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I was born in 1931 , in 1939 I was 8 years old, at that time I lived at 11 Heortness Road , Central Estate Hartlepool. This was the very end house near the arch or tunnel over which there was a main railway line,where coal and goods trains ,ran to the docks ,the road that ran through the tunnel led to the sandy banks and then on to the beach as well as to the Palister works.
My father rented from the LNER, an allotment adjacent to our house ,and around about 1940 The army came and sank a big pipe into the garden and placed explosives down the pipe and sealing it, this evidently was in case of an invasion, also there were anti tank blocks at each side of the arch ,on the street side.
The Palister Works- (now known as The Steetly Monazite Works) was supposed to be making fire bricks but it was thought that they were making Magnesium for incendiary bombs.
We had an Anderson Shelter in the garden which we often had to resort to,when the moaning siren went “off “during the night, everybody carried on their business as usual next morning, having to get up for school after being up all night was no fun.
One night there was a Whistler dropped on the Central United Working Mans Club that didn’t explode till later on the next day. It was also about this time that Union Road was bombed and a complete family called Johnstone were all killed.
I was attending Throston School when some of my friends were evacuated to Kirby Moorside -but I didn’t go, I remember one morning going to school and found that the school had been bombed during the night and the roof was completely missing I was “Elated” but we had to take school lessons in local houses one hour a day until the school was repaired.
Some of the daft memories were - getting prepared for the first air raids the teachers lined us up on the sands close to the wall, under the overhang of the promenade - until some one asked " What will we do if the tide is up " that stopped that exercise. Shortly after this all the promenade was barb wired off, anyhow.
The town moor was at one time , wired off and completely covered with Rockets , and at the edge of the moor, there was a barrage balloon, this was when I was attending Galley's Field School - which I left when I was 14, in Old Nicks ( John Nickolsons) class.
I suppose it started on Sept.3rd 1939 at the age of 11yrs, the family were listening to Chamberlain giving the news of the war starting. On hearing this I rushed to the back street to tell my mates about it ,one of them said the Germans had machined gunned the neighbours washing as it was full of holes, another said the Germans had landed in Newcastle. That is how the rumours started.
I had just started at Richard Hind School.Things were quiet for a while till the middle of 1940 and shelters began to go up,at first there very few. At school they built them at the end of the playground with earth on top which we turned into vegetable gardens,and in our street only a few were built in the backyards.
My father had a leather stall in the market from which he sold materials to repair footwear, so we thought it might be rationed but it never came to pass.
We had quite a few airraids so we had to go in the neighbours shelter, but before they were built we stopped under the stairs and slept there all night, but we could still hear the drone of enemy planes, sometimes bombs would fall.
Going to school one morning one had fallen in St.Peters Road and more bombs fell at the bottom of Norton Avenue, killing some residents, they had tried to hit the railway bridge but the stick of bombs landed where Roseworth is now.
As the war proceeded I joined the A.T.C.cadets and learned how to fire all types of small arms, we were given a rifle to take home and learn how to strip and clean it. We went to different airfields for the weekends and fired Sten guns and American carbines and later on in the war we got to go for a flight in a Avro Anson and a Dominique biplane. We also learnt how to navigate and signalling.
My father was finally called up and went into the medical corps so my mother and I had to run the business ourselves. We closed the shop and just ran the stall on Wed and Sat. The stall was built on a old wagon chassis which we pulled down to the market set it up, my mother obtained permission for me to be late getting in on a Wednesday morning.
Every market we would have a queue for leather and nails and studs which in short supply as they came from Belgium. Fewsters also had a queue and Marshes biscuits, Fewsters was for tomatoes.
I left school at 15yrs and started as an apprentice at Pickerings Lifts, but it was not all lifts that were being made, it was nose cones for bombs, Bailey bridges and trench mortars.
My father was discharged in 1944 after serving in Tunisia and Italy but he was never the same as he had Malaria and chest infection.
There must be some things I have missed like us children holding raffles and jumble sales for aid to Russia and Wings for Victory weeks to buy a Spitfire.
At 18 I was called up and served in Germany: Dec.1946 until 1949 but that is another story as I was in the R.A.F.Police.
