"In the May Blitz in 1941. Liverpool was alight night and day. There was no day there was no night, it was one continual light, day, all fires. The whole city was on fire. No ambulances, no hospitals, there was too many dead, too many injured."
"Interviewer: How did you feel about Germans in England at the time? Did you feel they needed to be interned?
AB: We had Italians interned just locally, and they used to go up and down the road with these brown discs on and they were quite nice you know. You wondered how they could possibly be fighters, they looked so polite..."
There were mixed feelings about the German people; both those in the internment camps and those abroad. Marion Browne talks about her father's opinions
"I didn't like it when he went back, and I used to cry bitter tears I remember and saying, 'oh please dad don't go back'. 'Got to go back' and I used to say 'I hate those Germans'. And dad would say 'you mustn't say things like that, there's nothing wrong with the German people'. He was much more humane than me I think, dad. He must have been, but he used to say 'you mustn't say things like that there's nothing wrong with the German people' but I couldn't see it of course. I just didn't want my dad to go away..."
John Francis McEwan talks about his parents' decision to evacuate their children, and his mother's concerns
"My dad would be home on leave and he heard sirens and the blackout was on. He made his way home expecting to find my mother and the three children, Betty, Tommy and myself in the air raid shelter. When he went to the air raid shelter we weren't there. He then went to the house and my mum was under the kitchen table, or under the dining table, with the three children. Obviously my dad was very concerned about this. I don't know exactly what went on other than the fact that the decision was made to evacuate us. My mother was also pregnant at the time with my younger brother Peter, who is a year younger than myself. As a result the three children myself, Betty and Tommy were evacuated to St Joseph's Children's Home in Freshfield near Southport, and that would be sometime in 1940, around maybe the autumn of 1940...
I remember being evacuated. And she told me how ill I was and my legs were very, very thin and suffered from rickets etc. One of her main concerns was that if Hitler had invaded Britain or the Germans had invaded Britain and Hitler had taken control. He had this view of an Aryan society and everybody had to be big, strong, blonde etc, blue-eyes - all the sort of things that he wanted. Now she had this fear that if the Germans had ever taken over here, I would be one of the discards, because they were only looking for the healthy. Now it might sound ridiculous, but if a mother thinks that about her baby, and that is all I was, no amount of persuasion is going to change that view and she certainly had that. And I think that is why she allowed me to go because I was really under hospital care for the first two or three years of my life...
Interviewer: How often did you think your mum got to visit you?
I think she obviously tried to visit us as often as she could, but I think maybe it could have been two things. Maybe she could see how unsettling it was for the children, the older children, being upset when she was leaving and also of course it would probably be very upsetting for her as well. So I think she tended to space them out a bit then. I think initially she used to visit Tommy and Betty at St Gerard's, about once a month, because that would depend on trains etc...
But then I think, for reasons I just said it probably came down to about every three months and it was literally a question of when she could get through. And she used to make sure we always had, what can I say, food parcels or treats, clothing etc. She made sure whatever money she earned she spent on us. So that was the best she could do really under the circumstances."
"Interviewer: Why do you think your mother never had you evacuated?
MH: The kind of home life she came through, she wanted to give us something better. And I think the whole idea was, if one goes, we all go, because we were altogether, you see. To leave four children on their own, that's what would have happened and I think this was the frightening part. That used to frighten her, you know."
"I know when war started I was in the Royal Infirmary having an operation, and my husband came in and said, "the kiddies had been taken away" - I've wrote it all down here, in this book here because when I went to college to learn to read and write properly, you know. So any road he said, "the children have all gone away, they've been taken away", so I broke my heart crying and I said "where are they?" He said "I don't know where they've gone." So any road the nurses all come round me and gave me a cup of tea and I said "I want to know where they are" and he said "I don't know where they are", he said "they've just gone." So when I came out of hospital, I was on two sticks, I went up to Betws-y-Coed. I found out where they were, (they were there for six weeks). I wasn't happy with the conditions they were in so I brought them home. When I went up to see them they were in a little alleyway, you know a little porch house, in the teams of rain. I said "out, home". I had to bring them home."
