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Wartime in Barnsley

by bedfordmuseum

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Irene Dawson (nee) Lindley
Location of story: 
Stairfoot and Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 December 2005

An oral history interview with Mrs. Irene Dawson about her wartime experiences in Barnsley, South Yorkshire conducted by Jenny Ford on behalf of Bedford Museum.

"I was born in 1927 so I was 11 when war was declared in September 1939. School was disrupted because they put all the girls in one school and the boys in another school, everything was altered. They moved us nearer home, Stairfoot near Barnsley. Then after 11 we went up into school in Ardsley which was about oh, more than a mile away. We used to have to walk up and down.

There were lots of evacuees round about. I had some friends from Jersey, I think they were mostly from Jersey, the people who were round about us. They took empty houses that were near ours, they took them for the Jersey evacuees. The fathers didn’t come but the mothers and the children came.

I used to have to come home for lunch so I had this mile to walk backwards and forwards again at lunch time. My mother always coped with the rationing. She’d been ‘In Service’ when she was younger and then she was Manageress of a grocery shop so she coped really well. We had a big garden and my dad used to grow vegetables.

My brother went in the Navy when he was 18. He used to go on convoy duties to America a lot. Then there were three girls and my mum and dad. My mother had six of us when Raymond came home. My dad worked at the pit, that was a Reserved occupation.

We had an Anderson shelter in the garden and being near Sheffield quite often we used to have to go into the shelter during the night. My dad had to make some sort of planks and things. We didn’t have much bombing near Barnsley, in that area but we used to hear it all from Sheffield because we were pretty close to there.

When I left school at 14 I worked in Woolworths and we had to night ‘Fire Watch’ we had to stay nights so many times a week. And then I went into the CEAG Factory in Barnsley making bulbs when I was 15. We used to start at 7 o’clock ‘til 5 o’clock and we got some overtime sometimes. I used to put the metal caps on the glass bulb, on the bottom. We made festoon lamps for the Navy and all the lamps for the planes. I was on the capping wheel. When I’d put the cap on somebody used to clip the wire off, the spare wire off and soldering it. I did that job as well. We didn’t have to wear caps or anything for our job. I suppose some of the capping bulbs were gas, I suppose we could have got burnt but we didn’t, nobody did, not while I was there anyway.

We always had music on - they were very good like that. We didn’t have anything special. There used to be lots of dances in Barnsley. There used to be Polish soldiers, sometimes Canadians, sometimes Americans, all round about. There was always a Fair on a Saturday evening in Barnsley where the market used to stand and we used to go there for our entertainment on Saturdays or dancing. Occasionally we went to the cinema. Yes, we had to queue for the pictures during the week. We used to go to swimming baths as well in the evenings sometimes.

We listened to the radio and when we went to work next morning, if Churchill had been on the radio, it was always discussed. And everybody was friendly - it was a happy place!"

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