- Contributed by
- Alastair Sharp
- People in story:
- Mrs Arline Sharp nee Skelly
- Location of story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 13 March 2004
I have vivid memories of my childhood throughout WW2.I was born in the year 1936, in the town of Whitehaven where lived with my father, mother and my older sister.In 1940 my father was "calledup". He would have preferred the Royal Navy but the army won and he spent five years in the REME,stationed in Dover.I believe he was attached to the Air defence,searchlights etc.Later that year my mothers brother was also "calledup".My mother and her brother were particulary close.As their mother had died when they were quite young, my mother had been the housekeeper until she had married my father.These two events were most difficult for my mother with her husband and her brother away from home and two children one,aged
six years and myself aged four.
Trying to manage on the army pay was a nightmare for my mother and so to supplement
the low army pay she decided to find a job with suitable hours. The only job on offer was on nightshift as a cleaner at the local bus garage.This arrangement enabled her to be home during the day with my sister and me it also meant that she had a very long walk into town in the blackout.I can recall the first Christmas my mother had to work on Christmas Eve and would not return home until seven o'clock Christmas morning.So along with my sister it was decided that we would sleep over with our aged great Aunt Sally.Our great Uncle had the job of being Father Christmas,we were asleep on the horsehair couch that served as a bed,when in his effort to place presents at the foot of couch he stumbled in the dark cursing and ripping we both woke in horror thinking that the Germans had landed.
Chtistmas presents were difficult for most families and new toys were scarce and expensive.My mother with the little money she had available would go to the "sale room" and bide for second hand toys, she always was able to buy a few toys, but these toys would be re-cycled the next Christmas and this continued for five years.With the result that we did not have any toys from our childhood years.
On returning from school one day in 1943, I found my mother in tears her brother had been reported missing in North Africa where had posted seven weeks earlier, this was followed by a telegram that he had been in fact made a POW and was now in Italy.As the war progressed in Italy he was moved into in Germany until his release in 1945.Later when he was demobbed we found out that he had made two unsuccessful escapes. One of these attempts was ended when a Swiss farmer alerted German border
guards as he attempted to cross a railway.He was threatened by execution if he made another bid.
With the stress from events weighing on my mother she was approached by some authority that she should do fire watch on the evenings that she was not at work.What ever her response was I cannot recall but she never approached again.
I can recall once my father coming home on leave
and giving us a wondeful surprise . H e had made us a dolls house,with furniture, I remember it was dark blue and the furniture had been made out of Spam tins.Apparently when he and others were of duty they would make a variety of handcraftin the Army workshop. My father made furniture for dolls houses using re-cycled Spam tins and with the Americans posted near by there an endless supply of empty food cans which the Americans were only to pleased to pass on to the "Limies".However they were very surprised when they saw the end product, the cans had been rolled open ,flatened the sharp edges turned and the furniture made to scale, there were washstands, dressing tables, beds , table and chairs these were painted pink and the small handles painted green The Americans were so impressed that they requested a supply of the furniture so they could ship it back home.
In the war effort the town had a scheme to collect half pennies that had a sailing ship on the obverse side of the coin. I collected mine in a large glass jar and with the aid of my Grandda and my uncle(he was a coal miner)I had the honour of collecting the most coins in the town, I had my name in the local newspaper.
Along with my sister we would be invited to Red Cross parties for children that had a POW in their family.
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