- Contributed by
- Josie Vernon (Nee Batchelor)
- People in story:
- Josie Vernon
- Location of story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 October 2003
As 1940 gradually wore on, I began to feel the effects of the war. The first signs were when I used to go to Nan’s. If I wanted two spoonfuls of sugar in my tea she would chastise me by telling me “ There’s a war on!” or “ It’s rationed!” Also, the popular songs of the day had a patriotic flavour.“ Ther’ll always be an England” and “ London Pride ” and Flanagan and Allen singing “ We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing On the Seigfreid Line ” My favourite song at the time was them singing “ Run Rabbit Run”.
The most awful part of 1940 came in the form of a family of four from Bootle near Liverpool who were billeted on us. They were dreadful! There were two children around my age. They were snotty-nosed little horrors named Roy and June. Their mother and father were both very fat and very common. He had a cigarette permanently drooping from the side of his mouth. On reflection though, it couldn’t have been permanently in his mouth, because Mum’s beautiful oak fire place surround bore the permanent reminders of pitted burn marks from his cigarettes until the 1950s when Mum converted to gas and the surround was finally removed. Mum gave them both of our back rooms, living room and bedroom. They were only with us a few months but within a few weeks, the paper on the wall of the living room had a huge dirty, greasy patch by the door. They almost drove Mum insane but when Dad had his discharge from the army later in the year on medical grounds, he pulled a few strings and got rid of them. The last I knew of them, they got a council house in Beake Ave and I never saw them again, thank goodness. I think they left Coventry after the war.
Dad was discharged from the army after he came back from Dunkirk. He was extremely ill at the time with a duodenal ulcer. The same year Dad’s sister, Aunt Alice became a widow. She had married a man called Horace and had a little boy named Bernard. He was in the army up in Scotland and contracted appendicitis and it developed into peritonitis and he died. I was very fond of him. A strange coincidence was that at the time they lived at No. 16, Brackenhurst Rd, with Horace’s sister. This address was to become my own when I got married for the first time.
In the early summer of 1940 I awoke one night and I could see a terrifying apparition in the sky. I went down stairs feeling really frightened. It turned out to be a barrage balloon with the moonlight shining on it! Of course, I was to be quite familiar with this sight in the coming months but this was my first sight of one. Another sight to be seen at night were the searchlights. These were very powerful lights that used to sweep the sky, looking out for German aeroplanes. In the last couple of weeks of August I was down at Nan’s with the family. Grandpap was playing with David on his knee. He always nick-named him Snowy, as his hair was very blonde. I tripped over the rag rug that Nan had made and put my left elbow in the fire and burned it rather badly. Someone grabbed me and pulled me up and they cleaned it up and smothered it in Tannifax jelly that I loved the smell of, then bandaged it up. A few nights later, on 25th August, Mum was “doing” my arm when Uncle Frank and Auntie Kath walked in. They’d been out somewhere in the town and they told us that during an air raid, the Rex cinema received a direct hit and was literally “ Gone With the Wind ” which was the name of the film the were going to show the next day. This had quite eerie repercussions as every major cinema for the next few months that was showing this particular film was bombed so the film became a jinx.
I remember several medications I received at Nan’s house. Every Friday night, she would dose Fred and I with Syrup of Figs “to keep our bowels open ” I don’t recall having any trouble with my bowels but since I quite liked the taste of it, I took my Friday night spoonful without any protest. A different kettle of fish was Uncle Frank’s “peroxide”! Something that troubled me a lot during my early childhood was earache. So much so that Dad walked the floor many a night trying to soothe me. In fact I was told that I was the cause of him missing an opportunity of taking a very important exam in Birmingham. This was his Higher Matriculation exam. I kept him up most of the previous night and when he should have been up early, he overslept, thus missing his chance. Anyway, I was quite used to having warm olive oil and cotton wool shoved in my ear and sleeping with warm flannel held to my head but this particular day Uncle Frank decided that the correct treatment would be to use peroxide. So like a lamb to the slaughter,I held my head to one side to have him spoon the peroxide into my ear . Then the world exploded! I could hear sounds like firecrackers popping off inside my head ! I was terrified. Even though everyone was telling me that it didn’t hurt, I was jolly sure that it did! After all it was my ear! After that, no-one was going to put peroxide in my ear if I could help it ! After this, the air raids started hotting up. The siren would go, then we would all go to the Anderson Shelter which Dad had arranged for us to have installed in the back garden. At this time I didn’t go to Norfolk St so often. No doubt the proximity to the City and therefore a danger area discouraged my parents from taking us children too far from Evenlode Crescent, So hereafter Norfolk St. fades into history.
