- Contributed by
- Wymondham Learning Centre
- People in story:
- Doris (nee Ings) Johnson, Cyril Johnson,Herbert and Minnie Ings, Percival Ings, Katherine Johnson, Anne and Peter George Ings
- Location of story:
- Leeds, Southampton
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 April 2005
This story was submitted to the BBC People’s War site by Wymondham Learning Centre on behalf of the author who fully understand the site's terms and conditions.
I was twenty-one and was living with my husband, Cyril, in Roundhay, Leeds, when war broke out in 1939. We were lucky as the city did not suffer much from bombing. However, most of my family were living in Southampton, which suffered dreadfully because it was an important port.
My father, Herbert, owned two houses in Southampton. In one of his houses there were cellars, one of which was a billiard room. He allowed his neighbours to sleep there, and one of them, who was disabled, would sleep on the billiard table. My father was in bed one night, when bombs fell in the area. The windows shattered, whilst his other house was totally destroyed. He used a bin lid to stifle the flames of the incendiary bombs. There were four anti-aircraft guns positioned on Bittern Common. All the men manning the guns were killed during a raid, including my sister’s best friend.
Whilst riding his motorbike in the town, my brother, Percival, came under machine-gun fire from a German plane. He escaped injury by hiding under a lorry.
To get some sleep, my mother, Minnie, and her friends would drive into the country every night and sleep in the car. We brought the family to Leeds to escape the terror. When my husband drove down to pick them up, he left his car overnight where a bomb dropped. There was a huge crater the next day and he was lucky not to have been in it
My mother-in-law, Katherine, suffered from a bad chest and the climate in Leeds did not suit her, so she returned to the south after three or four months. On her return, her daughter was taken ill. A railway line ran along the bottom of her back garden and this was a target for the bombers. One day, as Katherine’s daughter lay dying, the line was attacked and the blast blew down the ceiling onto the patient’s bed. Katherine threw herself across her daughter to protect her. The railway coaches were blown into the trees which looked very strange.
My husband was in a reserved occupation, working for the electricity board. He joined the Home Guard but, because his job kept him busy, he could not participate often and he was made to give his uniform back. Because of the barrage balloons, which brought down the electricity lines, we left Roundhay and settled in Scholes. We did not suffer from rationing too badly as my husband would often visit farms in the course of doing his job, and he would be given produce such as butter and eggs. However, we were often short of tea and sugar.
An evacuee was billeted with us. She was one of four sisters, who unfortunately had to be split up. I cannot remember her name but she came from Hull, which was also a port. She was bright and settled in well, partly because our own daughter, Anne, was the same age and they became friends. She enjoyed life in Scholes.
I was kept busy during the war years, looking after my family and working as a volunteer for the Army Pay Corps, helping to prepare and serve meals twice a week in Leeds. The Pays Corps threw a party for the volunteers’ children, which Anne can remember to this day. She can also remember being sent to queue for sausages at the butcher’s shop. I used to go to regular customers in Scholes, selling saving stamps. I also knitted a lot, making balaclava helmets, sea-boot stockings and jumpers for the Royal Navy. I received a letter of thanks from them for my hard work. In 1944 my son, Peter George, was born on Saint George’s Day.
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