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WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Margaret Hawley, Lilian & Joseph Foulstone (my parents) plus one sister and two brothers.
Location of story: 
Parkgate, Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Margaret Hawley, and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I arrived almost the same time as Hitler! I was born on the 20th of November 1939 and lived in a 2 up 2 down end of terrace house with my mum, dad and 3 siblings. My first memory of WW2 is of blackout curtains and everything being dark and airless.

The air-raid shelter across from my house was dark, smelly and full of spiders. We made frequent visits there when the sirens sounded, and we had to don our disgusting, rubber tasting gas masks.

When Sheffield was bombed, we were told that the Germans were aiming at the Parkgate Iron and Steel Works, half a mile from us. When we went to see the ruins of Sheffield, it was a devastating sight, buildings flattened and quite unrecognisable. We did, at a later date, go to the Sheffield Theatre to see some of the old stars. It was wonderful to see people happy again.

One of my tasks during the war was to fetch a pennyworth (1d (0.4p)) of damaged bananas for lunch. The old harridan at the fruit and vegetable shop frightened me far more than the bombs did. Queues and ration books formed a big part of our lives, but my mum always managed to place a good hot meal in front of us.

My dad was called up in 1943, and within 6 months, mum received a telegram to say he was missing in action. We were all devastated — how my mum carried on with four young children I’ll never know, but she did it with courage and determination. We never heard another thing until the summer of 1945. We, along with many others, had great street parties to celebrate the end of the war. We were sitting enjoying stew and dumplings a few weeks later when we heard heavy footsteps coming up our path. We all said, “They sound like army boots.” Dad flung open the door and just stood there, all his kit on his shoulders, wearing a big smile and shedding many tears. How we all cried, then laughed, and then danced.

The war was finally over!


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