It became routine for Mum to get us into our siren suits and tuck us up into the bunk in the shelter each night. In October and November I don’t think we slept in our own beds. We went straight into our bunks and after listening to the bangs and whistles for a while, we would hear the continuous shreik of the All Clear and drop off to sleep. Young as I was, There was always a feeling of relief and reassurance the next morning to realise that our house was still standing. Then as the raids wore on and houses were being bombed and tiles blown off the roof and windows shattered, I began to feel a bit left out because our house was relatively unscathed and most people had at least a broken window!
Then came November 14th! I don’t remember much about that particular day, as it was much like any other. I don’t even recall the large bright moon that was shining that night but I do remember the sirens going and being bundled down into the air raid shelter. Dad used to work sometimes at night down at Central Control in the Council House but this particular night, he was off duty, all the family were in the shelter, also there were several neighbours. It was amazing how many people were able to fit into such a small space! It was the first air raid that, to me, was different, although I was too young to realise why. I do remember that the bombs were coming down all night and there was no “ all Clear”I also remember the anti-aircraft guns continuously bang-banging away all night. Every so often, a strange sound --- not a shreik like the H.E’s but almost like organ music--- then a massive Whoomph! Mum would say “That’s a landmine”! Mr. Watts, our near neighbour in Courtland Ave., who was our local Air Raid Warden, would pop into the shelter every so often to tell Mum and Dad where this place or that place had “ got it”. The A.R.P. post was next door at the Co-op. And there was also one in Southbank Rd. school around the corner. Mr. Watt’s visits used to fascinate me as he used to have his hands over his torch and one could imagine when it shone through his fingers that the dark parts were the bones of his hand. I know that I was awake most of the night listening to the chaos going on outside the shelter and the fear of being bombed was very real , although David slept all night as he was only 10 months old at the time. I will never ever forget the continuous roar of the German aeroplanes overhead or the bombs and ack-ack guns. I suppose that is why I have never liked thunder or banger fireworks. In the morning , the wardens let people know that it was all clear, as the sirens didn’t sound because the electricity was off, as was the gas and water supply. All the mains were fractured. We went back into the house at about 6.30 A.M. The house miraculously was still standing. Then came the good part as far as I was concerned! We hadn’t a window in the front of the house! I felt quite satisfied that we had joined the rest of the street with black-out curtains billowing in the breeze! Dad got some sort of cloudy stiff cellophane to put over the windows until the glass could be replaced but when the wind blew it really rattled! Having no gas or electricity was quite a novelty for me! The gas wasn’t too much of a problem, as apart from the old geyser that we had in the bathroom to heat the water for our bath, the only other appliance was a small gas ring that was used mainly for boiling a kettle for making tea, or boiling a pan of milk. We had this gas ring for many years and it used to be on permanently in years to come as my Dad used to have the teapot on all the time. Having no electricity posed more of a serious problem. Before I go on with my narrative, I must tell you one thing about my Mother. She never worried! At least it seemed to everyone around her that she didn’t, although no doubt she did deep down. She was always serene and calm and even tempered, coping with the most difficult of problems with apparent ease. Her own personal motto was “Never worry worry ‘til worry worries you.” She lived by that maxim all through her life.
Even when she had David, all alone except for me, I don’t remember her being anything else but quite calm, although she must have been petrified. She was always there when any of the neighbours needed help and she was the one who was always called upon when anyone died to “ lay them out ” because in those days no-one bothered with mortuaries and anyone who died was usually layed out in their best room until the day of the funeral but I will come back later on in my story to that subject.
