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WW2 - People's War

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At home in Chesterfield

by Devon Library Service

Contributed by 
Devon Library Service
People in story: 
Amy Shakespeare
Location of story: 
Calow, near Chesterfield
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4171349
Contributed on: 
09 June 2005

When war broke out, I was twenty-one years old and lived at Calow near Chesterfield. I had two sisters and we lived with my grandmother. The house we lived in stood amongst fields and we had a big garden and a field attached where we grew fruit and vegetables. Immediately war was declared we had to black out all lights in the evening. I remember we used an old blanket to do this.

I had a boy friend who was in the Auxiliary Fire Service, but also worked full-time as an assistant in a gents’ outfitters. He was called up into the army immediately and sent to train as a communications linesman, eventually being sent to West Harnham in Salisbury.

I was working in Marks and Spencers at that time and when I got a holiday I went to Salisbury to visit my boyfriend. By that time we knew he was going to be sent overseas, so we decided to get married. My husband’s mother was a widow and she had a daughter also who was called up into the RAF. Since my mother-in-law was on her own, I went to live with her.

My husband was sent from Salisbury to Liverpool ready to go abroad, he sailed from there and I had no idea where he was headed for. Eventually he landed in North Africa where he stayed for four years, and I never saw him in all that time.

As all women had to do war work I was called to do factory work or join the fire service, so I chose the fire service. Mostly we manned the switchboards, but we did have a basic training in running hoses out from the engines. I also trained as a physical education instructor, just to make sure we kept fit. As a married woman I was never sent away from home.

Food rationing soon came in; I think the first thing was sugar, and later on other things. We had a ration book with coupons in it which we had to produce every time we wanted to buy things. Many things were in short supply, so in the summer we would go gathering fruit which we bottled ready for winter’s use.

Clothes rationing came in then so that meant more coupons, and once they were gone you got no more, unless you knew of a family who didn’t need all their coupons, and you could buy them off them. This was illegal but no one seemed to mind. Make-up was very scarce, and as soon as any came available, queues would form. Most of these restrictions carried on until the 1950’s.

After four years my husband returned but was then sent to Germany for six months, before he was discharged.

Living in Chesterfield we saw no enemy air activity so we were really very lucky.

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