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WW2 - People's War

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WW2 Memories

by culture_durham

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs Freda Waller
Location of story: 
North East Engalnd
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 May 2005

Lots of people will have similar tales - rationing of food, clothes etc; also black-out and gas masks, but these are some more personal anecdotes prompted by a visit to Belmont library on 5th May, 2005.
Starting in 1939 I was on holiday in Whitley Bay, with a friend, at her grandparents, when the invasion of Poland began on 1st September. So we were put on a train for Newcastle - in the sudden black-out and were met by my father to continue out journey home to Stanley by bus. On Sunday, 3rd September just as I was leaving for Church, Mr. Chamberlain announced on the wireless that we were at war, followed by sudden Air Raid Warning.
When school resumed after the holidays we attended part-time until all the Air Raid Shelters were built.
Later on I remember in Domestic Science we made bread, my allowance from the school allocation, made a small loaf and two tiny teacakes! Then came School Certificate and my cookery exam. A "ham and egg pie" using fine shreds of ham and dried eggs, followed by a Swiss roll again with dried eggs. I can remember what they tasted like!
I'm not too sure whether it was summer of 1938 or 1939 we had a family aftenoon by the river at Chester-Le-Street. There were lots of young soldiers having training, including swimming across the river in full kit carrying their seemed to be a struggle for many, and one young man could not make it, so father drew attention to his plight and after he was brought ashore by his pals, father helped with artificial respiration until asked to leave by senior officers. We often wondered what became of that young man.
As father was slightly older than those being called-up, he went to the colliery as an electrician. He was also a member of the Auxiliary Fie Service, and once on duty, despite trapping his hand hitching up some vehicle ,went to Tanfield Village,where a land mine had dropped, luckily in a field and leaving a crater but no injuries. Another time there were bombs at Beamish which did involve some loss of life
Our sleep was often disturbed by a very heavy mobile gun on the nearby railway protecting the line of vital impotance from Consett Steel Works to the Tyne. Other times the siren went and we had to get out of bed go downstairs and across the lane to an anderson shelter in the allotment.

But we were lucky as a family, despite the rationing and shortages. How my dear mother coped I do not know, a husband who did shift work, as well as five children. Yet when soldiers were billeted in the church c hall, she often made some welcome in the house, to share a warm fireside, somethng to eat and a hot bath! They were so thankful, and I always remember one of them commenting on the 'square teapot'.(one of Rington's)
I had several cousins in the Forces, and wrote to the one nearest my age a Sergeant Flight Engineer,but sadly his Lancaster plane crash landed in Sweden, on its return trip, so he is buried out there , 19yrs old.
To help others my sisters and I used to collect in the neighborhood each week for the Red Cross 'penny a week fund'. We also gave some of out toys to the local Red Cross Shop, including a huge Teddy Bear which had been mine sine I was about two years old, and all five of us had played with him, despite mother having to patch his paws, more than once.
In 1943 I was asked to be a flower seller at a fund raising day for the Merchant Navy. I had posies and buttonholes made by Mrs. Shafto and friends, and it was held in the grounds of Beamish Hall. Then about two weeks later I was honoured, along with the other girls, to take tea with her in beamish Hall it was still a private residence then.
As a member of the Women's Junior Air Corps/Girls Training Corps,I also helped out at many events, fundraising for various causes, including Musical Concerts, and once even at a Boxing Match for Cadets and Territorials.
Then came V.E Day, so may meories of all that had happened, but I also danced in the front street outside the Council Offices. The first weekend after V.E. dau I was on my way to Liverpool, as one of Durham County Representatives of the W.J.A.C./G.T.C. at a huge birthday rally. We were billeted in the blind school at Wavertree Liverpool, it seemed quite a bare stark place. Then over the Mersey to Lord Leverhulmes property in Birkenhead where it was like a huge garden party. Then we all formed ranks for speeches and the cutting of the huge cake, by ing George of the Hellenes.,(Just a model of course).
Slowlsy life seemed to return to some normality, but I've often wondered? The longer ones sits and thinks, the more the memories return.

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