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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Memories from Members of Astley Lunch Club, Worcestershire.

by Astleylunchclub

Contributed by 
Astleylunchclub
People in story: 
Club members
Location of story: 
Astley Village, Worcestershire
Article ID: 
A3103958
Contributed on: 
08 October 2004

Members of Astley Lunch Club during a war memories session

THESE ARE STORIES FROM PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN GREAT WITLEY, WORC; MALVERN; LONDON, CARDIFF; LANCASTER, PONTYPOOL AND TORQUAY DURING WW2
Annie Kuszewska, worked in the grounds of a stately home - now a ruin - called Witley Court, Great Witley near Astley, Worcestershire. She remembers the trees in the park being cut down and the wood used in the war effort. The park was ploughed and planted with potatoes to feed animals. The crop was dyed blue to prevent human consumption, but a few managed to find their way into the bottom of an old pram they used, and were taken home as food was in short supply. There was limited electricity supply and used candles, which the air raid warden used to insist they blow out because of the blackout. They wore wooden clogs to work, which they painted bright colours to give them a bit of style. Later she was introduced to a Polish soldier who had joined the Polish Army in Budapest coming to Engand to work on pontoon bridges. He was captured in Hungary, but eventually made his way to Scotland where he enlisted.
PAM remembered how the German bombers followed the river Severn past Astley on their way to bomb Coventry and Birmingham. She watching the Coventry blitz from Astley and described it as "the biggest fireworks display she had ever seen". Her family only heard one bomb drop but her Mum was so alarmed by the crash she jumped over the table and pushed her to the floor. One plane bombed the Meco factory in Worcester and flew so low you could see the pilot inside.
DENNIS was in the Territorials before the War and working on a farm, when he was told to report to Malvern. He was sent to join the Artillary anti-aircraft defence of London. He remembers planes dropping their quota of bombs and then returning to machine gun his gun site. The WRVS kept them supplied with refreshments, and when they were caught, by an officer, having tea and cakes - he told them in army langugage to get back to work. The WRVS ladies refused to come back to make tea in future, not because they were afraid of the planes, but because they didn't like his language.

DANGEROUS BOMB IN CARDIFF
MABEL LEWIS lived in Cardiff and worked on munitions. Her father was a miner and had great difficulty in getting to work as they was no transport. She worked shifts and a huge bomb bomb dropped on a field outside the factory. It did not explode and the staff were asked if they would continue to work even though the bomb was just outside. She wanted to work so her parents had to give their consent. As there was a problem with the contacting people from bomb disposal, eventually munitions workers from the factory dismantled the bomb themselves -after blockading all the windows to stop blast if it did explode. Luckily they were successful. Incenduaries landed all round the local church too, and only the crusifix was l;eft standing in the centre of the church. They had very few supplies and had to make coffee out of parsnips. Her grandchildren are going to show her how to look up her story on the WW2 site.

MY DAD WAS ON THE BURMAH RAILWAY
Hazel Yates rembers her father being a prisoner of War in Burmah, who died working on the infamous railway. Sadly he did not live to see his youngest son. Her mum brought up four children and worked night in a munitions factory in Wednesbury as there were no Benefits for War Widows who had their pensions taxed. A neighbour who looked after them, took them into the shelter when the sirens sounded. Unfortunately at the time she had chicken pox, so everyone got chicken pox. When the guns at Stone Cross, West Bromwich fired, it shook the shelter.
GEOFFREY BONNICK was eight at the start of the War. He lived in Lancaster where his home was the only one with a piano. So every night was party night in his house, with soldiers from Australia and New Zealand being entertained. His whole family played musical instruments by ear and sometimes the visitor brought theirs too. His brother was a driver in the Army and could drive any vehicle. He used to drive munitions to the front line. Once the back of his lorry received a direct hit and was blown off, leaving just him sitting in the cab.

NURSING IN PONTYPOOL
Minnie Kenyon was a sister on a childrens ward and helped move them into a low building to avoid the incenduary bombs, which were dropped regularly. She became a theatre sister and was transferred to duties looking after wounded soldiers where she met her husband. His leg needed bone grafts as it had been 'shot to pieces' when he parachuted into Belgium on June 5 with the 6th Airbourne to protect the bridges for the D Day landing. She also remembered seeing a German plane which was shot down and landed in Lasgaren Woods near Pontypool, where the pilot was killed.

TRAGEDY IN DEVON
ROBIN HARDWICK was a child in Torquay and remembers when the bay was filled with ships as the Americans were being transported from TorBay for the Invasion. The sea was so rough the Invasion was postponed and in the early morning next day he could hear the noise from guns of the ships providing cover in France for the invading troops echoeing over the sands of Torquay, Some of the Americans he knew took part in the Slapton Sands exercise where so many of them were killed. As the Americans left to get into the barges, for the Invasion, they were loaded with possessions, even guitars and Robin wondered how much that hampered their progress up the beaches! Like the old Gracie Fields song... it was probably "Sing as You Go!"

TUBE STATION HORROR
Amelia Smith lived in London in 1940. Bombers came low and spitfires tried to attack them, but they could not fly low enough to hit the bombers. She found watching the planes fighting quite exciting. They bombed the London docks leaving the sky lit up as if it was daylight. Every night they went down into the underground where everyone had their own 'spot' which they used to go to. Once the entrance to the tube at Bethnal Green scored a direct hit, and many Jewish people could not get out of the station near London Bridge. People fought, climbing over one another - as they thought the tube station would be flooded by the river after the bombing. When they came up from the station it was impossible to walk on the pavements, because of the bomb damage. Eventually she was evaccuated to Brighton, where she met her husband and they have been together for 61 years.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

The Blitz Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Devon Category
Lancashire Category
Worcestershire Category
South East Wales Category
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