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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Byker at War

by radionewcastle

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ron Cavanagh
Location of story: 
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 July 2004

This story was submitted to the BBC People's War website by Alex Bent on behalf of Ron Cavanagh and has been added with his permission. The author fully understands the BBC People's War projects and its aim to create the largest online archive of stories of a nation at war.

A child of Byker, Newcaslte Upon Tyne, I was to be 5 years and 6 months old when the war began. My first direct memory was a Sunday in September when a lady and gentleman dressed in dark blue uniforms and wearing tin hats ran into the street blowing upon their tin whistles and advising us to get under the dining room table and pack furniture such as settees and easy chairs around us. We were not to emerge until an “all clear siren” was to be heard. For me this was the first of many I would hear living as I did near the local industries such as the shipyards, Parsons factory, and Pearson Engineering works.
My father worked as a joiner in the ship yard and was exempt from military service due to the need to have such people available to build - and repair - the many military ships and merchant navy vessels. My uncle was in the same category as he was a specialist with the furnaces at Parsons.
Often, my father would be away at the yard for days on end and all he would say was that there was a lot of work to be done. Later I found out that damaged ships had to be repaired as quickly as possible so as they could be back in service rapidly. It made it difficult sometimes when people lost family at the front either by death, “missing” or prisoner and some would say that folk such as my father were shirking.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Reserved Occupations Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Tyneside and Northumberland Category
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