Wartime Memories of a Yorkshire Lad
I was almost six years old when war was declared and living in Bridlington on the East Yorkshire coast. My father, a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve, had already been called up in June 1939 along with thousands of others. His duty station was RAF Driffield, a bomber station located about 12 miles away. Because so many VRs had arrived at the base, he still came home every night by hitch-hiking as there was insufficient accommodation for everybody. My Uncle Harry, who had joined the RAF in 1933, was also based there but lived on the base.
My first personal memory of the war is of being at a Saturday matinee at the old Roxy cinema when the sirens sounded for the first time, though I can't recall the actual date. The film stopped and we were all told to go home as fast as we could. As I was running home with my friends, I saw a strange rotor craft, a Cierva Autogyro, flying parallel to the coast line. Presumably, this was the cause of the alert being sounded as no air raid ensued. (From early childhood, I was, and still am, plane-crazy. )
In more recent years, I was reading about the development of the radar stations around the UK coastline when I learned that these Autogyros were used to calibrate the early radar stations which looked like mini-Eiffel towers. Two units of these had been erected near Bridlington, one at Bempton on the cliff top for low-level coverage and the other a bit further inland at Staxton Wold for high-level long-range early -warning duties. The actual plotting rooms were underground built into the chalk cliffs. (In the 1950s, as a member of the Royal Observer Corps, I had the opportunity to visit the Bempton site and tour the underground centre. We also able to go to sea in a gale with the Air-Sea Rescue boats which were still operating there at the time..it was quite a ride!) I presume that is why I saw that machine that day. In 1999, I had a reunion in Bridlington with two former playmates, Colin Cruddas and David Wright, who were with me that day in 1939. They also remembered the incident!
Being a coastal town with firm beaches and good low cliffs to the south, the town was an obvious place to be considered for an invasion, so the sea front was soon off limits and festooned with barbed wire and gun emplacements etc. We began to be the subject of "tip and run" bombing attacks by single aircraft flying in very low to get under the radar. Quite often, the bombs had dropped before the sirens sounded. The most visible action was August 15 when a large force of Ju-88s bombed RAF Driffield. Three Ju88s were shot down quite close to Bridlington by RAF fighters which were waiting for them as they fled. My father was on duty when Driffield was hit during the lunch hour. Several people, mainly WAAFs, were killed when a shelter was hit. He helped to pull the injured out and never forgot the sight.
A number of Whitley bombers were destroyed and one hangar demolished. For many years, the scars of bullet and shrapnel holes could be seen in the other hangars. By an odd coincidence, my wife's future step-father was harvesting corn with a horse-drawn reaper in a field adjacent to the aerodrome and one of the gunners took a shot at him as they swept in at low-level towards the hangars.
Shortly after this, my father was posted to a crash recovery unit, 60 MU, which was based at Shipton, just outside York. It was decided that we would be safer there, so my mother took my 4-year old baby sister and me to live in Haxby, a village about 5 miles from the city. Our accommodation was a shared bungalow with a widow and her small son. Unfortunately, her husband had been killed while serving in the Army in Egypt. My Dad's job had him roaming all over the country side retrieving downed aircraft, but he did get to spend many nights with us.
The small village school was overloaded as there was a large contingent of evacuees from Hull living at Haxby Hall. I still have a report card which shows that there were 49 in my class! Head lice and skin diseases were rife amongst the evacuees who had come from very poor areas. My mother worked as a cook at the Hall, so we used to go there after school. Naturally, I succumbed and acquired lice and chicken pox,measles etc, so was eventually banned from going there. I well remember having my hair combed with a steel comb over a newspaper every night to get rid of the eggs which we called "nits".
One amusing memory was watching the Home Guard defend the village against a locally -based army unit. The school was on the village main street and we were on the mid-afternoon playtime watching events. One enterprising Homeguardsman hid himself by climbing into a water barrel outside the local garage immediately across the street. As the advancing army patrol eased along the street, one of them crouched alongside the barrel. Dozens of kids were screaming and pointing to the barrel until the trooper cottoned on to the message!
