The Wartime Memories Project - Children in World War Two

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As a 4 year old during Christmas 1940 and living in Salford, Lancs. our family mother father and elder sister would take to the air raid shelter in the back garden, it was always wet inside even after my father had pumped it out during the day, on Christmas eve 1940 the sirens sounded around 10pm, at this time we were living on Odetta Ave off Lancaster Road, three bombs fell close that night, one hit the semi across the road, one knocked the sirens off the fire station at the bottom of Lightoaks Road, and the other fell into the playing field for De la Salle school on Lancaster road.

I remember even in those early years I used to collect pieces of shrapnel that we found in the road, and kept them in a box in my bedroom. During the day I attended a kindergarten school called Park House just off Eccles Road, and I remember the sirens going off during the day (usually a false alarm). We would all be herded into the basement,and each person had recite a poem or sing a song I guess to keep a stiff upper lip.

I remember coming home one day holding my sisters hand and mother greeting us at the door with "where`s your school cap?". As the war years rolled on my sister and were taken each night to Teapot Hall on Racliff Park Road it was a nurses home then and I guess they thought we would all safe there, until one night it got hit by incendiaries,then it was a big panic to get us all out

After this we would be picked up each night and transferred to Salford buses and given sandwiches and a small bottle of milk and blanket then driven up on the Pennines until daylight then back home.

Other memories: On VE night I was woken up by my parents to join in the celebrations, and the following days we had a street party on Burnside Ave, months later we all stood on alert as the army removed a 1000lb unexploded bomb from the playing fields on Lancaster Road.

One vivid memory is the ack ack gun that the Salford Corporation used to run around the neighbourhood and fire a few shots into the air, and my mother saying, "There's our lads giving them hell".

Geoff Johnson

I was living in Collyhurst, Manchester during the war and I can remember going to visit my aunt with my mother. My aunt lived in Hayden Street over Queens Road. As we got half way there the sirens started up and we had to run as fast as we could to my aunt`s house to avoid being bombed. When we arrived we joined the rest of the family under the stairs. The bombs where pretty close and you could hear them whistling and then there would be a silence and you just waited for the bang. That day it hit the next street from Hayden Street so that was pretty close. We also used to go in the air raid shelters when we had the time to get there.

After the war I remember we used to slide down these shelters as the ones near Collyhurst flats had a lovely slope on them but the one in Erasmus Street was just a flat roof. I can also remember the old gas masks which were not very comfortable to wear and you could smell the rubber on them.

Pauline Hesketh

I was a five year old child, living in Davyhulme, near Manchester, in 1939. Recollections of those times are as follows:-

The Right Honourable Neville Chamberlain's announcement that we were at war, which came over the old HMV valve radio. The adults seemed to be very grave and serious at the prospect of a war, whilst we, as naive juniors, thought it was very exciting.

The first barrage balloon which went up from a specially fenced off area in the local park.

My father, as an air raid warden, and the local hut where the wardens discussed their strategies. To me, it was a smoke filled den with a dart board and other items of "secret men's business"!

The rubbery smell of the gasmasks, which we were issued in square cardboard boxes. Later, we acquired more "up market" carry cases which didn't bruise and knock the daylights out of you when running to be in time for school.

The frantic digging, in which we all joined, to erect the corrugated iron air raid shelters in our back gardens. And further digging (for Victory) to plant potatoes and other vegetables in the gardens and allotments.

At school, we had regular drills and some real evacuations to the air raid shelters which had been hastily sunk into the Urmston Grammar School football pitch. This was next door to our Junior School. We had certain allocated duties, like carrying the toilet seat or the first aid box, when we repaired to those damp, urine scented dugouts. It took several years beyond 1945, when I commenced attendance at the Grammar School, to restore the football pitch to its former function.

The double daylight saving, to enable us to dig for victory, that made it broad daylight after 11pm in the Summertime. The concept of faded curtains as a result of daylight saving, which became an Australian joke in later times, never seemed to merit consideration in the early 1940's.

The scary journey to and from choir practice, as an eight year old in the blackout, in Winter months. There were monsters behind every rhododendron bush on the way, and there was no influence from TV horror shows in those days either!

The acquisition of all the metal gates and fences in the area to provide material for munitions etc and the not-so-patriotic householders who removed their ornate gates into storage for the duration of the war.

The discovery of yet another missing house and new craters after a heavy night of bombing and the competition between the kids to have the biggest and best collection of shrapnel.

The flamelit sky when the Manchester oil refinery was hit and the silhouette of an airman parachutist as he descended between us and the flames in the distance.

The arrival of the Americans when they took over our local Park Hospital (now called Trafford Hospital). This started a new collection craze for U.S. cigarette and chewing gum packets and wrappers. It also gave rise to the kids' plea "Got any gum chum"? Then there was the reciprocal question - "Hey kid, do you have an older sister"?

We entertained some of the G.I's in our home from time to time - they appreciated the home cooking and a change of scene from the large tents in which they lived. The young lady next door became a G.I Bride and sailed off across the Atlantic at the end of the war. I thought the names selected for her two baby boys, Buster and Wayne, were a little unusual.

During the height of the Manchester Blitz, my sister and I were evacuated for a few months to a delightful country village called Parbold (near Wigan). I missed the excitement of the bombing and the occasional dogfight overhead, but this was compensated for by not having to go to school.

The subsidised British Restaurants, which sprang up around the district, made a welcome change of menu from the standard school dinners we were subjected to in those days.

Towards the end of the war, a whole estate of prefabricated houses sprang up to accommodate those who had been bombed out. They were colloquially known as the "prefabs" and I recall that we were a little choosy about letting the prefab kids join 'our gang'. But then, kids can be quite cruel, can't they?

The street parties and bonfires that we had to celebrate VE and VJ days in 1945, brought an end to six long years of worry for the adults and six short years of excitement for the kids.

John Soden.

In 1940 at the age of 13 years,I lived in Blackley, a suburb of Manchester. Each day during the school lunchbreak, I walked home for lunch,after which, my Mother sent me to the local Bakery to buy 4 cream cakes, one for my younger Brother, one for one for my Mum, one for myself and the other for our Germanshepherd Tony.

I remember one day while walking across the road from the shops. The air raid siren had already sounded, when suddenly an aircraft came roaring out of the sky at about 100 feet ,immediately above me, I could plainly see the crew in the nose nose and cockpit.

Excitedly I waved thinking it to be one of our aircraft, however,as it flew over, I noticed it to have a black cross on its wings and realised to be a Heinkle 111 bomber.

The A.V.Roe aircraft factory which at that time produced the Manchester bomber, was situated at Chadderton, about 3-4 miles away and the enemy aircraft was more than likely seeking this target. I do not recollect any bombs being dropped at this time and so assume that they were unsuccessful in their mission.


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