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- Wolverhampton Libraries & Archives
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- 25 February 2005
I was 14 years old 17 days after war was declared on 3rd September 1939. I was living in Hordern Road and was a local paperboy. On, or about 10th September, I was delivering papers when the air-raid sirens sounded. I dashed home, frightened half to death. I found out later that they were only testing them and trying them out.
I didn’t go to school after the war broke out. I thick the schools closed around this time. But anyway, I left school before Christmas. I got a job and started work on 1st January 1940 at a printing company called Steens. Their premises were originally the Wolverhampton Grammar School in John Street and my first job was shifting and sweeping snow from the front of their premises. (I wonder how many 14 year-olds today, would do that on New Years Day) My wages were 9 shillings a week.
Around this time my dad and I dug a hole in the garden to house the Anderson shelter, which never arrived - so for the whole war we “had a pool.”
When I was about 15 years old, I attended the Wolverhampton School of Art (part of the Art Gallery) which had a class for apprentices in the printing trade, the Express & Star etc.
Later on I was made to join the Home Guard. I must have been 16 years old. We met and trained at a public house — the Three Crowns in Hordern Road. It was very similar to “Dad’s Army” — no uniform, no weapons, bit of a farce. After messing about for a few months I was ordered to report for fire-watching duties. I was sent several times to the attic of the Wool Shop in Darlington Street, opposite Beatties. The object of the exercise was to watch for incendiary bombs and report to the fire brigade. About 7:30 am I was released and given 1 shilling and sixpence (7½ pence today). So I would dash home, get changed and be at work at 8 am (what a performance)
Sometime after, I was as a Home Guard to go on duty at Dunstall Park Racecourse. There was a range of about a dozen rocket platforms and, after orders from God-knows-where, they were all pointed in one direction and fired off hoping to fetch German bombers down. The noise was terrific and people around the Stafford Road must have been scared to death.
As you can see it was quite a hectic time for lads like me, not much food, sweets rationed, no shandies! - not really much of anything. Cinemas strictly open at special times and having to go to work for a living and try to study at art school. My aim was to get a job as a linotype operator in the newspaper business (top jobs then).
The war progressed and as no end was in sight, I knew that I'd be called up at 18. I decided to get a job that paid better wages. So I ended up at Manders Paint Works in Well Lane, Wednesfield working for ICI which had taken over this factory I was a tin-smith, eventually making fuel tanks for the aircraft industry. These enabled aircraft to have enough fuel to carry them to Germany on bombing raids.
At this time, I clearly remembered the awful raid on Coventry (something that places like London and Portsmouth had put up with for ages). Wolverhampton didn't really have many problems. I remember some houses in Henwood Road had a few incendiary bombs and a lone raider, one Sunday, dropped a bomb near Boulton Pauls' factory - missed the factory and killed a few sheep.
I was eventually called up for the army and, just my luck, was ordered to report to Copthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury on 21st December - so bang went any ideas of a Christmas at home with the family.
After 3 months in the local regiment, the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, I was posted to other places and finally went to India here I served for 3 years. I finally escaped and got demobbed in January 1948.
[This story was submitted to the People's War site by Wolverhampton Libraries on behalf of J Ford and has been added to the site with hi permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions]
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