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Memories of a Childhood in Wartime Manchester by Jean Williams

by Stockport Libraries

Contributed by 
Stockport Libraries
People in story: 
Jean Williams
Location of story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 April 2004

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Elizabeth Perez of Stockport Libraries on behalf of Jean Williams and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Williams fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

My Mother and Father met in 1939 at a dance in Manchester. Dad was called up in 1940, and his brother was called up at the same time, even though he was twelve months younger. My Dad was in the 11th Armoured Division. My Mum and Dad married in 1941. Dad was a "wire drawer" and Mum was listed as a machinist. She lived with her mother in Beswick, Manchester. My Grandma's youngest son and daughter were evacutated to Tottingten in Bury and lived with a couple who had a sweet shop and made their own sweets (a child's heaven!).

Mum worked as a machinist during the day, whilst Dad was away, and worked nights at the Kardamah Cafe in Manchester. I went to a nursery in Every Street in Ancoats. My Grandma looked after me when I wasn't at the nursery. When the sirens went, she used to pull out the bottom drawer of the dresser, put me in it and then put me under the bed and she lay on top of me. There was a communal air raid shelter for the street, but she wouldn't use it.

My Mum died last year and she only just started talking about the war two years ago. She told me a lot about wokring in the Kardamah and what good tips she got (from the ladies of the night!). She'd go into Manchester and in the morning she'd come out to go home and sometimes she couldn't recognize the streets as they had been bombed, streets had gone and it was still burning, and you could see bits of people lying around. The smoke, dust and smell were all around her as she walked home to her Mum and me. My Grandma was worried sick about her until she came through the door.

In 1943-44 Dad sent a card from Europe, which I still have. Dad was wounded in Holland in 1944, and was brought home to hospital in Warrington. He sent Mum a telegram to come and see him saying "All is well". I remember going to see him in a big room with lots of beds. The man in the next bed gave me a bar of chocolate and then I fell asleep on his bed! I was only two years old then - it's surprising what stays in your memory. The man, who gave me the chocolate, died soon after from very bad wounds.

I remember going to London Road Station to meet Dad, when he was demobbed. I can remember the huge steam trains puffing out all the smoke. I remember dragging Dad's bag down the platform and Mum and Dad laughing and saying I looked like Shirley Temple.

Things were not good after the war - bad housing, rationing, very cold winters with no fuel. Jobs were not easy to come by and wages were very poor. We may have won the war, but ordinary folk did not feel like the victors.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

The Blitz Category
Working Through War Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Manchester Category
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