- Contributed by
- Stockport Libraries
- People in story:
- David Huxley
- Location of story:
- Crosby, Liverpool; Horseman's Green, Shropshire; Paignton, Devon; Cheadle, Cheshire; Wilmslow, Cheshire; Guernsey.
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 November 2005
The telegram sent by David's Aunt from liberated Guernsey on 23rd May 1945. Reads, "THIS WONDERFUL TO HEAR AGAIN LOVE GREETINGS - MARGERY HUXLEY". As David comments, she was clearly ecstatic!
This story was submitted to the People's War Website by Eddy Hornby of Stockport Libraries on behalf of David Huxley and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
Liverpool, with its extensive dockland, was a dangerous place in which to live during World War II, frequent air raids — the blitz — could be very intimidating and frightening, although, as children, we seemed to take it all in our stride.. Our parents had moved to Crosby, on the Northern outskirts of the City in 1933, soon after their marriage. Their five sons — two sets of twins and me — were all born there, the youngest pair coming along in 1942. There are several theories as to the reason why Dad was never called for military service, but the most abiding one is that he was involved in food production, running a farming project for the local authority, work that was classed as ‘essential to the war effort’. Also involved in the project were local ladies, Misses Joan Eastwood, C.M. Graham and J. Matthews, all members of the Women’s Land Army. However, Dad made his contributions to defence as an A.R.P. volunteer and as a police special constable, patrolling some parts of Liverpool Docks, especially the Seaforth area, prime targets for German bombing.
We must have spent a considerable time actually in Crosby during the war years. I remember air raid shelters being erected in our road, and Dad constructing a ‘dug out’ in the back garden. Probably, the family used this quite a lot, but the only night I really remember was that of 7th/8th May, 1941 when German incendiary bombs fell on Bryant and Mays match factory at Bootle. We were taken from our bunk beds and allowed to peep out of the shelter for a few brief moments to see the spectacle. The whole sky seemed ablaze, and all subsequent bonfire nights bear no comparison to the sight we beheld then. The factory was completely destroyed. In September 1941, I was sent to a private kindergarten at Waterloo and I was a pupil there throughout the war years. We carried gas masks very often, and learned how to use them. At other schools, demonstrations concerning air raid precautions were given by the police.
The shore at Crosby had many signs of coastal defences, including anti-tank traps — concrete pyramid-shaped pillars about three feet high and set in the sand at every few feet - lined the area around the high tide marks, and there were miles of barbed wire and other defensive measures as well. Often the sky was filled with large barrage balloons. On higher ground there were look-out posts, and beyond the shore the estuary was filled continually with shipping, convoys of naval vessels and even Hospital ships bearing large red crosses, either leaving from, or returning to Liverpool. But all this did not deter frequent visits to the shore for bathing, beach games and picnics when the threat of hostile action was minimal. I also made my first real friend at that time, a boy who lived only a few doors down the same street as we did. His name was David James, and we spent many hours in ‘pretend’ games. After the War, David got a scholarship to Crosby Merchant Taylor’s School, and went on to Cambridge University. That was my last contact with him.
On the inland side of the coastal road at Crosby, some larger villa-type residences had been requisitioned for war purposes.
But Dad was always concerned that the family was in danger from enemy bombing, and he tried to get us away as often as possible. We were never officially evacuees, but I and the eldest twin brothers were taken, first to Dad’s home village, Horseman’s Green, deep in what then was the Shropshire countryside, almost cut off from the outside World, and where, I think, I remember the adults listening to a very ‘crackly’ radio broadcast announcing the declaration of war. This would be in September 1939. We stayed at Horseman’s Green for some weeks, but eventually returned to Crosby. Then sometime in 1940 we went off again to my Mother’s home in Paignton, Devon. I remember the letters which Dad wrote to us from Crosby, and especially the drawings he put at the bottom — steam trains on which he promised he would travel down to see us at some later time. And one of the very few memories I have of that time in Paignton is Dad joining us and taking me to the sea front — deserted, except for a military presence, and more defensive paraphernalia. Dad took me to what was then a milk bar — surprisingly open even in the war years. The establishment, on a prominent corner at the Harbour end of Paignton Green, still exists today, although it now is more of an ice cream and beach shop.
At another time, during the war years, we went to stay with other relations in Wilmslow, Cheshire. This visit could have been a precursor for my future life, because at the end of the war we moved to Cheadle, an adjoining town, and Wilmslow is now part of the neighbourhood. Redevelopment has seen the disappearance of the house in which we stayed, but other places still jog memories of our wartime visit. There is a terrace of cottages where another aunt lived, a pub where Dad called in for a drink — we had to sit on the doorstep outside — a farm, and nearby, the beauty spot of Alderley Edge, with its woods, and rocky outcrop from which there are extensive views over the Cheshire plain.
A final visit — more of a holiday than a refuge — was to an Uncle and family at a rather remote farm at Todmorden. We ‘helped’ with the hay making, and played games with our girl cousins, hardly aware of the war and all its horrors.
Towards the end of the war, probably in 1944, Crosby seemed to be invaded by American soldiers, and a type of ‘headquarters’, perhaps an officers’ mess, was established there. The boys used to ask the soldiers ‘got any gum, Chum?’ and often they were rewarded. I remember seeing the young men and women soldiers strolling around the area, and hearing for the first time the sound of ‘boogy-woogy’ dance music coming from the ‘headquarters’ building. My first encounter with ‘grown-up’ life!
At the end of the war there were VE and VJ celebrations at Crosby and these can still be remembered. One of our Aunts had been a nursing sister at a hospital in Guernsey throughout the war, and I still have the tattered remnants of the telegram which she sent to Dad at the time of liberation. She was ecstatic! And a final memory was being taken to view a German U Boat, captured and put on public display in a Liverpool dock.
But the family’s sights were now on the move to Cheadle, where we arrived in September 1945. And my first memory — a torchlight procession through the town to open parkland upon which was a huge bonfire, Cheadle’s celebration of the return of peace.
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