over me so I hid so they couldn’t see me, then I went to my Uncle’s house and I started screaming very loud then he slapped me because I was noisy and I never saw him again. I was going to be evacuated to Canada but the Germans were bombing boats so my Mum didn’t let me go.
Memories of Community Group member – Iris
I was 10 years old when war was declared. Some of the schools closed for a few weeks. We had a blackout, no street lighting; you had to take a torch with you. We had a gas mask which we had to take to school or we got into trouble. If there had been an air-raid close by we used to go collect shrapnel next morning. We had rationing for food and clothing. No Oranges or Bananas for over 6 years. Ice cream had brown bits in it and was not very nice to eat.
Memories of Community Group member – Pamela
My Father was a POW from May 1942 – August 1945 in Changi POW camp. He came home and the British Government finally offered him a pension 52 years later, when most survivors had died. This must not be forgotten.
Memories of Community Group member – Peter
Windows which had been shot out.
His Dad was in WW1 and he has seen dramatic changes in technology from carts pulled by horses to the moon landings.
Memories of Community Group member – Doreen
War being declared. Carrying gas masks around. After German air-raids going round collecting shrapnel. Memories of sadness during the time of Dunkirk. Hiding in the cupboard under the stairs and everyone caring for each other. One of the most dramatic sights was seeing waves of bombers going over to Germany.
Memories from Church Communities
Memories from Mable – St Matthew’s Church, Chapel Allerton, Leeds.
My maiden name when I joined the WAAF was Mabel Stanford. I was born in 1921 and joined up when I was 20 years old in 1941 during the Second World War.
Initially my training took place in Morecambe, Lancashire where all I can remember is the endless square bashing; marching around for 2 hours each day, up and down the promenade, more often than not in the pouring rain. On one occasion, after having drunk a mug of tea I found a huge cockroach at the bottom of the mug – when I complained the server said ‘Ssh, don’t tell anyone or they will all want one’. Needless to say, I always checked my drinks after that experience. The eternal grey sky and pouring rain was not a pleasant experience and I have never revisited the town.
I was next posted to Coventry Bypass where I was trained as a barrage balloon operator. Although this was hard work I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I was born an only child and my mother ran off when I was 5 years old so I had a lonely and unhappy childhood. I loved the comradeship in the WAAF and had many laughs despite the demands of living in a country at war. Of course there was food and clothing rationing but the WAAF uniform was very smart and we all loved wearing it. We were a group of 12 girls and 1 male sergeant and we all had to take turns at cooking the main meal. Unfortunately some of the girls could hardly boil water so the quality of some dinners left much to be desired, even though the starting ingredients were of good quality.
I was next posted to Rotherham to do the same job but when barrage balloons were discontinued was then posted to join Bomber Command at Bardney, Lincolnshire. I loved my time here and I was trained to patch up the planes which had been damaged in combat. It was bitterly cold in winter and we young girls had to take turns (in twos) on guard duty. One night a girl and I were on duty and because it was so cold we stayed in the hut instead of outside protecting planes. At some point we noticed lights by the planes and were so scared because we thought it was the enemy. It turned out to be our officers and we were severely reprimanded for failing in our duty. We never did say we thought that they were the enemy and we were scared, we just said that we were too cold to stay outside.
Whilst at Bomber Command some of my friends were pilots who would take me up with them when they were doing test flights. This was definitely not allowed but I loved the thrill of flying and once the pilot did some acrobatics in a Dakota plane.
As the war was coming to a close, I was posted to Hendon but there wasn’t very much work for us to do there so we mainly hung around waiting to be demobbed.
Memories from Terence Goldworthy
I was eight years old when World War Two was declared, probably just too young to fully understand what it would mean to my family and me. But old enough to realize things would never be the same again.
May father had been explaining to my sister, brothers and I, for months previously, about how a war may affect us. He had served in the army in World War One and was gassed in the trenches in France.
The first air raid came as a shock and it was really scary to a lad of eight. The sirens were loud and many people ran to the shelters. I remember all the window being ‘blacked out’. It was so noisy. We lived in Burley Road and a bomb dropped close by on Willow Road, a few hundred yards away. I don’t remember anyone being killed, but sadly two young sisters each lost a leg. In another raid an unexploded bomb landed in the next street to us and we were temporarily moved out of our house until the bomb squad had defused it. At this time I was a pupil at St Simons School in Ventnor Street where one of the bombs was found. It was decided to close the school, and transfer all the pupils to Burley national for about a month until our school was declared safe.