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A Short account of my memories of the Second World War

June 10, 2014 4 comments

I was seventeen months old when the war broke out. I lived at 29 Harvey Street at New Brancepeth with My Mam and Dad and three brothers and one sister. My Dad who had served in the First World War and had been badly wounded as a teenager in Northern Italy in 1917 was the Storeman at New Brancepeth Colliery. He served with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Everything was rationed. The impact of the rationing meant zero obesity. It is only as an adult and reading about those times the the realisation dawned on me of the huge worry it must have been for my Mam to feed a family of seven. I remember going to New Brancepeth Co-op on Unthank Terrace with my Mam and her handing over the ration books and the man behind the counter cutting out the coupons and handing the rations books back to her. My Dad must have been quite a lad. My recollections of him are very faint as he passed away when I was nine years old. He had had one leg amputated above the knee due to a wound turning to gangrene whilst in the Army. However, he had a garden down the Garden Path and despite his handicap he tended the garden and raised vegetables and kept rabbits in a cree to supplement our diet. I well remember going down the garden on a Saturday night and him picking a rabbit up by the ears and killing it with one blow of his hand across its neck. Then taking it up home and skinning it and cleaning it ready for the oven. I know that this sounds barbaric today but we were lucky that we had the garden with the vegetables and the rabbits. There was no television in those days and my parents would listen nightly to the news on the wireless on how the War was going. It must have been a terrible time for parents with young families not knowing if the Germans would eventually invade this country. I can also remember the German propaganda on the wireless and the well known catch phrase the presenter William Joyce used to introduce the programme “Germany calling, Germany calling” Most people listened to his broadcasts throughout the War. My Dad also cobbled our shoes and I can still see him with a shoe or a boot on his last sitting at the back kitchen table using his skills as he repaired the sole or replaced a heel.

All children were issued with gas masks and these had to be carried to school every day and stacked handy in the classroom. We also carried Identity Cards. I cannot see the big fuss in todays world about carrying ID Cards. I can well remember sitting in class in St. Josephs at Ushaw Moor and the Air Raid Warning siren sounding. We were quickly lined up in Class, handed our gas mask carriers and marched into the school yard then across the Church Drive and into the Air Raid shelter by the side of the drive. The Teachers carried hurricane lamps and when we were all in seated on the wooden seating around the walls the bomb proof steel door was shut with a loud clang and we were sealed in until the All Clear siren sounded. It was wet and damp in the Shelter and very cold even in summer. The Teachers told us stories and we would say a prayer for our safety and I can still remember the lovely fresh air when we left the shelter.

There was a total blackout. No light could escape from any window at home. The Air Raid Wardens would patrol the streets nightly and if the smallest chink of light showed there would be a knock at the door and the householder would be told to make sure the windows
showed no light. There were no street lights so people carried on normal life in darkness.

I have many more memories so I will sign off now and see if there is any response to this post.

Brian Mc

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