Bad News by Telegram
Memories of Mrs Clarke's Father - Jim Evans
During WW2 one of the things people most dreaded was seeing the telegram boy. If he came into your street on his bicycle, everyone went silent, even the children playing in the street. Everyone watched to see which house he stopped at and then you knew that the people in that house had lost a member of their family in the fighting. One day he stopped at our house, my brother Bernard had been killed in the fighting.
Mrs Clarke's thoughts - I found this memory moving, especially the fact that it had such a personal impact on the families and the children. I feel sorry for the poor telegram boy who had to deliver the bad news.
Memories of Miss Harris's Dad - John Harris
My Dad was in the Navy during the war but it wasn't until he died that I found out that he was in the Atlantic Convoys and the Russian Convoys. This didn't really mean that much to me until recently I watched a programme on channel 4 about the Atlantic Convoys. There were so many ships sunk and thousands of sailors who died during these campaigns.
Miss Harris's thoughts - My Dad is real inspiration to me he just got on with life, enjoyed himself and would do anything for anyone but never moaned or lost his enthusiasm.
WW1 - Western Front
My Uncle Peter, whilst researching his family history, discovered that two of his uncles died during WW1. Private Sidney Stainthorpe died age 19 on 30th May 1918. His body has never been found. He is one of almost 4,000 men who are commemorated on the Soissons Memorial. They died during the battle of the Aisne and Marne. I would like to visit this memorial.
I have been able to visit Tyne Cot Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium. On several Abbey Grange WW1 study trips I placed a poppy, on behalf of my Uncle Peter, in memory of John Fretwell. He died on 9th October 1917 aged 18. His body was never found. He served in the West Yorkshire Regiment 1st and 6th Battalions during the Third Battle of Ypres - Passchendaele. The exact site where he fought can be identified. I have placed a poppy in a field close to Peter Pan farm. It is a very moving experience. John signed up under age. A story handed down in the family tells of a group of soldiers jeering 'a tall for his age' John as he crossed Leeds Bridge. One of my Uncle Peter's nephews is also very tall.
Both of these men left family houses in streets in Leeds to serve. Eccleston Avenue, East End Park, and Compton Row, Harehills, respectively.
WW1 - Tanks Corps
I never met my Grandfather Blake Henderson. He died in 1946. He was not well enough to serve in WW2. His wife, Hannah always blamed his service in WW1 for his illness. Blake served in the Tank Corps. All we knew until this year was that his tank was called Lizzie He sometimes called out 'Lizzie' when dreaming. We have his medals and know he was mentioned in despatches. I have recently been able to find, on the Internet, his medal record. Our family were surprised to discover that this also records that Blake served in the Army Cyclist Corps before transferring to the Tank Corps. Information from the Tank Museum, Bovington, and the Western Front Association, informed us that because his tank is called Lizzie he would have served in the 12th Battalion.
They have sent me copies of their war diaries. L is the twelfth letter of the alphabet and all tanks were given nick-names. Unfortunately many war records were destroyed, as a result of bombing in London during WW2, so we will never know why Blake was mentioned in despatches. Reading 'Band of Brigands - First Men in Tanks by Christy Campbell' provides much food for thought. I am not surprised that soldiers do not talk about the wartime experiences. I will be visiting the Tank Museum to see the type of tank Blake served in.
WW2 Ammunitions Factory
Mable Wright lives in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. During WW2 she lived in Doncaster. At the start of the war she was 25 and worked in Marks and Spencers. She had been there ten years. In 1939 she was sent to work in an Ammunitions factory called Crompton Parkinsons in Doncaster. Mable says that they also had a factory in Guiseley. She worked there until the war ended in 1945. The factory was in a field away from other buildings. She had to get a bus, about a fifteen minute journey, there as it was on the other side of town, a place called Wheatley, to where she lived. Some of the women, Margaret and Phylis came by bus from Conisborough. The road was called Radiance Road after a toffee factory. There were no men working there. About thirty women worked in five different sections to make a cartridge. The powder shop first, then bullets, wedders (cordite filling shop), necking (putting the top on) and finally finishing (tightening the top). There were lots of machines and in our section 6 people. Only one woman, Joan, worked on bullets and this was done by hand . Sometimes there were delays while we waited for another tray to arrive for us to complete . There were several sheds, about the size of tennis courts, to keep the sections apart.
The supervisor was a nice woman called Anne. Mable started to work in the powder shop but was allergic, as many people were, and came out in a rash. After two days leave she returned to work, this time in the wadding shop. White overalls and a white cap were worn. We all felt we were doing our bit for the war effort recalls Mable. It was a little but important job. We always made sure we did our very best, examining our work carefully .
Mable remembers that though it was all bed and work she was never bored at work . It wasn't all doom and gloom recalls Mable. Joan, who worked on bullets, was always telling us about the latest pictures at the cinema . We made our own fun, lots of happy years in many ways . We were given a decent wage and I never went hungry . We were paid on a Friday and the cash was in a brown envelope . Work hours were Monday to Friday and Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon, Mable and her friend went to town for a cup of tea or to look around the shops. Sundays were for going to church. We worked a fortnight on days and a fortnight on nights. Working hours were 7.30am to 7pm and 7.30pm to 7am. There was a canteen where you could buy a meal at lunch. Two short breaks were also given.
In our garden we had an air raid shelter. Doncaster was rarely bombed. I remember hearing the guns and sirens when we were at the factory. We never stopped working to go in a shelter.
Memories collected from Mrs Milllington, Maths teacher.
During the World War Two my father in law was in The Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers. He was one of the first troops into Japan after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Earlier in the war he was the driver for Dame Vera Lynn when she was in India and Burma.
During the World War One both my grandma’s worked in the ammunition factory in Crossgates called Barnbow.
Alastair Henderson remembers taking glass jars into Gipton school. He can still see the floor of the school hall covered with jars. These were part of Leeds war effort during Wings week. He thinks the jars must have been sold for recycling. The money raised went towards buying a spitfire.
Memories of Miss Mitchell’s Granny – Pam Mitchell
When war as declared I was eight years old. My memories are clear about some things, I remember standing at the attic window and seeing a red glow over Bradford. Lingards shop was burning; I saw planes dropping bombs in Heaton Woods. My six year old brother and I slept in the cellar for a while. I remember eating the plums which were stored there and a bucket of eggs in “icing glass”, preserving them until needed. There was dried egg powder, not very tasty, and SPAM! All the family came into the cellar when the air-raid siren sounded. Rations were introduced on 8th January 1940. We got 2oz of sweets per week, ours were supplemented occasionally by “miss-shapes” of Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts. A tiny village shop sold liquorice root which we chewed. Children had concentrated orange juice, cod liver oil or Viral. We were lucky, we had apple trees and a plum tree and neighbours had a pear and crab apple trees.
Clothing coupons (1st June 1940) meant “make do and mend”. My older sister made me a dress at school, from an old dress of my mother’s. She learnt First Aid at Salts Hospital, and worked there at weekends.
We only had a few toys, read books, listened to the radio and played cards and board games. Everywhere was “blacked out”. My sister walked into a lamp post and got a black eye.
The street party on V.E. Day was memorable. The tarmac on the road outside our house was melted by the large bonfire, and my neighbour’s windows were hot. At dusk we walked up the hill to see the bonfires in Bingley, Baildon and Lower Shipley.
Miss Mitchell’s thoughts – I think we all take a lot for granted nowadays. When I think of all the things my Grandparents did without during the war, and all the horrible sights they must have seen it makes me grateful for what I have and how safe my life is in comparison. I don’t know how we can thank those who fought enough. Perhaps the best we can do is remember them.