- Contributed by
- Huddersfield Local Studies Library
- People in story:
- Mrs. Laura Barraclough
- Location of story:
- Bierley, Bradford
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 29 July 2004
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sarah Harding of Kirklees Libraries on behalf of Mrs. Barraclough and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
The day the war started I was a young girl of 9. I remember it was a lovely sunny day in September, and as I contemplated the news in my child’s mind I expected that something dramatic and exciting should be happening — just what I wasn’t sure. Sitting on the grass verge outside our house everything was disappointingly normal. The sun shone down from a clear blue sky devoid of enemy planes, there were no savage armies charging down our avenue and life went on as usual at our house.
We lived in Bierley, Bradford. The adults had for weeks been talking in groups about how we were going to be affected by this war, predicting darkly about cut-backs and call-up papers.
A year later was a different story. By then we had gas masks, air raid shelters and rationing. Bradford had been bombed several times, though nothing like as bad as London — they really suffered, practically living in air raid shelters. About this time I had my first taste of real fear. I remember sitting on our sofa during an air raid (we had abandoned our shelter by now as it was cold, damp and filled with water when it rained). The sound of the bombs falling was terrifying. They seemed to be just above us though in reality they could be miles away. There would be an ominous whistling sound, and then silence for a few seconds, before the ear-splitting explosion. I remember thinking that this could be my last few moments on earth, and being somewhat surprised to find myself alive at the end of the raid.
I left school at 14, and in my first job I worked with a very nice lady who had a son in the army, and as she had not heard from him in months, and had heard nothing from the War Office, she had not given up hope that he was alive. One day, from the window of our workplace, she saw a soldier walking along the street. Thinking it was her son, she went running out of the building. It wasn’t he, of course, and she came back in tears. Sadly, her son did not survive — I saw his name in the newspapers after the war, in the fatalities column. There were many distressing events like these at the time.
I remember a girl of 21 who worked with us. She had been in the Land Army, and had been invalided out after having a nervous breakdown. It was around the time of the V1 missile, or ‘doodlebug’ as it came to be known. It was a pretty deadly weapon and had contributed to her breakdown, as the attacks were very frequent where she was stationed. She told us of one poor woman whose house had been bombed three times. On the third occasion, the people searching through the wreckage really began to think that this time the lady had ‘copped it’. Suddenly they began to hear muffled sobs coming from a dilapidated wardrobe, where they discovered the poor lady very much alive, and angrily cursing the Nazis, who had again almost brought about her demise. She had hidden in the wardrobe when the air raid started, and it had saved her life as the walls caved in, and protected her from the worst of the rubble.
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