The war first began for me in June 1939. Because of the problems in Europe my father said that we were going on holiday to the Isle of Men. Because it may be the last one we would have. I didnít understand that as I was 10 years old then.

          The war announcement was made at 11oíclock on the radio and the whole street was quiet. But the neighbours came out to speak to each other and my mother and the lady next door were crying but I couldnít understand why.

          Immediately lots of unexpected things happened Ė my mother was involved with picking up the ration books. The identity cards. People starting stocking up on tinned food and the black market was born. That is goods sold at very high prices. Men were called up at a certain age and girls of 18 had to go to various offices to be allocated either in the forces or do war work. I had just passed my 11 plus but the high school was at the other side of the town and so my mother refused the place because of pending air raids. So I went to a school nearby.

          Air raids shelters were being put up at a great speed and the parks were prepared to grow food instead of flowers and the balloon barrage RAF men arrived. I loved to see the silver balloons high in the sky and especially when it was a red sunset they looked beautiful.

          The speed of it all, looking back was amazing I still admire the organisation of it all.

          We had a lady come to our class and introduce us to gas masks which we kept in a cardboard box with us at all times, they smelt horrible of rubber and even in a test I hated the sound of your own heavy breathing. Babies were put into a small block type were they could lay but the mother had to make sure of the air the obvious worry was if the mother was injured or unconscious the baby would die but precautions had to be taken.

          Then black out was strict and everyone had to conceal all lights so outside it was beautiful. The stars were shining so brightly and the moonlit night was just like daylight, but in bed weather it was quite dangerous a neighbour of ours at the time walked across the road to visit her friend which she had done hundreds of times, but she missed remembering that there was a lamp post near the road and she hit it very hard and lay unconscious for a long time.

          The Anderson shelter we had was the round corrugated type with thick concrete on the top. But unfortunately unlike Leeds we could not bury them deep in the earth as they should have been for more protection because Hull is so low lying we have a high water level. Some were square made of bricks and some held a lot of people and were at the top of streets for residents who had no garden. We also had a huge water tank at the top of the street because fire was our worst enemy in a raid.

          Before Christmas parents were advised to send their children into the safety of the countryside and my whole classes from schools went with perhaps two teachers. My parents talked it over and decided that we three would stay together because if they were killed and the home was destroyed I would have nothing to come back to. I was an only child.

          Some children went to America and Canada because those two countries did all they could to be of help.

          The war was raging in Europe and invasion was expected at any time but then they decided to bomb England to soften us up perhaps.

          Our prime minister, Mr Churchill warned us that things would get rough and I used to look at my parents worried faces, but too young to really realise the worries they had.

          My father was an engine driver and he had to work shifts and often leave me and my mother in an air raid shelter that worried my mother a great deal. One night he was driving a train along the river Humber side and all through they had old sacks up at the sides of the steam engine the sparks from the top gave them away a lone German plane was above them, you could always tell because their engine made a distinctive sound like a drone Ėgap- drone- gap whereas our planes were just a steady hum of an engine the fireman started stoking the coal into the engine to get a speed up and they raced as fast as they could but he cant have been interested in their long load of wagons ,because he ignored them.

          They used to take aerial photographs to pick their town to target.

          Hull was full of ships with being 3rd largest port and we had quite a few air raid alarms for some months. An uneasy peaceful time by all prepared for what? Whistles would be sounded for gas and the church bells rang for parachutists being dropped.

          The food was just sufficient but my father got more rations because he was in a heavy job, as did the people on munitions because they worked very long hours.

          Dunkirk our first attack from the Germans was a terrible event, because the army had difficulty in getting back to England.

          My parentís morale was at very low ebb then, we had a map of Europe on the wall which my father followed and it got on my mothers nerves.

          Mr Churchill spoke to us regularly and we felt his strength and he boosted morale Ė even mine.

          All the roads signs were taken down and a big concrete bunkers were built at important points like the railway lines etc.

          I am sure if the Germans had invaded they would have cut through all our defences like cheese.

          The panther divisions were the most feared, fast well trained ruthless and they had just cut through France, Holland and Belgium with out a stop 1941 was our most difficult year.

          U boats sinking our merchant ships so food could not get though and the Americans and Canadians started sending us food parcels.

          I was picked out by an American girl and she sent me clothes (they had to be worn ones not new) and she wrote to me. Canadians sent the schools apples and suddenly it all got very cosmopolitan. Hull being a port had a large contingent of troops from Europe so we were used to seeing free French troops, polish troops.

