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Woodseats to Firth Park in the Blitz

by Terryvardy

Contributed by 
Terryvardy
People in story: 
Betty Shaw
Location of story: 
Sheffield
Article ID: 
A2086175
Contributed on: 
27 November 2003

This story by Betty Shaw

I remember the night war was declared. Sepember 3 1939, the sirens in Sheffield went. We had no blackout but in the dark Mother said: "Pull the settee out and we'll sit behind that for protection."

My gran was there but she wouldn't get behind, she stood with her elbow on the sideboard with her big black bag under her arm with her insurance policies in! Her remarks were "The Zeppelins are here again!" There was no raid that night.

I was 13 at this time and at Abbeydale Girls' Grammar School. At least once every week we had a lesson where we had to wear gas masks. The school, at that time, consisted of two old houses. A new school was being built and there was a shelter in the basement of that and every so often, without warning, we had an air raid rehearsal - running to the new school for shelter. Incidentally, the new school, I believe, was bombed which made it late to complete. We sat doing school certificate exams in the gym in 1942 with the tarpaulin roof blowing and tractors up and down ouside

For a period we had home service during which time we couldn't go to school. Home service was held in our own houses and some lessons we only had one each month - we had to do all the work at home.

After the battle of Britain, when the Germans started to bomb cities at night, there were sometimes as many as four sirens each night so we made up a bed in the Anderson shelter, got undressed in the house and took a hot drink to the shelter for the night. We could hear neighbours up and down the garden. We had a bulletproof door on the shelter and my gran, who was still with us, wouldn't let us talk because she thought the Germans would hear us!

I had told my mother that if there was ever an air warning while I was out I would come straight home. On Thursday night December 12 1940 I'd gone to the Chantry picture house with a school friend - when the sirens went I came home.

Mother was waiting at the gate saying she hadn't got her key but neither had I! We went to a neighbour's shelter where we stayed till around midnight when the wardens came to tell us to evacuate because of an unexploded bomb and to get our valuables and go to St Chad's school hall. Of course, we couldn't get in without a key so the neighbour broke the back door down with his shoulder and we went in to pick up the valuables - we picked up two iederdowns, a bottle of wiskey and a tin of chocolate biscuits! We then set off at a run to St Chad's school hall with bombs exploding around us.

A friend of my father's (my father had been called up) had told us that if we needed help he would always help us. He went to our house but was told we had been eavuated to St Chads where he came and found us. He then set off to take us from Woodseats to Firth Park. The long journey by car to Firth Park I remember very little of, but do remember seeing tram cars on fire, we couldn't go through the centre of Sheffield - that was all ablaze and lots of roads were closed.

On the sunday night of the blitz we went with a friend of mothers into her shelter, we were singing 'Oh Perfect Love' as we had been to a wedding just before - there were incediaries dropping all around us.

AGAIN the voice -"EVACUATE TO THE BOYS' RED CAP SCHOOL BECAUSE OF TWO LANDMINES" So off we went with our two eiderdowns, bottle of wiskey and box of chocolates!

When we got there, we found that when you put your eiderdown on the floor to rest - before you could get down it was full of other people! There were dogs chasing cats, cats chasing budgies and children with chicken pox and measles. About 5am some voluntary organisation came to give us hot drinks.

In the morning Mother and I set off to walk from Firth Park to Woodseats. We got to Page Hall when out of the blue we saw a taxi! I stood in front of him to stop him while mother threw her eiderdown in, he got us back home but I don't know the route he took - its impossible to remember all the detours to avoid blocked roads. The taxi driver told us that the Walshes building was still standing at the end of the bombing and it was a spark from another building which must have set it on fire and the firemen had no water, so couldn't put it out.

When we got nearer to our house the road was still blocked, so we went to a neighbour in a road nearby, we finished up in that house - 19 of us - only able to use the ground floor at the back - fortunately there were some good cellars with bunk beds but never-the-less people were sleeping on and under the table!

In October 1943 I went to work at as a medical secretary at Wharncliffe emergency hospital. I worked for the neurologist at first and then over to the medical side. There were four of us medical secretaries and convoys would come in with the wounded - we would have a red light to warn us they were coming. We each went with the doctor we worked for and every serviceman was seen by a doctor before we went home. Sometimes it was 4am.

We had German prisoners. I remember one badly burned German pilot was there when the six o'clock news was coming on and God Save the King was played the German asked "Vas is das?" I said "God Save the King" and he sat up in bed and saluted "Heil Hitler!" I could have kicked him!

We had Italian POWs in, one of whom brought his mandalin and sang outside my office window.

June 6 1944 was the invasion of France and we knew we would be working all hours. Some of the men who came in, especially ex-POWs from the Far East, had been severely affected by their experiences and were sometimes difficult.

I used to take some of the men home and one was a pilot who had been shot down and injured. While he was on the ground the Germans shot him in the head! As a result he had to learn to walk and talk again. Another one had parachuted into France on the night of 5/6th June and he had landed in a tree above Germans having an anti-invasion practice.

I remember we had Hillsborough Golf Club as a convelescent home.

I tried to join the WRENs but the Ministry of Labour woldn't let me go.

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The Blitz Category
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