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by Lancshomeguard

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Joan Kimpton
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19 May 2005

Wartime Memories

My father was a male nurse at Lancaster mental hospital. When war broke out, he was in a reserved occupation because of his job. The sad thing was, often they were handed a white feather but someone had to stay behind and care for the patients.
We didn’t come off badly in Lancaster. We did hear the sirens go but it was usually because the bombers were heading for Barrow dockyards etc. One night they did drop bombs on Bowerham Barracks and a land mine at the mental hospital but most people thought it was an error: that they mistook it for Barrow.
Everywhere we went we had to carry our gas masks, it was like ladies carrying a handbag. Babies had a very big gas mask which went completely over them and children had a Mickey Mouse type gas mask.
In Queen Street, I can’t just remember whereabouts, was an ammunitions factory and workers came to stay here from Coventry. In part of Waring and Gillows on North Road they made glider parts, mainly the wings. I had to leave my job and I went there on nights, helping to make up the plywood. All, or most, of it was shipped over from Canada.
The Midland Hotel on the promenade at Morecambe was taken over as a hospital for the wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen who had been injured in battle. They would be pushed out on to the verandah in their beds to get the sea air.
The whole area of Lancaster, everywhere, was in total darkness at night, complete blackout. There were no lights showing from your home and no street lights.
The fun side of life during the war was that at Morecambe dance halls we always had lots of partners to dance with because soldiers and airman were billeted around Bowerham Barracks (which is now St. Martin’s College) and Halton Camp was used as a T.A. camp for square bashing for airmen in Morecambe.
Of course everything was rationed and you had food and clothing coupons. You couldn’t buy stockings so we used to buy lotion in a bottle to rub some colour on our legs; some even used gravy browning and if you had a steady hand you used to draw a line down the back of your leg to look like a seam. Often, if people heard of a shop having a delivery of certain hard to get foods, a big long queue would appear very quickly.

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