- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Reg Cox
- Location of story:
- Liverpool, Shropshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 September 2005
At the tender age of ten and a half years I declared war on Germany. Well, the Prime Minister, Mr Chamberlain did the declaring, but I went along with it, as Adolf Hitler was doing some really unpleasant things in Europe.
The German Army was having things pretty much their own way, and I can remember expecting to see Panzer Divisions rolling down the road where I lived. Fortunately, nothing much happened, except that we were issued with gas masks, which we had to carry everywhere with us, in a cardboard box on a string around our necks.
This was the “Phoney War”, that went on for quite a while, but the prospects were not too rosy, and as Liverpool was an obvious target for bombing, my parents sent me to stay with my Aunt and Uncle in Craven Arms, Shropshire, where I had an idyllic few months discovering sticklebacks, hazel nut trees, cows and all sorts of things that were new to a city boy.
After a while my school, the ”Morrison”, organised their own evacuation scheme and I returned home, to be packed off, along with my school pals, all carrying a suitcase containing our clothing, toothbrush and Ration Book, wearing our gas mask boxes around our necks and a luggage label giving our name, age, school and destination, to Greenfield, near Holywell, in North Wales. I have hazy recollections of a long drawn out train journey, and on arrival, late in the evening, we were taken to the local school, where we were allotted to local families. My family was the Musker’s.
Mr Musker was an invalid, who, as I remember, had a side line of sharpening saws, which he did in bed. I have a clear picture of Mr Musker, sitting in a large bed, propped up with many pillows, making an infernal din as he sharpened a saw. Mrs Musker was a large, kind, comfortable woman, and there were two daughters, Betty and Nina, in their late ‘teens, aspiring singers and dancers and who treated me as do all older sisters. There was another boy from my school also billeted with the Musker’s, Billy Burley, and we shared a large room, each with his own bed, on the first floor of a large house. There were a number of lodgers staying in the house too. One of whom was a carpenter and I was always getting under his feet, fascinated by watching him make things.
The house was a bit run down, with many dilapidated out buildings and a large garden, where they grew spuds and other veg. Food was rationed , but in the country it wasn’t quite so severe. At the end of the garden there was a stream, there were cats and I think a dog, absolute heaven for a ten year old boy.
Greenfield is a bit of a misnomer, as it was an industrial village, with a large paper mill and I.C.I. had a huge plant nearby, though you could quickly get into green fields and explore all the wonders of the countryside. The town of Holywell was only a few miles away and I remember going there, shopping, with Mrs Musker.
I can’t remember much about my time in Greenfield with the Musker’s, so I assume that it was fairly pleasant. I did manage to cut myself, whilst attempting to make an archery bow from a tree branch, and had to be taken to Holywell to be stitched up by a doctor. I still have the scar. Afterward the carpenter told me “never cut to thee, alus fro’ thee”, a useful piece of information, which would have been even more useful, had he told me before I started making the bow. I can also remember being knocked out when I fell out of a tree. I was a normal boy of ten, forever hungry, inquisitive and in need of a good wash.
I seem to recall that the local children went to school in the morning and the Liverpool kids went in the afternoon, as the village school was quite small and could not cope with the huge influx of new pupils. Across the road from the Musker’s house there was a sweet shop, which still had sweets, they were strictly rationed, as was everything else. Down the road was a church, and as it was Wales, we went there twice on Sundays, for the fire and brimstone treatment. The rest of the week was reasonably pleasant.
Liverpool was being bombed, and I can remember looking out across the River Dee and the Wirral in the evening and seeing the ruddy glow in the sky from the fires that were blazing at home.
My parents came to see me now and then, but travel was difficult, nobody had cars, and if you did have one, you couldn’t get petrol for it. I think Mum and Dad came by train, via Chester, perhaps once a month, to spend a few hours with me.
Eventually they thought that it would be safe for me to return home, they came to get me, and we travelled home to Liverpool. just in time for the famous “May Blitz”. But that’s another story.
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