"I think she thoroughly enjoyed that, because she didn't have a lot of friends. She was never one for going out, nights out. While she had friends amongst the neighbours she wasn't economically in a position to afford to go out, so she was reasonably easy satisfied. Well she just had to be, because she didn't have any money. But once she got that job I noticed the tremendous change in her. She started putting a bit of lipstick on, she'd be picked up by a bus in the Dingle area and taken right up to Speke. Part of the change was she started smoking, so she used to be a joke smoking. She'd hold a cigarette like that, and sort of puff it in and you'd never see her inhale it. She was the funniest person you'd ever see smoking. So there were changes along them lines. She wasn't doing herself any harm, because she wasn't inhaling and she got a circle of friends, colleagues, you know, so I think she thoroughly enjoyed that patch.
Interviewer: And the money must have been...?
She had money for the first time in her life and I'd always been at her to go to see certain films, like Mrs Miniver that everybody was talking about. It was a weepy, you know, and I knew she'd enjoy it, but she'd make excuses. Looking back now she didn't have the money, but once the money started showing, she had something in her pocket or in her bag, she started going along to the local cinema, so that was a wonderful change for me to observe. There's a human being living in a real life now, for the first time in her life, because the rest of it had been a struggle."
"...we used to test the hand grenades. They used to put them in a tank of water and put your hand grenade is this clamp and put them in the water. If the water bubbled you had to throw it away."
"...there were terrible shortages. You did without or you just made do. You got supplemented now and again. Somebody we knew was in the merchant navy, and we got [parcels], but me mum used to dish it out to everybody. Winnie used to get parcels from her relatives in Australia. They had fruit farms and what not. We used to get titbits and things like that. But the basic things you just managed. You didn't get a lot of meat and you would make blind stew and things without. I couldn't get baby food, you didn't have it, so I used to get vegetables, potatoes and things like that - they weren't hard. I used to braise them for Des [her daughter] and mash them. After her bottle she used to have a thing called Robinson's Patent Barley; it was like milk stuff. Well you could get that and you see. When she was weaned I used to make this mixture of all the vegetables, braise them and I think I used to have Bovril or Oxo, anything like that that would flavour them very slightly. You could get some of the children's things like rusks and things like that. Then they brought orange juice that we used to queue for, to give them the vitamins and things like that. They used to look after the children more or less.
Winnie used to make a terrible cake. It was sponge cake and she'd make it with liquid paraffin, a small amount of sugar and this dried egg that the Americans used to send us, because we relied on America an awful lot for food.
You could always get bread. You would get gluts of things, say tomatoes or the soft fruits, so we used to bottle them to keep them. We'd do a lot of bottling. I had rows and rows of jars, even bottled tomatoes, because everything ripened together and of course was in the shops together."
Terrible, I was an awful cook [laugh] but they'd been living on their own for so long, that even coming home and finding the beds made and the shopping done and the fire lit, was wonderful. So they thought I was pretty wonderful, but I was a terrible cook and the fun we had, well it wasn't fun, because I just wept. Doing things like giving dad prunes and the poor man was chewing away at them and he said 'didn't you cook these Eve', so I said 'oh do you have to cook them dad?' and he said 'yes you do', I said 'well I soaked them', he said 'well you cook them'. So next time we got prunes, which were a luxury, this time I soaked them, threw out the water and then boiled them, so dad said 'where's all the juice?' and I said 'threw it away'. I mean I was hopeless. Mother used to make beautiful hot pots, with all sorts of bits of meat and we used to love it and it all came out brown, so when I did it and she said to me 'when you do it keep it low', so I said 'yes alright'. So I did it very low and when Ron came home from work it was raw. So I said 'oh it hasn't gone brown and it's been in for hours and hours', so he said 'don't worry about it' and he was marvellous, he just picked the pan up, poured it all in the pan and it was stew [laugh]. You couldn't afford to waste it you know, the meat and that [laugh]."
"Interviewer: So how did your mother manage with the rationing?
