INTERVIEWS [British] [French] [German]
When you were evacuated from Brighton to escape bomb
damage, was there any damage where you lived?
Yes, my house front door was blown out, in fact after
I'd gone back to Brighton, luckily I wasn't in the house, neither
was my mother but the person opposite us, my mother's friend, she
was killed, and all our windows were blown out, so we were lucky
we were not in the house at the time.
Can you tell me about the journey from Brighton and what
were you expecting?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, we did not know where our
destination was going to be when we left Brighton; we got on to
this train heading North all we knew was that we were heading
North, and we seemed to be on the train for many many hours
because we travelled from Brighton right through to Halifax which
is I suppose, what, 260 miles but it wasn't the fast trains that
you've got today like the fast trains 120 mph which could do the
journey in 2.5 hours, but all round the outskirts of London and
we must have been on the train for 12 hours or 14 hours; we got
off the train and we - dozens of us were shuttled into a sort of
hospital, where we had to sleep in this place like a big
dormitory, dormitory for the girls on one side, hugh dormitory
for the boys on the other and we were just thrown into
Did you like it when you came to Calder, and where did
you live and what was it like?
First of all I lived in a place called Slatering Hall,
which is about half a mile across the fields over here towards
Heptonstall. There were 24 of us living there, 24 boys and we had
left Brighton looking for safety from the German bombs and German
invasion and the idea was that we were supposed to be billeted
with people like families, like your families, say, but
unfortunately because it all had to be rushed, this evacuation
from Brighton, they couldn't find accommodation for us, so we
were all put together for a while in this place called Slatering
Hall. I was there for about 5 months, got very friendly with a
neighbouring farmer, and his wife and family; they took a liking
to me and asked me to stay with them, that was Great Learings
farm which is quite close to Slatering Hall and then he, the
gentleman had to go into the Navy because of the war, and I moved
up to Blackshaw Head to a place called Belroyd. I was very lucky,
all those places I enjoyed very very much, but the best one was
Great Learings Farm which was really good fun.
What did you feel like when you had to leave your parents
in Brighton ?
It is a sad time obviously because, can you imagine if
each of you was suddenly asked to leave your home or - it was
voluntary, I mean, you weren't told "You must go", but
when your parents say to you "Look, we think it's for your
safety", because we thought there was going to be lots and
lots of shells and aeroplanes bombing and everything like that it
was a very difficult time to make a decision. It was voluntary,
but you know mother and father would say "Look, I prefer you
go, at least you'll be safe." It was a very very sad time.
Were you scared in the war, and what were you scared of ?
I think there were moments of fear for all of us, even
though we were so young. I think we'd seen pictures, a lot of
horror pictures of the German bombers over places like Warsaw in
Poland, and I think we were all very nervous that perhaps the
same thing would happen. When we came here it was obviously for
safety's sake, but we did hear the bombers as they came across
here to Manchester and Burnley and places like that and in fact
you could occasionally hear the sounds of these bombs as they
were hitting places like Manchester and Liverpool.
What sort of things had you got to eat during the war,
which you hadn't eaten before and have you eaten them since?
One thing, I mean I had eaten them before, but of course
some things you began to eat a lot more, for example, they told
us that carrots made our eyes better, we could see better if we
ate lots of carrots, and everyone believed us, the idea being
that because they could grow carrots easily in this country, you
didn't have to bring boats in that were getting sunk, so if we
could eat carrots, it would all help what we called the war
effort, everything was designed for the war effort, so if you ate
carrots, your eyes would get better in the dark, now don't forget
at night time, it was pitch black outside, there were no lights
on the streets, all the curtains had to be across. A tiny chink
of light and you were in trouble, the police would have you for
it, so there was no light outside, on a moonlit night it wasn't
too bad, but when there was no moonlight, it was pitch black
outside, and by being told that carrots helped you to see better,
you obviously were beginning to eat carrots, but of course that's
not true, I mean, they help, all vegetables help, but carrots, I
don't think it's proven .......
