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Leeds in wartime.

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

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Gertrude booth
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27 December 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Joanne Burgess on behalf of Gertrude Booth and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

The full horror of War:

Leeds was actually fortunate during the war. It did not take as much shelling as other areas, people took things in their stride. The first time I saw the full horror of the war was when the troops were withdrawn from France. They got off the train and marched through City Square, they passed the Co-Op and went up Albion Street. They did all this and it was then that I noticed they had no shoes on. The discipline instilled in them meant that they continued their march without their shoes on.

I looked into one young lad’s face and we know now that it is shell shock, you could see it on his face. I knew then how fortunate we had been how well protected in Leeds and how we did not know what war meant. We were never hungry and to look at those men and realise we had slept through it all, it was terribly upsetting. My brother was called up and I remember the endless waiting for letters, thank God he came back

We pulled together:

Despite this the war brought out the best in most of us. We pulled together, my mother would unpick old clothes that were too small and make us new clothes from them. I remember going out to pubs and dances dressed up and we always had our gas masks with us. I can remember walking across East End Park and the ack ack guns would go. There were also the floodlights set up on East End Park trying to pick off the German planes coming in from the East Coast. There was shrapnel in the gardens on a morning. Sometimes we would be up half the night with very little sleep and yet we still got up and carried on regardless. I do not remember been frightened not even during the blackouts. My Dad was an air raid warden and he would knock on people’s doors if there was a flicker of light showing. We had a refugee from the south coast and the whole family came up for a holiday we became good friends, one of the family even had their honeymoon at our house.

I remember the unity of people that everyone was together and people helped each other, there was a real community spirit. If there was someone by themselves everyone rallied around to help them.

Women, back to the kicthen:

I worked in an office during the war I liked it but as the war came to an end the rumour went round that the men were coming back and firms were obliged to take the men back. The war changed a woman’s outlook on life once we had been out there working and enjoying it we did not want to go back to the kitchen.

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