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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Wakefield Libraries & Information Services
People in story: 
Michael Campbell, Colin and Helen Campbell, Ian Campbell
Location of story: 
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Christine Wadsworth of Wakefield Libraries and Information Services on behalf of Michael Campbell and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the terms and conditions.

I lived in Eden Crescent, Leeds, West Yorkshire, near Headingley Cricket Ground with my parents Colin and Helen Dora Campbell and younger brother, Ian. My first memory of the war years is being on the beach at Staithes, on the north east coast of Yorkshire, hearing that war had been declared. My father was in a restricted occupation as he worked at a government training centre on Kirkstall Road, Leeds, training Army and Airforce mechanics, so he cancelled the holiday and we caught the train home.

My second recollection is of a nice spring day, at home in Eden Crescent. Suddenly the whole street filled with army lorries. Soldiers stood in battledress and tin hats, others just in shirts and trousers and wrapped in blankets, they had been evacuated from Dunkirk and left standing in the street whilst the lorries drove away to fetch more soldiers. My mother was in her nightdress, but she went out and took in three of the soldiers to live in our house. I had a younger brother who was only a baby and two or three days later when the billeting officer called he said that there were too many of us for the accommodation and removed one of the soldiers. Later on, after the remaining two had successfully returned to their units, our house became a billeting point. When frontline troops no longer needed to be billeted, we had Royal Army Pay Corp personnel who were stationed at Benefit House, Leeds, until they were reallocated, and then for two or three years, female munitions workers and ATS. One of the munition workers was from Shafton and the other from Barnsley.

Close bonds developed in war time. I went with one of the workers to her house — her family lived in Barnsley. Whilst there, someone was sewing by the fire and in the blackout, dropped a needle. I stood on it and it went deeply into the sole of my foot. It was pulled out with pliers and a bread poultice put on.

One day I was sent to Headingley to get a 4½ penny national loaf. The loaf was wrapped in tissue paper and felt warm and crusty as I made my way home with it. I picked at the core of the loaf until by the time I had got home the loaf was just a shell!

One night I was awoken by my parents. We had been bombed and two incendiaries had gone through the roof. Father was in the loft with a stirrup pump and a bucket chain had been formed with people passing buckets of water up the stairs. Water was being poured into the stirrup pump bucket too fast and was missing it, then father put his foot into the bucket —“ Pour it down my b---- leg”, he said. As mother carried me past the hatch, down the stairs and by the bucket chain into the garden to the Anderson Shelter, I could see flames in the loft.

Back in 1938 my father and a neighbour had dug a hole and then after someone came round with an air raid shelter, the Anderson Shelter, they assembled it and completely buried it below ground level. Whilst they had been digging the hole, they had been ridiculed by other neighbours, but when the Air raid siren went there was no room in our shelter for us because of those same neighbours! Father went in and forcibly dragged them out, but left their children in, to make room for us, his own children! I was six or seven years old and brother, Ian, a baby.

We had to wait for materials to repair the roof and then, just after it was newly repaired, there was another air raid and another incendiary bomb went through it. In that air raid high explosive bombs were dropped on Beckett’s Park, Headingley and several buildings in Leeds. Father took me down to see the bomb damage. Windows on the right hand side of Leeds Town Hall had been blown out and carpets from the rooms above were hanging down over the rooms below. To the front of the Town Hall the great sandstone blocks surrounding the flower beds had been pushed out of line. Splinter and bomb damage is still visible on the outside of the Town Hall and Art Gallery to this day!

Kirkgate Market and the Library and Museum on Park Row, where the Midland Bank now stands, were bombed at the same time. The previous day, we had been shopping in the Market and had asked for apples and were told that there weren’t any. After the bombing there was an overpowering smell of apples — the apple warehouse had been bombed — so there had been apples after all!

I collected shrapnel and traded it at school. Incendiary bombs had sheet metal, almost tin metal fins, painted green and nailed into combustible cases — everyone wanted fins and we all had live bullets!

Headingley Cricket Ground was used to store army vehicles and the large houses on Kirkstall Lane to billet soldiers. I passed along Kirkstall Lane every day and went to talk to them, they smelled of TCP and soap!

Salvage Collectors came round collecting metal for the war effort which included removing metal railings. The ornamental railings of South Parade Baptist Church at the top of Cardigan Road, Headingley, were removed, leaving shoulders of metal protruding. These were covered with a coating of cement or concrete and then the top of the wall rounded off. I saw a soldier wearing woollen gloves, press his hand into the wet cement and leave an impression of his gloved hand that was still there more than forty years later.

One summer evening, quite late — we had double summer time so it didn’t get dark until 10pm — I was standing at the gate with my parents, neighbours and their children and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Hundreds and hundreds of aeroplanes were circling overhead with more joining them. “Somebody’s going to get it tonight!” somebody said. The next day we heard on the news and it was also in the newspapers, that it had been the first bomber raid on Germany that night.

My parents arranged for us to be evacuated to a friend’s farm, Castle Farm, at Sancton near Market Weighton. We travelled there by bus and part of the journey took us across an airfield flanking both sides of the road. There were traffic lights to stop traffic for aeroplanes taking off and returning and as we stood at them a severely damaged aeroplane without wheels did a belly landing, then sliding across the road in front of us, ran into a pile of potatoes that had been harvested. Hundreds of potatoes flew up into the air. The lights changed, but the bus didn’t move, we wanted to watch and the men onboard got off.

Eden Crescent was a large circular estate and there was great camaraderie during the war years. For VE Day a street party was organised, with parade and bonfire and this was repeated for VJ Day.

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Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
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