On one of our trips back to Bridlington for a visit to my grandmother, we were on a train which was brought to a halt about a mile short of the station. Everyone was ordered to get out and get into a ditch as there was an air raid in progress. When we eventually pulled into the station, we could see the heavy damage that had been done to the goods depot. One of the injured was an uncle, Len Dixon, who was a haulage contractor. He was there loading his truck when the bombs exploded. In spite of having a large chunk of shrapnel pass through his upper body, he managed to drive a nearby fuel tanker away from the blaze before seeking help. The first of the heavy night raids on York began while we lived in Haxby and we would watch,from the window, all the searchlights, gunfire and the glow of the fires. The lane we lived on had houses on one side only, so we had an unobstructed view across the fields. On one occasion, my parents had gone to Bridlington to attend the wedding of one of my Dad's sisters, a WAAF who was marrying a Military Policeman. Because of school, I didn't go and the landlady , a Mrs. Evans, agreed to keep an eye on me.That night was York's worst raid in which the main target was the railway station. It was very badly damaged. RAF night fighters got involved and I distinctly remember a Beaufighter chasing an HE111 at low level almost above us. Mrs. Evans came into my bedroom to get me to the shelter in the garden and was horrified to find me standing on my bed watching out of the window. The next morning, there were spent cartridge cases and links all over the place.
Being about 7 years old at the time, I was an "expert" at aircraft recognition thanks to my Dad. He used to carve models from scraps of wood for me in his spare time and would bring home copies of aircraft recognition pamphlets. But his carving days were abruptly ended in late 1941. He was at Linton on Ouse and, for some reason, was asked to swing the prop on a Tiger Moth to start the engine. His foot slipped and he fell towards the prop and it almost severed his right hand. Amazingly, surgeons managed to re-attach it and he was in a cast for over a year and always going off to have more surgery done. In between these trips, he continued to go out to inspect crashed aircraft to decide whether they should be dismantled, broken up or fixed and flown out of the site which entailed stripping the aircraft to reduce weight, putting minimal fuel in, knocking down hedges and filling in ditches etc. Dismantled or scrapped aircraft were hauled out on 60 feet long trailers, known as Queen Marys, and used to rebuild other damaged aircraft. It was also a very gruesome job at times removing human remains before they started.
In early 1942, we moved into the York and rented a terrace house near Rowntrees chocolate factory. Most of the factory had been converted into a production facility manufacturing 37 mm anti-aircraft shells. A small area was left to produce chocolate, mostly the heavy dark stuff which was used in emergency rations for aircrew. My mother got a job in the munitions factory where she was located on the top floor of a multi-storey building. Her job was to insert the fuses into the nose of the shell. Her hands were through two holes in a protective screen as it was a dangerous job, so dangerous that that was the reason that that function was performed on the top floor. To get to her work station, she had to pass through the chocolate factory and was allowed to eat as much as she wanted on the job. Naturally, after a few days, she didn't bother. But, one of the perks of the job was that the munitions workers were allowed a small extra ration of broken bits etc to bring home every week. At the time, we were allowed about 2 ounces per week on our ration books.
It is worth mentioning here that we only saw oranges and bananas at Christmas time, a few being imported for children only. Similarly, nuts were almost unknown. I remember a school outing in 1945 to Hull docks. We were taken aboard a ship which was loaded with nothing but peanuts, still in their shells, and we were all allowed to stuff our mouths and pockets with all we could carry. I don't recall every tasting a peanut before this trip.
My mother's shifts were rotated, two weeks on the 12-hour day shift then two weeks on the night shift. When she was on day shift, my sister, too young for school, was in a day-care centre run by Rowntrees. I went to school just across the road from the factory. When my mother drew the night shift, she went on duty in the early evening and my sister and I were left alone, Dad being away most of the time. Each night, we slept in a shelter built under the staircase and I remember it being well padded with pillows to make it cosy.
One night, there was a raid developing over York with all the usual thuds,bangs and the crack of exploding anti-aircraft shells overhead. Through the early part of the raid, the factory continued to work as normal. Rowntrees had its own raid spotters on the roof top to decide if the raid was getting too close for comfort. Eventually, they decided that production should stop and the buildings be evacuated. This was done in an orderly fashion, the floors being emptied in sequence starting with the lower floors.Being on the top floor, my mother was one of the last out and by then the raid was getting quite intense and close.
She, and many others with children, decided to make a run for it. As she was crossing a railroad bridge adjacent to the factory, a stick of bombs exploded nearby, hitting the local gas works. The ensuing blast blew her off the bridge, but fortunately she landed on the railway cutting embankment and rolled down. Luckily, she suffered just a few cuts and bruises, so got up and ran to see if we were alright. Naturally, we were very glad to see her come through the door! We were without gas for several days which was quite an inconvenience as we only had gas powered lighting in the house we were renting at the time. Our school was partly damaged so we got a few days off to our delight; my friends and I roamed the streets looking for shrapnel to add to our collections. In those days, most boys avidly gathered shrapnel, spent bullets and cartridge casings. To get a piece of a crashed German aircraft was a treasure. My prize piece was the bomb release selector box from a crashed He 111 which my Dad had acquired for me. ( I traded it away many years after the war for a collection of aircraft photos.)