Well I think she managed remarkably well, because apart from the odd chicken we'd kill, I'm pretty sure rabbits could be obtained, whether it was on the QT or whether it was part of your rations. But they were available from time to time, so she'd get a rabbit and make a pan of stew that would last us for quite some days, you know perhaps three or four days, by the time she reinforced it with plenty of spuds. Because there was never any problem with vegetables, you could always get more or less what you wanted with vegetables, apart from onions.
This cow keeper was a keen racing pigeon fancier and he used to ask me if I wanted a couple of strags. Now strags were strays that used to follow his flock, he'd send his pigeons which were...
Interviewer: Like homing pigeons.
Supreme, they were supreme homing pigeons, well trained and as they come back in, where he sent say ten out, he might have a dozen or so come in. Well they'd have been either somebody else's flock or sometimes they were the pigeons you see around about, the wild ones. So he'd ask me did I want them, so I never ever refused them because that was a pan of stew for me, for us...
...Well the source of those mysterious tins was somebody who was involved in demolition. The demolition came about quite frequently, because buildings would be bombed, even in the city or along the Dock Road - they could be food storage places. Like for example Heinz 57, they had a warehouse full on the Dock Road and I know for a fact that this neighbour who was on the demolition, he would take it upon himself to make sure he got his load of tins. He'd probably pick them that hadn't blown, because as you know if they're going bad they blow, and he'd just select them that had just been scorched. So we got loads of scorched tins with no labels. So if you're feeling like a bit of mince, you'd go hunting for a tin that you hope is going to be mince, but unfortunately most of the time they'd turn out to be spaghetti or a tin of pears or something like that or peaches. So it was a lucky dip and you had to satisfy yourself then, you couldn't carry on opening all of them looking for the mince, so you had to put up with apricots for your dinner or something like that [laugh].
I think I'm sure in saying that brawn was available. Now brawn used to be, from what I remember of it, best part jelly, and it was also the scrap ends. It was all kinds of rubbish, but a couple of slices of brawn laid on top of a few spuds and that made a damn good meal. So people did become really innovated, they had to become innovative.
Interviewer: Do you remember the dry egg?
Oh the dry egg, yeah. You done a round of toast and you dipped it in the dried egg having mixed it with a little drop of milk. It put like a poultice over your toast, that you then fried a little bit. Now that made it a really good meal, and I've tried for years to try to mimic that and there's nothing mimics what we got during the war. But I think most of that came from America and it was obviously a special recipe that they were doing and it was a special taste. It was wonderful.
The pigswill bin at the bottom of the street. Every street had a pigswill bin and the idea was, if you had any peelings or bits over from meals, which was very, very unlikely, they all went in the pigswill bin. There used to be a man come round every three or four days...The idea was good because it was giving us extra bacon."
"...and this shop opposite Blacklers in town, a high class cake shop, she made my cake. We had to supply the sugar and something else, but it was a beautiful cake, like a Christmas cake but it had a silver wooden box over it with plaster of paris. Ornate decoration, roses round and you just took the top off and cut it and then put the top back on [laugh]"
"Interviewer: Do you remember the run up to the war with all the politics that were going on?
I remember listening to Neville Chamberlain. It would be on the pictures, not on the television, of course we didn't have one, and it would be on the radio. Because you used to go about once or twice a week and of course it was movie time and news and we saw Neville Chamberlain coming down the steps of the planes saying, 'peace in our time', waving the paper about, which didn't happen. Yes I remember that well.
Interviewer: Did you believe him at the time?
Oh yes, we were all very pleased."
"Yes they used to give us lovely shows in the canteen. I was very fortunate, I was on one of the tables at the front so I saw all the artists, close up and there was a lot of famous people came, All the Doily Carte used to come. Other artists came and the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. He has stuck in my memory all those years. I can still see him as a young man with a pinky flesh coloured face, and he played the violin beautiful, really. Although it was the war we enjoyed our work there and we were all very happy. Everybody joined in and we were all happy together."
Eddie made a frame, a thin frame and we could fit that up somehow on smaller windows, bedroom windows you know. You did all sorts of things as long as you blacked out your windows, and the man didn't come round. [laugh] You were doomed if he came round."
