- Contributed by
- Barnsley Archives and Local Studies
- People in story:
- Frank Duke
- Location of story:
- Sheffield, Yorkshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 April 2005
"This story was submitted to the People's War site by the Barnsley Archives and Local Studies Department on behalf of Frank Duke and has been added to the site with his/her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions."
I was evacuated a few days before war was declared. I was 11 years old. We lived in Sheffield — Pitts Moor — and myself and 2 brothers were sent to Watton, in Nottinghamshire where we were billeted in the home of John Player (cigarettes). It was a 16 bedroom mansion.
The evacuation was arranged between two schools, our school in Sheffield, Pitts Moor Church of England School and another Church of England School in Watton. We were picked up at our destination by our surrogate parents. We were in rags and the Player’s came in a car. Myself, 2 brother and 2 others went with the Player’s.
We were looked after by Edith Player, the unmarried daughter and the seamstress who lived there. We lived in the chauffeur’s house. I can remember it been a lovely sunny day when Edith came to tell us that war had broken out. It had been clear that war was coming, we were given gas masks etc., but there was no fear as we were 3 brothers together.
We stayed with the Player’s until the end of the summer of 1940 and then we went home. Dad had been asked to pay so much for each child and he couldn’t afford it, so we had to go home. We were back home for the Sheffield blitz.
When the bombs started dropping schools were closed for long periods for the fear of loosing many children with 1 bomb. We started having ‘front room school’ and the teachers would come round to our houses. This ended in 1941. At the height of the blitz, we were fetched out of the air raid shelter and had to walk to another school shelter (down Pitsmoor Road), as there was a time bomb behind our school. I remember the city was ablaze, guns were firing behind us and shrapnel was flying about. The next day we all went looking for the biggest bits of shrapnel! After that we stayed with relatives for several days. The bombers mistook the Moor for the River Don. We were in shelters every night for 8 hours. The bombing stopped after 1941.
Leading up to the war and after Dunkirk there was great fear that we would be invaded. In the parks there were huge stakes in the ground every few yards, to stop gliders and parachutes. A lot of older blokes made a lot of money out of fire watching.
During the war food was really scarce, we just got through. There had been real poverty in the 1930’s and things had just started to get better. This was all dashed with the war. Women made allsorts out of nothing. The government wanted everyone to keep clean, so ‘Slipper Baths’ were opened. Everyone in Sheffield went there for baths.
I was the first in my family and street to get a white-collar job, in 1942. I was an assistant to the Commissioner. I worked five and a half days a week and my wages were 12 & 6 a week (63p).
During the war, there was a great feeling of camaraderie. Incendiary bombs would burn houses down, so a bloke in the street made a grabber to get them out and throw them in the street. He made them for others in the street as well. Not everyone was the same, however. One family, where there were 5 daughters, the father kept the girls clothing coupons from them. When he died, they found a cupboard full of coupons (selfish).
When the war ended, we went into Sheffield. It was quite a night! There was terrific relief and a great community feeling.
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