- Contributed by
- The Stratford upon Avon Society
- People in story:
- Ruth Harper
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 August 2005
48b - (concluded from Part One)
"So I mean there was a lot of things, when we kept hearing what was going on abroad all that. We had a very, very dear friend, well actually he was my brother’s mate, they lived right opposite to us in Blackhall; Iris she was my friend and Jacky Burgess was my brother’s friend you see, we all went to school together. Well Jacky would go in the navy, and I don’t know whether it was H.M.S. Diamond, or H.M.S.Hood, now I can’t swear to it, it was one of those I know, and he went down! And oh that was terrible, honestly, we broke, all of us. Because I mean they were like brothers, and Iris and I were like sisters, we had been brought up together you know and to think that we were never going to see Jacky any more you know, even now I could cry over that and our Bill was really upset, he couldn’t get over that. And the poor dad, he died of a broken heart he really did, he couldn’t take it. And so the mother and Iris moved away, they couldn’t stay in the house - memories and things, so they moved away, so that was a big blow that was, and somebody so close, not relatives but very, very close you know. We did have relatives that were in the navy, one or two on my husband’s side, cousins and that you know but I think they all came back fortunately. I don’t think we had anybody that didn’t come back from the war, maybe injured but they were all back home safe you know and of course my brother was in a reserved occupation; not because he wanted it, he wanted to go with all the lads, but he was working as a riveter at the shipyards and were building ships so he was desperately needed and they wouldn’t let him go you see.
And of course dad, well I mean he was too old for that, and he worked down the mines. Oh my mother took a, what do you call them, a Bevin Boy, yes. Now this Bevin Boy, was a nice lad really, Alan, and he came from down Kent way, oh I can never remember the name of the place, never mind - I know it was down Kent way. And they sent him up to Durham where the mines were, because they said well if you’re a conscientious objector and you don’t want to fight you’ve got to work, go down the mines you know. So he chose to do that, and he came from a very good class family as well, I mean the way he spoke was very, you know, but he was a nice young lad, he was 21. Well with Billy, he was married, and I’m married, so there was this spare room and that you know, so mam said yes she would take a Bevin Boy. And Johny worked down the pit, and mind that was hard for a young man like him you know, but he chose to do it and he did it, he stuck in and he did it give him his due, and he hated it mind you, he thought the miners did a wonderful job, he said I don’t know how you do this kind of work all the time. He said I know that this is just temporary for me you know, till the war’s over, but he said for you to do it all the time he said it’s horrible work. But anyway he made friends so much with mam and dad that his people invited mam and dad down there for holidays, so they went down there, yes, and I tell you they were very nice people, lovely. So mam did the best she could, I mean she was a good cook was mother, lovely, so of course she made him like a son because we were away you see, so she treated him like a son, so he was with us right till the end of the war. I don’t know what happened after that I couldn’t tell you, because he went back home, probably got married or something you know, but she did all that.
And then she went to work at the munition factories. She worked at Aycliffe; there was, I forget now where the other place was, there was two places up north where the munition factories were, and a lot of the women went there, and oh they were big you know, and mom went and she worked shift work and everything you know.
Oh it was,nasty work, and frightening you know. But they wanted to do their job, they wanted to do something you know, and I was quite surprized that mam would go really, I mean she was no …, she wasn’t a youngish woman, I mean I was having my children, she was a grandma really, but no she went, cheerfully you know
Anyway I couldn’t go out to work obviously with having the little ones, so I used to go to my mam’s and tidy all the place up for her coming back home you know, that sort of thing. Yes dad was quite …, he was worried about her I mean he was working down the pit, and she was working in the ammunition factories and he was worried sick about her, but he was proud of her that she would do it you know, and she did it right till the end of the war, yes she did, yes.
They didn’t allow jewellery or nail varnish. My mother would never have worn nail varnish anyway, but as regards jewellery, I don’t know about her wedding ring. I never remember her telling me she had to take her wedding ring off, they couldn’t wear earrings nor necklaces, that sort of thing but I think …, I believe they were allowed to keep their wedding ring on, I think so, ‘cos she never said that she had to take that off, I can’t remember that, no.
But I think they liked the …, being with all the other women, having a good old chat while they were busy, yes, yes, yes, that was what made it more bearable you know, yes. So I was quite proud of her myself, and in fact I sometimes wished I could have gone, you know. I used to long …, had I been single, had I not got married when I did I would have joined the Wrens, that’s what I wanted to do but of course I got married instead, so then I had my children so I couldn’t do anything like that, but that’s what I would have done if I’d been single.
My husband went in the army, in the Black Watch, oh yes. Well he was …, how am I going to say this, he had Scottish ancestors, in fact most of his family were born in Scotland but by the time he was due to be born they were back, they were in Newcastle. But his brothers, his older brothers (‘cos he was one of the youngest, they all had biggish families then, there was about eight or nine of them in family), and him and his youngest sister they were the last two to be born, and they were both born in Newcastle.
So obviously with coming from Scotland, his ancestors had all been in the army, they were all Black Watch men going right the way back you know, so obviously he joined the Black Watch - he just carried on you know, and he was very proud of it. So I was proud of him as well, I did a beautiful Black Watch badge; he was sent out to Germany of course and I did a beautiful Black Watch badge in embroidery on some linen you know, and oh he was very proud of that and wore it until I think somebody pinched the jacket or something because of it you know, out in Germany.
But anyway he did have a lot to put up with in a way of course, but I don’t think there was any terrible danger where he was, he was in “Badenhausen” - I don’t know quite how you say that, was it Badenhausen or something, could be, something like that. That was where he was stationed at the time. And he was there after the war as a what do you call it, Army of Occupation, he didn’t come home when the war ended you see, he was still out there, and I felt awful when everybody else was celebrating their husbands back home, still that’s the way it was.
So you know there was a lot of things that happened, that I can’t recall everything, just now and again things come back to you, you know.
Oh you couldn’t go to the coast, oh no, no, no. Not while that was on, oh no it was all barricaded, wires and everything you know, oh no, definitely not.
But there was one little part that hadn’t been …, I don’t know why, it was sand dunes up near where we lived, it was only a small part and they hadn’t got the wire there. Now I know that they should never have done it, but you know if you see there’s a little spot where you can get down on the beach … Well my husband, it was all rocks as well, and my husband, this was just before he was called up, and our Peter would only be about two then, toddling you know, and Gordon said to me, you know he said there’s a little part that hasn’t got any wire down there, and I said oh keep away from it, keep away you know. Of course he would go, and I said …, well he said you know I am sure there’s some winkles and cockles and mussels you know. So I said well what do you want with them? I couldn’t eat things like that, never eaten shellfish in my life, but anyway he liked it so he said I am going to have a look, and I said oh dear, so he went. And sure enough he came back with hands full of winkles to show me you see, and I said ugh! So anyway he picked up our little Peter from the floor and said come on, I am going to show you, I said you’re not! Yes he would, so he took him down on to the beach and the little one, he …, he told him how to get them you see, and the little one came back, mummy look, oh! Anyway I put it in a big pan and boiled them.
Yes he came back with all these …, I said you will get into trouble because that should have been closed up, but just a gap you know, just enough, I mean there could have been mines or anything you know. But he would go, anyway they came back with all this and I boiled …, oh dear I will never forget that, never. So little incidents like that crop up in your mind don’t they, you never think about them normally you know, it’s just you suddenly talk about things, oh yes I remember that, I remember that, yes so."
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