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Broad Green, Liverpool

by bedfordmuseum

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

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Doris Burton
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19 October 2005

Early in 1939 the Graf Zepppelin flew over our school and we rushed to the windows to see it. Later, when Liverpool was accurately bombed, we wondered if it had been on a photographic reconnaissance mission, perhaps intrested in the docks and railway sidings.
WW2 is part of the National Curriculum. What do I tell 9 year olds? Not about the horrors, I show them what the rations of cheese, butter, sugar, tea and sweets looked like and some of the food we never saw, like tropical fruits. I tell them about the blackout and show them my identity card. I explain how for one week at Christmas 1940 we, plus our cat, spent each night in the air raid shelter in the garden. Not about the May 1941 blitz when 1,453 were killed and 1,065 seriously wounded or how a handful of friends were killed in the suburbs as the bombers dropped their remaining bombs, in the rush for home. The centre of Liverpool and some docks were reduced to rubble and I'll never forget the shattering noise of a mobile anti-aircraft gun outside out gate.
But the bombing cleared the slums around the two cathedrals.
When the field of combat changed and the wounded came to our hospital, Broad Green, a friend and I visited each week amputees and young men with ghastly face wounds. (Common sights now on TV but alas, so many civilians.)
But it wasn't all gloom - young people always manage to enjoy themselves and I was no exception. I discovered a life-long passion for music and was a season ticket holder at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. At our church we had a hiking club and they held 'socials'. We played tennis and visited the theatre and cinema. Lots of young men were in reserved occupations, so we had lots of escorts.
Towards the end of the war I was working at the Automatic Telephone and Electric Company (which became Plessey). It was a reserved occupation because we dealt with communications and electronics - and the distant reading compass which was probably used in the dam-busting raids.
After the war I met my future husband, John. When he was at Haberdashers' Hampstead School he joined, I think, the Territorials, so was called up at 17. He had been discharged towards the end of the war as he'd had a fractured spine and pelvis and took nine months to recover. He had been in an army lorry with canvas covered sides, and was thrown sideways and trapped by his feet when a civilian lorry went into it.
I remember we had a pig bin on the pavement for every couple of dozen houses. I remember putting kitchen waste in the bins. They probably collected them once a month - they smelt bad. We hadn't got much to throw away.
I remember my mother queuing for frozen rabbit and we used to have whole tinned eggs from the Chinese. Dried egg used to be moudly when you got to the bottom of the tin. The sausages were mostly breadcrumbs and pepper - we called them 'barking' sausages. Everybody bottled fruits like plums. We used to queue for food. The news would go round that somewhere had tomatoes so you'd queue and maybe get about 3. Some people made sponge cakes with liquid paraffin because there was so little fat. Wedding cakes had decorative cardboard covers that looked like fancy icing. We were still rationed when I got married after the war but friends rallied round and let us have part of their ration. If you went out you usually took your own butter and sugar. I had 12 eggs in my wedding cake which was made by a Jewish German refugee who had been a cook.

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