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Life between Plymouth, Nottingham, Looe and the bombs!

by cornwallcsv

You are browsing in:

Archive List > The Blitz

Contributed by 
cornwallcsv
People in story: 
Lilly Frances Foster, Mother. Clive Leslie Foster, Father. Jean Winifred Chowne (nee Foster), Sister. Ronald Edward Baldry, Husband. Jean Frances Baldry, Daughter. John Edward Baldry, Son. Mary Aldred, Friend in Liverpool. Margaret Aldred, daughter of Mary.
Location of story: 
Plymouth, Nottingham, Looe, Liverpool (Wallasey)
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7291000
Contributed on: 
25 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Callington U3A csv story collector Judy Foweraker, on behalf of Audrey Frances Baldry, nee Foster, and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was 20 years old at the beginning of the war, so my early life was spent during the war. What always stands out most in my mind, from those days, was the kindliness of many ordinary people.

I worked for Boots in Plymouth, and at one stage I was sent to Nottingham, to attend a kind of horticulture course, which was aimed at “digging for victory”! I was meant to run a department for horticulture in Boots, but of course it was my Boots that “went up”, before I could actually do it! The course finished on a Friday and another lady from the group very kindly made sure that I caught the right train home for Plymouth. However, when I got to Exeter, the lights went out. The other passengers told me why — it was because Plymouth was being blitzed! Anyway we continued until we had to stop outside North Road Station, where we stayed for many many hours. I think the raid was probably over but we weren’t allowed into Plymouth. There was no panic but the men were beginning to get upset because their short leaves were disappearing. Eventually, I got off at North Road station, but as I wasn’t actually expected to be home until the Saturday, I had to walk from there to my home in Beacon Park Road. Well, on the way, there was this young man who had been all night fire watching, but he took my case and walked with me all the way home, although he must have been dog tired. That was one of the real ‘kindliness’ things I remember, because he must have been absolutely whacked.

During that raid, the George Street shop was bombed, that was the big Boots, and also the all night Boots was bombed. Also, I remember hearing that people who were coming out of the Theatre Royal that night were bombed, and apparently, something went wrong with the water supply, although I cannot remember exactly what it was. After that I was sent to Looe, because people were being evacuated there, and they probably didn’t know what to do with me anyway so they sent me to work in the Looe Boots. Well that was the pattern that went on, as I was then sent back to Plymouth to help the pharmacist check in medications, which were at that time in short supply. I stayed there until that shop was bombed and then I was sent to Looe again! Prior to that, I think it was, I was sent to Boots in Devonport, but that was also bombed! There were two places where Boots managed to operate from in Plymouth, one was in a house near Mutley Plain, and the other was a stall in the market. However, I came back from Looe again at some stage to work in Plymouth, but eventually ended up working in Mutley Plain until the bombing was virtually over. That shop was so crowded as we had six pharmacists there, and we sold so much, including batteries that were rationed as many were in short supply. Much of the stuff was sold outside the shop, but eventually I did work inside the shop, and stayed there until I was pregnant with my first baby, Jean in 1943.

There was one particular incident when I was at Looe that was really frightening. It happened about six o’clock one evening. The shop was in East Looe but I was living in West Looe, so of course I had to cross the bridge. As I crossed the bridge on that evening there was this great German bomber coming down, following the river, I think. I remember hearing this roaring noise and seeing a great black cross on it; I was on my own on the bridge with this great bomber, and although nothing happened to me I was scared stiff. I had been through all the Plymouth bombing, but that frightened me more that anything!

Also, at a time when I was working in Plymouth, I attended voluntary training at Lockyer Street Hospital, on Sunday mornings, for the Civil Nursing Reserve. One time when I was there, an alarm went off, but I was in the operating theatre as the nurse from the ward (part of the training), and the doctors took no notice of the alarm and just continued to do their job. There was no panic and everybody just carried on.

At that time it was the simple things that people did to help each other out that you remember. There was a lot of trust between people, and we tried to make the best of what we had. There was a bonding when you said “Good night” — as you really didn’t know if you would say “Good morning”!

When Ron and I were married, in 1942, some friends and relations were really kind and posted us some extra coupons. We then lived with Ron’s family in Ford in Plymouth. There were still some raids then, and a few bombs and fires, and at one time we were the only family still sleeping in that road as everybody else went to stay mainly on the moors! Our daughter Jean was born in 1943. My Dad had left Plymouth at the start of the war to work on the armaments at the dockyard in Liverpool, and after a while my mother and sister, who had got very tired and worn out by the raids, followed him. My sister became a Mobile Wren.

I lost a lot of people during the war; a cousin on the Glorious early on, and then two of my Mother’s cousins — one in a sub and another on a merchant ship. I also especially remember a friend who trained very hard to be accepted in the RAF. He went through such a lot of tests to make sure he was fit enough to join up, and eventually flew a lot of bombing raids. I happened to meet him one day in Plymouth when he came home on leave. He looked at my daughter in the pram and said, “It’s not me - it’s you that is in trouble!” Meaning the bombing that we were all suffering. Shortly after that he had to bail out over Germany and his injuries were treated in a German hospital, where regrettably he eventually died.

Up to Liverpool

Eventually Ron decided to join my Dad and work in Liverpool. I found it very hard being on my own in Plymouth with Jean, as there was a lot of carting water up and down the stairs of the house where we were living, as well as carrying the baby and everything else of course, and so after a while Jean and I also went up to live in the Wallasey area of Liverpool. Things were much easier once we were there, as we were three families in the house; ourselves, my parents and sister, and a family friend Mary with her daughter Margaret. Later, Ron was sent out to Australia, but he did manage to get back home in time for the birth of our second child, John in 1946! The rations were very tight whilst we were in Liverpool. There was nothing extra at all and at times we did feel quite undernourished. I also found many people were not so friendly as down here in Plymouth. However, Mary, who had been living up there for a bit longer and who was a very outgoing sort of person, was really kind to me when I was pregnant. She managed to get a card that allowed us to have a cake now and then, and she also brought me down a bowl of soup once, because she thought I was hungry.

When we came back to Plymouth after the war, we lived in a kind of bungalow where Lee Mill is now. There were several of these places (ours was number 120) that had been used during the war for the AFS men (Auxillary Fire Service) so that they could have a break between the raids. We cooked with coal and our heating was also coal, but we did have electricity and we were very happy there for a few years.

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