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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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High on a Hill

by cambsaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Madge Taylor (nee Stansfield), Vice Consul Harold Halliwell
Location of story: 
Rossendale Valley, Lancashire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 December 2005

September 1939 was the beginning of our School Certificate year and the start of WW2. We had to take 8 subjects and must pass in 7. That year, a Manchester girls school was evacuated to our valley and that meant part-time schooling. Then everytime an enemy plane crossed the East coast the sirens went and we had to spend the night on our freezing cold cellar steps. That order was soon altered so that we had a full-night's sleep. Because of the limited school-time we had to have extra homework - lots and lots!! I was 14 years old and we were taking the taking the exam after only 14 hours classwork. In the examination hall, the papers stated that in the event of an air-raid, we had to mark the papers in the margin, the time we went to the shelters and the time of our return. Fortunately this didn't happen. We lived high in the Pennines, well away from most of the high density bombings. The following year was spent in the 6th form, but didn't opt for college and went to work in the office of an electrical engineers whose production line was given over to machining Rolls Royce aeroplane parts. , and also for the Ministry of Supply producing .303 Bullets. The factory moved to larger premises and a 2nd office girl was engaged, but as she was older than me, she later had to register for either wow-work or the forces; she joined the WAAFs and a younger girl was taken on. I joined the local amateur dramatic club and in one of the productions I played opposite a Naval Man on extended leave. Several years later, I received from home a copy of the local newspaper which reported a reunion of all the 'Players' and it was reported that the man in question was H.M. Vice Consul in Guatemala and had been in government in various countries. When I was at work I had to visit the local bank and on the way there would call in at Woolworths, and if I saw lipsticks or perfumes usually 'Evening in Paris' I would alert the girls on the Lathes and they would visit at lunchtime. I received a 48 page beauty products brochure recently and thought how things have changed; soap was rationed during the war and recently I have walked down a shopping aisle of one of the large chemists, and on either side the counters are full of special soaps and all the other beauty commodities. Some of the female workforce were London evacuees and I was able to use their dialect when playing a cockney lady in JB Priestley's play "They Came To A City"

Because I lived fairly near my school, I was able to gome at the mid-day break, as did my French teacher.

The radio was usually on to listen to any war time news.

When back at school the French teacher asked if anyone had heard the 1pm news and I raised my hand. He then told me to tell the class what I had heard and I started to explain, but was then told - "This is a French speaking lesson!" Oh dear!! In English I will try to explain: The germans had over-run Paris. In the streets were lots of French students and a procession of them was wending its way through in complete silence and each student was carrying 2 poles and they just lifted them and lowered them again. The french word for pole is "GAULE" and each had two of them = DEUX, and said quickly "Monsieur De Gaulle". The students watching were cheering but the German soldiers could not understand what was going on. My french teacher, Mr WM Copley, was educated in Cambridge, and had studied the German language as well as French. just as I left he joined RAF Intelligence and I understand worked mainly in Gemany, where he spent sometime as a student. When he returned from the war he became Headmaster of the Grammer School in Rossendale Valley - "The Bacup & Rourtenstall Grammer School" - it is still a grammer school now.

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