Coming back to the morning after the blitz, as I said we had no electricity or water. Soon after we emerged from the shelter, as if by magic, Grandpap arrived with a hurricane lamp. Mum managed to boil some water from the rain water tank which most of our type of houses had on top of the coal house. She boiled it on the coal fire in the living room and thereafter, until the electricity was restored, we “ made do ” with meals and drinks cooked on the fire and for light we used the hurricane lamp and candles. Grandpap and Nan had been bombed out that night. Well, burned out to be exact as it was an incendiary bomb that did the damage. Grandpap, Nan & family were down the Rudge shelter in Spon St. that night and the only living creature in the house was Ginger the cat. Unfortunately he was a victim of Hitler’s wrath but that information was also witheld from me at the time.
Great-Grandma ( Little Grandma), Fred and Nan moved into our house for a while but Grandpap stayed in the Rudge shelter and after a short time Nan joined him down there. Uncle Len was also there as they all served in the Civil Defence and were on duty there each night. This was as well as doing their regular job during the day for the Council. Fred and Little Gran stayed with us until they moved into a rented house in Windsor St.
the next thing I remember was Christmas. I was sleeping in the downstairs back room then, as Mum thought it was warmer to sleep there than in the shelter and if there were any sirens we could get out to the shelter in good time. My Dad often sang me to sleep if I was restless, with different lullabies and songs. He had done this since I was a baby whenever possible.He usually sang two lullabies “ Go to Sleep My Baby” or “ With a Toora Loora Loora Loora Lye” This particular night he sang “ Silent Night” to me. I thought it was so beautiful and whenever I hear it now it always reminds me of that time. I suppose I must have been asleep before he got to the second verse as I can’t remember him singing it. That Christmas was one of the nicest that I can remember. I had my usual pillowcase full of toys. Who would ever know that there was a war on ?
I had a lovely toy china tea set which was a replica of Mum’s best one. It had hand painted violets on it. I thought Father Christmas was really clever for bringing me one the same as my Mum’s! Another present which sticks in my memory is a black dolly that Grandpap bought me. She was dressed in orange and wore lovely brass hooped earings. She also had an orange scarf around her head. Of course now, one cannot get a black doll, or another well beloved toy, a golliwog. I had several of these over the years and loved them all very much but the Race Discrimination Board decided that they were an insult to coloured people, which to me is a load of old codswallop. I loved my black doll very much and after all we white people have dolls made like us don’t we? In anycase I don’t think a child can discriminate about colour. The only people I didn’t like at that time were Germans! In my young mind all Germans had piercing eyes and black stumpy moustaches I dare say that if someone had bought me a little blonde haired doll dressed in Bavarian costume I would have loved her just as I loved all my dolls.
I remember that Christmas day well though. We had the usual Christmas dinner with cockerel and plum pudding. Grandpap made sure that there were silver 3d bits in the pudding and also made sure that I had the piece with the “joey” in it. The rest of the Christmas has faded into oblivion with the passing of the years as indeed have the first few months of 1941. Although I can remember little bits of it. We had no television of course in those days, but believe me, we were entertained just as much by the radio. We had Monday Night at Eight, Itma, Music While You Work and Vera Lynn sang to the forces. My Dad’s friend Tommy Hughes used to come some nights and play billiards with him as he had a small billiard table. He was mad on a song by Vera called “ Yours”.
I used to play with Fred quite a lot, although he used to torment me sometimes. He used to make me wrestle with him and I hated it! Mum and Nan were always telling him off. He used to go out and collect shrapnel in a tin box after an air raid and we also used to find bomb craters that were partly filled with water and throw stones in them to see how deep they were. Another friend I had was a little girl named Jean Owen. She was an only child and her Mother worked at the Co-op that was next door to our house. Mum got cross with me one day when we were watching “dog fights” between
English and German planes.
