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Maud Faulkner - Growing up during the war

by Warwickshire Libraries Heritage and Trading Standards

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Warwickshire Libraries Heritage and Trading Standards
People in story: 
Maud Faulkner
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A4343546
Contributed on: 
04 July 2005

News boys running up and down the street with 1d newspapers baring the news that Neville Chamberlain had declared war on Germany. Mother was crying, I was aged 13 years old.
No school holidays as we knew them, but we were happy playing field games. It also meant no holiday for the teachers, bless them, keeping us all happy.
We practised going down into the Morrison Shelters under the playing fields. So kept our coats on when sitting at our desks with our gas masks by our side.
Also more work for teachers as evacuee children arrived in our village from Sheffield, Leeds and London. Some teachers came with the evacuees. We couldn’t comprehend some of the horrors these children had been through. No wonder some of them wet their beds. Some of the children from London used a lot of B words which shocked us.
Discipline was firm but fair with 40 to 48 children in class. Everyone faced the teacher and the blackboard. There were sunken inkwells in each desk, accompanied with pens with a nib to dip into the ink when necessary.
The Dentist — He arrived every year and always marked my card with ‘T’ for treatment. I stood outside the door awaiting my gums to get numb, before having yet another tooth extracted. I would have preferred to be in the large hall where dancing was going on, listening to ‘Sing ho, sing hey, the puss is in the corner.’ I was cornered alright.
Another Annual Visitor — The Nit Nurse, time for a pudding basin hair cut, by Dad. He put a pudding basin over the head. Anything sticking out was cut off, and long hair attracted lice, he said.
Dad still out of work, having burst a blood vessel in a lung, but seemed to work harder on our large garden and two allotments. Selling some surplus vegetables and flowers, eggs etc. I helped Dad when I could, my 3 older sisters were all out working, two in domestic service and one in a butchers shop.
I now took over the role of running errands after school for my eccentric Aunt. Mainly fetching two flagons of Beer from the off-licence daily, sometimes twice on a Saturday or Sunday.
In the blackout Aunt sometimes came with me carrying a torch with its pin prick of a light. When the sirens went even that pin prick of light was switched off.
Curtains of blackout material were closed across the windows with their criss-crossed pattern of brown sticky paper, to prevent splinters of glass. We were lucky in our village, only two bombs were dropped, one on the slag heap mountain and the second bomb in the field by the woods. Either aimed at the coal pit, but mislead by sulphur that was always burning on the tip or the pilot could just get rid of what was left after hitting Sheffield, and headed back to Germany to land safely without bombs aboard. Our shelter was a brick war wall built outside to protect out bathroom windows, so the passage running through the house was the safest place to be.
The blackout for me was a blessing in disguise, at least nobody I knew could see Aunt and I eating a basinful of broth, as we fetched her retched beer. Sometimes Aunt made chips which we ate out of newspaper. It seemed a lot of trouble to go to when she could have bought 1d of chips from the chip shop. There were four chip shops and four pubs.
Sometimes I would run errands for the groceries, with the money wrapped up in newspaper and a piece of paper with items written on it.
For a treat (to her) I was taken to town. Aunt bought herself a glass of beer and I had a lemonade and crisps. Then there was a sight to make me shudder, when my aunt would swallow shell fish smothered in salt, pepper and vinegar, raw!
The next treat was to the corn market to watch a ‘wrestling match’, I shouted “Stop it, you’re cruel!” which just made my aunt laugh all the more.
I often cleaned windows, or washed the red-tiled floor. For all this I was thankful to receive 2/6d, but occasionally the lodger slipped me 6d for cleaning his shoes. With the money earned from doing the chores I bought my first watch, it had a leather strap from Marks and Spencer. Later I bought leather brogues and stockings for 1/11d per pair.
If I wanted a bottle of pop, I had to pay 1d for it.

