- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Bryan Shaw
- Location of story:
- New Moston
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 July 2005
....People had no fear of going out in the blackout because the roads were full of people going backwards and forwards to the cinemas.
The chip shops were always open and people would call in on their way home from the pictures. I don’t ever remember there being a shortage of fish and chips. We used to go to Andrews chip shop on Nuthurst Road and Sissons on the corner of Parkfield Road and Belgrave Road. Mrs Sisson sold tripe on certain days and a neighbour of ours, Mrs Worsnip used to ask me to go for it for her. She liked tripe a lot and it, like fish and chips, was not rationed.
Air raid shelters were made as comfortable as possible lit by candles and heated by candles in clay plant pots.
Blast walls were built at doors of schools and public buildings. Static water tanks were erected in various places to hold water for use by the fire service. They had the letters E.W.S. painted on them which stood for Emergency Water Supply. Road signs were removed to confuse the enemy if they invaded.
Shopkeepers began keeping stocks under the counter for their special regular customers. Cigarettes in particular were kept under the counter.
Packaging of items like cigarettes and chocolates etc. changed. Silver paper was no longer used. Cigarettes were unwrapped in their cardboard packets.
Obscure brands of cigarettes called Pasha and Turkish appeared. They were scented and smelled horrible to me. They tasted horrible and did not compare with the popular brands. These were Woodbines, Players Medium, Kensitors, Capstan full strength, Players Weights and I think Senior Service.
In the evenings we spent a lot of time watching the local Home Guard training. They were called the L.D.V. (Local Defence Volunteers) at first. This was later changed to Home Guard. They used to set fire to oil drums and douse the flames using Stirrup Pumps. They often did this on the land occupied by Clarke’s Tin Whistle firm, which was situated opposite to where the Community Garage on Eastwood Road now stands.
My friends father (Mr. Eastwood ) kept chickens on this land. He fattened them up but could not kill them. Mr Halliwell the farmer on Hawthorn Road did this job for him I think.
We also used to follow the Home Guard to the canal where they pulled each other across on rafts. They also had mock battles there and used a form of firecracker to simulate the noise of rifle fire.
Once we watched a coal miner showing them how to de-rail a train. They had a short length of railway line to which explosives and detonators were attached. The explosion snapped the line completely. This was near the brook on Broadway commonly known as Moston Hollows. Quite a crowd gathered to watch the demonstration.
At the start of the war everyone was expecting air raids, but for a long time nothing happened except for the odd false alarm. As I have said previously things gradually got back to normal. The pressure seemed to be off and most evacuees came home.
Although food was rationed the housewives continued to feed us all O.K. Things did not seem much different to me. Perhaps this was because we were pretty hard up prior to the war, and were not used to luxuries anyway.
Occasionally the Civil Defence Corps would have an exercise and volunteers were required to act as casualties. I remember watching one such exercise at Jackson’s Brick croft on Hale Lane. Police, Fire, Ambulance and Rescue services were all there. To a young lad these things were very interesting and entertaining.
Eventually the air raids started and we would be dragged out of bed to go to the shelter where we would sometimes sit for hours waiting for the “ all clear.”
Our Father would be running up Eastwood Road blowing his whistle to let people know that the sirens had gone.
My brother was loathe to get up when the sirens went, but the first time we were woken by the Anti Aircraft guns opening up on Broadhurst Fields he was out of bed and into the shelter like a shot. The noise of the guns was unbelievable and all our windows rattled. We thought the house was falling down.
Gummed paper was stuck on every window to stop the glass splintering from the blast should a bomb be dropped. People tried to stick it on in neat designs of diagonals or squares.
Everyone had to observe the black -out. Part of our father’s job as an A.R.P. warden was to check that there were no chinks of light showing through the curtains that could be seen by enemy aircraft.
Shops such as chip shops which opened during the dark hours had to have their windows and doors blacked out. Andrews chip shop on Nuthurst Road had a device like a tin can which dropped down over the light bulb when the door was open and raised again when the door was closed. It was very effective and it was operated by a string attached to the door with the other end passing over a pulley and attached to the can.