"...we used to go to the Grafton. The white Americans tried to stop their own coloured men and the British coloured men from going there, but we weren't having any. We weren't subdued like the American Negroes in Kingston. We weren't subdued because we were brought up on a different system altogether, different principles you see and we weren't having any. And there were a few scuffles now and again."
"It wasn't an Anderson. It was a brick air raid shelter, with a concrete roof, a concrete base. The walls they were about eighteen inches or two foot. And I remember the escape hatch was made with wedge type bricks so they fitted in, to the whole of the two-foot by two-foot escape exit...
So that was the air raid shelter arrangements for me in me own back yard. There were occasions when I did use them, just to satisfy my ma, stop her from moaning, because she would do nothing else only moan. Sometimes I'd just refuse to come out of my bed to go into a damp air raid shelter, because that air raid shelter of ours was terrible. It was really damp and cold. Imagine them thick walls, it was ice cold. Eventually we got a little paraffin oil lamp. It give us a bit of light, but not much heat. Eventually I knocked up a couple of bunks so that we could be reasonably comfortable...
But other people in the street, who preferred not to have the back yard taken up, or there wasn't enough room, they had to depend on a shelter being built in the street, which was ok. In the case of the cul-de-sac where we lived, all the people looked after it and made sure there was no shenanigan, no jiggery pokery, people depositing rubbish or waste in them, or even defecating in them, which was happening at one stage. They had doors on and the house closest to the entrance would be the key keeper...
...at the top of Elswick Street there'd be queues of people to get in that shelter. And the reason being, earlier on in the day there'd be somebody loading off a couple of crates of ale you see. And then in the evening apart from the ale, there was a couple of people with guitars and accordions. Accordions were very popular in them days, and they'd be having a hoolie in the shelter. It built up a reputation and people would come from all the streets around, prepared to wait in the queue even though no air raid sound had gone off. But they'd be prepared to join in, to get a space in that air raid shelter, that's how popular it had become. I never sampled it, but that was a fact..."
"...but once we came up here we were never taken into a public shelter. When the sirens went, mum used to come into the middle bedroom and bring my sister and me into her bed in the front bedroom which was a big double bed. And me brother of course would be in the middle of us all because he was just a baby then. It was just on that night that we saw the bomb going across the window in. She'd come into the middle bedroom to fetch me sister and me and she just pointed out, 'look'. And this thing with the flames out of its tail was going past the window, whistling..."
"...and of course you saw some very peculiar sights. There were people going along with possessions trying to get in the shelters. They'd be running for the shelters from their homes, clothes on hangers, teeth and boxes with probably their what's a names, insurance policies anything they wanted to save, their animals, parrots... All sorts were carried along, and we didn't see the humour at the time I must admit."
"I can vividly remember my mum dragging me up, trying to hold me and running into a hedge, because the houses were little, you've seen them. Some had hedges in front of them, but some had railings. But they took all the railings away during the war, so you just had the stubs, you know. We didn't have a hedge, we just had the stubs, but some of the houses still had little hedges and I remember my mum scratching all her face. That stands out you know, dragging me up to the shelter. But in the road, in Thornycroft Road, they built these brick built shelters. Now they're probably only for blasts I realise now, because nobody ever used them. They were just brick built, with a doorway. They built them for people to go in, but nobody ever did in Thornycroft Road. We all went to the school at the top of the road. They had an underground and so everybody went in there. They didn't go in the shelters, they weren't ever used at all."
"I can't ever remember feeling frightened. It's funny that isn't it. Just can't ever remember feeling frightened. Rushing out to the shelters in the middle of the night, being grabbed and dragged out. It was - I can't explain it really - just like fun, if you know what I mean. I never thought. We all used to sit there and wait and listen and then all the adults would say 'it's alright it's one of ours'. It was a different drone in the engines of the planes, you know. There was lots of children down there and we just played and there was lots of singing songs and all that you know. But I can't ever remember being frightened, and my husband said, you said, 'you were little, you didn't feel frightened did you?' No it's amazing really. I didn't think the seriousness of it, that we could be killed and everything. I don't think we'd ever thought about that, you know."