Ma's going to talk about
her experiences in the war.
Right, love, how did you hear
that war had been declared ?
Well, I heard that war had been declared, and it came
through on the radio.
What date was that ?
And how did you get news during the war ?
We relied on the radio again
Did any relatives go off to fight ?
And how often did they come home on leave ?
I never saw them once they went
Did they both come home ?
And did you keep in touch ?
You never saw them ?
What were food supplies like during the war ?
Well, in our case, with having a big family, we was OK,
we'd plenty, 13 ration books
And was there a black market ?
Not anywhere I knew of but people used to come to you,
because having a large family, they wanted your food rations.
Sugar, sugar was the main thing, and butter, and bacon, what did
I want with 13 quarters of bacon.
So with that you .....
Let them have it ...... for friends and that
Were there any special arrangements for work, land army,
war work that you remember ?
Not that I can remember
Was the blackout very strict?
Oh, terrible. One night I went for a loaf of bread, and
somebody had left a little cart out on the road, and I walked
into it and fell over
Can you talk about chinks of light ?
Oh yes, one night we had a gentleman knocking on the
door, the local man that made the "Maderna" blankets,
and he said "Will you please turn your light out or shut
your curtains, you've a light showing" which we had, but I
didn't know, we were getting ready for bed. It was only early
evening, about 7:30...
But they were very strict ?
Were you ever bothered by the bombs ?
Not really, no
But you heard planes going over ? There was a big city
bombed, Manchester, many a time
Well, no it didn't bother me because I had such a lot on
my plate .... 5 children We all had to see we had to have you in
when it was dark, we couldn't have you out in the blackout,
because it was pitch black up Cragg Vale, as you can imagine, and
the buses knocked off at teatime. You never saw another bus.
So you had to go a few miles then to the village, then,
for your supplies?
Yes, two miles, well, about a mile and a half
Did friends come and knock on your door and ask for your
No, only personal friends at the time
And is there anything else you could talk about, like ...
Well, I spent a lot of hours on my own, because your dad
went long distance, and I never knew where he was going, when he
was coming back.
He worked for the government, didn't he ?
Yes, he took bombs and he had to have special passes to
get through. He saw a lot more than I did with going to Liverpool
and he went down to, er, where's that big cathedral city where
they blew the ...
... Coventry ...
yes, he went down there and they wouldn't let him go any
further. He went down to London and Fleet Street was blown up so
he set to and helped to clear it
Did Dad ever keep in touch with you while he was away ?
No, we'd no telephones
So you'd no communications ?
No, only with his boss, Mr Walter Scott
So you kept in touch ?
Well, he'd come and bring his wage, 'cos when he went
missing that time when it blew up Fleet Street, he was down there
and of course it was all round the village, he was missing.
So after that, did he just used to turn up at home ?
Yes, he never announced it
You never knew when he was coming home or anything ?
No. It was a very hard life. You see, having children,
it didn't take it off a bit
And when you heard news of the war, were you fearful, did
Oh no, you used to have to queue for onions
Did you get excited when you knew there was any food
Now this is my oldest
sister who remembers quite well, alongside Mother, the times in
the wartime. Right,
Jode, can you remember when war
had been declared ?
Well. I've no actual recollection of hearing it had
started, but I became aware of the war
How old were you when the war broke out ?
So you'd be ten years old before the war finished ?
And it was different for us living in Cragg Vale at the
beginning of the war than it was at the end of the war because by
the end of the war, we'd moved into Mytholmroyd into a modern
house, whereas at the beginning of the war, we lived in a cottage
which had no electricity, it had a gas lamp and we used to have
candle sticks to take to go to bed.
Well, when we lived at Cragg Vale, there were just three of us,
three girls, there was me, Sheila and Mavis. We used to walk up
the stairs in a row with candlesticks in our hands to bed.
Can you remember food supplies in the war ?
