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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Joan Bell
Location of story: 
Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
12 October 2005

Joan Bell (Nee May)

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Joan Bell and has been added to the site with the author’s permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Joan Bell

She looked up at him from her place at the table where she sat with her writing pad open in front of her. “’am not gooin’ in that shelter toneet and that’s that. If Jerry wants me he'll find me wheerever I am. I'm gooin' to get this letter written choose what. Its no use thee standing there wi bag in thee 'and 'am not going so sit thi sen down and read paper or summat,”

He knew there was no use arguing, she'd made her mind up and so he'd best accept it, he'd stay here in the kitchen with her and perhaps if things got real bad and she'd got her letter written, she'd change her mind.

He picked up the paper and looked for his pipe. He knew there was no tobacco but it gave him some comfort just to have it between his teeth and to put his fingers round the bowl.

The sirens had gone some minutes before. She picked up her pen dipped it in the ink and started her letter.

My Dear Daughters,
I hope this letter finds you all in the best of health as we are at the moment. Thank you for your letter, we didn't get it till this morning. All the post has been delayed. It was good to hear from you.

We aren't going in the shelter tonight so I hope we don't get any enemy action round about. There were some planes going over a little while ago but it is quiet now so they must be going somewhere else.

I went to see your Granddad and Aunty Pat on Sunday and they send their love to you all, Mrs. Booth next door to them has just had another baby, a girl this time and they are going to call her Judy.

I think there are some more planes about now as there is droning and lots of noise; they seem very close.

Are you still having your lessons in school?, Here children are going to people's houses, especially those with front rooms, Some have been across the road at Simcox's and I think everybody in the street knows that now. She was stuck up before, but now we shall have to pay to look at her, I'll bet she makes all the kids take their shoes off before they go in.

Oh! that one was close it came whistling down like a banshee. I think its blown some windows out because I heard some glass breaking.

Mr. Gee next door has just been to fetch your Dad. He said there's an incendiary bomb been dropped at the end of the street, so your Dad has taken the stirrup pump and the shovel. They have been practising at the A.R.P. for months, so they should be able to manage to deal with it alright. As you know there is nothing them two can't do when they set their minds to it. It's a pity they were both too old to join up, they seem to think the war would have been over by now if they'd been out there.

We shall try and come to see you on Sunday as usual but your Dad thinks he may have to work as they have got a lot of big orders in from the government so it may be next week instead.

Your Dad has just come in and says it was the fruit shop window that went and it looks as if there is a fire somewhere near the church.

We had a letter from Uncle Willie Carrington about George, he has been reported missing at sea. It doesn’t seem five minutes since he was over here last summer when he went back to Bradford with our lavatory key still in his pocket.

We've had to put the light out now as our window has got blown in and the blackout curtain is blowing about. I'm writing this whilst your Dad is holding the torch, so please excuse the bad writing because he keeps wobbling it about. He is trying to keep the fire from blazing up at the same time with the draught from the window, so he has got the torch in one hand and the kettle of water in the other. Every time the fire blazes up he pours a drop of water on it. That's what the splashes are on the paper where the ink has run.

Our Arthur is still in hospital but they have got the shrapnel out of his leg. His letter looked like a paper doily after the censor had done with it, I'm sending you an Air Mail with his address on it so you can write to him. He says he hasn't had any mail for six weeks.

Your Dad and me decided we'd sit on the cellar steps for a bit as it was getting very bad outside and the fire had gone out anyway. We've got his working coat round our legs to keep us warm and he fetched the eiderdown off the bed so it's not so bad. Now he has got his mouth organ out of his coat pocket and is going to give us a tune. He says it will drown the noise but I doubt it, there seems to be lots of planes and things buzzing about out there.

I think old man Quirk at the back of us must be trying to do that too. He always sits in the cellar when the sirens go and we can hear him singing at the top of his voice, I never knew he was religious but he has been singing all the hymns. It sounds sort of nice really. And now your Dad is playing the same tunes so they are singing and playing together, it can't be very nice for him on his own at a time like this.

Morrison's cat got it's tail chopped off in the tram lines last week and it looks very peculiar with only a stump. Their Jack has been home on embarkation leave so his Mam was upset. He looked well in his army uniform, real smart, clean and tidy, best I've ever seen him. Didn't look like the same lad and I'm sure he's grown taller. All these lads that were but school kids a couple of years ago. May God take care of them. And you my precious girls, may God look after you too. I pray for you each and every night. Be good girls and we'll see you soon.

Lots of Love.

Mam and Dad xxxxxxx

P.S, We came out of the cellar when the all clear went just before your Dad went off to work, When it was light we could see the devastation all around, it was chaos, there was glass everywhere, There are only about three houses in the whole street that have not got some windows missing. We were luckier than most as ours were only the ones downstairs. We've put a piece of wood in that now so we shall have to have the light on all day.

Albert came round to see if we were alright, He told us there had been a bomb dropped in Dane Street so that's what the fire must have been. He has also been told that the town is in a mess with a lot of people trapped in a pub in Fitzallen Square.

Anyway we are alright. I expect you will have heard all about Sheffield on the news.


Lots of Love. xxxxxxx

Mam and Dad,


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