- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Jack and Amelia Smalley
- Location of story:
- Spondon, Derby
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 September 2005
This story has been submitted by Alison Tebbutt, Derby CSV Action Desk on behalf of Jack and Amelia Smalley. The author's have given their permission and fully understand the site's terms and conditions.
When we arrived back from Church on Sunday Sept 3rd 1939, we listened to Mr Chamberlain on the wireless. I was a fourteen year old girl and had just started work. My sister was sixteen. I can remember our Prime Minister saying in a long, slow voice; ‘So we are now at war with Germany.’ My mother had a little weep. Our parents could remember the Great War as there had only been twenty years of peace.
Father and our neighbours had been making a ‘dug-out’ for twelve months just in case the ‘worst came to the worst’. It was in the garden of a deaf young couple down the road. They lived in the adjoining property to our neighbour- a semi detached house.
By 3:30am on Monday morning we were awakened by the loud siren which had been installed at our local factory. We very quickly put on some clothes and dashed down to the dug-out-three doors away. A large piece of corrugated sheeting was put over the top of it and each in turn climbed down somebody’s fold up steps. What a blessing it was summer time. We four were crammed down there with six other people for half an hour, until the all-clear Siren could be heard.
Our neighbour had fixed a rope from their back bedroom window through to the back bedroom window of their adjoining deaf neighbours and the young man had tied it to his foot. When the siren sounded, our neighbour had pulled on the rope until the young man came to the window. They made some better arrangements later on, when they’d had time to think.
Within the next few days the people who were living in a large old house opposite to us, very kindly said that any of the neighbours could use their cellar when there was an air raid. So the dug out became redundant after all that effort and hard work. This large cellar had brick walls painted white and there was electric light. It had three rooms and a wide shelf about two foot high from the floor. I suppose it must have been used for storing food and wine at one time. I can remember sleeping on a camp bed on this shelf. There were eleven adults and two small children and they all had beds down there.
We were lucky, the air raids weren’t very often, perhaps once a week or ten days. We did this for about eighteen months then things quietened down in our area.
About 7:30am every morning mother did physical exercises in the living room whilst listening to a new programme on the wireless called ‘up in the early morning.’ There was also a wireless doctor who gave a lot of good advice. Like everybody else, father stuck strips of tape vertically and horizontally on all the windows. He made wooden frames and covered them with some sort of felting. These had to be fitted to the windows outside every evening and removed every morning. The church had black-out curtains and one was put up over the very, very high east window. It remained there for twenty years until someone was prepared to climb so high to remove it. It must have been very dusty.
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