Car lights were blanked out to small slits of light. Policemen’s torches were also blanked off down to a small beam of light.
On a moonless night it was amazing how dark it was and you really did have trouble finding your way about
particularly in open spaces. We as boys would stand in the queue at the Roxy cinema and throw a few washers into the queue in front.. People would think that they had dropped their money and everyone would be crouching down trying to feel it in the dark.
Black-out curtaining was very much in demand. It was better than Blackpool Illuminations to us the day war ended, and everywhere was lit up.
Everyone had a ration book, which limited the amount of certain foods you could have. This applied to such foods as meat, butter, cheese sugar tea etc. I don’t think fish was rationed but shops tried to share out what they had with as many customers as possible.
Clothing, bedding and curtain material were also rationed. Everyone was allowed so many clothing coupons. People getting married were given an extra allowance to help set up their home.
The word “ Utility “ became very popular and utility clothes and furniture were marked with a special symbol. I think that utility meant that items were of reasonable quality but without any unnecessary frills. The furniture was very plain and made of mass produced materials such as plywood.
Sweets were rationed and it was usually the parents who went short and gave their ration to the children.
Mr. Scholes’s shop on Eastwood Road had a small Nestles Chocolate machine attached to the wall outside. It dispensed 1d. bars of chocolate. There were larger machines on railway stations but sweet rationing meant that they could not be used. Mr. Scholes’s chocolate machine was there for many years, but I don’t think it was ever damaged or robbed .
I have a picture of the boys at North Manchester High School taken in 1941. We are all wearing school uniform. On another photograph taken in 1946 most boys are wearing anything but school uniform because of clothes rationing during the war.
People seemed more neighbourly and friendly during the war years. Housewives would call and inform each other regarding which shop had what, and off they would rush to find a massive queue.
It was as though we were all in the same boat together so we got on with each other and made the best of things.
The dividing wall between our brick air raid shelter and the one next door had a space at the top to allow escape from one to the other. Consequently whilst you were in your shelter your neighbours would be in theirs and long conversations would ensue. In this way you came to know a lot about your neighbours and became better friends.
The German bombers had a distinct buzz buzz sound and we could easily recognise them. The ack-ack would open up and you would hear the sound of shrapnel from the shells dropping onto the roofs. Charlie and I could hardly wait for morning to come so that we could go out collecting it. All boys collected shrapnel and were very proud of their collections. The best pieces had writing on them, such as the fuse setting marks.
Factories were working day and night. My brother and I would lie in bed listening to the endless shunting of steam trains in the Hollinwood sidings and the incessant “whoosh-bang “ noise of the drop hammer at A.V. Roe and Co. Later on if we were still awake we would hear the sound of Mr. Mather’s army boots as he returned from Home Guard duties.
The nearest bombs to fall were one that hit the Springfield Laundry behind Old Road in Failsworth. It started a fire but as it was close to the canal the N.F.S. soon had it out. I don’t think anyone was hurt.
Another bomb hit the canal bank on the opposite side of Hollins Road to the Roxy Cinema. It blasted the bank away and the rear yard walls of the houses and shops on Oldham Road which backed onto the canal were pock marked with shrapnel holes.
I heard of a land mine, which came through the roof of a house in Werneth and hung suspended by its parachute over the bed.
I used to go to North Manchester High School along Nuthurst Road and then cut across the pit railway sidings past Moston Mill and came out on Linford Road, which led to Lightbown Road.
One morning I arrived at Lightbown Road to find a rope across the end of Linford Road. A soldier was on duty there and told me that a stick of bombs had been dropped down Lightbown Road but none had exploded. They were delayed action bombs. He let me run like mad across Lightbown Road to school. All the bombs must have been defused as there were no explosions.
Another bomb dropped on the Golf course, which is now the site of the Fairway Housing Estate. It made a hole of about 15 ft. across by about 8 ft. deep. Again there were no casualties.
There was one bomb that caused many casualties and deaths. This I believe hit a communal air raid shelter on a street on the opposite side of Oldham Road from Mill Street in Failsworth.
My mother was brought up in that area and she knew many of the casualties.