"...as I say when you're seven and you're looking at bodies, arms, legs, blood and you don't really know do you? All you're doing is running after your mum - she had a baby in her arms and he was two, my brother Brian. We used to run, and I mean run, because the bombs were coming at us like raindrops falling all over the place...
So in the May blitz they blasted, they killed us, they threw everything at us and we sheltered and yes I came out of it. Thousands came out of it, thousands were killed in it. I never want to go through a war again, never. And you're looking up and you look at these bombs, they're coming down like raindrops at you all over the place. Bombs dropping and you know when they drop, they'll kill, they'll explode...
I'm here today to try and tell you all about what happened to a girl of six in 1939, that went through the blitz and the war with her mum and dad down Athol Street, over the bridge. And the devastation of the dock areas where Germany tried to wipe us off the face of the earth. Oh they nearly did but they didn't quite did they?"
"I remember going to the Grafton one night, that must have been 1940 and I used to meet my husband at the top of the road and we'd walk along the road until we got to the Grafton. And we got as far as Mill Road hospital and this dive-bomber came and the bullets were splattering on the pavement. There was a wall at Mill Road hospital and we stood against the wall and another chap with Les had walked up with him and he was going to the Grafton - this fellow was trying to put me at the end so he could get in the middle. Anyway Les told him off and made him stand. So we were huddled against the wall. So he went past and then he tried again, you know. They go so far and then they come back. He only seemed to be doing the one road, Everton Road it was called. And it went towards the Grafton and you could see the bullets on the pavements. And he went further up and made a U-turn then came back. I don't know what we did the second time. I think I was that scared, [laugh], anyway we went to the Grafton and had a nice night..."
"So he stayed at Cammell Laird and then he joined the Home Guard. He used to do twelve hours at Cammell Laird's, then come home, have his tea and go and do all nights on the ack ack guns in Higher Bebington. I've still got his card from the Home Guards there. They shot a plane down one night anyway, and he still talks about it you know, 'remember the night we shot the plane down or crippled it'.
Interviewer: He thinks it was his gun that got it?
Yes, he's sure it was him [laugh].
Interviewer: How did he feel about shooting down someone?
Never gave it a thought. They were just Germans and they were enemies and you had to do it, because they would shoot you down if you didn't. Oh no, he never gave it a thought, that it was somebody's son or daughter. We were too young to think of it that way. They were just the enemy and they were shooting at us and if you got them first, well fine [laugh]."
"...we got on the ferry. I can't remember anybody else getting on with us. There was just us four girls with our little suitcase with our pyjamas in and cigarettes. [laugh] And we got into the middle of the river and it was dark - you must remember it was blackout, there was no lights anywhere all through the war. So it was pitch dark and the captain said 'be quiet, don't sing, don't do anything, don't light any cigarettes up, I'm turning the engine off' and all of a sudden the boat went quiet. It was that quiet we could hear the water lapping at the sides and you can't normally hear that. It was just floating in the water, lapping in pitch dark. He said 'don't sing, don't talk, because they're coming up the river, the Germans are coming up the river. They're flying low, it'll carry up to them'. So we just sat there just like mice, no cigarettes, no singing and we always used to sing on the top deck. And they came over and it was frightening. They weren't far off but they were heavy with bombs and when they were heavy with bombs they used to go [buzz noise] and when they dropped the bombs they used to fly away and you didn't get that heaviness, you know. And they came up in droves over us, up to Liverpool. We were there for an hour in the middle of the river, no cigarettes, no singing, no talking. It was just in dead silence, the water lapping and it was really frightening you know. And then all of a sudden the captain said 'I think we've seen the last of them for the time being. I'm going to make a dash to Woodside'. We weren't far from Woodside, and we get to Woodside and he said 'run for it' so we ran along the gang plank..."
"...we did have other accidents, when they were improving bombs, bringing different things out all the time. The war was going on and Hitler had all sorts and we had to make different things. They decided to do cluster bombs, and it's the first time they'd been made. I wasn't in this shop but somebody told me, and they roped all the legs of the tables, everything was roped and secured to the ground and the whole lot blew up. Eleven women lost their lives, all married with children and their husbands were at sea or in the Army so I don't know what happened. It was in the paper."
