I was 5 and a half years old when war was declared. These are memories, it’s not what anyone has told me. I think I remember these things because I was petrified when that siren went.
It always seemed to sound in the night. I had just started school but we were unable to attend until the air-raid shelters were built. I went to school in a big house on Private Drive. We used one of their front rooms and we had the table and chairs from school.
Every day, we had to take our gas masks which were in brown cardboard boxes with a piece of string which hung round our neck. Mum and Dad had collected these from an air-raid wardens post which was a dis-used shop on Hollingwood Crescent. Isobel, my sister, was born six months after the war has started, we collected a gas mask for her. It was shaped like an egg, about 24 inches long and 12 inches high. It was made of metal painted red with a window and was hinged so that it split in two.
Every house had to have black out curtains to stop aeroplanes seeing where we were. ARP wardens came round the streets at night and if a light could be seen at any house, the warden would shout, “Put that light out.” Our blinds were navy blue paper, which we had to roll up by hand every morning, and tie up with a piece of string.
We didn’t get completely undressed to go to bed so that it was quicker to get dressed when the siren went and we could run down to the garden to the shelter two doors away. This shelter was really a dug-out. The hole was covered in railway sleepers and the soil was piled on top of these. 12 people shared this shelter. Sometimes, Isobel and I slept under the stairs. She had a blue siren suit on that mum had knitted. Later, we had a shelter in the living room. It was a thick sheet of steel on four strong legs and it was the size of a double bed. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the all clear sounded.
Before Isobel was born, I went into mum’s bedroom one morning and we could hear people talking outside. Mum asked me to see what was going on. It was a lady and her son covering an incendiary bomb with soil in our back garden. Apparently, incendiary bombs don’t cause a large explosion, they just cause fire. There were two more bombs on our street that night. A policeman came to collect them, but a lad from down the street had taken it!
One night, running down the garden to the shelter, I looked towards the Northern Horizon and the sky was glowing red. That was Sheffield burning. How often these raids took place and how long they lasted I don’t know. Months, weeks or years.
Practically all food was rationed. We were lucky, we had two allotments so we had potatoes, vegetables and fruit. Mum made jam so we ate lots of bread and jam, and potatoes and gravy.
Street lights were all turned off. Very few people were allowed petrol for their cars. Newspapers were only one sheet and chip shops didn’t have enough paper to wrap chips in so I had to take a basin for my two pennorth of chips.
Pubs had to close some nights when they had sold their allocation of beer. There were no crisps in shops, they were kept under the counter in pubs for favourite customers.
All road signs were removed so that the Germans wouldn’t know where they were after they landed.
Hollingwood was targeted because we lived near Staveley Works where they made large guns.
I remember sitting on a wall in our street one evening counting aeroplanes that were going to bomb Germany.
© Kath Hudson (2016)