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A child in South Manchester

by audlemhistory

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Pat Winfield
Location of story: 
South Manchester
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 September 2005

War was declared just a week before my 2nd birthday so any early memories are rather sketchy. Home was in South Manchester fairly near some of the prime enemy targets so there was a great need to get the house safer than it was. My grandfather, a builder, had the lounge re-enforced with 4 pillars from floor to ceiling and we then used that room as a dormitory for the whole family; a large air raid shelter was built in the back garden with access from the lounge veranda windows and it was equipped initially with a cot for me, bunk beds for the boys and some chairs for the adults — there was an escape hatch to the garden in case the house was bombed! When the sirens started it was easy to get us out of bed and in there wrapped in blankets. Whilst the building work was being done my 2 older brothers were ‘evacuated’ to live with my grandparents near Huddersfield and stayed there until the Blitz in 1940 was over.
All the curtains were lined with blackout material — we had to be so careful when we drew the curtains at night to make sure not a chink of light showed outside. Those linings were used up as dustsheets after the war and I used some well into our married life!

My father had fought in the 1st War so was too old for active service but he served in the Royal Observer Corps on the look out for enemy planes — he was a grey cloth merchant in the cotton industry by day and on duty 2 or 3 nights a week. I can remember him coming home exhausted at 6am to catch a few hours sleep before going into the office in Manchester — sometimes I think he even went straight to the office if there had been a lot of enemy activity during the night.

Life was kept as normal as possible and we always seemed to be well fed — we were lucky in that my father sometimes managed to obtain a joint of meat on the ‘black market’, that was a special occasion! Eggs from the precious egg ration plus some gained from other sources were preserved in isinglass in a huge (or so it appeared to me!) barrel, which stood on the pantry floor covered by a circle of wood. The lack of fresh eggs didn’t worry me as I always enjoyed scrambled egg made from dried egg probably because I couldn’t remember anything else. Once a month my father took all our sweet coupons into a shop in Manchester and came home with a cardboard box (quite small) filled with sweets and chocolate — how we loved looking to see if our favourites were there! It probably contained a few days supply for the modern family. On the landing we had a large store cupboard — nothing was ever thrown away, it was always saved for a rainy day. Amongst other things in that cupboard were 2 large biscuit tins — one containing bags of sugar, the other packets of tea which my mother had squirreled away, if we went visiting they would make a very welcome gift.

Eventually I went to the local kindergarten school and I do remember coming home early on VE day and seeing flags flying from all the house windows — what a wonderful sight and what an atmosphere of excitement.

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