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Wartime Experiences: From the Suburbs of Sheffield to Bradwell

by luckybruce

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ruth Lamb
Location of story: 
Sheffield and Bradwell
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 January 2004

War time Experiences

From Ruth Lamb (aged 4 at the time of the Second World War)

Until September 1939 I had lived in a pleasant tree lined road in the suburbs of Sheffield and had many interesting and exciting toys to play with and a great variety of food to eat, which included chocolates, ice cream and bananas and oranges. All this was changed after one night in September 1939. On that night I remember being woken up in the middle of the night and taken down to the dining room. My parents were both dressed in their night clothes and the radio was on. My sister, who was only one year old, was crying and my parents were looking very serious and listening to the broadcast on the radio. Very soon after that my mother took my sister and myself with her to the Holy Trinity Church Hall and we heard a lecture, which meant nothing to me at my age. Then again very soon after that we left Sheffield to go to the bungalow in Bradwell, Derbyshire, which belonged to my grandparents. It was at the foot of Bradwell Edge and was approached by the lane. My mother, sister and I lived there. My father spent most of his time there too but had to travel by local bus to Hope Railway Station where he took the train to Sheffield. As the war got under way he had to do some fire watching duties at his family firm where he worked. He was also made responsible for patrolling the area round our bungalow; there was no other house nearby. All the windows were covered with blackout material and once at the beginning of the war we were reproved for showing a crack of light. By January, 1940 I had started to attend Bradwell C of E School and used to set off each day with my gas mask in a case embroidered by my mother. When Sheffield was bombed in The Blitz, we were joined in our bungalow by my grandparents, their maid and their collie dog. As it was only a three bed roomed bungalow we were very squashed. My grandparents and their maid stayed until the windows in their home in Nether Edge had been replaced. These had been destroyed by a bomb which fell during the Sheffield Blitz. The collie dog then sixteen years of age could not cope with the bombs and stayed with us until he had to be put to sleep several years later.
Fortunately we lived near a farm and were supplied with milk by the farmer, Mr Bancroft. I can still remember the dried egg tins and the blue sugar paper, which I used for drawing on when all my sugar had been consumed. One day my mother tried a wartime recipe ‘Nettle Soup’. This did not go down well with the family and I think she only tried it once. I can still remember the beautiful chocolate Easter Eggs, which I was given the year before war started. I did miss the chocolate during the war. Toys were not freely available during the war but I had a very creative mother, who made animals and dolls for Santa to bring as presents. I did wonder why my toys were stuffed with remnants of my dresses on the odd occasion when they burst open. A carpenter in the village made me a doll’s house and I spent many a happy hour playing with that. Enid Blyton’s ‘Sunny Stories’, which came out every Friday, were enjoyable to read. My clothes were made by my mother and I remember her asking me which of her dresses I would like cutting down to fit me. I remember that in those war years we had hot summers and cold winters. The lane from our bungalow to the edge of the village was deep in snow and my mother used to pull me down in the bath using a walking stick to attach to the bath handle. The work we did at school was different from the work I was to do later at Abbey Lane School in Sheffield. We were expected to write essays on a variety of topics and to be able to recite the Ten Commandments, the 23rd Psalm and same of the Church of England catechism. Sometimes we attended a service in the church next to the school and no girl was admitted without a hat. We were encouraged to learn poetry off by heart. When I went to Abbey Lane School on my return to Sheffield the emphasis was on speed and we worked our way through the ‘Beacon Books’ and ‘King’s English’. Instead of writing an essay on a certain topic we answered questions like ‘a teapot’. By answering the questions we formed a kind of essay. In the autumn we had a week off school for picking potatoes as during the was we were expected to ‘Dig for Victory’ Part of our garden was devoted to vegetables and my father saw to it that I pulled up a few of the potatoes to justify the week off school.
By 1943 the evacuees who had occupied our house in Sheffield had found somewhere else to live, and believing the worst of the war was over we returned ourselves to Sheffield. After the small school in Bradwell it was difficult to adjust to a big town school where the main aim of the staff was to get us all through the 11 plus. There was a shelter in the school grounds where the pupils could take cover in the event of an air raid. Near the end of the war some of the evacuees from London attended our school and I was surprised that they did not speak like we did, but had Cockney accents. They had come to Sheffield to escape from the flying bombs which Hitler directed against London. At long last in 1945 Victory in Europe was proclaimed, the headmaster made an announcement about it in assembly in the morning. The only bad bit of news was that a mouse had eaten the chocolate rations that had been stored for us in the event of a prolonged raid. We celebrated the end by having a street party where we lived in Millhouses. By the time VJ arrived there where still deprivations. Bread units were introduced which meant the amount of bread we could eat was rationed which seemed to hit our family very hard as me and my sister had very hearty appetites. Fortunately my grandparents gave us their bread units and we ended up with enough for all of us to eat. It was a great day for us when chocolate, oranges, bananas and ice cream became available again as these where things we missed a great deal during the war. If the war taught us anything is was to be very careful with everything I had and use things sparingly as you never knew how long they had to last.

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