Jean and I were shouting for all the world to hear “ The bloody bombs are dropping---Dive you buggers!” Each time we shouted “Dive! ” we threw ourselves on the floor. Great game! When Mum heard us she soon dived us into the house! Especially as there was a lot of strafing going on from the German planes. I don’t think she was too impressed with the swearing either! There were still raids occurring most nights. Sometimes the sirens would sound but it would be Birmingham’s turn for the onslaught and the planes would pass right over us. Then in April in Holy Week came another blitz. Birmingham had it for a couple of nights, then they hit us on the 10th with a vengeance. It was nearly as bad as the November blitz. Hitler came at us with almost the same ferocity and tried to finish us off completely. I can remember Dad taking me up to the bathroom in the middle of the night and putting me on his shoulders. He told me that the bright orange glow in the sky was the Daimler at Radford burning. This was during a lull in between the barrage of bombs that kept coming down in periodic waves. It would go quiet for a short while, when they were attacking another part of the city and Dad would let me out of the shelter to look at the searchlights, then back they would come to give us another hammering. It was on this night that Mrs. Watts had a bomb drop just outside her front gate, so Fred and I had another crater to throw stones into. Mum took me to Aunt Laura’s the next day. She lived at Eversleigh Rd. and we had to pass the Bablake playing fields on the bus. The craters in the field were just like mushrooms growing, there were so many. As I have already pointed out, the family were very close and our pleasures were simple. When the weather was nice, as it was during that summer, we used to go on pic-nics over the Allesley fields. We had to pass the barrage balloon sight at the bottom of Forfield Rd. This was in the first field, and in late 1942, Sherbourne Hostel was built here for workers who were drafted into the city. There was also Brooklands Hostel up at Haynestone Rd. and the two merged with each other to make quite a large complex. At the time I’m referring to though, the balloon was there. It used to fascinate me because we had to pass within a few yards of the spot where it was moored and when it was on the ground, it looked huge ! If we didn’t go to the Allesley fields, we would go to the ones up in Coundon after calling for Auntie Laura and Uncle Austin. We spent a lot of time up at their house, especially after they had my cousin Barry .
Mum and Dad were already digging for victory, that is, growing their own vegetables in the back garden. We had lots of flowers growing over the top of the air raid shelter and in the spring and summer it looked so beautiful that Mum always said that Hitler hadn’t the heart to drop a bomb on it! Behind the shelter was the vegetable patch where they grew potatoes, cabbages, beans, peas etc. In the summer we used to get a lot of caterpillars on the cabbages and I used to have great fun collecting them in a matchbox or a Coleman’s mustard tin. Behind the vegetable patch at the top of the garden, we started to keep chickens , so all in all we were pretty self sufficient and didn’t starve. Mum used to pickle the eggs from the hens in a bucket of isinglass and they were used when the hens stopped laying. We also had dried eggs that were used in cooking. They made beautiful omelettes and were also used to make cakes etc. We also had dried milk but I wasn’t very keen on the taste of it. Mum also made jam out of fruit that was in season, rhubarb and ginger, plum and damson and in August and September we would gather blackberries from over the fields and she would make bramble jelly. She also used to bottle a lot of fruit and vegetables in Kilner jars and store them on top of the wardrobe.
Dad always kept a couple of cockerels. These were fattened up for Christmas as well as keeping the hens fertilised for the next batch of chicks in the spring. I loved it when we had the new chicks. Dad had an incubator to keep them warm for the first few days, and they would be kept inside the house. I hated it when they were killed off at Christmas. I used to cry when that happened. We had a hen called Biddy one year and she was a pet, as we had her for quite a while When she was too old to lay eggs though Dad decided that she had to go. Dad killed her and Mum plucked and drew her, as she normally did with the Christmas birds, cooked her to a turn on Christmas morning and dished her up for dinner. The only trouble was that none of us could eat her!
Mum always saved her points up — that is the ration coupons for food—so that she could get the ingredients for our Christmas puddings. Every year she would begin to make them about three weeks before Christmas and she always made them in the evening when we were in bed. We always had a stir and made a wish before we went up. Then she would boil them up in the copper for several hours and the aroma would creep up the stairs. It’s a smell that I will never forget!