"...before I went into munitions I'd broken my arm. And I was in hospital for a fortnight and in there was a girl. She was in the bed opposite me and she was covered in plastic. I think she was in the Kirkby factory, in an explosion and she was burned. I had one arm free and I used to help to feed her and she had these bags. And you could see just the bones and flesh and that's the way she was all over. It was awful."
"I stood on the top of the hill and just watched. Looked down at my home and the tears were trickling. And they were digging like mad because they had seen this thing, you see. And I said 'what are you looking for?' 'There's something in there'. I said 'there's nobody there because it's my house'. Anyway it was this doll they found. It looked like a body, you know. I said 'this is my house and those are mine too', and it was a sachet of handkerchiefs. I had this big sachet because they were no tissues we had handkerchiefs, and they were perfectly ironed, all in this pouch of material, a pretty thing you know. Anyway and these handkerchiefs were in it, and I said 'and that is mine as well'. I was looking for my stuff, [laugh] you know. It was all gone. Oh it was terrible and the tears, the tears, well they wouldn't stop..."
Dogs were used to find survivors in rubble. Lillias Ward talks about the rescue dog, Jet, and his wartime heroics
"So my mother decided that now she had this litter, she set about trying to find out how she could help the war effort. That's why she started writing down to Gloucester, to Colonel Baldwin who was running what they called the 'War Dog School'. She made enquiries as to what she could do, what she could give, what would help. So these [dogs] were donated, but in the meantime, she had to bring them up till they were nine months old, and food was difficult to get. And we had four people billeted on us as well, and she had them to look after, and they were in the censorship. So she was trying to think how she could get food for the dogs. So she went round the shops and asked for anything that was being discarded, and she found the Co-op very helpful to her, with stale bread, things like that. And she was also allowed to go around the swill bins - she kept a letter from Colonel Baldwin with her, so that was all right. So that was how she managed to feed them. But her next job was to make sure that she taught them to be kind and trusting of people, and also well behaved [laugh]. That was very important.
...we got letters, particularly from Jet's handlers. I don't know what it was about Jet. The first place he went to after his initial training as a guard dog was to Northern Ireland where there was an American sergeant looking after him. We had a letter from him saying how special he [Jet] was, and how he was very good, even with the cows [laugh]. So, that seemed to be helpful. It must have been in the countryside, this airfield that they were guarding. After a little while he was recalled to Gloucester, and there, Colonel Baldwin was trying to think of what else he could do, could he do something that would help with snipers? What could he do? Anyway they decided on an exercise, that they would take the dogs, and they would get some of the men to hide, and see how the dogs got on in finding them. And they found nearly all of them, except one, but Jet didn't want to come in. He was standing with his nose to a tiny hole in the road, and so his handler said 'what on earth is all this? There is something here, we have got to watch it'. And of course there was one man still somewhere and they found him, underneath about twelve feet. He's just sniffed that hole and he knew that there was someone under there. So this gave them all ideas, so they did do some work in Birmingham, finding people, and we have the story, of a man in Birmingham, who came up to the handlers and said, could they advise him. His wife had just died and he didn't know how to get in touch with his son in the army. And so, the man said 'well you will have to wait until we've finished, and we will talk then'. Jet led the way to a house and he stood there watching and he went nearly frantic, and he [Jet's handler] said 'something's there', and it was this man's wife, and she was alive. It was a lovely story. And funnily enough, some years later, my mother took him to Birmingham, to an exhibition, and someone came up to her and said 'that dog saved my life', and put a pound in her hand, collecting for the PDSA.