Christmas Eve and New Years Eve was always quite fun, it was at my Aunt Mays house, and Boxing day was celebrated at our house.
My mother worked very hard, making bread, cake, puddings etc. Black-leading the fire grate and oven, the fender was cleaned separately with Brasso.

I left school at the age of fourteen and thus entered into the world of the domestic service. I was given a piece of paper with an address on it and told to catch the local bus and then on to the long distance coaches. I was expected to send half of may wage packet home in the form of a postal order. I stayed in domestic service, until I got a job as a shop assistant in a warehouse, unlike the majority of the domestic service I enjoyed this job much more, even though the wages were the same and the money had to be stretched further.
My friend and I wanted to take a holiday to Blackpool, however this was not possible for two reasons, firstly we had been told that we were now regarded as ‘key workers’ at the warehouse as the men began to be called up for the forces. Also our holiday would have been hindered by the fact that the seaside was covered in barbed wire and the troops training along the seafront.
Next I moved to the British Ropes factory, which was not as enjoyable as the warehouse work.

In May 1944 I joined the ATS and took the king’s shilling, I had tried previously but had been too young. I joined at Pontefract Barracks, had all the examinations and jabs and was kitted out with two sets of uniform. Square bashing made you look and feel smart.
After months of this I was sent to Camberley to learn to drive, luckily I scraped in height-wise. The driving instructors informed us that Princess Elizabeth had just been on the last course, she went home each night to Windsor Castle.
I learnt to steer in a field with obstacles, then onto the roads. The only bombs we heard were near the French/Canadian camp. We were in line waiting to be paid when the money began to rattle on the table. Nobody moved except to salute and take the pay of 10/- (as had been all my previous jobs), which rose to 14/- when fully trained.
Tests were made after three weeks, five weeks and finally at eight weeks, each time some failed and were sent back to Pontefract to train up for other jobs. We learnt map read, most essential seeing as there were no signs with names of towns etc, these were all blacked out so that any enemy that might land would know where he was.
We also had to do maintenance change wheels over, clean the springs on the suspension with old engine oil (after brushing off soil etc). In two weeks doing a task a day you covered the entire vehicle and the task was ticked off in a log book. W.O.F.L.E.T.B covered water, oil, fuel, lights, engine, tyres and batteries.
There were a list of postings you could put your name against and Jean and I both put ourselves down for Newcastle. Although when we reported to our work place, nobody seemed to want to know, so the next day we went to the seaside. Of course we were then missed and the Commanding Officer sent for us, luckily we got away with just calling that our day off for the week.
I had a little difficulty with the trams as nobody had ever told me what to do with them when driving, so I had to just watch what happened, overtaking was especially difficult so a lot of waiting was necessary!

My next posting was Doncaster HQ attached to the Royal Army Service Corp 610, on the racecourse.
Then at Catterick camp for Christmas 1944. The best Christmas I had in the army, dances at a different hut only 6d. I also learnt to drive ambulances and lorries.
In February 1945 I was at Marske, to relieve another driver for her ten day break. I mainly drove the Medical Officer where she wished to go, and spent a lot of time with the volunteer nurses. These women were all volunteers and not paid, but came from wealthy homes to do their bit and could leave if they wished to. They always looked smart in grey and scarlet reversible caps.
March 1945 saw me at another relief posting, this time to Scarborough, not the best places in winter. I had to drive through a ford for the first time, but remembered being told to drive slowly but keep revving as hard as possible — it works. Then try to the brakes a few yards further on.

VE day 8th May 1945:
I returned to Pontefract and surprised to see the Barrack Corporal we had in our hut was now a Subaltern (officer with one pip on her shoulder) she was still as pleasant. When I saw the bridge covered with khaki camouflage netting I guessed D day had arrived.
We were eventually bundled into the back of trucks and taken to Wakefield for a victory parade. Singing our heads off. Stood to attention so long several soldiers and ATS fainted and no one was allowed to help them. We were granted two days home leave, nothing was doing in my village so I visited my best friend, who still did her same job daily and at night worked on a switch board at the fire station.

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