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Buxton in Wartime - Memories of a War Baby (part 3).

by derbycsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ann Gibbs
Location of story: 
Buxton, Derbyshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Louise Angell of the CSV Action Desk on behalf of Ann Gibbs and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

Music wasn’t neglected, but our instruments were shakers, triangles and other percussion items — no violins or even recorders, at least not at school. Many of us had private lessons in piano, and there were dancing lessons available in the town at two studios.

“School dinner “ was something I tried to avoid, as living on High Street, I was able to walk home from Hardwick Square each lunchtime; the school meals were cooked in a central kitchen, and delivered to the school in large metal containers. With the shortage of food, the menu was very limited; I seem to remember carrots, which tasted tinny, soggy cabbage, and lots of “frog spawn” pudding — sago pudding to the uninitiated. I suppose it was a way to augment the rationed food, though, and supply a hot meal every day for 2/1d.per week. (just a little over 10 pence) Dinner money was collected each Monday morning, and we all went to school with our little purses containing this, and any money our families could spare, for National Savings stamps.

By the late forties things had improved slightly, and then two air-raid shelters which stood in the playground were removed, and new classrooms built, which we called “the huts”

The next stage of our education was Junior School, which was just over the wall! By this time, the war was over, and some commodities were beginning to find their way back into our lives; it was, however, a slow process.The sad effects of the war were not very apparent in Buxton itself, but a trip to Manchester revealed a sight not easily forgotten — the results of the blitz. We did hear many planes passing over the area at night, and there were many sad air crashes around the Peak District young men losing their lives sometimes because of an error in navigation or bad visibility. Doodlebugs were also a familiar sound to us.

Wartime weddings were a problem to organise, with shortages of food, and clothing; many brides married in a suit (then called a “costume”) or managed to obtain a second hand dress. The grooms were often easier to clothe, as many of them were in the Forces, and married in their uniforms. I was a bridesmaid three times in the years just after the war, and the second and third brides were delighted to find that I already had a suitable dress, and no treasured clothing coupons needed to be sacrificed for me.

Despite all the problems, the weddings I can recall were very happy events, and the food, for which coupons had been hoarded for weeks, always delicious — if lacking imagination and variety by modern standards.

During the war, the Empire Hotel (now Chatsworth Lodge is built on the site) was occupied by Canadian soldiers, and after they vacated it, it was taken over by a Group of homeless people, locally referred to as “The Squatters”
And although I don’t think that there were any facilities in the building, they survived for quite some time, the children attending school with us.

Throughout the war years, Buxton became home to a number of people who were evacuated from London, to avoid bombing — or worse. Some were children, but some were Jewish families, and others Civil Servants. They took over many flats and apartments in the town.

Before the war, many women did not work, but when the men were “called up” their places as bus conductors, even drivers, and factory workers, were taken by women, and more women began to appear as staff in local banks, building societies, civil service, etc. and this was the start of a new phenomenon for most of us — the Working Mum.

Women also worked in the new Land Army, on farms, and carried on the work done by the absent menfolk. They joined the Armed Forces, serving in the Wrens, the WAAF and the ATS

It was also the era when women first started to go into local pubs! Smoking cigarettes also became popular — I suspect it helped to calm the nerves of the women, lonely at home and worried about their loved ones.

Buxton had a Royal Air Force station at Harpur Hill, and this brought many male faces into the town. It also introduced many young men to their future wives, and many settled here.

There were also Prisoner of War camps in the neighbourhood, one on Lismore Road, and one at Blackshaw Moor on the Leek Road. After the war, some of the prisoners stayed here, and many of them married local girls. In bad winters the prisoners helped with the clearing of snow from the main roads.

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