- Contributed by
- Darlington Libraries
- People in story:
- Mrs Betty Shaw (nee pickles)
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 May 2005
These are my memories of the Second World War, I was 15 years old in 1939.
Ration books, black out, I remember going to the church hall to get my gas mask, they were in cardboard boxes with a bit of string fastened on to hang around your neck, I hated the damned thing. It all seemed sudden lads you went to school with were getting conscripted into the forces, I must admit I thought it was exciting, I lived in Haworth and a lot of mills went on long hours, mostly 6.30am to 5.3opm.
Winter months were a bit gloomy, going to work in the dark and coming home, so the black outs didn’t seem too bad, women were conscripted into war work or joined the forces at the age of 18.
I fancied myself in the W.A.A.F.'s, I thought that the uniform would suit me, but in the end I was barely 18, I went into the W.L.A, which was not considered to be in the forces, so we were not allowed to go into the N.A.A.F.I. or any of the forces canteens, it was considered to be a civilian force. I myself was posted to Brecon in South Wales, into a hostel I think there was about 40 of us all lumped together, from all walks of life, some of them had never done a days work in their life, they didn’t last long, 18 bob a week was the pay it seemed a bit fair until you'd to find your own soap, toothpaste, shampoo, if and when you could get them, that was another thing not being able to go into the N.A.A.F.I, we couldn’t get such things.
Simple things were scarce, like brown paper and bags, every bit of string was rolled up, bits of elastic, safety pins sewing cotton, wool, standing for hours in a queue for a packet of fags, (yes I did smoke), I don’t no why it was the fashion I think.
The uniform provided consisted of:
1 Pair of Breeches
1 Pair of Socks
1 Pair of Shoes
This was the dress uniform for work:
2 Pairs of Dungarees
2 Milking Jackets
1 Pair of Wellies
1 Pair Working Boots (they were killers)
A black line around the bath to make sure that you only used 5 inches of water, worst and muckiest job of all was threshing pitch forks, rats, mice and choking dust, that thresher used to scare me to death, after a while I was put onto the gardening side, it was still hard work out in all weathers.
Coming in from work soaked to the skin and frozen was a nightmare, there was no provision provided to dry one's clothes, so more than not working gear was still damp the next morning.
Tears, laughter, heartache, new friends, all this and lots more which could fill a book, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Betty Shaw 2005
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