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15 October 2014
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My early Memories of World War Two

by John Sneddon

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Contributed by 
John Sneddon
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John Sneddon
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Coatbridge Lanarkshire scotland
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Contributed on: 
15 October 2005



(OCT 1939) all my early childhood memories were stark I was born at the start of the second WORLD WAR, going hungry most days not having clothes or shoes.

Ration books had to be produced to buy clothes,most food, petrol.
Any kind of luxury goods could only be bought in the black market so only the very rich could afford to buy them,we could not afford them,in fact my Mother sold most of our ration books to others for money,so we never saw most things that we could have had with our ration books.

One example I can give is my trousers used to be cut from any old cloth made very roughly no zip or pockets.

Life was very hard but do you know, people helped each other out, it was a more caring society, no one locked their doors, to survive everyone had to pull together, remember all the fit young men were away fighting for everybody’s freedom, some never returned, they died to give you all the freedoms you enjoy to-day.

This was the time that the saying: Necessity is the mother of invention: was born again.

Vandalism did not exist, although most families were poor. Parents were very strict, and their children disciplined for bad behaviour, school discipline was also very rigidly enforced if you stepped out of line. So you respected everyone in authority, your parents most of all.

When discipline goes, then all respect for Teachers, Parents and Police disappears as well. This has been proved in to-days society, were the norm is,
Spare the rod, and Spoil the child.

1/ My earliest memory, searchlights in the sky, powerful beams of light searching for enemy planes, so they could be shot down.
2/ Large water tanks, in the streets, filled up, ready to be used by the fire-brigade if the main water supply was bombed.
3/ The tenement buildings entrances were adapted and used as air-raid shelters, some times people would be stuck in the shelters almost every night, as the bombing increased, day after day, week after week.
4/ Our toilets were outside, and used by up to a dozen families.
5/ Just think you had to go outside to use the toilet, winter was a nightmare, as the whole system froze up, paraffin-lamps had to be left in the toilets to unfreeze the pipes.

6/ Each group of buildings, a large square divided into eight parts, had their own washhouse, and drying —green. Making eight of each.
Every family had a set, time, and a set day to use the washhouse. So you can understand washday was a very big event. Proceedings started early in the morning,

The large boiler had to be filled with water from an outside source, then the fire was lit, when the temperature was right then the separated clothes and washing powder added, as one pile of washing finished another was started. Then all the clothes were put through a Wringer, and the larger items like bed-clothes were put through a Mangle, a much larger version of a Wringer, and needed more than one person to operate it; YES IT WAS TOTAL DRUGERY, AND VERY HARD WORK. Your Grandmother did not have an easy life


Tenement Houses had a living room, with a set-in-bed. Families would, eat, sleep, and in fact do everything in that one room. (NO ONE HAD ANY PRIVACY) In fact some people were born, lived, and died in that one room.

To get the basics in food everyone had to queue for hours and then when you eventually reached the front, you might not get anything as it had all sold out, never mind tomorrow you just queued all over again.

We had no television, why? Because we did not have electricity. Only battery powered radios, worked from an accumulator, a big glass case, with metal plates and acid, radios were big and clumsy and reception was poor on ours as we had no outside Ariel . Most people read a lot of books from the {CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY}

Families made a point of gathering every weekend at parents houses, sometimes we could have sixteen or more people for Sunday dinner, Sisters, Brothers, Aunts, Uncles, everybody seemed to keep in touch. These gatherings would be full of laughing and jocking, playing games and most of all Lots of talking and singing, we made our own entertainment. The art of conversation is lost; Television and Computers rule our lives to day.

Life was simple, CHRISTMAS was magical, you see we all believed in SANTA CLAUS. Till we were about nine or ten years old, I remember writing letters to SANTA, and putting them up the chimney, hanging up my stocking over the fireplace, On Christmas day waking up to find SANTA had been and left an orange,
Some sweets and a little toy in my stocking, to get sweets and an orange that was magic only Santa could do that

WE made our toys, had lots of games that kept our generation, occupied and contented, let me tell you some of the ways we made toys to play with.

1/ To make stilts, construct two pieces of wood 4feet long by 4 Inches square, fit two footrests, a third of the way up the wood, climb onto the footrests and start to walk, after a lot of falls, you got your balance just right and away you walked.

2/Peever, this was played on a flat surface, a pavement, or a road were ideal, to chalk out the beds or squares, and from a fixed point, you put down the Peever (a flat round stone 3 inches/ diameter, ½” to1” thick) a good substitute was a empty shoe polish-tin filled with wet sand, you stood on one leg, hoping on this foot, you struck the Peever and had to guide it into the start square, then you kept going into each square in turn till you reached the final square, let the Peever land in a wrong square, or a line you missed a turn, and gave the next person a chance to go on and win the game.

3/ROPES, this was another game that had many players, and some very skilful individuals, two people held a rope about twenty feet long, by making a circular motion at each end soon the rope was in motion and going faster and faster, at the desired speed a line of people would time the rope, and jump in and skip along going out the other end, the skilful ones could negotiate two ropes going in tandem, timing was the key to work two ropes, one rope was going clockwise, the other rope was going anti-clockwise, this game kept you fit.
4/anyone remember walking on two empty tins ,you had holes punched in the sides and a length of strong string drawn through and tied together so that you could walk on the tins ,it was good fun and good exercize.
5/ Conkers ,another pastime collecting Conkers ,drying them off drilling a hole right through,inserting a piece of string tying knots at both ends ,then you played against someone by hitting thier Conker with yours to try and smash it, most times the only thing that happened was you got your knuckles wacked ,that was painful, but soon forgotten if you won the game.

