- Contributed by
- Leicestershire Library Services - Countesthorpe Library
- People in story:
- Henrietta Schultka
- Location of story:
- Countesthorpe, Leicestershire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 02 March 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Henrietta Schultka. She fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
Some of my wartime memories. I was born in November of 1937 in Countesthorpe and have lived here all my life. When the war started in September of 1939 I was 22 months old so I don't really have any early memories of it at all, but I do remember my father going into the Navy when I was three. I have happy memories of him up until that time. After that he was away for long periods of time going to North Africa and South Africa and three times to the U.S.A. to bring American troops back to this country.
Life in the village went on and I remember my first day at school, the Church school in Main Street. My mother took me and we picked up Dick Gill and his mother on the way. We walked, it was only a short distance, I was holding his hand and sat with him all day on the first day there. There were two air raid shelters at the back of the school, one for boys the other for girls. We practised moving out of school from our class in single file and sitting on the forms which were fixed down each side. There were three classes.
I remember going with my mother to collect our gas masks from the school opposite the Church. Mine was bright orange and looked like Mickey Mouse and I was very frightened of it. It lived in a cupboard in the sideboard, and there it stayed, it was never used. Teachers came and went, always women. We didn't seem to learn much. Mr Shuttlewood was the headmaster. Most of the children in the village, like me, were without our fathers, they being away at the war. So although we might miss them, we were all in the same boat, nobody was different.
I loved it when Dad came home on leave, to see him walk down the street in his uniform, with a small case and sometimes a kitbag on his shoulder. I was so proud of him in his sailors uniform. Back from North Africa he brought souvenirs and postcards, but from South Africa I remember him bringing a very large tin of apricots. Eating apricot jam now, still brings back those memories. Oranges and bananas also appeared, and I remember taking a banana to school for the teacher.
He made three trips to the U.S.A and from there brought silk undies for Mum, a lovely pair of pyjamas for me plus chocolates and chewing gum. I often wondered how he got them through Customs, as he said they were very strict; he probably wore the silk undies.
We had an air raid shelter which was across the road at Grannie and Grandad's. We shared it with the Clowes family next door. A hole had been made through the wall into their side, and if the sirens went off in the night I was wrapped in an eiderdown and put to sleep on a bench with the other people sitting around.
Bombs fell around Countesthorpe twice, damaging two houses on the Willoughby Road. One fell on the allotments of the house destroying my Grandfather's brussell patch which he had only planted the day before. I was taken to see this very large hole in the ground. The other bomb was dropped at Foston, landing actually in the middle of Foston brook. They were trying to knock out the searchlights, which I remember quite clearly seeing at night. I remember going mushrooming and blackberrying with Mum, Aunt Maud and Grannie. I also remember going with Aunt Maud and my Uncle in their motorbike and sidecar to get sugar on the black market (as I found out later).
The sugar was saved and when the fruits came into season, jams were made and fruit bottled into Kilner jars. I loved that time. Mum shopped at the Co-Op for groceries and from the Co-Op butcher when the van came to the village. We used to go and queue for the meat. Of course I only did this when the schools were on holiday.
I remember one man being reported killed. His name was Ronnie Mason who lived just around the corner from us. He actually died in the invasion of Sicily. I also remember the talk when men were reported missing and then found to be prisoners of war. I remember when they came home putting flags out in the streets to welcome them back.
While all this was going on I had all the childhood complaints, as we all did. But when I got the measles and was very lucky not to die as it was complicated by pneumonia, we had a wonderful Dr Wynn Barnley who got the paediatrician from the Royal Infirmary to come to visit and to bring penicillin. It was only available for war casualties but she wanted to see if it would work on pneumonia. Because of her I am very lucky to be alive more than 60 years on.
One thing I do remember although I was very ill, was the local Vicar The Rev. Harris coming to visit with his wife. I also remember being woken up quite regularly to be given this medicine. It was dreadful! And I was given tea to get rid of the taste from my mouth. One thing I do remember particularly was being woken one night to be given my medicine and saying, "I dont want that, I'm hungry!" and proceeded to eat 3 Weetabix with milk. I think you could say from that point I really was better.
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