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WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Wakefield Libraries & Information Services
People in story: 
Joan Prewer , Mr and Mrs Chadwick, Mr and Mrs Stenner
Location of story: 
Castleford, West Yorkshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 July 2004

My name is JOAN PREWER and I lived with my parents Mr and Mrs CHADWICK, in a terraced house in HUGH STREET, CASTLEFORD. Next door, lived my grandma and grandad STENNER with their son Charles. They ran a newsagents and corner shop. My dad, who was in the territorial army, was on home leave, when on the night of 14th March, 1941, the air raid sirens wailed over Castleford, which announced German bombers were approaching the town. Both families got quickly out of bed, dressed and headed for the air raid shelter which was situated in the back yard. From what I recollect because I was only three years old. The shelter which was square measured about 12 foot by 12 foot and was made of concrete with a double thick layer for the flat roof. It had no windows only a door, which from the inside had a dark thick blanket hung across it. The shelter inside, was warm and cosy with home-made rugs on the floor. Different styles of chairs and stools were arranged around a small table which had candles, matches, books and games on it. An old wind-up gramaphone stood on a wooden upturned box which had tins of food and papers stored in. A hurricane lamp hung from the wall and a small, smelly parafin stove heated the shelter, which was big enough to cram about 9 to 12 people. Along one side and half way up the walls was a wooden shelf which was wide and strong enough to make up into a bed and where I often slept. That night, I remember being woken up by the sound of the sirens, noise and fuss of excited chattering of people who were coming and going. Then afterwards, my mother told me what had happened as I wass too young to fully realise the traumatic situation. The German bombers had dropped their bombs and one incendiary bomb had gone through out house roof and landed in my pram which stood in a corner of the front bedroom adjcent to next door. Pandimonium must have broken out! because in the dark streets some people had shouted "Stenner's shop has been hit" so the Fire Brigade went to the shop first. When they realised the mistake they then knocked at our front door, and with no answer becaused we had all gone into the air raid shelter, battered and axed the front door down and rushed upstairs. Unfortunately, the bomb was smouldering and black, dense smoke was so thick that the firmen where dropping down like flies, because unbelievably thier breathing apparatus was not working correctly. Fortunately they fainted on to a bed which had been brought downstairs because I was ill. Happily, they soon revived when my mum and dad administered some medicinal BRANDY! My dad, wearing his army gasmask then went upstairs and successfully was able to throw my pram through the window which was now burning.

I guess this is my experience of an event during the war. Even to this day, and if I am in a deep sleep, the slightest noise will wake me up. And I thank God and my stars, how luck I was to survive together with the rest of my family. Another 25feet and the bomb would have landed on the shelter.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Bradford and West Yorkshire Category
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