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A city girl on the land.

by derbycsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs. Brenda Helen Lilley, nee Horton
Location of story: 
Sheffield and Aston-on Trent, Derbyshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 July 2005

I was a 10 year old girl living in Sheffield when the war started.
I remember big holes being dug in gardens, some six feet deep, to erect galvanised steel air-raid shelters, fitted with wooden bunk beds. Masking tape was also criss-crossed on the windows to stop flying glass. Yards and yards of blackout material was sewn for curtains. The local A.R.P. Warden patrolled every night and would soon shout "Put that light out" if he could see any.
We had coupons for sweets(1/4 lb per week), food, clothes and wool. I had a knitted swimming costume, which went all baggy when it got wet.
We were fitted with updated gas masks at our local school by A.R.P. Wardens, who were helped by the Boy Scouts. Later on the school was closed for months, which was wonderful, but then came 'Home Service' when we went to someone's home for lessons, for a half-day.
We were always listening to the wireless for news on which battles had been won and which towns had been bombed. There were at least two bad blitzes in Sheffield.
My father worked in the steel industry and was doing seven day weeks to keep steel production up. He would often have to walk to work because the transport system had been bombed the night before. He once arrived to find the roof blown off the sheds and worked all day in the pouring rain.
My father also supervised the works fire brigade and First Aid team. He was also a member of our local fire brigade, who had small posts scattered around the outskirts of Sheffield. Once the air-raid sirens sounded he went out. One night he forgot his hatchet and I ran all the way to his post with it. There was an air-raid in progress and the sky was repeatedly lit by bursts of anti-aircraft gunfire. I was non too happy and got home to a very cross mother in our shelter.
I started work in the offices at Sheffield steel works but volunteered for the Woman's Land Army, bacause I was interested in animals. I was sent to the village of Aston-on-Trent in south Derbyshire and billetted in the local vicarage, sleeping in bunk beds.
We were up at 6am every morning for breakfast and then had to pack sandwiches, half awake. We were bussed out to different farms. I still remember sprout picking after a frost, with frozen fingers. The field was very big, with me at one end and an old man at the other. the days seemed very long, with no one else to talk to. It started going dark at 4.00pm and I was very eager for the bus to take me back to the warmth of the vicarage.
We used to do threshing in summer, lifting sheaves of corn endlessly onto the high top of the thresher with a pitch-fork. It was avery dusty job. Once I was chased by one of the other girls who was fitch-forking escaping mice.
We would sometimes ride home in the late evening on the Shire horses, as there were no lorries, due to petrol shortages.
We were allowed to go into Derby on the local bus, once a week, to the pictures. We had to go in uniform, which consisted of cord britches, long sleeved blouse, green jumper, 3/4 length coat, sturdy brown shoes, knee-length wool stockings and a wide brimmed 'Australian' type hat. It was good for winter-time but a bit hot in summer.
I remember food being good at the vicarage. Sometimes we were also given a good cooked lunch by the farmers wife, all sitting round a huge wooden table in the farm kitchen. We would then eat our own sandwiches in the mid-afternoon. We were always hungry. I suppose it was all the hard work and the fresh air, especially for a city girl.
I stayed in the Land Army till the end of the war and enjoyed it all.

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