There is an amazing sequel to this event. In later life, I worked in the international sales department for an American aircraft manufacturer. As part of my duties, I would attend the Farnborough Air Show to entertain airline guests. One evening, after a hectic day at the 1986 show, I had returned to our hotel on Park Lane in London and decided that I only wanted a snack. There was a small restaurant nearby , so I decided to go there. When I entered, it was quite crowded, but I saw a man signalling me from his table where he was sitting alone. It was a fellow corporate employee, Wolfgang Falcke, a very famous ex-Luftwaffe fighter pilot, who was based at our office in Bonn, Germany.
Being an aviation history buff, naturally I took the opportunity to talk to him about his wartime exploits. Then he asked me where I was at the time and I told him. Wolfgang then told me that in 1938 he was a member of a Luftwaffe aerobatic team flying biplane trainers which had been invited to perform at the opening of the civilian airport at Clifton, just outside York. Mr Rowntree invited all the visiting pilots to his home afterwards and then took them on a tour of the factory. He then stunned me by telling me that he had "gone along for the ride" on a bombing mission to destroy Rowntrees factory, which German intelligence sources had identified as a munitions factory. But, he admitted, the reconnaissance flight the following day showed that they had missed it but hit the gas works! When I told him my side of the story, he asked me to apologise to my mother, which I was able to do and she asked me to forgive him.
In the summer of 1943, the decision was made to return to Bridlington. For the first few months, we lived with my mother's sister. Her husband, who had a coal delivery service with a horse-drawn rulley, was also member of the local Auxiliary Fire Service. Apart from the turn-outs for local fires, at the height of the bombing raids on Hull, he and his fellow volunteers would set off for Hull ,some thirty miles away, as soon as the sirens sounded there. Sometimes they were there for two or three days at a stretch.
Eventually, we were able to rent a house which had been damaged by bomb blast and had received temporary repairs. The row of houses immediately across the street had received a direct hit and about 15 houses had been totally destroyed with loss of life, so when we moved in, it was still just a very large pile of rubble. The last bomb in the stick fell in a field behind this row and the crater is still there today.The living room space was almost entirely filled up with a massive steel table which had steel netting sides which hinged along the top to allow one to crawl inside to lay on another steel netting bed covered by a large mattress. These were a cheap form of air raid shelter which equipped many homes in those days. To take the weight, massive concrete pillars had been built under the floorboards. It was a real nuisance and we had it removed shortly after we moved in, though I remember my sister and I liked to sleep in it initially for the novelty.
For one of my summer holidays, I went to stay with one of my Dad's sisters; she had married a tenant farmer who had a farm near Hull. The farmhouse had no form of power, lighting being by oil lamps and water was from a well via a hand pump over the kitchen sink. Toilet facilities were represented by a two-holer privy which was emptied by shovel at regular intervals and dumped on the land. He had a batch of Italian POWs working for him around the farm. I think they were just glad to be out of the war and were treated very well. Another aunt had joined the Women's Land Army on a nearby dairy farm, so I also got to spend time with her milking cows and delivering milk to the large dairy nearby.
One vacation trip we took was up to Blyth in Northumberland to see my mother's family; all were coal miners thus exempt from military service. They lived in a long row of connected houses; lighting was by gas and cooking was on a coal fire which was never allowed to go out. There were two rows of cottages divided by a road. In the middle of the road were individual toilets and coal storage bunkers for each house. It was a cold trip in the middle of the night! The big thrill for me was taking the old cable powered ferry across the harbour and seeing the submarines and destroyers etc tied up. Shipyards also lined the river banks. Convoys of colliers sailed from here to make the hazardous voyage hugging the East Coast carrying coal to the Thames ports etc and were the frequent target of German torpedo boats, aerial attacks and minelayers. When there were Westerly gales blowing, Bridlington Bay would be full of shipping sheltering in the lee of Flamborough Head.
