Return to Website Index Page


INTERVIEWS [British] [French] [German]

[Return to Tasks]

British Interview

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 ?
04 September
And how did you get news during the war ?
We relied on the radio again
Did any relatives go off to fight ?
Two brother-in-laws
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 ?
Oh, terrible
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 rations ?
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 you cry?
Oh no, you used to have to queue for onions
Did you get excited when you knew there was any food arriving ?

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 ?
About 6
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 some spare.
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 looked beautiful.
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 for aircraft.
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 brought
it home
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 expect him.
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 Hebble Buses.
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 wild
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 ?
Oh yes
Well that's been very nice, very interesting, thank you very much.

Top of Page Index of Interactivities Subject Page Internet Links