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15 October 2014
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Pasties in Wartime

by cornwallcsv

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Betty Cooney (Boon)
Location of story: 
Plymouth Blitz
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
23 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Lynn Hughes on behalf of Betty Cooney (Boon), the author and has been added to the site his/her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

Whenever the air raid sirens sounded, the Dockyard gates were locked and nobody was allowed to go out or come in until the “all clear” sounded. We would have to stay in our “dungeon” shelter and it was very often late at night before we could carry back our records etc to our office and leave to make our ways to our homes as best we could. There was a strict “black out” everywhere, there was one advantage to this as there were no shadows to fear. If we were lucky a suitable bus would come along, and the conductor would shout our it’s number and we would travel in “luxury”. Otherwise we would walk. It was a very long walk from Devonport to Plymstock, but home was like a magnet and drew us on.

One evening I cannot remember the exact time but it was very dark we had finished work and I hurried to my bus stop to get home before a possible raid. I remember that were a lot of “Dockyardies” going out of the gates with me, and many of them were gathered at the bus stops. The Dockyard gates were just a stone’s throw away from the bus stops. To my horror the sirens suddenly started, I made a quick dash t get back inside but I was too late. The policeman at the gate told me to hurry and get into the underground shelter just opposite. I was swept down the steps with a great crowd of the men all my office friends were already on their way home.

I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be the only girl in such a crowd of men. I knew they were all part of our “dockyard family” and that they would die rather than offend any of “their girls”, but I had lost all sense of reason and I was praying “Please god, don’t let me be killed with all these men”. I gabbled this to myself over and over. The sound of planes and aircraft fire and bombs exploding seemed to be the least of my troubles. Then, unbelievably came the smell of hot pasties, it seemed that our shelter was deep under or near the baker’s shop. This shop was famous for those savory pasties and they were always in great demand by our people in their meals breaks. They worked so many different shifts that were absolutely necessary, that the bakers must have been making pasties almost continuously.

In the gloom of the shelter I could dimly see people carrying trays of pasties, which were eagerly snatched up and hungrily devoured. But for once (it had never been known before not since, and I am now 84!) the thought of eating pasties was nauseating. At long last the all clear sounded and we climbed up the steps thankfully, into the fresh air. The prospect of a long lonely walk home in the blackout was not intimidating after my ordeal, but like a blessing a bus came along and the conductor shouted out that it was going to Plymouth. It was like climbing into Heaven as I scrambled up the bus steps. It took me as far as Derry’s Cross and I walked from there to the nearest Plymstock bus stop in Basket Street.

There were many people there waiting and hoping for buses. Among the voices I recognised that of my friend Kath. She had been sheltering in South yard while I was sheltering outside North yard. We were overjoyed to find each other. We were deciding whether we should continue waiting or whether we should start walking, when a Plymstock bus appeared. We were driven through sidestreets and lanes, twisting and turning. There were fires all over the place, but at last we arrive in our village. It was good to be home again with my parents and to drink a hot cup of tea by candlelight. By this time I was normal enough to think wistfully of the hot savory pasty I had rejected.

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Message 1 - Plymouth Memories.

Posted on: 11 July 2005 by fullertonroad

My name is Malcolm Thomson and as a very young child I resided on Fullerton Road during the early part of World War II.

Once the bombing campaign began it was common practice for my mother, two older brothers and myself to spend each night in our Anderson shelter at the bottom of our garden, however, on one occasion during the daytime my mother asked me to run up to a small corner shop to purchase some item she required. This shop consisted of what had originally been the livingroom of a house and had been converted into a place of business by its owners who still occupied the remaining rooms as living quarters.

While I was in the shop the air-raid sirens began wailing and I immediately remembered that my mother had taught me that whenever I heard them I should immediately run for the Anderson shelter and wait until the All-Clear sounded, therefore without hesitation, I tore off out the entrance, disobeying the frantic cries of the owners, and ran as fast as possible down the hill that led to St Leonards Road and turning right on Fullerton Road continued on to the front gate of our property which I opened and then proceeded down the side of our house and did not stop until I was safely within the dark interior of the shelter.

I was at first surprised that no other members of my family were there and it was not until what seemed to me to be an exceptionally long time that my mother and brothers appeared, having just returned from searching the neighbourhood for me.

This particular daylight raid was of short duration and it appeared that a single enemy plane had flown over the area, however, what was of significance to me was that later that day we all found out that this plane had straffed the upper end of the hill on which the small shop was situated and one of the bullets had ricocheted from the road and through one of the windows of the room that comprised the shop.

Fortunately no one was either killed or injured by this incident, however, had I not left the premises at the time I did and had been there just a matter of minutes later it was quite possible that I may not have been writing this today, or at the least suffered some type of injury from the splinters and flying glass that resulted from the bullet.

One additional memory of those times was that as soon as the All-Clear sounded it was the time for all the youngsters to set off in search of souvenirs in the form of any type of enemy weapon fragments, such as bullets, tail fins of incendary bombs and shell casings. These were considered to be treasured trophies and a brisk business of exchange between boys and girls who had been fortunate to find more than one of the same category was all part of the lure of collecting. I have since often wondered just how much of the bartered items were actually just plain parts of broken house pipes and other types of non combat material.

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