After an air raid, casualty lists would be stuck on church notice boards. These gave the streets and the names of the dead. I saw such lists on St. Mary’s Church and St Chad’s. As children we used to read them but you got so used to them that they hardly registered.
It was either Easter Monday or Whit Monday. My brother and I were in the back bedroom of our house and a German plane flew over the house almost at roof top level. We could see the pilot quite easily and the black crosses on the wings. We heard later that it had bombed A.V.Roes.and had also been machine-gunning on the streets. I heard that a lady had been wounded and that there were bullet marks on the road. There was no real damage done at A.V.Roes.
Large factories like Ferranti’s and Avros were painted with camouflage so that they could not be seen from the air. The idea was to make them look like houses and streets by painting black squares for windows and doors.
New Moston people were very lucky as regards the bombing. The Newton Heath, Collyhurst, Ancoats and central Manchester areas were badly bombed.
My wife’s father Mr. Fred Kirkham, was a part time fireman in the A.F.S. which later changed to the N,F,S, He helped fight the fire at Baxendales on Miller Street in Manchester. It was an inferno. I met him on his way home the following morning. He was as black as the ace of spades and exhausted. He also helped to carry bodies inside the basement of Woolworth’s store on Oldham Street, which was used as a temporary mortuary.
There were fund raising events like “ Wings for Victory” weeks. On one such event a Spitfire aircraft was put on show in Piccadilly and children were allowed to sit in the cockpit.
Once we cycled to Ringway Aerodrome, (which in those days consisted of a control tower and a few hangers) to see a display by the paratroopers. They were jumping out of a kind of hut suspended below a barrage balloon. We were thrilled to bits with this, particularly when a dummy man was thrown out whose chute failed to open.
Talking of Barrage balloons occasionally, you would see one that come adrift from its moorings. I saw one once about 150ft. up lurching along Greengate trailing all its cables.
There were very few daylight raids; I only remember the sirens going on two or three occasions during daylight hours. Once I was coming home from school and the air raid sirens went, but nothing seemed to happen so I carried on walking home. When I reached Eastwood Avenue I saw Mr. Prince who owned the greengrocers shop on the corner. He was looking up and said “ There he is”. I looked up and eventually saw an aeroplane circling round and round. It was so high up that it was just a dot and probably out of range of the guns. Mr. Prince said he thought it was a reconnaissance plane taking photographs.
My father had a flute band at St Johns scout troop in Failsworth and I used to help him. I was going over the white-stuff
at about 6-45p.m.one evening on my way to St Johns when the sirens went. I went into a communal shelter at Wrigley
Head and waited for the all clear. There were a lot of people in there. I didn’t hear any aircraft or guns.
Broadway Baths was open during the war and we went there a couple of times a week. Boys and girls bathed separately
except on Wednesdays and Sunday mornings when it was mixed bathing.
Every so often my pals and I would tour the district collecting books for the soldiers. We got a good response and took
the books to Failsworth main post office, which was then on the corner of Oldham Road and Wickentree Lane. Once we
were given a book entitled “ No Orchids for Miss Blandish” which was well known for being very rude in those days.
We didn’t get to read it as my pal’s mum confiscated it, but no doubt it went round all the local housewives.
Mr. Anderson was a well- known character in New Moston. He was a headmaster and lived near to where the dentist is
on Moston Lane East .It was he who started the youth club at New Moston senior School (now demolished ). It was run on very good lines and you had to be aged 14 or over to join. Most of my friends were a year older than me so when they joined, I went with them and said that I was 14 when in fact I was 13. He gazed intently at me before giving me my membership card. I think that he guessed and stretched a point.
Mr. Anderson also taught shoe repairing at night school. This class was very well attended by young as well as old because shoes were rationed and being able to repair them had obvious advantages. The only trouble with Mr. Anderson was that he was a perfectionist and he had to inspect every stage of the repair before you went onto the next stage, and it could take a few weeks to sole and heel a shoe. Some people would wait until Mr. Anderson was called out of the class and they would nail their shoes up furiously and be gone before he got back to inspect them.
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