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Growing up in Sheffield in the war

by actiondesksheffield

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Kathleen Lunn (nee Haley)
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 May 2005

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

Growing up in Sheffield in the war

Kathleen Lunn (nee Haley)

I was nine years old when the second world war was declared, in some ways it was an exciting time for us children, at first, and we were issued with gas masks. They smelt of rubber and fitted tight round our faces, but we where able to breath with them on. The back gardens on our estate were being equipped with air raid shelters. Dad dug ours as deep as he could, and fitted it out with bunks to sleep on, but we didn't use it often as it was very damp. On the Thursday night of the Sheffield Blitz, my father was at work. He was on the night shift at Daniel Doncaster's on Penistone road. My elder sister was trying to get home from work; there was only my mum and my other sister Mary at home when the sirens went. Mum said it might not be much, as prior to that night the jerries had already had a go, trying to get the gas tanks at Wincobank, so she said as she had just put the Christmas puddings on to boil in the big copper (she had made about eight), that she wasn't going to have Hitler spoil her puddings, but that we could stay up in case the bombing got worse. Would we be ready, if necessary, to go into the shelter? The planes passed over our side of town to start bombing the city.

With the exception of mum boiling her puddings, I don't remember much of the raid, as I curled up in an armchair and slept through it. Mary and mum kept popping out the door to see the planes going over, so they told me the next day. Dad came home from work to tell us the state of the city, and our older sister Olive was still not home from work, but came in later. She'd had to find shelter in the city - municipal shelters for the night. Dad was very cross with mum for not taking us into the shelter, and he made sure we went into it when the raid started again on the Sunday night.

Another occasion that stick's in my mind was when Olive was in bed after giving birth to a stillborn baby. There was just dad and myself downstairs when we heard the most terrific loud bang, and Olive screaming, I said, "What was that?" Dad replied, "Perhaps Olive has fallen out of bed go up and see."

What had happened was, in Concord park there was a barrage balloon station that was manned by the home guard, and it had come loose of its moorings and had come down over our house. Olive had screamed when she saw the flames pass the bedroom window, and the bang we heard was it's ropes as they landed across the roof tops. Needless to say, she was not amused that dad thought she had fallen out of bed, making such a loud bang.

V.E. Day brought a lot of relief that it was all over, and mum, who had been saving some of our rations, started to think about baking a cake for Olive's husband to come home to. He was a prisoner of war, in Germany for the latter part of the war, and mum thought the world of him, but then the sad news came that he had been killed whilst being moved by train from one camp to another, three days before the war was over. It seems that the train he was on did not have a red cross painted on it and some American pilot flying over had spotted it stopping, and flew down and machine gunned it, killing Joe and two other men, as they jumped out. That was a very sad time for us. Olive got an apology from the Americans, I believe and there was a collection for her from the airbase.


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