- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Barbara Rigg
- Location of story:
- Oldham Lancs
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 November 2003
I can only remember the war in as much as it affected me. I remember it starting, or at least stating for my family, but I can't remember anything before it. I would be about three years old. As a child I thought that war, and the things associated with it, was a permament state.It began when my dad received his call up papers. Our older neighbour who remembered the first world war advised mum that it was better not to go to the railway station with my dad, as this was always very upsetting. So dad, with his small suitcase set off alone to catch the number two bus to Manchester, and thence to Victoria Station to catch his train and join his unit. My mum cries and my sister cried, and I didn't know what was going on, but I remember the scene to this day.
Dad had heard terrible stories about the killing fields of France and Belgium in the great war, and he was full of fears about leaving the family, and of course for his own safety. So he determined not to go abroad. He aceived this by a combination of guile and illness, some, migraine, genuine, and other complaints doubtful. He had atrick of drinking scalding hot tea and sprinting across the parade ground before reporting for sick parade with a temperature and breathlessless, and therefore being pronounced as unfit for embarkation. He was constantly coming home without a pass, "I've jumped it,"he'd say. Joan, my sister and I would always know if he'd arrived home in the middle of the night as we could smell his cigarettes and hear him coughing, when we woke. He used to bring Mars bars from the NAFFI, but I never liked them, but they never had Maltezers for which I longed. I was constantly worried that they'd shoot him as a deserter, but he only laughed.
I remember going to collect my gas mask. There was an air raid on the way home and dad ran all the way with me on his back. Little children has masks with a Mickey mouse face, babies had to be fitted into a small cradle like device. If you blew hard when wearing your gas mask it caused it to steam up and then make a very rude noise. We had to carry them with us at all times, even to school.
We couldn't get chocolate or sweets, except Unle Joes Mint Balls. We couldn't get banananas, fresh eggs tinned salmon, and everything else was on ration. Mum used to swap her sugar tokenes for tea. I thinkl that's why I've still got such good teeth.
We had an air raid shelter in the field behind our house to which we had to flee if the air raid sirens went in the night. Mum didn't like the shelter, as the other women had husbands with them and mum said no one bothered with her, she was very shy. So we stopped going, and instead went into the pantry under the stairs. I loved getting up in the night for an air raid. I wore my siren suit and we had ovaltine to drink.It was very cosy.
When Irealised that the war would end at some time I assumed that there would only be two changes; firstly, because of the interminable news bulletins on the wireless and the news features at the cinema, showing troops being spewed out onto beaches, and droning planes dropping their terrible cargoes of destruction, I assumed that after the war there would be no more "News2. Secondly I knew that my dear daddy would ne back home. Having seen Newsreels and war films at the cinema I had a picture in my mind thatb at the end of the war the men would come marching down the streets, women giving them flowers and kisses, and when they reached our house my dad would drop out of their ranks. It was far less dramatic in reality, with him coming home on the number two bus, with gifts for all of us and a smart grey pinstriped demob suit and trilby hat for himself. But it was no less splendid.
The night before V E day we had as usual gone to bed early, to save the electricity. For some reason Joan and I were in the big bed with our mum. In what I thought was the middle of the night there was a banging on the bedroom window. It wasMrs. Gilbert from next door banging with her clother line prop, "Get up Margr'it, t'war's over, we're 'avin a bonfire." They took the front garden gates off their hinges and made a fire 9in the middle of the street. The women brought out jugs of tea and cocoa and we baked popatoes in the ashes of the fire.
We went to school with red, white and blue ribbons in our hair. The King spoke on the wireless, so did Mr Churchill. We had a pertty at Sunday School and people hung Union Jacks out of upstairs windows, and banners across the streets, with mottoss suck as, "Welcome home to Our Heros.
There was still the boring old "News" on the wireless and at the cinema we still has "The Gaumont British News, Presenting the World to the World," but now showing us hprrific footage as Belson and the other camps were liberated. We still had no sweets or bananas. But the war was over and MY Daddy was home.
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