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My Family in War

by ateamwar

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

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People in story: 
Great Granddad & Great Grandma Cornwall, Grandma and Granddad, Mam and Dad Joyce, Fred and Irene Welsh
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11 August 2005

In 1939 there were four generations living in a little terraced house at 168 Smithdown Lane, Liverpool 7.

Great Grandma and Great Granddad Cornwall, Grandma Elizabeth Ann Welsh, Granddad Frederick Welsh, mother Annie Welsh, dad Frederick Welsh, me, Elizabeth Joyce Welsh, born March 22nd 1935, my brother Frederick Welsh born April 20th 1937. Great Grandma Cornwall died before the war started, she had a stroke.
In 1940 my father was called up, he had a choice which service he could join, he chose the RAF although he was terrified of planes. He didn’t go far while he was training because he seemed to be at home a lot till the end of 1941. My sister, Irene Welsh, was born on March 30th 1941.
My Grandmother got a job in the ammunition factory in Kirby. I don’t know how she got there; there must have been a bus in Paddington end of our road. Grandma was a supervisor and worked long hours. The job didn’t scare her, but she was scared going to work and coming home because she had to pass a big chimney in Smithdown Lane that lets the air into the railway. The chimney had a big crack in it, and she was always having nightmares that it would fall down on her as she passed one day on her way to work.
My dad was in Bomb Disposal and was away a long time. Long after the war he told me they were trying to sort a bomb out and it blew up, the two men and my dad were not injured but the man in charge, who was behind then, was killed outright. My dad could never understand that.
Although my dad was in the RAF he very rarely went in a plane, but one day a group of them had to fly, the Pilot was a talkative man telling them where they were. The Pilot got very excited when they were flying round Italy, over a volcano. He said, look on your right lads, there’s Vesuvius, my dad shouted, never mind the volcano, get us down!
I hardly ever saw my Granddad, I think he was a bin man, in fact I know he was a bin man but I don’t know if he did it in the war. On May Day, he always brought his horse home dressed up. The horses’ stables are in our lane. I think granddad must have been Warden at night, but I don’t know for sure.
When the siren went off, me and Freddie put our Siren suits on, very easy to put on, legs in, arms in, and zip up. I think we took our gas masks, my sister being a baby, had a big gas case to go in. The air raid shelter was over the road from our house. It was under the foundations of Sydney Gardens. The Air raid shelter had lots of bunk beds, and people playing banjos and piano accordions. We seemed to have our own little place every time we went in. A lot of houses got knocked down very near us. When we came out of the air raid shelter one night the sky was very bright and we could see flames. Lewis’s had been hit. My Great Granddad never came into the shelter; he hid under the stairs in the house. A lot of people in the shelter had to be re-housed, they lost everything.
Great Granddad came over to the air raid shelter one night in a terrible state, my mam thought the house had gone. What’s the matter, my mam said, Great Granddad could hardly speak. Eventually he got it out, he said “the soot has come down the chimney and all the nappies are black”!
My Great Granddad died before the war ended, my mam got a house in the same lane as Grandma, but I stayed with Grandma to have my own bedroom. Dad came home when I was 11, he brought me a compact with makeup in it, he must have thought I was older.
I was four when the war started, I don’t know if that is when you start remembering things, but I thought as a child this is what life is, this is what happens all your life. I’m glad I was wrong.
P.S. I started school in 1940 at Chatworth Street School. I was there for four weeks when they had to find us places in other schools because our building was taken over by the Fire Engines.

‘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

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