The winter of 1942 was a harsh one. We had snow fall until it was about two feet deep and my Dad had to take me to school to get me through the deep drifts although it was only around the corner. Dad had to clear the roads with the few other men available (most of them were in the forces), so that the traffic could get through. Traffic consisting mostly of the horses and carts that brought the bread and milk around the houses. We only saw the occasional car, as very few people had them in those days and those who did own one could use it very rarely, as petrol was rationed. David and I contracted measles. We were very poorly because we had bronchitis with it and straight afterwards we developed whooping cough. Mother nursed us downstairs in the back room and she burned a coal tar lamp beside our bed. This had a nightlight in the base of it and one night, David knocked it over and set fire to the settee, fortunately Mum smelled it smouldering, but it burned a huge hole in the back of said settee and it had to remain there until they managed to have the three piece suite re-covered after the war. When I was finally well enough to return to school, Mum was combing my hair one day and discovered that I had unwanted lodgers in my hair. Nits! Oh! The agony I went through to get rid of them! She washed my hair in Derbac soap and every night I used to suffer the torture of having my hair “done” with a fine tooth- comb. Dad was ill at the time and on the Saturday morning, sat me on his bed, and went through my hair. I began to wish I’d cut it off again! Anyway, he demolished the last of the lodgers and I didn’t get them again. By now, the air raids had all but ceased and although I still took my gas mask to school and we had a shelter in the grounds I never used either. Many of the children who had been evacuated had returned by now so I had plenty of playmates. We used to amuse ourselves by giving concerts for each other in our back gardens. Sometimes we used to hold sales and sell off unwanted toys and comics to each other. Then again, sometimes we would play hide and seek or “stroke the bunny” in the back entry. Or perhaps we would go out to the front of the house and play with our whips and tops, hop-scotch, skipping-ropes, or perform hand-stands up the Co-op wall, when we were not playing two-ball up same wall. There was always plenty to do and we were never bored.
I can remember the Christmas of 1942 because the beautiful tree-lights that I ‘d had since I was a baby finally gave out. It was also the last time we had a proper Christmas tree until after the war. For the next three or four years we had to make do with a large branch of holly but it was never the same. Soon after Christmas .Nan and Grandpap rented a house in Windsor St. It was a terraced house, which backed on to the Summerland public house in the Butts. The front room came off the street, the stairwell was in the centre of the house, the living room with another black-leaded range was in the back and off that was the scullery with the cooker, brick copper, and sink in it. There was a tin bath hanging on nails on the back yard wall and the toilet was outside. There were two bedrooms facing each other at the top of the stairs. Nan and Grandpap slept in the front one and Uncle Len slept in the back. There was an attic up the stairs with two beds in it. Fred slept in one and I slept in the other one whenever I stayed there. We had to pass through Uncle Len’s room to get access to it. They had a back yard with a bit of garden in it, then past the toilet to a communal entry and after that a gate which led to their back garden. They had three apple trees in the garden down by the small shed which are still there today, long after the house was demolished for redevelopment. Little Grandma was quite frail by now, so she moved into Exhall Lodge. This was a home for old people.
Grandpap acquired a doll’s pram for me to play with during that summer. It was a low bodied old fashioned type, which would be worth a fortune today as an antique, only at the time I was not very impressed with it, as he had painted it for me in Corporation coach colours ie., cream with red and blue lines painted around the sides. That wouldn’t have been so bad but he painted “Mary” in bright blue at the back of it and I got badly teased by my friends. Even so, I wish that I still had it!
