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- 30 March 2004
This is one of the stories collected on the 25th October 2003 at the CSV's Make a Difference Day held at BBC Manchester. The story was typed and entered on to the site by a CSV volunteer with kind permission.
I can remember the day that war was declared, it sounds like a War Time musical. I was six at the time, I knew that there was great excitement in the streets; posters were coming out from the news paper offices. I remember one that had big black letters saying war.
We all lived locally in those days in terraced houses. Lots of my family, my farther and mother, my grandfather and uncle were all looking very worried. The children were out in the street shouting “WAR! WAR!!” not realising how serious it was. This memory stays with me even though other memories fade, the idea that the posters were going up and everyone was out talking about it and murmuring on the street made it an exciting day for us.
After this, all the school children, we were six I think, were evacuated to Blackpool. Even though we were quite young we were not with our parents, a lot of the class and teachers went. I remember getting on the train. A lot of the children were crying and I remember this distinctively, we were given a kit kat, a tin of corned beef and some sort of war rations. When we got off the train in Blackpool we had to stand around on corners until people came up and decided who they would take to stay in their houses, because obviously the government were paying these people for taking these children in. This must have been about October, we thought the bombing was going to start immediately, you saw your friends go, then somebody else would go, I finally went with three other children out of the class so that was ok. When it got close to Christmas and the bombing had not started we were sent back to our mothers, then we went back for the following Christmas when the bombs started dropping.
I do remember the very bad bombing in 1940, we went into the air raid shelters at 6 o’clock and stayed in all night. I lived in the inner city near the goods yard at Thompson Street and the railway at Victoria Station, I think it was a miracle that we survived really. I remember asking when we came out at 8 o’clock the next day if we had to go to school as we had been up all night.
When we came out the whole of Manchester seemed to be on fire. My Mum and my Grandad took us to the end of the street and we could see all these fires. I don’t remember being frightened, it was more exciting really, it didn’t register. After that we got air raids quite often, and mother used to say, “make sure your clothes are where you can find them, because when the air raids go we are off to the shelter”.
They had built a shelter the full length of the street. you couldn’t see your neighbours opposite, just the air raid shelter, it was horrible damp and smelly. I remember watching it being put up and they were putting metal bars in-between the bricks, I wondered why we couldn’t stay in the house as it was made of bricks too. It got to a point where a pecking order had started between shelters. The shelter to be in was the one in the next street as they had someone in there who could sing, and someone else that could tell stories.
You could not go out without your gas mask at this point. I had a younger sister and she was a baby, she had a very big one that my Mum had to fit her into, the full child had to go in. My sister who was four years younger had a little one that they used to call a ‘Mickey Mouse mask’ because it had a little red rubbery nose, this was meant to make it easier for the children but it was very frightening with the goggles and the red flappy nose, my sister didn’t like it at all. People began, as they do being very resilient, to make fancy cases for the gas masks, so the pecking order started again! People who didn’t have much money just had the plain cardboard box, and then there were others who had really fancy ones. Despite these slight differences the camaraderie was very good.
The favourite game after a raid was to go to find shrapnel; there was a boy at the top of our street because he could climb on top of the shelter. We didn’t travel very far and were only allowed to play in our street or walk to school, which was just around the corner.
During the war my dad was at Dunkirk, he was missing for a while. He was with the expeditionary forces that went in first, and they were quite far into France before the invasion started, so when the soldiers started coming back, he was trapped in the middle of France. BEF they called them, he was missing for ages from the May to the June I think it was. It was a very sad time, mother was very sad. We then heard that he had got out and he came home on leave.
There were always lots of house parties because someone was always going away or coming home on leave. Because our house had a piano it always seemed to be full, I remember my times as a child were quite jolly. When we went into the shelters all the family were around, so it was like an adventure really. As time passed and the war turned a little, you didn’t register what was going on. I suppose as a child, if your mum is there your world is there.
There were street parties on VE and VJ day, the shops around here gave everything away, can you imagine, going from having nothing to having tables that were bursting, we couldn’t eat enough!
The local news paper came around and took pictures of every street and ran competitions to see who had the best decorations.
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