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Evacuation from Bradford

by peterericridsdale

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Peter Eric Ridsdale
Location of story: 
Bradford / Colne
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 January 2005


A short introduction:
My name is Peter Ridsdale. Age 70 years. Born 1934 in Manningham, Bradford, Yorks. Moved to Staveley nr. Chesterfield in 1945.

Along with my sister Ethel, four years older, we attended Lillycroft School. Our father had died on the 4th June, 1938 aged 35 years. Life in general was a day to day existence but this seemed to be the norm.

The years passed by, mum played a duel role but did her best. It was while we were out playing and listening to our elders the name Adolf was mentioned by almost everyone. Then the word “war”. Just who was this guy ? It seemed he came from a land far away from us. We had no need to worry, he was no match for the Cisko Kid, Gene Autry, Johnny Mack Brown, Roy Rodgers and not forgetting the Lone Ranger and Tonto. But it wasn’t long before we were all issued with a square box with string attached. What was it ?. Yes, it was a gas mask and we had to carry it everywhere we went every day.

It was whilst we were in assembly at school that our headmaster, Mr Beck, informed us we were to go home and return to school in one hour. For safety reasons all the children were to be evacuated to a place away from Bradford, was it that guy Adolf again? I recall my mum telling Ethel whatever happens we must stay together. I began to wonder just what was happening to us.

Yes, we returned to school as instructed where, with all the other children, we were loaded onto waiting buses with all our belongings and not forgetting the gas mask. Once on the bus and seated we each had a label with our name on it attached to our coat. We did not know where we were going or how long it would take us to get there.

I myself felt safe as I knew Ethel would take good care of me. At last we arrived at our destination, a place called Colne in Lancashire. We were instructed to to remain on the bus until a new home could be found for us. Some of the local people just wanted a girl or a boy, but not both. I fear this is how brothers and sisters came to be split up. Ethel and I were the last off our bus but remained together.

We were taken to 25 Belgrave Road. This was to be our new home, how long for we did not know, Adolf had a lot to answer for. We settled in our new home a little nervously but the house was nice as were the people who were to look after us. We started our new school but saw none of any of the children who had come with us. What had become of them ?

The days passed, the daytime was ok but when darkness fell this was something different. Sirens wailed, the blackouts, then the aircraft overhead which was deafening. We just hoped they were ours. We had no air-raid shelters so it was out of bed, downstairs, not forgetting the little square box and we were settled behind the sofa where Ethel and I did attempt a rather large jigsaw. “Knights Castle Soap”, remember it ? I will never forget it.

It was ok in our new home and we were very grateful for the way we were looked after but we began to get home sick, we had never been away from mum for such a long time. Ethel wrote home and mum answered but it’s not the same is it ? After almost two years away mum decided to have us home again, at last we were going home together. At last the day of our departure and those lovely people who had taken care of us bought me the largest fire engine, turntable, lights and ladders, it was really something. I carried that fire engine all the way from Colne to Bradford.

We arrived in Foster Square in the early hours of the morning and had to walk all the way home, but it was worth it. I can tell you it really was, at last we were home. The war continued, the sirens, blackouts and overhead aircraft but this time we had a house with a large cellar, we felt safe. We were back at our own school and then we noticed things were changing around us. Local houses were vacated and then filled with soldiers. Close to Manningham Park there were tanks large and small, guns of all sizes and lorry after lorry. You name it and we had got it. As young boys we had never seen anything like it. Excitement overtook us, it was just like our own comic book adventure coming to life. But as quick as they had arrived they departed.

As one grows older it is only then you can understand your childhood. I now realise our very own war machines had been getting ready for D Day.

Well mum lived to see the end of the war but died on 22nd August, 1945 aged 38 years. Now once again we were to have a new home, this time in Staveley, Derbys. I have some fond memories of my childhood but, would I have sent my children away from the family home ? I just don’t know. What a decision for any parent to have to make. I just hope you don’t have to in the future.

I am now 11 years old and Ethel is 15 years old. We arrived in Staveley to live with our grandmother not knowing what the future held for us. The war in Europe was over but still raged in the far East. On the 6th August an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hirsoshima. Three days later another bomb was dropped on Nagaski, the Japanese surrended on the 14th August and the 15th August was named as VJ Day. After six long years the war was really over and we could look to the future.

We missed our mum and we wondered who would want two orphans, but, we were brought to Staveley to live with our grandmother, not an ideal situation but we had to make the best of it. Our life with grandmother was not a happy one and I have always felt we were not really wanted. The years passed by and Ethel looked for some happiness and married at an early age, but did not find the happiness she looked for and the marriage failed. Ethel did find her happiness and married in 1957 . She has a good husband Ron, one son, one daughter and two grandchildren.

As for myself, things just did not seem to get going. My grandmother gave up her home to go and live with her son, all without telling me and again I found myself homeless.

At this time I was courting a girl called Joan and when her mum and dad heard of my plight they said that I should live with them. Joan’s mum looked after me like a son, a good family, a good home with good food, these were things I had failed to have.

Time marched on and at long last I found the happiness I had been looking for. On the 29th March 1958 Joan and I married at Staveley Parish Church. We have a good life, two sons and five grandchildren. I had to wait 24 years for my life to take shape but the wait was really worth it. At long last I am a happy man.

I am now 71 years old and look back over the years, I am not bitter as I feel it was the era I was born into, I just wish some things could have been different, but there we are, some say our life is mapped out for us, perhaps this is true. I just hope for a better and stable world for ours sons and grandchildren, the next generation.

Mr. Peter E. Ridsdale

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