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What a birthday!

by derbycsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Margaret Roberts nee Thorpe, Louisa Thorpe (mother), Cath and John (sister and brother)
Location of story: 
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Contributed on: 
02 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Odilia Roberts from the Derby Action Team on behalf of Margaret Roberts and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

At the beginning of the war I was attending St. Joseph’s RC School in Cromwell Road. Quite a few of the children and teachers were evacuated to Ripley.

I lived in Byron Street, and my aunt and uncle lived nearby. The council came round to check our cellars, their cellar was selected and reinforced and made into an underground shelter, so that when the sirens went in the daytime some of St. Joseph’s school children went round to use it, gas masks hanging on their shoulders, chattering and excited, which when you are a child you enjoy anything out of the ordinary.

The school closed temporary and we had to go to the Columba Club on Mill Hill Lane with Mr Morris one of the teachers and had lessons in one of the entertainment rooms. It was then thought that it would be better to have lessons at home and a teacher, Mr Lamb, would come to check our school work and then they closed the Columba Club for schooling and after awhile it was decided to reopen the school — what a lot of ‘toing and froing.’

Shortly after the war started smoke screens were used, and did they smell, they stunk of paraffin. They were placed on pavements and they were everywhere, and of what I can remember they were about the size of a milk churn. With no street lights on at all, due to the blackout and smoke screens it was so easy to get lost and if you had gone only a short distance you could make sure you would end up asking someone to help you — you could hear people but mostly couldn’t see them, and being so dark people often bumped into the smoke screens.
It happened to my friends and I when we had been to the Cavendish cinema — it closed at about 9 o’clock, when we came out the smoke screens had been lit for the first time and we could hear people saying ‘where am I, where am I?’ I ended up going down Walbrook Road instead of Almond Street — I could smell the fish and chip shop (no lights were showing because of the blackout) that was on the corner of Walbrook Road and Brunswick Road.

On Sundays the Cavendish cinema was used as a church, it covered St. George’s parish, and one Sunday my cousins and I went to Mass there.

I remember the day Rolls Royce was bombed. It was a lovely sunny Monday morning and it was my 15th birthday, I was wearing a new flowered dress and I was feeling happy. I went out into the garden and stood on the lawn, I could hear the 8 o’clock news on the wireless and familiar sounds of our neighbourhood, Mum was in the kitchen doing her routine jobs for washday — lighting and filling the copper with water. Our next door neighbour came out and spoke to me, all of a sudden we heard this mighty roar, the next moment a German plane appeared from nowhere through the clouds over Cromwell Road and over our garden to where I was standing, the neighbour more or less dragged me off the grass and round to their back door saying, ‘That was a German plane’, it then went straight ahead to Normanton Road and within seconds was at Rolls Royce.

By 9 am we were told by neighbours it had killed people as they were coming off work and going to work up the factory yard. My mother and I were crying because my brother John, who was an apprentice millwright, was coming off his shift. He didn’t arrive home until 2.30 in the afternoon, Mum asked him where he had been, he said he was just ready to leave work when the bomb dropped and he was trapped under a machine, luckily he wasn’t injured and was asked to stay and help to move the dead and injured.
We were relieved and very pleased to see him.

The times people said to me that day “You will never forget this birthday”.

My sister Cath did war work at Royces and was coming home one day when the sirens started, Mum and I were in the air raid shelter and were worried why Cath wasn’t home from work. We found out later that some neighbours had pulled her into their house for safety and in doing so she caught her leg and ripped her stockings. She was most indignant that her precious stockings were damaged.

The son of a couple who lived near us had a smallholding, he had a bright idea of buying a pig and collecting kitchen scraps from houses in my neighbourhood to feed this pig and when the time came for slaughtering it we would all get a share. Well he decided he would keep the pig, until his parents put a stop to his ‘scam.’

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