- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Arthur Gilliland; William Gilliland; Mabel Gilliland; Harry and Eadie Parry
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- Contributed on:
- 27 June 2004
Wartime Child inLiverpool
I was three, almost four, years of age when the bombs began to fall. In the months before, men had been busy, filling sandbags from the materials delivered to the road, and digging a pit in our next door neighbours’ garden so an Anderson air raid shelter could be assembled. It would not be long before we would be using it.
My father had volunteered for the Royal Air Force when war was declared and while he was waiting to be called up, joined the Auxiliary Fire Service; I didn’t see much of him for the next seven years, he was working at the Royal Liver Building during the day and at the Auxiliary Fire Station at night, with thousands of others snatching what rest he could, when he could.
My mother was a child of the City and loved nothing more than to go from Childwall where we lived, on the tram, to see what was happening to the places she knew so well. With me she toured the various restaurants which were her favourites, the Kardomah, Lewis’s, Bon Marché, Cooper’s. Of all these, Lewis’s was my favourite. There were monkeys in the roof garden and I was distraught when the store was destroyed and my beloved monkeys died in the ruins.
As the war progressed, we were given a new type protection from air-raids, the Morrison shelter. This was, essentially, a cage with steel corner supports and a solid steel top. It could be used as a table when danger had passed. A door was let into one side and we had to squeeze in and sit huddled together. At the time my great grandmother was living with us and she had great difficulty with this shelter. She soon gave it up as a bad job, and risked the bombs.
One day, quite early in the evening, I was stricken with an acute pain. The doctor diagnosed appendicitis and called for an ambulance. Because an air raid was in full swing and my mother was scared stiff, an older cousin accompanied me in the ambulance to Alder Hey Hospital, where I was taken straight to the operating theatre for treatment. This week or so I spent in Alder Hey was one of the two occasions I saw my father until he was demobbed in 1946. I had a further period of hospitalisation when I contracted Scarlet Fever and was in isolation for some weeks; scarlet fever was deadly in those days.
After I began school, in 1942, we regularly practised air raid drill, on a signal filing quietly down, with our gas masks, to the brick air raid shelters which had been built in the school grounds and taking our places on the wooden benches. Out of school, we would collect shrapnel which had fallen from the sky; the broken shards of antiaircraft shells fired from the gun positions nearby. Once, someone brought to school a piece of a German bomber which had been shot down the previous night.
My mother had a sister and brother-in-law living near Neston, Cheshire, whom we visited, travelling across the Mersey on the ferry and then on by ‘bus. When we went down to the St. George’s landing stage we saw the flotsam from the ships which had been bombed and which had sunk, leaving their funnels and masts above water as the only sign of their positions. Shortly, ‘wreck’ buoys would appear on the river, marking the danger.
Eventually, the war ended, but the bomb sites and the ‘wreck’ buoys remained to remind us of the days gone by.
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