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A Liverpool Family at War

by ateamwar

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Archive List > The Blitz

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People in story: 
Elsie Woods
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02 September 2005

In the beginning many of the evacuees slowly drifted back home as at this time everything was quite in fact at this stage it was called the phoney war, however it did not last long the air raids started for real, at first us kids found it exciting but then it gradually got worse however the people adjusted their lives and got on with their lives.
First thing, all the households had to use sticky tape on all the windows, the theory was to prevent the windows shattering. It was fascinating to see all the different designs on from house to house, some people were quite artistic.
Blackout curtains had to be hung to keep any light from shining outdoors, there were no lights outside, everywhere was pitch black. When you did have to go out everyone had special torches which gave very little light.
The shelters in the back yard had a very special smell and our mother had ours very well prepared with beds and flasks and also anything else we would need in an emergency. During the May Blitz the air raids were horrific, we would be in the shelter from the early evening right through the night, our Doris would come in from work straight into the shelter.
The people that didn’t have their own shelters had to use the public ones which were located in the street, it was quite a common sight in the evening as there would be hundreds of people heading for the public shelters with blankets and all the necessary items they would need to get them through the night.
Sometimes the next door neighbours would come into our shelter and we would have a sing song to try to drown out the sound of the bombs dropping.

I remember as if it was yesterday when Leopold Road was hit by a landmine. It had been a very bad night, you could here the bombs dropping, they made a special sound and then suddenly it would stop, and then a terrific explosion. You would hold your breath at the silence knowing that it was ready to explode.
One night the all clear had gone and people drifted back into their homes ready to go back to bed, (although we stayed in the shelter) an air raid warded shouted to get back into the shelters as the planes were still overhead, suddenly there was a terrific explosion and you could hear the screams and the children crying. It was so close I thought it was next door however it was the second block. Whole families were killed outright.
Another bad night was when Edinburgh Road got it, our Nell and I were on our own with Uncle Dick, the sirens went and we headed for the shelter but we could not get Uncle Dick to come into the shelter. He refused and would not budge so we had to leave him. That was a very bad night; the bombs were right overhead, however we survived.
Another dramatic time for Liverpool is when Lewis’s was bombed and Blackers, the next morning the people of Liverpool walked into town to see the wreckage: people were in tears that day.
However, not to be outdone Blackers opened up again opening up in small shops around the city.
Our family life in 28 Leopald Road, along with other families, changed. Father had to leave the sea as of course the cruises had to be stopped. Eventually he managed to get a job in Green Lane where they prepared the school dinners for schools. My mother went to work on munitions in Kirkby, she had to work shifts which must have been hard, the travelling to Kirkby by bus and then start on the night duty.
The factory was a target for the Germans as this was the place were they made the bombs, so not only the air raids being a threat, the very manufacturing of explosives was always very dangerous work and a lot of women were killed in the factory. However, our mother was always a very strong characyter and she eventually went to work in the laundry. During the breaks she would entertain the workers in the canteen by singing and dancing. She enjoyed her time there.

Our Doris was at home and she worked in the Kardomah café in Church Street until she married Stan (he was in the navy.) They had a marvellous wedding, although food, clothes etc. were scarce they had a wonderful wedding and the party lasted all week as I remember.
Our Charlie was at that time working in Lunts bakery in Bootle. This particular night he was on fire watch duty and the bakery has a direct hit. He was buried but he survived because a door fell on him. The people of Bootle dug him out of the wreckage and took him into the air raid shelter (his clothes were in tatters) so someone gave him an overcoat. The next morning he walked back home from Bootle, he was badly concussed but thankfully he survived. He was then sent to Coventry on compulsory war work and that is where he met his wife Hilda.
Our Bennie went into the Army, he served his time abroad, mostly in Gibralter. During time on leave he married his wife, Dorris.
Then our Nell, her first job was working at a printers, then she found a new job at Ogdens. She was always very smart. In spite of the fact that clothes were on coupons and make up was very hard to get. However, she and her best friend, Irene, always looked the business. She eventually married George who was in the navy.
Everything was rationed, if you needed furniture you were issued with Dockets. The worse thing for us kids were that sweets were on ration, in fact sweets were very scarce. Another hardship was clothes; we were issued with clothing coupons so that was difficult. It was make do and mend
Silk stockings were very hard to get, the next best thing were the Rayon stockings (no such things as tights those days) they were a pain as you had to wear them inside out so the seam would stand out, but that meant you had to cut around the foot where the fringe was. Or another trick was painting your legs brown with leg tan or some girls used gravy browning. If you had a ladder in your stockings there were shops where you could take them and have them repaired, I remember up to the 1950’s taking mine in for repair.
How our mother managed to feed us I do not know. The one thing that was plentiful was fish and chips and we had a wonderful fish and chip shop at the bottom of our road.
Another memory I have is taking ill with pneumonia, I was too ill to be moved to hospital so the bed was moved downstairs in to the living room.
The schools closed for a while and there was an arrangement for us to be taught in each others houses. I do remember the air raids during the day while we were at school. This was exciting for us as we had to go down to the cellars in the school until the all clear. Many a time the air raids started when we were on our way to school but we were used to it and just carried on.
Another hardship was the blackout, it was always pitch black outside and everyone had to have a special torch. And the of course the gas mask was an essential item you were required to take everywhere. This you carried on your shoulder, it would be in a cardboard case with a piece of string over your shoulder.
Another memory I have was I longed to be in the Brownies, my cousin was a Brown Owl. So my parents relented, however, it meant not only the cost of the uniform but everyone at home had to contribute coupons as well. However I joined up with my uniform and attended once and decided it was not for me. Mother was not best pleased.
I was 12 years old when the war ended, it was announced at school and we were all sent home and then the celebrations started with street parties, it was a wonderful time.

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by BBC Radio Merseyside’s People’s War team on behalf of the author and has been added to the site with his/her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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