Well I can remember there was a big shortage of sweets,
and in those days you used to get a ha'penny bag of sweets,
aniseed balls, or humbugs, or something like that, which every
now and again a little shop down the road would get in, and of
course the news would go through the children, that the sweets
were in this shop, and we'd rush down with our ha'pennies ...
Which would be ... you'd have to have coupons for ...
No, because at this time at the beginning of the war,
you didn't have coupons for sweets because they were so scarce,
there was no supply at all, actually. The coupons didn't come
into force until about 1943 for sweets, or the other kinds of
foods like bread, bacon butter and lard and that kind of thing.
It was the bare necessities that you got at the beginning of the
war and luxuries were ignored. Of course, being children, we were
always looking for sweets, naturally, we used to get lollipops.
Did you ever, when you were a child, remember Mum giving
people coupons to provide for their families ?
Well not at the beginning of the war because there was,
I mean, there were only three of us children, so in the family
there was only five of us at the beginning of the war, but I can
remember, when the family got bigger, I mean when we had eleven
children, then of course the rations were more than we needed
actually. We used to go to Mytholmroyd Coop, and we used to get
our rations there. And for that we used to have ration books for
everybody in the family which was 13 ration books and by that
time I would be about eleven years old - I was twelve - and I
remember going to the Coop with the ration books and coming back
with the shopping and losing the ration books on the way home,
which caused a bit of panic ..
... I should imagine ...
... so I had to go back, but I found them all.
So with the black market, can you remember people calling
at Mum's to ask if they could have ....
Only occasionally, they'd come and they'd say "Have
you got two pounds of sugar to spare Mrs .... and my mother would
say "yes" and let them have it, but it wasn't a routine
regular thing, and it was only people that she knew that lived
around us, and that knew we had a big family and probably had
And of course in those days we were all issued with identity
cards, you see, everybody in the family, my dad had one, and we
all followed on with the numbers.
Can you remember gas masks and things ?
Yes, when we went to school we were all issued with gas
masks, and we had to carry them about with us wherever we went,
even if we went to Sunday school, because you never knew when
there was an air raid. And when we were at school we used to have
drills, where we were taught what to do in an emergency.
And did Mum have one at home that contained a baby ?
Yes, she got issued one that ... you put a baby inside
it, it was like a cylinder with a big window on the front, and
you put the baby inside it and zipped it up and it had a pipe
coming out which filtered the air as it went in, fortunately we
never had to use it.
And on Sundays we used to go to Sunday school, the old Sunday
School which is now a residence I think, and every Easter we used
to get our Easter bonnets all with flowers, you know, and nice
patent ankle straps with white socks, and we used to think we
Can you remember black outs ?
I can remember it very well, yes. There wasn't much
beyond the village because we didn't used to go anywhere. I think
once I went to see "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" ,
that was a treat. But while I was there I must have picked up
measles, and then everybody else got them.
Were you ever bothered by bombs ?
Not in the buildings around us. But we used to hear
aircraft go over, and we could identify by sound which aircraft
were German. We used to think so, anyway. Now there was one bomb
dropped up by the reservoir, And of course there were some bombs
dropped in Halifax, but that was a long way from us. And of
course in those days there used to be steam trains, and I used to
listen to those trains being shunted, because the sounds used to
travel up the valleys, and I used to hear the trains at night,
especially when I was in bed.;
When there were blackouts and they were very strict, you
were allowed outside of course, weren't you ?
Oh, you could go out where you wanted, but it was very
hazardous because you never knew when you were going to trip over
something. With no lights on, you weren't allowed to have one
light, and of course every night of the war, there were
firewatchers. All the local mills had people on duty, everybody
had to do this, and they'd spend all night on the roofs of these
big mills like, you know, Victoria Mill.
And then if they saw - you see, before they dropped bombs, they
always dropped flares, then that was to light up all the
countryside, so they could see where they were dropping the
bombs. And if they did drop them in this area, it was usually
because they had some left because they'd been to Liverpool or
somewhere or Manchester, and they'd got one left, so they'd just
drop it anywhere. That's how it came to be on the moor, must
above Cragg Vale.