Throughout the war, the RAF had a strong presence in Bridlington. Apart from the Air-Sea Rescue launches of 1104 Marine Craft Unit, there was an Initial Training Wing for potential aircrew members. It was a common sight to see columns of RAF aircrew recruits with their distinguishing white flashes on the front of their forage caps, learning the basics of drill on the seafront.
The RAF commandeered the Spa Royal Hall and other buildings as class rooms and barracks for the trainees. Some boarding houses were required to accommodate the permanent staff, my Grandmother's being one of them. She had a mixed batch of RAF sergeant instructors and several WAAFs who were on the headquarters staff. I got to know them all quite well as my mother went into hospital for several months so I had to go and live there; my sister was taken in by an aunt. One of the WAAFs was the Commanding Officer's secretary. At lunch time, I would dash from school, catch a Williamson's bus into town to meet her and walk to Granny's for lunch with her before dashing back to school. Ah, puppy love! After the war, many of her "guests" continued to visit Granny for many years.
East Yorkshire was the home of 4 Group, Bomber Command with many airfields in the area. The two closest were Lissett, some six miles away, which was home to 158 Squadron, equipped with Handley Page Halifaxes. Even closer, the massive emergency landing field at Carnaby was only a couple of miles away. Carnaby had a runway which was five times the width of normal runways and 9,000 feet long. It was one of the few airfields equipped with FIDO (Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation). This was a perforated pipeline running down each side of the runway with additional pipes set up to form a lead in at the end of the runway. When it was foggy and aircraft couldn't see to land, petrol was pumped through the lines and ignited. The heat would raise the fog so pilots could dive under it and land in warm but clear visibility. How warm was it? You could feel the warm air from the town! Was it expensive?; yes! it consumed 1.7 million gallons in the month of December 1944 alone to save 22 aircraft and their crews. One of the most spectacular departures from Carnaby was over 70 B-24 Liberators from an American bomb group which had diverted there a couple of days earlier when fog had closed their base in East Anglia.
For me, living in Bridlington was a plane-spotters paradise. We would watch the bomber squadrons forming up to head out for Germany using Flamborough Head as the starting point. Different types of fighters were always around with a Gunnery School being located at Catfoss, a few miles away which used a couple of ranges in Bridlington Bay for practice.
But the RAF was not the only military formation to invade the town. Shortly after we moved back to Bridlington, a thousand Polish troops were billeted in the town and formed an all-Polish regiment. We kids soon established a close bond with many of these men. We would be playing cricket or soccer in a local park and they would come to encourage us and practice their English. Another place we would mingle with them was at a local amusement arcade, Joyland. which remained open during the war. It had a bumper car arena, so we would wait until a soldier boarded a car alone, then run across and ask if we could ride with them. We were rarely refused though the management were not too happy about it and always throwing us out. Obviously, many had left their own families to the horrors of Nazi occupation, so were very happy to talk to us. After a while, these troops moved elsewhere and a similar contingent of Czechoslovakian troops replaced them for a period and we developed a rapport with them too. In early 1944, the next batch of troops arrived; this time, they were The Green Howards, a Yorkshire regiment which was amongst the first to land in Normandy and were survivors of Dunkirk.
A couple of months later, the Green Howards were replaced by the 17/21st Lancers, a famous Scottish regiment which was part of an armoured division equipped with Sherman tanks. The regiment was easily identifiable as its cap badge was a skull and crossbones. Several of my friends were keen collectors of regimental badges, so we knew how to identify the units.The streets were lined with these tanks plus all their support echelons of guns, trucks, water tankers, fuel tankers, transporters etc. Just before they left, the King, accompanied by Princess Elizabeth and Field Marshall Montgomery, drove around the town to review the troops. At the time, I was still living with my Granny and my Dad was home on leave, so he took me to the end of the street to watch them drive past on Hilderthorpe Road. Around the end of May, these tanks and vehicles disappeared almost over night by rail to an unknown destination.
Shortly afterwards, on June 6 1944, we were all called into assembly at school for the headmaster to tell us that the Allied forces had landed in France. Towards the latter part of the war, I heard the V-1 Buzz bombs passing overhead with their distinctive noise. These were being air-launched from under the wings of modified German bombers over the North Sea and aimed at places like Sheffield and Manchester. Other than this, we had suffered very little attention from the Luftwaffe from mid-1943.
