- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Barbara Hodgson nee Lockley
- Location of story:
- Cannock,Staffordshire, Daventry & Coventry
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 June 2004
This story was submitted to the People`s War website by Alan Magson of Age Concern Bradford & District, on behalf of Barbara Hodgson, and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site`s terms and conditions.
My name is Barbara Hodgson, nee Lockley
I was born in Newtown,Cannock, Staffordshire.
I was eight when War started, and I remember going to school with a gasmask in a little brown box. If we forgot it we were sent home to get it. I often forgot it and Mum would chase after me with it, and every day we had to have an air raid practice without fail. It was a purpose built brick building on the surface and not underground. The headmaster was called P. Bickford but he referred to himself as PPPP Bickford. He was very very strict. He used to use the cane a lot and every Wednesday I got the cane because I hated the sewing lessons and after he had caned me I was allowed to go home which gave me the chance to go swimming at Bloxwich swimming baths.
Whilst I was at this school I used to write to my uncle Alfred Somerfield who was in a German POW camp. He was captured at Dunkirk and gave his wrong age when he joined up so he was only about 17 or 17 ½. In the camp they injected him with TB and he subsequently died in a public toilet in Coventry. This is what my Mum told me. I presume he had felt ill and gone in there. His widow was my Aunt Eileen and some Cousins who I haven’t heard from since. Aunt Eileen must have been American and had come to England with her parents. Her Dad used to erect telegraph poles.
When they arrived in England they were said to be the largest family to come over from America, and I remember a newspaper cutting my Mum had showing them all, about eight of them standing looking over the rail of a ship.
We had a bomb dropped near to the junior school once and when I wrote about it to my uncle in the POW camp, it came back with that section censored.
The school was Holly Lane Junior school. My best friend at this school was Mary Whitehouse. She was cleverer than me and went to Queen Mary`s Grammar School in Walsall. I went to Walsall School of Art. We had to use the Salvation Army canteen across the road from the school, but as there were usually US Army soldiers in this area, my Mum took me away from that school. I was 11 at this time.
I can remember walking home with my Mom and Dad in the blackout and watching tracer bullets from the Spitfires firing at German aircraft, fighter planes, Messerschmidts . This used to happen quite often.
My Uncle, called Layton , I don`t remember his first name, was an Air Raid Warden going round nightly to make sure no one had any lights showing from the windows. He used to shout the classic phrase “ Put that light out !.”
All the house windows were protected with a brown paper cross across each pane so if it did break the glass would be less able to hurt you.
I had a cat called Tiddles, who used to wait for me at the bust stop as I came home from school. She came in one day with her eye hanging out. She has been hit with shrapnel from a bomb which had dropped nearby.
We didn`t have an Air-raid Shelter, our shelter was a pit shaft which was where my Dad worked, but I never used that, because we used a ditch in the back garden, with no cover over us. We did this because Dad had a car in our garage but because it had petrol in it we sheltered well away from it.
My Dad didn`t see daylight for 2 years as he worked a double shift down the South Cannock pit . He used to fire the shots which brought the coal down.
We woke up one morning to find a very big unexploded bomb in our front garden. Luckily for us it hadn`t gone off.
There were only two houses including ours but everybody had to be evacuated. Our next door neighbours were called Meekin and I used to play with their son Billy.
The Bomb Squad came and defused it but the authorities told us we had to move so Mum & I went to Coventry to my Uncle Tom and Aunty ` Cal` and Cousin Peter Westwood`s house, for about a fornight, then went back home and Peter came with us because the situation in Coventry was getting more serious and his parents didn`t want him staying there.
Whilst Mum & I were in Coventry for those two weeks it was heavily bombed. I shall never forget waking up one morning to find Coventry still burning. We were in a suburb called Daventry. It`s a sight you never forget. It looked like the sky was on fire. You couldn`t actually see flames but the sky was aglow, like a vivid sunset.
The morning after a raid we found what they called a “ Bread Basket “ dropped in the garden. It was a container full of incendiary bombs, a bit like a milk crate. My uncle unscrewed the top of two of them got the cap out and we had two of them each side of the fireplace, back at Cannock.
At the bottom of my Uncle`s garden was a big field, and in the field was where they made Daventry bombers. The factory was about 200 yards away, and the authorities would light sort of dustbins which were placed at intervals down the street where we were staying and then the smoke from them would cover the area where the houses were, presumably to make any German aircraft think that the smoke was where the factory was.
Where we lived in Cannock we could see a small village called Brownhills from our house in Stafford Road. I remember waking up one night and seeing the village itself burning, having been bombed. I remember feeling terrified and my Mum had to comfort me.
My best friend then was Shirley Woodcock who was evacuated from London to Stafford Road, Newton, Cannock where I lived.
She and her Mum rented a house in Stafford Road. Another friend was Molly Monty whose Granddad owned all the fairground sites in the Midlands, and became Lord Mayor of Walsall ,and whose Dad drove a motorbike on the Wall of Death.
One `souvenir` of the war was a type of wooden letter rack which was inscribed “ H.M.S. Warspite”, on a plaque.
I also still have my I.D. Disk which I wore around my neck. It is inscribed with my name and address and my I.D. number “ OTBH 1533”. My Dad`s was 1531 and my Mum`s 1532.It is interesting that that number became my NHS number when I got an NHS Medical Card.
I also remember that after the war a cross was made from the bombed timbers of Coventry Cathedral and inscribed, “ Forgive them Lord. They knew not what they did “.
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