- Contributed by
- Age Concern North Tyneside
- People in story:
- John Whitworth
- Location of story:
- Sheffield, South Yorkshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 October 2005
When war broke out I was a 12 year old and attending Haugh Road Rawmarsh Senior School, South Yorkshire. Having just had a 4 week summer holiday we were sent home again as 12 of our 14 male teachers were called up. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas before we returned to school when retired women and young female teachers just out of college were recruited.
The air raid sirens used to sound pretty often - if they lasted all night we weren’t expect ed to go to school next morning unless you wanted too. We usually went in the afternoon then we found a lot of the teachers hadn’t turned in. The few who did usually took us rambling or had the few children who had turned up playing foot ball or other games. Early one winter’s evening a lone German bomber had dropped his bombs about a mile away over the fields from the school. aA the sirens hadn’t gone and that night was bomber free we had to go to school the following morning. But the word went round just where the bomb had fallen, so it took most of the morning for the teachers to get the boys away from bomb craters.
We had quite a few ackack guns round us as there were lots of steel mills etc leading right into Sheffield. They used to fire quite often at planes flying over on their way to bomb Liverpool and places on the West Coast. We also had 2 big blitzes 6 miles away on Sheffield.
One night we saw a German plane which had been hit and fire was coming from one of its engines. We had been up all night so didn’t have to go to school, so as daylight approached, some air raid warden said the plane had crashed landed 2 or 3 miles away at Hooton Roberts. My local pals and their families along with me and my grandmother used to shelter at the local junior school air raid shelters as our Anderson shelters used to get flooded. As soon as dawn broke and we knew where the plane had landed my pals and I (who all had bikes)we were on our way to Hooton Roberts. The army had got there before us and had roped the plane off. They asked us if we had seen any German airmen as they must have all bailed out. We tried to get near the bomber but were chased away. All we wanted was bits of aluminium as souvenirs, to put with all our shrapnel etc we had collected from the fields and streets. Over the next couple of days the local police went round all the schools, shops, factories, pits, etc asking everyone to keep a lookout as the German bomber crew were somewhere in the vicinity. About the fourth day, the night had been free of sirens and we were all at school by 9 am. Our class was in the classroom on the 3rd floor which overlooked the school yard and the steel air raid shelters, which were dug into the side of the school yard that sloped onto the playing fields. At about 10 o’clock the sound of lorries driving into the school yard had all the class making a bee line for the windows. The teacher shouting “Get back to your desks”. No one took any notice so she too became curious. Out of the army wagons poured a lot of soldiers. As they were lining up we saw the air raid shelter doors and emergency door fly open and who should come running out but the German airmen. What a cheer went up from our class as 2 of them ran down the playing fields with a number of soldiers after them. One ran round the gym and onto the girls’ school area, the last one went through an open door which led to the cookhouse where our school meals were prepared. They were soon caught and the one who had ran into the cook house had surrender to one of the cooks who had been chopping meat with a cleaver and had screamed along with all the other cooks and held the cleaver above her head. The German thought she was going to hit him with it so he put his hands up and said “Kamerad". The soldiers had them captured in no time. The last we saw of them they were being bundled into an army wagon.
I lived with my grandparents and couldn’t wait to tell them when I got home, and my grandmother couldn’t wait to tell me what she had seen. Coming past the local police station after she had been shopping there was a crowd of women, most of them carrying carving knives or rolling pins. They were shouting “Bring the bastards out”. A Black Maria van stood at the kerbside with the back doors open and a couple of policemen holding them. A cordon of soldiers lined the pathway up to the van. Suddenly the station door open and the Germans handcuffed each one to a policeman, walked towards the van. The screaming and shouting became a roar. The women were trying to hit them and the soldiers were trying to ward them off. As the last one entered the van, he turned, spat and shouted “Swinehunds”, as the van doors closed. The women went “bananas” and started to pound the van and rock it. My grandmother said it took ages for the van to drive away the soldiers doing their best to clear a passage through the angry women.
We found out later that a miner going on the early shift at the local pit had seen someone lifting turnips in a field next to the school and then enter the school air raid shelter. As soon as he reached the pit he told the officer what he had seen. They immediately phoned the police who organised some of the soldiers from the local gun sites to follow them to our school. It was a day to remember.
Another day was when I visited Sheffield shortly after one of the blitzes firemen were still damping down smouldering buildings and rescue squads were still bringing bodies out of the bombed buildings.
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