On May 8 1945, VE-Day, again we were called into assembly to hear the news and Churchill's speech. Then, to our delight, we were given the rest of the day off. After VJ-Day in August 1945, we built a massive bonfire on the bomb site utilising timber we had salvaged from the wreckage. One of my pal's father was a Captain in the Home Guard, so he brought a stack of thunderflashes to liven the proceedings. plus some cordite etc to ignite the fire. From somewhere, my Dad produced boxes of distress flares from dingy packs as they were scheduled for destruction by other means. These were a joy to us as fireworks just were not available for another couple of years.
Throughout the war, almost all of the teachers that I encountered were female. The only two males that I recall was the headmaster at the last school I attended in this period plus a one armed-ex soldier who had been invalided out. The headmaster was very old and quickly replaced by a returning serviceman in 1946.
One thing that I remember about war time rationing was the clothing situation. Like almost everything else, you had to have coupons to buy clothes. In spite of this, I was always fitted out with made to measure jackets and pants. My mother would take me on the bus to a little back street tailor in Hull to obtain these. In hind sight, I'm sure a lot of these transactions were part of the"black-market" which thrived in those days. Just how she came across this source, I never knew.
In spite of rationing, in the small local shops there always seemed to be a little extra for the regular customers slipped into your shopping bag. I know this for certain as I was the main shopper after we moved back to Bridlington. My mother got a job in a local dairy delivering milk door to door from a hand-cart carrying a couple of large churns from which she dispensed the milk using measured ladles. When she was through with this very arduous work, she would spend the rest of the day cleaning the dairy equipment. At the tender age of nine and ten, I would be given money and a list to do the shopping for her. I can still remember most of it by rote.. sugar, butter, marge, lard, ham, tea, eggs, bacon, jam, tinned fruit.......
Terry Waddington. Orergon. USA
Grangetown (Middlesbrough) was my birthplace but I was brought up in Southbank at 29 Oliver Street, being seven when war was declared. My father worked at the Malleable Steelworks in Stockton and was a member of the Home Guard (Royal Artillery) manning "Z" guns at Brambles Farm. My mother was a traditional housewife.
Brick and concrete shelters equipped with bunks for each family were built into the "back arches" (alley ways behind the houses) and it was into these we rushed whenever the sirens sounded.
There were few exceptions to this practice. One of these exceptions occurred on the night of 11/12 March 1943. My father was not on "the guns " that night having just got in from work, I had bronchitis and my mother made the decision that we would not go into the shelter that night for fear of making my illness worse. We took refuge under the stairs, considered to be the strongest point in any house, blissfully ignoring the gas meter that sat beside us.
My father went out onto the front step to watch the action as it built up, and after a few minutes he called me to come to the front door to see a German aircraft caught in a cone of searchlights. It was the first enemy aircraft that I had seen and it was quite exiting, not frightening, but thrilling.
The fright came a few seconds later. The aircraft was visible high over the roof tops to the south west flying on a north easterly track and ignoring the number of searchlights now holding it. Without warning it dived, the engine noise increased and there was the distinctive sound of falling bombs. "In !", shouted my father but we were already on the move, through the small lobby, past the glass door and into the living room. We were probably halfway across the room when the blast hit us knocking us off our feet and throwing us against the settee on the far wall. I can remember the intense pain in my ears, the strong movement of air and the noise.
My father picked himself up, he had been knocked on his back by the blast, closed the doors and switched on the light. As the light came on the initial reaction of all three of us was laughter. Our faces were black! The blast moving through the house had swept the chimney covering everything and everybody in soot. Amazingly we did not suffer any broken windows probably because the blast could move freely through the house.
The bombs that night had fallen at Skipper's Lane, at the Police Station, ( Napier St. at its junction with Middlesbrough Rd.) and the north end of Normanby Road near the railway.
There is a story connected to the Police Station bomb. When the bombs fell an off duty police sergeant set off for the Police Station not knowing that one of the bombs had exploded close to it. In the darkness he fell down the crater, damaged an ankle and had to be rescued.
There is a postscript to the events of that night. King St., forms a T-junction with Oliver St.,and two houses face up Oliver St. The morning after the raid the slates on the roofs of those two houses were seen to be rippled upwards by the bomb blast as it was channelled down Oliver St. They stayed in that condition until circa 1980 when the slates were replaced but the difference between these houses and the others can still be clearly seen.
The photo' was taken in 1940/41 outside the home of the Barnett Family in Oliver St., South Bank, Middlesbrough.