Next door but one to us lived a family called Browning. They were a nice family, with two children a bit older than myself but the daughter used to play with me. They had two lodgers who lived with them who came from London. Their names were Carol and Mary. They worked at the Standard factory on munitions and worked night shift. When they came to Coventry to work, they lived in the Brooklands hostels but the Brownings befriended them and gave them a home. I adored them! When the Brownings sold their house in early 1943, they came to live with us and became part of our family. They stayed for the duration of the war and we all loved them very much. They were such fun and Auntie Carol kept in touch until my Mum died . We lost touch with Mary eventually. Carol came from Chaucer Rd. in South London and Mary came from Brock Rd. in the East End. They both had blonde hair (bleached) and were lovely looking with bubbly personalities and a raw cockney sense of humour. Carol was engaged to “ her Ernie” who was a petty officer in the Fleet Air Arm. Mary wasn’t courting but she used to keep a photograph of her brother who was in the Royal Navy, on our sideboard beside Carol’s Ernie. We only saw them in the evenings and at the weekends as they worked on the night shift during the week. The war was plodding on monotinously but didn’t really affect me personally. I still went to school, played out with my friends, had weekend pic-nics in the summer. The only thing of any significance that happened to me was moving out of Miss Lloyd’s class into one in some temporary buildings. The teacher we had was awful. It was pure mutual hatred between her and a six year old child. She had fiery ginger hair, a temper to match and had a scar running down one side of her face and she was vicious. She would slap me for not putting my hand up high enough (I was terrified to) she didn’t slap me on my arm like the other teachers would if I was naughty but would crack her hand across my face like a whiplash. She put me off school for life and I must have some sort of mental block about her, because I cannot even remember her name although I can remember the names of all the others. I was quite bright at school at school, particularly in English. Miss Clarkson, our headmistress used to have an “Excellent” stamp and when we were very good, our teacher used to send us to her office to get our work stamped. Nearly all my dictation and compositions (essays) were stamped “ Excellent ”. I also joined the brownies at this time. Joan Watts had moved up into the girl guides, so Mrs. Watts passed her uniform on to me. I don’t recall getting a long service medal though.
During the year of 1943, the Government had provided eating places called British Restaurants and there were two in the city centre, one in the Gas Showrooms in Hales Street and one in West Orchard on the sight of the old Market Place that Hitler had previously put paid to. During the school holidays, I used to catch the bus into town at lunchtime, paying my 1d fare from the Cedars to Corporation St. and meet Dad for lunch. We usually went to the one in West Orchard and there we would have a really good nourishing meal for 9d (41/2 p). Dinner was 6d, and a pudding was 3d. This saved Mum cooking a main meal for us during the day and saved her precious points that were the coupons used to buy food. I never went hungry during the war. Mum was a marvellous cook and always saw that we were well fed. We would have cornflakes, All Bran or porridge for breakfast, a dinner and pudding at lunchtime and bread, margarine and jam for tea. Sometimes we would have a boiled egg or an omelette made with dried eggs. We always had dinner at one o’clock on Sunday dinner times and always had a joint that Mum had saved the coupons for over the week. We always had a milk or fruit pudding during the summer months and a suet one in the winter. This would be a spotted dick or a treacle or jam pudding with custard. After dinner. Dad used to share our sweet ration out between David and myself. These were Horner’s Dainty Dinah toffees, or Sharp’s. Sometimes we would have Glenn’s Old Joe’s toffee that was made of liquorish or we may have fruit drops. We only had sweets on Sunday, as they were rationed to two ounces a week each person. So we always looked forward to Sundays. During the October of that year, my Dad was busy working in the shed. He was very good at woodwork. He told me that he was making a tool chest and I used to go up to the shed and watch him at work. As his work progressed, I could see that the tool chest was becoming school desk, which was something that I was desperate to have. He stuck me out that it was a tool chest though. That Christmas morning I awoke to find that Santa had delivered a school desk, full of goodies such as paints, pens, pencils, paper and even a diary for 1944, along with many other presents. I was still doing my homework on it when I attended Grammar a had been miraculously turned into a desk from a tool chest. Clever stuff eh ? I kept that desk for many years, school. It also came in handy for my snail racing occupation. Later on in the next year (1944), Dad made me a bookcase that I have to this day. At present it is in my sewing room filled with my sewing books.