          Later on the Americans came into the war and we had G.I.s my father was amused when he passed their barracks because they were so laid back and often 5 soldiers were squashed in to the guard post.

          Looking back they were themselves only about 18 like our troops

          Our army was much more strict and couldnít stroll along casually to the barracks for their meals, they were extremely kind to all children and talked and gave sweets out etc.

          On about June 19th 1940 an oil tanker at Saltend was hit by incendiary bombs and 2.500 tons of petrol blazed for days.

          The biggest concerted raid took place on successive nights May 7th and 8th 1941, when Hull city centre was completely destroyed as well as the docks.

          We used to go into the air raid shelter early on to try to get some sleep before it got noisy; it was a case of just sitting and listening to the whistle of the bombs.

          The sky lit up like a Christmas tree with flares and fires below, the ground shook and I remember curling up into a ball, we could hear the shrapnel falling on the concrete roof of the shelter and it was impossible to move as wave after wave of planes came to drop more bombs.

          When the last drone had gone and the all clear siren was sounded there was a deathly hush, except for a neighbour crying in the next air raid shelter.

          Some people were near to collapse with fear, I was a bit to young to feel as much but mum was sat trembling with the dog on her knee trembling with her, we had a bomb drop very near and I remember going out into the street in the dark with my parents and getting entangled with all the telephone wires on the road.

          I hated that it was very frightening, the police evacuated us because there was a huge hole in the house next door and our roof was badly damaged, but worse still Mr and Mrs Andrews and their baby had been killed because their Anderson shelter got a direct hit.

          It wasnít a bomb that had caused the damage next door but piece of mud as big as a house which had flown threw the air, the thing that broke my heart was though that night my school nearby had received incendiaries and was burnt shell.

          I loved school and although I had only half a day schooling because if there was a raid after midnight you didnít go to school until the afternoon, our teachers were marvellous, most of them elderly and out of retirement and they used to spend their nights on the school roof in case of fires, not in a bad raid though of course.

          300lbs of high explosive bombs rained down on the city that night, 12 hours of bombing the city centre was virtually destroyed, enemy activity continued throughout June. July and August with 35 to 50 aircraft in each night raid.

          Now when they talk about Coventry, Plymouth, Portsmouth, etc being heavily damaged we in Hull are annoyed that we never get a mention, on the radio they just said a north eastern town was attacked the night before, it cant have been a secret to the Luftwaffe so why say that, it has never been explained.

          In those days things were organised in minutes and I saw a notice pinned up at the street corners, to say that I had to go to a local school nearby with children in the area where one of our teachers would temporarily teach us in the school hall.

          It wasnít very good for concentration but better then nothing, also they used to pin notices up on a street corner giving names of people who had been killed, as you know we all ended up at the teacher training college and the east Hull girls were bussed in and stayed for school meals.

          My clothes ration coupons went on school uniform and socks and underwear, so that is what I wore for the whole period of the war, having no pretty dresses didnít worry me because we were all alike.

          No competition was something I appreciated looking back we lived and died with turbans on like our mothers and I used to paint my legs with tea water to make them less white.

          When I got to be 15 years old I was surprised to see when they liberated Paris that they were all stylishly dressed, quite a surprise and annoying, by the way the war department paid to have new ceilings installed in our house and the roof repaired.

          But it wasnít done very thoroughly, utility was applied to everything.

          Health wise we were reasonably fit ,lots of walking and simpler food, but I developed two nasty abscesses on my legs and the doctor said he wished he could give me a crate full of oranges, as we all lacked vitamin C, no fresh fruit apart from what we grew on the allotments, but of course not lemons and oranges.

           The radio was our main source of amusement and my parents would not let me go to the theatre in case of an air raid, but they did still keep open, I used to play tiddely winks in the air raid shelter to pass the time.

          Snakes and ladders and also did my homework in the shelter, the corrugated iron made condensation though so it got a bit wet from above.

          My father was enlisted as an air raid warden and his job was to come out with a stirrup pump and a bucket of sand to put out the fires, he also worn a tin hat too, Iím afraid we have later in life had a smile about the user of that, but he had to try to do his bit of course.

          Mother would knit gloves and scarves for the troops as war work and when Holland was liberated a neighbour had Dutch children to her.

          Later on in the war the older men had to be conscripted and I found when I eventually joined a firm of insurance that men were 43 and 45 and in the forces.

          I was 15 when the war ended just as the forces were returning to Civvie Street.

 
 
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