The boys are, L to R back row: Norman Turnbull; Frank Barry; Jim Barnett. Front row L to R; Stan Barnett; Harold Millican.
Norman Frank and Stan would be 8 at this time, Harold and Jim a year younger. Norman was the officer (self elected because he had the gun) Harold's "tin hat" has a wider brim than the others because it is a replica "Air Raid Warden's" tin hat. Harold's father was an Air Raid Warden.
I was just a little kid, but I can tell you a little bit of what it was like in those days.
Everyone had to carry a gas mask around with them all of the time. Every day in school we would have a drill and practice putting them on filing out to the air raid shelter in the field behind the school. Most of us thought it was great fun as it got us out of the classroom for a while. I remember one kid that was scared of his gas mask so they gave him a Mickey Mouse mask.
Everyone in the family had a ration book and I always remember the page that had the coupons to buy sweets such as chocolates etc. I had 3 sisters and they all had sweet tooths and they always used their coupons up in a hurry and tried to beg for mine. I didn't care for sweets that much so I ended up selling them my coupons to the highest bidder.
Because we fought so much over the sugar and butter etc. our Mother would put the week's sugar and butter etc. into jam jars and put our names on them so we would only take what was ours. You still had to hide your stash so nobody would take it.
I was 14 when war was declared, Patrol leader in the St Lukes troop. We were asked to go after school to put up black out shutters in the wards of Sheffield Infirmary, sleeping over night in an empty ward ready to take the shutters down in the morning before biking back to school at Wisewood.
Watched the Sheffield blitz from the flat roof of the Hospital helping A.R.P. put incendiaries out by filling buckets with sand, no tin lid, shrapnel flying everywhere. Didn't realise the danger. Getting back to school the days following what a mess, trams in bits or their sides bodies every where, had to push the bike home.
Early '43 put a year on my age (I was 16) as they were taking 17 year olds for potential air crew. My brother Jack was flying Spitfires in 1940. Being under age dad wouldn't sign the form so I did. Given a years deferment I was surprised when I was called up a couple of weeks later (they had made a mistake).
Sent to a P.A.C.T Preliminary Air Crew Training Centre at Ealing Tech Collage for 6 months. The aptitude tests I had shown I would get dizzy, so I couldn't be a pilot.
D.Day at an I.T.W. in Hornchurch all the planes and R.A.F. Regiment vehicles acquired white strips over night, watching the buzz bombs fly over and seeing some of our fighter pilots tipping their wings to send them off course.
Decided the war was passing me by so transferred to become a Dispatch Rider, only to be stationed far away from the battle zone at Berwick on Tweed. Taking despatches all over in all weathers. Attached to an M.S.U.T, (Mobile Servicing Unit Torpedoes) with a Mosquito Squadron escorting this unit down country to Barnstaple in Devon, sampling as many ales as I could. V.E. day came, and demobbed.
My Dad was recalled just before the war started. I remember the Sunday morning September 3, 1939 when war on Germany was declared. I was about 14 years old. My Mom cried all day. We 3 older kids cried too whenever we saw Mom crying. My younger sister was about 8 years old and she cried at the drop of a hat anyway. After a few days it was old hat to us and we had kind of stopped the crying jags, but Mom never did.
I remember one night when the German planes followed our planes in and started to bomb and strafe the area. I had to help Mom carry my younger brother and sister downstairs into a cupboard under the stairs.
I remember when they rationed food. We felt sure we would starve to death. We were issued ration books, ID cards and gas masks. We had to take them with us whenever we left the house.
The total blackout was scary. It was strictly adhered to.
I remember listening to Lord Haw Haw every night on the radio and quite often after listening to him we'd be afraid to go to sleep. And to think that traitor was from Darlington.
I remember sitting in the air raid shelter in the yard listening to my Grandma sing Salvation Army Songs and also listening for the German planes and hearing the ACK ACK guns.
I was still kid enough to think it was a huge joke. Our parents were the ones who suffered especially if the husband and father was in the service. The mother had a double dose of trouble. She was solely responsible for the care and safety of her children and also for making the dismal rations stretch enough so we didn't go hungry.
I can remember walking around bombed out buildings after the air raids and seeing the families of the area crying silently for their loved ones who were hurt or killed.
We didn't have anything like they did in London but it was bad enough.
Mary Constance (Connie) Smith nee Elsworth
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