During 1943 and 1944, The news on the radio made much mention of Flying bombs. These were V1 bombs that flew by remote control. No one ever used to know where they were going to drop but when the engine cut out, people would just fall flat on the ground to avoid the blast, as they didn’t have time to get to the nearest shelter. After this Germany launched the V2’s which were far worse as they did a tremendous amount of damage and no-one would hear them coming. They fell mostly on London and the surrounding areas. Coventry was well out of their range. So as far as Coventry was concerned, the war was all but over. We still had rationing, , black-out, and collected salvage and put our waste food in the pig bin that was under the lamp post on the corner by the Co-op though. It was at about this time that I often used to go out selling flags on Saturday mornings for different organisations. Nan Death was responsible for all this as she used to do a lot for charity in conjunction with the British Legion. I did quite well in this department. This was my “ civic responsibility ” period. There were posters on the hoardings that warned us that “Careless talk cost lives” and warned about the dangers of venereal disease (whatever that was). Then we were told to beware of the Squander Bug. Told to “ Dig for Victory ”and many more but I was really in my element when we were told to “ Join the Bread Crusade” Henceforth I diligently ate my crusts, something that I was not inclined to do up until then. David and I used to hide them on a ledge under the table. This ruse was quite successful until Mum caught on when she moved the table and a pile of mouldy crusts dropped onto the floor! It was also around about this time that I learned a sharp lesson in how not to be nosey. Dad was not in the best of health with his ulcer at that time and he had a strong phobia about nosey people looking out of windows. He could never stand net curtains. I was standing at the window, looking out one teatime, when he yanked me away sharply. I lost my balance and cut my head on the corner of the table. Mum had to take me to Coventry and Warwickshire hospital to get seven stitches in my head. Dad was really, really sorry about it but it did have a lasting effect on me in as much as I have preferred to mind my own business ever since!
Of course the most memorable occasion occurred in May 1945. V.E. Day. The anticipation had built up for quite a few weeks, as the Russians and Allied forces converged on Berlin and Adolph Hitler committed suicide with his new wife Eva Braun. About three weeks before V.E.Day, it was announced on the wireless (radio) that blackout restrictions were no longer to be enforced. We waited in anticipation for ten days and Dad and Mum took David and myself into town when it was dark to see for ourselves the way things were before the war. It was amazing! It’s hard to imagine it now but for five years or more every home had to be blacked out. There were no street lamps, shop signs or anything. ……even buses and cars had to have shades over their lamps, so apart from the moonlight, when it was full moon, everything was pitch black. Of course there were many street accidents during this time but just imagine what it was like for an eight year old child, raised in this environment and the thrill of going into town and seeing not just streets lit up but real neon lighting outside the shops! Every house seemed to come to life. It was magical!
The atmosphere was elecrical with anticipation of the end of the war. Everyone knew that it was imminent and it seemed to be a long couple of weeks waiting for V.E.Day to be officially declared, although prisoners of war had been returning for several weeks. It was lovely to go past a house that had flags and pennants flying outside because we knew someone’s long awaited husband or son had returned home at last after the long months and years of uncertainty. David’s friend lived across the road. He was only five years old and his Daddy was taken prisoner at the beginning of the war and couldn’t remember him. I will never forget his face when he came home from school one lunchtime and saw all the flags outside his house! It lit up, and he took off like a marathon runner in his hurry to get home
When V.E.Day finally arrived, Dad and Mum took us down into town to join in the celebrations. Dad had a n office in the top of an old building overlooking Broadgate, so we had a marvellous view of the large procession that paraded through the town. We went to a thanksgiving service at the Cathedral that afternoon, and then to Uncle Jack and Auntie Bertha’s who were steward and stewardess of the British Legion Club at the time. We went there a lot and in fact I used to go to tap dancing lessons that were held on the top floor. This momentous day preceded a couple of weeks of celebrating. Every street had a party and somehow or other, David and I got to go to them all. Even as far afield as Lavender Ave. but by far the best party of all was the one we had in our entry with all our friends and neighbours from Evenlode Crs., Southbank Rd.and Courtland Ave. We had trestle tables laid out and the food was fantastic. I’ll never forget a trifle that one of the mother’s made. It had cream on it (not real) with cherries and angelica and it looked and tasted delicious! Goodness knows how long the mothers had been saving their points up for this event but they had made a tremendous effort. After tea we had dancing and games and the grownups had a sing-song. Later still the Dads lit a big bonfire in the middle of the entry and we sat around it singing songs. We also had some home-made fireworks that Dad had made. Of course these are illegal now but way back then, anyone could make them out of some gunpowder and saltpetre. They were quite impressive at the time, although not as spectacular as the real thing.
Of course the war wasn’t over completely, because we were still at war with Japan but life was pretty good for us children. We went to Fancy dress parties that were held at St. George’s church in the hall.
Also several 'outings' by charabanc, organised by the British Legion and other organisations. I remember going to Wicksteed Park and also Southend. Ah! Happy days!!
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