It was a flight path too, because at the top of Cragg Vale, even
I could see the sentry boxes where the lookouts were. I was only
there about three/four years ago, and you can see so far, and
that's where .....
they watched out .... and of course at night when they went out
with search lights , these big beams of light scanning the sky
Did you see them ?
Oh yes, I saw those, these searchlights. And if they did
spot one, the anti aircraft guns would come out. Well, they had
the guns there on top of the buildings and they'd be firing at
them as they were going past.
So really, mother had a pretty hard time as regards just bringing
up the children without dad ?
Well yes, because he was away for long periods of time doing his
work, and at that particular time that mother mentioned, he was
supposed to go away and be back in about four weeks, and he
didn't come back for about seven weeks, and everybody was there
getting very worried about him, and when he did come back, he
brought a piece of a bomb which had just narrowly missed him.
He'd been walking down this street I think it was in Liverpool,
and there was an air raid going on - and there was a canopy, a
stone canopy over a doorway, and he stepped under this canopy,
and this piece of shrapnel came down just where he stood. If he'd
have stood there he would have been killed, and he picked it up
And he kept that as a memento, I should think ?
That's it. Another thing we used to do in the war was to
pickle eggs. We used to get a bucket with some kind of solution
in it, and we used to put the eggs in this solution to keep them,
and another thing we used to do was, we used to get big pieces of
coal and brush it off, and they used to store it in cupboards, in
an old cupboard. We used to stack this coal and
And how was this coal delivered, was it a cart ?
Yes there was this coal merchant used to call and bring the coal,
and we had a hut just down the yard from where we lived which we
kept the coal in.
So there wasn't many buses, buses as Mum said earlier
Well, there was a bus service, yes, but they were few
and far between.
And you can remember a gentleman going to war, he was
going to be a conscientious objector, was he not?
Yes, my mother looked after the youngest child of a
friend of ours, and he was called up to go to war, and he didn't
want to go. But then he must have had a premonition because he
never came back. He was in a tank, and they threw a hand grenade
in his tank
Didn't the M.Ps have to come and take him ?
Yes, the M.Ps had to come and collect him and off he
went to war and he never did come back
That was terrible for the community of Cragg Vale.
Well then you see he left three children, so that was
very sad was that.
So we never heard from Dad when he was away ?
Well, he couldn't communicate with us, only by letter,
but then he was away for 3 weeks you see.
Did he write home, but not from where he was ?
No, he never sent any letters home. He used to come home
on a regular basis every three or four weeks. We knew when to
So with the black market, you had no difficulty getting
meat or anything of that nature ?
Well, we were allowed 2 oz of meat for each person in
the family, and 2 oz of bread ...
Your didn't go up onto the farms on the tops then, like
the gentleman who used to sell meat?
Oh no, it was illegal, I used to hear of people who got meat
illegally, but I never saw any of it, and in the village there
was a camp where American soldiers were based, like a little
barracks, you know,
Where was that ?
I don't know, but I remember it
There were prisoners of war, wasn't there, in this area ?
Well I don't know ... well, they were in Halifax, there
was a big place in Halifax, and a lot of them were Italians that
was there, and they used to put them on the buses to work. They
didn't put them in the actual camps, they put them to work, and
they used to drive buses. At that time there was a thing called
And can you remember anything else, can you remember the
end of the war ?
Oh yes, by that time of course we were living in
Mytholmroyd and I was about 13 years old when they announced VE
day, Victory in Europe, and everybody was going wild, absolutely
So did you go down to the main village ?
What I did that night, I can remember, was I walked it
to Hebden Bridge. Now in Hebden Bridge there was a camp for
prisoners, but everybody was out in the streets, dancing, and
there was all sorts going on. But you see, we were all
youngsters, we were all thirteen/fourteen, we were very excited.
Mothers seemed to stay at home more making ends meet ?
Well that's been very nice, very interesting, thank you