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WW2 - People's War

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Growing Up in Carrickfergus during the War

by Researcher 237950

Contributed by 
Researcher 237950
People in story: 
Joyce Kernohan
Location of story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 August 2003

I was born in 1937, it was on the occasion of King George the sixth's Coronation. I was born in the back room of a little terrace house in Carrickfergus, it is still there today. I remember we had iron railings around our little front garden, that is if you could call it a garden, it was just baked clay with no growth whatever. I remember one day some men came and took all the railings down; I was told at the time it was to make guns for the war. I also remember a real tank rolling down our street; at that time the War Department owned a piece of land at the top of our street. That same piece of land was used for "plots" somewhere to plant vegetables and potatoes etc when they were very scarce in the shops.

When I was in Primary School I remember we collected something to get a badge saying we had attained a "Montgomerey" status.

On one occasion I was collecting waste paper for the war effort, I called at a local shop called Wilsons in North Street in Carrickfergus, at that time I had under my arm quite a collection of Women's magazines, i.e. Womans Own etc. When I asked if the shop owner had any waste paper she said yes but also suggested I could give her my womens magazines and she would give me sweets in exchange, I got very few sweets as they were rationed and my Mum always swapped them for clothing coupons. I succumbed to the offer and was given not two ounces but a quarter pound of "Liquorice Torpedoes", which I promptly devoured just outside the shop under the North Gate.

We used to get a message from one of the neighbours to say that "Deacon's" in High Street had recieved a consignment of American Apples and every one in the street would send one of their family to quewe for some apples.

Our Christmas toys were also in short supply. One day one of my cousins called at our house in the street, they were there for my doll, I was devastated because I had to give it to them never to see it again, I later found out my Mother had sold it to someone to buy something else that was needed, however, I did see it again minus it's head as my cousins had dropped the doll en route and as it had a delph head it broke into many pieces, I was very young then but I still remember my Mother's dissapointment and most especially mine.

At the back of our house there was an Ordnance Store and an uncle of mine worked there, he gave my Mum an Army blanket one day and she was overjoyed, I suspect it was "nicked" as many things would have been then. The Army blanket was duly made into what called then as a "Siren Suit" for me and I really felt I was the "Bees Knees" when wearing it, it was grey flannel material, one piece, with a zip all the way up the front.

You have got me started now and I could go on for many more pages, however that will be enough for now, there is much more I could recall if I thought about it in more detail.

Your project is a good one and I wish you well.

Regards, Joyce Kernohan.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Kids at War

Posted on: 10 August 2003 by Researcher 237389

Hi Joyce, I'm 9 years older than you so my recollections were a bit more mature. I remember cycling to school after a horrendous Air-raid( we didn't think it odd we would do such a thing) and having to get off our bikes to get over fire hoses squirting jets of water to soak us wondering at the blazing buildings and devastation.It didn't seem to worry us that people had been killed or wounded not so long before.We spend time in the fields looking for shrapnel and spent bullets to hoard. I'm in Australia now so in a way remembrances help keep me in touch with my youth. regards Jack.


Message 2 - Kids at War

Posted on: 04 November 2003 by Charlemont

I spent my childhood in a very poor working class district of Belfast. I have several vivid memories of WW2, particularly the day before it started, 2/9/39. I was 8 years old and was playing in the street near where my brother was standing chatting with his friends. He was a member of the Naval Reserve and I heard my mother calling his name and the sound of her voice startled me. I knew there was something wrong. She was waving an envelope and my brother walked towards her and opened it. By then she was crying, wiping her face on her apron. I rushed along to find out what was the matter and heard her say, "It's your calling up papers". I think I grew up a lot on that day. Things were never the same again.

In quick time my father and other brother were sent across the water, one to build airfields and the other to work in a factory. This happened to a lot of men at the time and so my mother and I were left on our own.

On the night of the big Blitz a neighbour took us in and I spent the night under stairs in a dark smelly coalhole, hearing such loud noises and all the men kept rushing out and in, fighting fires and helping the emergency forces. There were quite a lot of bombs dropped in the vicinity. We were only allowed out of the coalhole to go to the toilet and then you could see the whole street was lit up, a bright orange glow, flares I think. I was very frightened especially as the women kept praying and crying. Thankfully children like myself dozed on and off, despite the noises.

I didn't go to school for a couple of weeks. The teachers couldn't get in and besides the whole city was in turmoil for a while. So it was like a holiday and we had a great time playing on the mounds of rubble and rummaging among the debris for any treasures we could find. I remember bringing home a heavy ledger which my mother returned to the local shopkeeper. It was his book of accounts. HIs shop had been bombed.

When school re-started we redoubled our war efforts. We were urged to buy National Savings stamps and every Monday I would bring my 6d for a stamp. We learned to 'make do and mend', we knitted socks for sailors, made blankets out of rags, saved our cardboard mild bottle tops and made wool circles, then sewed them together to make mats. We were encouraged to Holiday at Home and the local play centre (does anyone rememer the hut in the Hammer?) used to put on displays during the summer and we children put on gymnastic displays and exercises with skipping ropes and hoops. And many more things. We did air raid practices and sat in our gasmasks, horrible sweaty things that stuck to your face.

We were luckier than a lot of people in the UK. We had only two Blitzes. Our morale was kept up by being reminded that Germany was being bombed daily so 'imagine what effect it was having - we knew how bad it had been for us after only TWO raids.

My memories of the war are nearly all sad and miserable, no daddy, no big brothers. But when they did get leave it was joy for a short while. But we did know those who were killed in the forces. My brother's best mate who had been called up for the Navy on the same day, was drowned about a year later. His mother never forgave my brother, she blamed him for encouraging her son to join HMS Caroline (as the people called the Naval Reserve in Belfast). My brother never forgot his friend Geordie.

The end of the war was equally memorable. VE day was my 14th birthday. So I started the war as a child and finished it on the fringes of adulthood. A few months later I had left school and was working in the local shirt factory, making shirts for the RAF.

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