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Childhood War Memories: Evacuated to Blackpool

by grundood

Contributed by 
People in story: 
eric ballinger
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 November 2003

I do not have a complete recollection of my wartime life, rather a series of snapshots.
I was seven when the war started and my sister was 11. we lived in the suburbs of Manchester and, within a very short time of the outbreak, we were told that our school and all the pupils were being evacuated to Blackpool.
I don't recall being particularly distressed at this, i think I didn't really understand the implications. my sister has told me that she prayed that our parents would not find out about the plans so we would not have to be sent away.
I remember assembling at the school gates with the other children and their parents to wait for the coaches which were to take us to Blackpool,and leave our parents behind.
What particularly sticks in my mind is the haversacks which were provided to take our belongings. they were apple green in colour and had a very distinctive 'new' smell.
We eventually boarded our coach and arrived at Blackpool sometime in the afternoon.Each child then had to wait until they were allocated to a family and taken away to their new home.
My sister and I were the last children to find a home. It may have been that no one liked the look of us or, more likely, the fact that we wanted to remain together made it more difficult to find a home
Finally we were placed with a family who had children of their own. My recollection is that the house was small and cosy and it must have been difficult to accomodate us with the rest of the family.
My next recollection is some weeks later. My sister and I had been out somewhere and when we returned we noticed a coat similar to one our mother wore hanging on the living room door.The next thing the door opened and our mother and father came in. What a marvellous surprise!
Shortly after, our parents arranged for us to transfer to a house near Stanley Park which was bigger and was owned by a couple who had no children of their own. It must have been difficult for them suddenly to inherit a grown up family.
We spent Christmas 1939 in Blackpool and the only thing I remember is getting a Hornby clockwork train on Christmas day.
My sister recalls that, whilst we were evacuated, she received an allowance each week to buy sweets for both of us. She insists that she gave me my share but I don't remember her doing so.
My mother had a bad heart ( She died shortly after the war ended at the age of 48 ) and I think she found the strain of being separated from her children too much to bear. Whatever the reason our parents brought us home in 1940.
Because our school was still evacuated my father arranged for us to attend a private school called Dymsdale. It had been a girls' school but started to take a few boys because of the problem of evacuees returning without a school to go to.
We did not suffer bombing in the immediate area of our house except for one occasion when a landmine was dropped by parachute and landed in the playing fields of Manchester Grammar School which was a short distance from our house. People reckoned that if it had landed on the road instead of the soft ground it would have flattened all the houses in the area. I remember that the crater it caused in the playing field was very deep.
My parents used to listen to the propoganda broadcasts from Germany by Lord Haw-Haw ( the traitor William Joyce) I can still remember his call sign 'Jermany calling Jermany calling' (This was his pronunciation of the word Germany )
One night he announced that the following night the Luftwaffe were going to obliterate Manchester and all its citizens. I remember thinking when I went to school that I would not be alive the next day.
My father had served in the army in France in the First World War and was fortunately just too old to be called up for service. He did ,however, carry out fire watching duties on the roof of the Cooperative Wholesale Society in Balloon Street Manchester where he worked during the day. The idea was to put out ahr incendiary bombs with sand and stirrup pumps before the building caught fire. It must have been quite frightening standing on the roof and watching the explosions all around as the bombs fell, a number of the buildings close by received direct hits from high explosive bombs and were destroyed.
One other thing which comes to mind is the brown sticky paper which we had to put on the inside of our windows to stop the glass shattering and causing injury in the event of a bomb blast. With typical ingenuity the neighbours vied with each other to create the most imaginative patterns.
A policeman lived in our road and one day there was a crowd gathered outside his house . The rumour was that he had caught a German spy and was beating him to find out what he had been doing. I don't know how true this was but the story afterwards was that the man was a deserter from the British army
My worst memory of the war is the howl of the airraid sirens announcing a raid in the middle of the night.I used to lie in bed and pretend to be asleep in the hope that my parents would not take me down to the cold damp airraid shelter in the garden to wait until the allclear sounded.
My final recollection is one of my wife's. An old lady and her daughter-in -law shared their shelter during the air raids and one night the daughter-in-law was talking whilst the German bombers were droning overhead 'Shut up Ada' said the old lady 'They'll hear you '

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