Now I went to work in London in 1946, and when I got there everyone knew the black dog that came if there had been a direct hit, which was absolutely fascinating to me, because he was so well known, even on the outskirts. He had a handler who was called Corporal Wardle, and they made friends and they stayed working together. I think it is very important for the handler to know how the dog is going to respond, because they can judge from their behaviour what to say to the Civil Defence people who are searching. And the reason why he [Jet] got his medal was one particularly outstanding situation where a hotel had had a direct hit, and they thought they'd got everybody out, that needed to come out, and everything was clear. And Jet had been there, and the handler said 'I'm sorry, there's someone there, up high and you'll have to go'. 'It can't be!' 'Well I'm sorry, this is important. If Jet says that person's there, and they're alive, by his behaviour'. Because if they weren't alive, he would just point to where they were. And so he said 'you know, we will have to wait'. So that was what they did. They waited until they could get ladders and everything ready to get up. And the woman was not only alive, but she lived, so that was lovely. I think that was the story that hit the newspapers at the time. Jet stood there and wouldn't go, and it was evidently about eleven and a half hours that he was there, and I think it was that determination that got the imagination of the newspapers. And the PDSA gave him a medal, for all his work, but that was the outstanding one that probably attracted attention, and that was exciting.
Then one-day mummy got a phone call, from Colonel Baldwin to ask if we be able to send him with Corporal Wardle and one other dog, up to the Whitehaven Pit disaster? Twelve people couldn't be found, and of course they feared the worst. And so, my mother very sad, because she'd been brought up in a coal mining district and she knew what it was like after a collapse of a roof, and he went up. And we were told when he came back, that he'd actually saved the party that was looking, because he stopped suddenly and pulled back, and so again the handler was able to interpret this and he shouted to the others 'come back, come back'. And the roof fell just where they'd been, so he must have heard it coming..."
"But that war, that particular air raid, it took a lot of houses. It did a lot of damage and we had no water. The water pipes had burst as well as all the property, so of course the shortage of water was a big loss. Sometimes during bombing raids, they would put a standpipe outside and you could get your water that way, but on this occasion there were big tanks, that we had to get our water. So you can imagine the water was in terribly short supply and I used to bath the baby and wash her clothes in the same water. Then I'd wash the kitchen floor with the same water [laugh]. It's unbelievable when I think of it. And the rinsing water we used to use for the toilet. But you see when the thing only came round once a day, you were so economical it was unbelievable."
"...there was no training. You were put into what they called small shops where they made different sizes of shells and landmines and different things like that, you know, [cough]. So you were just told what you had to do, filling them with TNT. And there was a lot involved in doing them, and they had to be filled to a certain level and then you had to put a tube in which was going to contain the detonator. Then it had to be all cleaned and scraped until it was exactly the right height inside the shells or the mines. It was quite heavy work actually because they used to have like a big cement mixer, type of thing and this was hot TNT. The smell was terrible and you had to go to that with something like a watering can, and take it up. There was a chap on it who used to tilt it and fill your big can, and you'd have to carry that to where you were working and then fill the shells from that. I slipped on the floor with one of these big cans and I was covered in TNT. My eyes were concealed and everything, up my nose, it was everywhere. Some of the chaps that were working there got hold of me and put me onto a trolley and took me down to the medical place and obviously I had to wait for it to set on my face. I had quite a job getting it off my eyelashes, you know and that sort of thing. And of course my face then was red and scared with the hot TNT, you know. They put me on the bed for an hour or something, and then it was straight back to work after that. [laugh] You know, there's no sentiment in business is there?"
"...when we got into work the first thing you done was take your clothes off, and collect your money and put it in this little bag and either put it round your neck - people had them pinched if they left, you only had to leave them down. A terrible lot of rogues you know worked among you. And a hat or your turban, what ever you had. You tucked all your hair underneath, and they made sure you didn't have any curling pins. And you'd go through the main admin gates and you'd get a bus in there, a single decker bus, and that used to take you to your Group and you'd get out there and you'd just walk into your shop and start work and that was your day then. Say we started work at 6 o'clock or maybe before...
Three times I walked home in me bare feet with the girl who lived in the next street from me, because somebody pinched our shoes. That's the way it was there. It didn't matter what you'd done to that bag they'd got your shoes, so I used to just go in any old thing. Well they didn't touch them if you had old shoes, if they were down at the heel or not. Well that was the best thing to go in, because you did have a pair of shoes to come home in. We had no shoes.
