I was seven when war was declared in September 1939. I was the youngest in the family.
There was: Mum; Dad; Arthur, who was 19; Kendall, who was 9 and myself, Sheila.
We lived in Stoneycroft. I remember Arthur receiving his call-up papers and going away. He was in the Royal Engineers. Dad had been in the Royal Garrison Artillery in WW1. Now, in WW2, he used to go fire watching during the air raids. He was the Commissionaire at Owen Owen’s store, in Liverpool, during the day.
As prepared for my grandchildren.
I was fifteen and a half and living in North Liverpool, not far from the docks, when war was declared in 1939. It had been expected for some time and six months earlier there had been the possibility that Seafield Convent’s trip to Switzerland might be cancelled. It wasn’t and I went. However, halfway through our visit, while we were staying in Lugano, I received a letter from my father telling us that Mussolini had invaded Albania.
I was born and grew up in Manchester from 1921 onwards. I must say that as a young boy, in the 1930s, when Everton beat my beloved Manchester City in the FA Cup I never forgave Liverpool. From 1935 to 1939 I had occasion to visit Liverpool Pier Head four times. I worked from the age of 14 to 18 years for the Co-op Society and each Summer we had a “Firms Outing” to Llandudno. This had to be on a Wednesday because the shops closed for the day, and Wednesday was half day closing anyway. On these days we were taken to Liverpool Pier Head where we boarded one of two ships, ‘The St. Tudno’ or ‘The St. Seriol’, for the trip to Wales, returning in the evening. At this stage I remember only The Liver Building.
I was four when the war started. The previous May we had moved from Antonio Street, Bootle, to Haselbeech Crescent, Norris Green. I can remember the move clearly. My grandmother, who was 86, had come back from Ireland with us the previous year and she had not been well enough to return on her own. She and I travelled with the removal men, she on the front seat of the van and I on her knee. We arrived long before the rest of the family, who came by tramcar.
I was four when the war started, so shortages seemed the norm, I suppose. I do remember we often ran out of things like sugar and butter. One memory does stick. As we were a large family our 2oz. butter ration added up to a respectable looking lump and must have looked enormous to a person living alone. I remember my mother feeling very cross with an acquaintance who offered to swap her margarine for some of our butter. How dared she try to deprive these “precious children”? I have a feeling Mum ate very little during those years.
I was in a reserved occupation and so I was at home in Aintree during the war. As I was young I served as a fire-watcher. That meant that I was on duty in one of the air raid shelters on several nights each week. If there was a raid I had to patrol the streets watching for bombs falling on my area. If an incendiary bomb fell, firewatchers had to grab their stirrup-pumps and run to the scene to try to extinguish it and also to put out any fire it had caused, thus preventing the fire spreading and showing any other bombers their location. If no bombs fell in our section, we had to be ready to assist the neighbouring sections if the need arose.
When I visited the ‘Spirit of the Blitz’ Exhibition in Liverpool Central Library, I realized that my experiences of WW2, in a small Hampshire town were very different to yours. Although Alresford is only 20 miles from Southampton and the blitz there kept us awake nearly every night, we had little experience of the constant bombardments which you endured. Occasionally we had to take refuge for an hour in the school air raid shelter, when a returning German Bomber was shedding its load, but we did not suffer, from the destruction of our homes. Not until, that is, the unexpected arrival of the unmanned and unpredictable V1s, ‘doodlebugs’, in the summer of 1944. I expect that these particular flying bombs did not reach Liverpool.