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15 October 2014
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Hidden History in an Old Shed.icon for Recommended story

by 1949 : Baby Boomer

Contributed by 
1949 : Baby Boomer
People in story: 
Eddie and John
Location of story: 
Liverpool
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2784314
Contributed on: 
26 June 2004

Lime Street Liverpool Soldiers embarking 1945

Hidden History

Fifteen years ago a neighbour asked me to clear out the garden shed of her recently deceased husband.
Going into the shed was like stepping through a time warp, my old neighbour (Eddie was 84 when he died) had left footprints of his character, his life, his interests and hobbies encased in a small green wooden hut.
Books, magazines and newspaper articles going back to the 1930’s conveyed his diverse preoccupations in early plastics, photography, art, wax and wood modelling, calligraphy, marquetry, carpentry and home electrics, and also an early curiosity with the new trend towards D.I.Y. I was 40 years old at the time but many of the tools and equipment were a mystery to me, yet I could see that they were well used and cared for, instruments of a bygone era.
At the back of the old shed under heavy canvas, thickened with the oils and dust of decades I unearthed a long metal box. Although covered in filth and dead bugs the trunk was easily recognisable as the “fetch me some more ammo” box that countless soldiers screamed for in T.V and war movies.
On washing the ammunition box I read the code B.167 - 1942 stamped into its green lid. Flicking back the clasps opened a time capsule that was surprisingly well preserved. Apparently Eddie had been a draughtsman /engineer by profession but he had also been a leading member of the Home Guard during World War 2. Mrs L told me to take the tools, books etc, as she knew I’d use, and respect them. These lay the foundation for my own Fortress of Solitude and turned me into a “Shed Man,” with tins, jars and boxes of “bits” that could mend Ceasars chariot or a NASA rocket.
A couple of days later Mrs L called me in and asked me to take the ammo box and its contents. The couple did not have any children of their own but they were fond of my two young daughters and she thought that the box might interest them and their school-friends in the future. Sadly Mrs L also died about a year later.
I am ashamed to say that after a perfunctory glance the box lay unopened in my shed for the next decade and a half .The BBC’s Peoples War project prompted me to reopen the box and study its contents more closely. Again to my surprise the following contents were in excellent condition:The ammunition box contained:
Various maps in waterproof cardboard pouches with headings such as:
Second War Revision 1940 Sheet 36, Bolton and Manchester.
War Office books and information:
First Aid For Fighting Men: which includes information on carrying wounded men under fire.
Codebooks:
Instructions for Intelligence Officers, including procedures for the questioning of prisoners.
Personal notebooks and diaries:
Re: unit, field operations, lines of command and meetings.
War Office:
Field Service Pocket Books 1943-45 marked Restricted with “This must not book fall into enemy hands” or “Not to be taken into frontline trenches”
Finally I found an assortment of negatives, one of which a friend developed for me last week. As you can see from the photograph it is of troops embarking from Liverpool Lime Street Station with cheering crowds lining the pavements. I am sure my old neighbours would be pleased to think that part of their history and life added to the knowledge of following generations.

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