Next. Could I reminisce about one of most vivid memories that I remember from my childhood, Steam-driven-trains?
Large, very powerful forms of transport, do you know that to-days modern Electric trains need the extra pulling power of a Steam-Train to climb some steep gradients, yes at some points around Britain Steam Trains are coupled up to a Electric train to get to the top of very steep hills, and another thing unlike to-days modern trains Steam Trains could get through Floods, Heavy Snowfalls and Leaf covered tracks because they were equipped to take these hazards in there stride, they had Snowploughs fitted to the front in the Winter, and also had large Sand-Boxes at each driving wheel that directed a steady stream of course sand on to a slippery track giving the Wheels all the traction they needed. Imagine James Watt an engineer sitting watching a large kettle boiling, and noting the large heavy lid being lifted with ease, by the escaping steam, this set his mind to work, and eventually he discovered the steam- engine, the start of the industrial revolution, not unlike to-day with the Technological Revolution, only it is Computers, Mobile- Phones, Digital Television and Sound, that are changing the way we live work and spend our leisure time.

Anyway back to the topic at hand, those steam-powered trains, at the time, this great invention came on track, most forms of transport would be pulled by horses, so think what an impact this made to carrying freight, fast, cheap over long distances and in larger volumes, one fully laden train would carry the equivalent of ten large lorries.
Britain was the centre of Invention, full of very talented people, who seemed to have vision to try things, till they perfected them, they gave the name GREAT to Britain .Oh for some of those great men to-day, this country needs men of vision to bring back the Great to a once proud Britain.
What could be the next piece in the Jigsaw that will send Mankind on the next step-forward, in this Technological Age? Would you like to venture a guess?

In the space of my Lifetime, it would be true, to say, that the last decade, has been the most spectacular, in pushing Technology to new limits, If someone had said to me John! Do you see yourself working a Computer and Surfing the Internet, my reply would have been, **!?# Are you daft?

Yet here I am sitting here on my hard-seat, only joking Nancy, (If that was not a hint for a Christmas Present), A nice soft luxury seat would not go amiss.

Yes 65Years Young and using the most up to date Computer. Do you know it is hard to believe that I am so good, and confident using this piece of Technology, well that is until something pops up on the screen, like a Warning Box then sometimes that can be a little scary, till the problem is fixed.

It is now Sunday January/ 12/ 2005. The latest thing that has super-seeded Emails, is Messenger Service this is a system that lets you mail and receive messages instantly with any person who also has the system Installed, and you can speak through the Computer Microphone system to each other, in fact some Computers also have a web camera, that also lets you see each other as you converse, and finally it also has a fax facility.

Did you know that you can use your digital television to send Emails all you need is the keyboard that plugs in to Television, this saves you from having to buy a Computer if you only want to send Emails, the Keyboard costs around £50.00 the Television around £400.00, when you see this outlay against the cost of the most basic Computer package £800.00, then you can save a good bit.

I must tell you when I was young, families did not go abroad for holidays, in fact you were lucky to go to the seaside for a day-out, in fact I was married before I had a car and could go touring around Scotland, but public transport was very good and very affordable unlike to-days transport systems that are far between and very dear to use. Just think I could fill up my cars petrol tank for less than £5 in old money, to fill the same tank to-day would cost £90 the fuel tanks were larger then, so we never thought twice about going for a long drive as it was so cheap, to do so.
We have been on some very good holidays abroad lately, Dubai was a holiday to remember, and also the holiday in Florida was out of this world, but a lot of holidays both in Scotland and England were also ones that stick in my mind.

Just got a new Computer 20/06/04 as the old one has broken down this one has the latest technology, it’s just brilliant, again here I am coming up for 65 years of age and making the best of to-days tools, I got a new Camcorder also a new mobile phone, changed days indeed when I was young no one had a phone at all, it was just being invented.

All in all, the present day living standards are great, good housing, plenty of food, most people have a car, a television, a computer, washing machine etc, but are we as happy as I was when I was young! Only time will tell.
I was just thinking, to-day the weather patterns are so volatile, very severe changes on a daily basis, the one thing I remember was that in my early days to the middle of my life the Seasons were very stable 3 Months of predictable Weather patterns Summers were long and hot we could go about with bare feet, the tar in the roads melted and it was a custom to re-grit the surfaces weekly , Winter was months of heavy snow not like today when snow is a thing of the past

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Re: My early Memories of World War Two

Posted on: 16 October 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Mr Sneldon

I raised some points in response here F2683002?thread=1206541


Message 2 - Re: My early Memories of World War Two

Posted on: 17 October 2005 by John Sneddon

Dear Peter
I have altered some details like I have stated that Outside toilets were from my personal experience not everyones


Message 3 - Re: My early Memories of World War Two

Posted on: 17 October 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear John

Rationing in Britain was fairly complex and even the WW2 People's War Team own article on rationing here A1057240 is not to be relied on. For example, the statement that "Rationing was ... extended to include meat, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, dairy products and canned fruit" is misleading without dates and in error regarding several items.

The best source on rationing on line that I know of is the 'Home Front Museum' here links and Juliet Gardiner's "Wartime Britain 1939-1945" (Headline, 2004). This book is a mine of detailed information.


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