Interviewer: Where did you store your outdoor clothes?
Our Clothes? Like a cloakroom, we just hung them up in a bag. They give you a bag and you put your clothes in this bag. Now sometimes we wore a trouser suit with a jacket and a pair of trousers, but most of all we had our own trousers on. You had to have one of their overalls on. Well if you could sneak that overall home you would and you'd put all kinds of fancy pleats in it because they were like sacks on you. And all your hair covered, you just had the bit out at the front, a turban."
"...but I can remember September the 3rd which was a Sunday. I can remember I was on an anti-gas practice off Dale Street. And we had to go into this affair and I hated it. I had a tin hat on for the first time and the gas mask and it was awful. And we were all running around and we had to go into this place and test with smells I think. The only thing I can remember was phosgene and that was a mustardy smell you know. I hoped it would never happen because we had gas masks for the infants and it seemed terrible having to put a gas mask which was pumped up by the mum to protect children. After that everybody carried a gas mask of course. I had a service one which was a larger one, but mostly the others were in little cardboard boxes."
"...we all had gas masks. We used to have to take them to school. We had one for my brother as well - he was just a baby...
It was like a little cradle thing. It had a Perspex cover on it and you slotted the baby in from the bottom and then you had to pump the air into it, into the cavity. They came to demonstrate [laugh] to mum how to use it for the baby and she started crying, and I remember she was saying 'oh you're not putting my baby in there no, no I'm not putting my baby in there' [laugh]. So Jim never went in there, he just had to take his chance with the rest of us. But my sister and I used to have gas masks and I'm only sorry we haven't got them now."
"So you always stood in a queue and we stood in a queue at Lewis's in Liverpool. The queue went round and round and round and we didn't know what was at the end of it, and it was filtering down the queue it was an enamel basin and a bucket [laugh] and we were delighted to get it, absolutely delighted because they were steel or tin or whatever and of course there was so few of them. You queued everywhere. When you were pregnant, you were allowed to go to the front of the queue, you weren't allowed to stand, and I must say very few pregnant women did, because they were embarrassed. But I did once because I wasn't feeling very well. There was bananas or oranges at this little shop in New Ferry and so I thought, 'well I'm going to go to the front of the queue' and I walked to the front of the queue and women used to mutter about it, 'we didn't do it when we were having babies, we had to get the back of the queue same as everybody else'. So you didn't do it very often, although you could do if you wanted to. I only ever did it once."
"...we used to have a butcher Joe Spencer, and he used to be pretty good, cos' he used to know me hubby. He was pretty good if I sent the kids down for some stew or that, you know. And sometimes people in work, they used to say "do you want any coupons Emily for the kids?" and they used to give me coupons for sweets for them and that."
"Anyway we were able to go collecting the shrapnel, which was quite an adventure and then you'd be swapping for different pieces of shrapnel on the alleged value, you know, one was slightly bigger than the other and so on. And the other was the ARP were collecting the shrapnel as a war effort, so the ARP, the Air Raid Precaution people who were running that, they started to set up collection points and I didn't do it, but some of the kids would go in by the way to put their collection in, for the war effort to be melted down again and make more shells. And then some of them would start nicking the bigger pieces [laugh]..."
"...when my husband got killed, he got killed in the air force. So I was allowed to stay off - you weren't allowed to have a day off at all and I think I was off for a few weeks. And when I went back the foreman was really cruel. She kept saying to me 'Come on, it's been so many weeks. Buck up now. You have got this and that to do', and I just couldn't pull my myself together as you would understand...
I didn't see him after we were married. I was married in the September and he was coming home on leave a week after he was killed in January. The plane he was in crashed up in Scotland. I was at work when the telegram came, and the telegram said either he could be buried with the rest of the crew or he could be brought home. Well my father didn't know what to do but he had him brought home and he is in Allerton cemetery, which to me still seems very sad because he is on his own since I moved..."
"We went to school and just in my class I remember hearing, I can't remember the names now of course, but 'so and so won't be coming back to school today' or 'so and so won't be coming to school again'. And you don't realise at the time just why that was. We never thought to ask why, we didn't realise..."