- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Sydney Wilkinson
- Location of story:
- Featherstone (a pit village in West Yorkshire)
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 August 2005
This story was added to the website by Helen Jubb, BBC Radio Leeds on behalf of the contributor with their permission.
I was born and bred in a pit village called Featherstone in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1930. I remember Mr. Chamberlain telling us we were at war that Sunday morning at 11am. We lived in a three bedroomed house on the main road and had a front garden about 3 yards by 2 yards; it had a wall adjacent to the pavement above a yard high with some fancy railings on it. We also had a bathroom but the snag was it did not have hot water, we had to heat the water in what we called a set pot which was downstairs in the kitchen and had to carry the water in buckets upstairs to the bath. In the spring of 1940 I was playing in the front garden when some workmen came with Oxy-Accelyne burners cut the railing off all the houses alongside the main road. I ran into the house to tell my dad somebody was stealing our railings, he came out and was told the local authority had it to do because of the war-effort.
Workmen came to our house along with many others to erect air-raid shelters in people’s back gardens they dug a suitable hole, (it depended on the size of the family, for a small one or large one), about 2 yards long and 4 feet deep, they also dug a sump in it about 2 feet square and 2 feet deep. It was my job to empty it every day if it wanted it before I went to school. In our house there was my Grandma, Granddad, Mother, Father, myself and an older sister. When the air-raid sirens went Grandma insisted she took a flask or bottle filled with hot oxo, or tea or whatever. My dad fixed a rug or some sacking which rolled down over the entrance which shut out any light which gave a cheery glow in the shelter, we all had blankets or something thick so we did not get cold. We stayed in the shelter until the ‘all clear’ sounded.
I also remember that neighbours used to swap (exchange ) foods with one another because everything was rationed. My dad would swap a bucket of coal sometimes for a pound of sugar or margarine or things like that because miners got a load of coal periodically as their contract of employment. We were never cold during the war because we had fire grates downstairs and in the bedrooms-there was no electric in those days, we all had gas and the mantles were about an old penny or tuppance.
My school friends and I used to have a game of guessing what aeroplanes were whilst going and coming back from bombing to their bases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and the one that used to stand out a mile was the ‘Wellington’ bomber because of its tail.
Most of the men had allotments 150 yards away where they grew all manner of vegetables, a lot of them kept pigeons hens, geese, rabbits and pigs, during the warm climates I had to help my dad with watering the plants —somehow every allotment had a water pipe either in there allotment or very near, so we did not go too short of vegetables.
I am now 75 years of age and memories fade but I will remember those years while ever I live.
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