Wartime Memories - St James Farnworth Ladies Fellowship
Air raid shelters and the black out
I have three brothers and 3 sisters and when the war started my mum had an indoor shelter, bigger than a table and made of stainless steel. It had a mattress underneath it and when they bombed Manchester, and the sky was lit up, she used to waken us up, and make us watch saying, "You will never see anything like this again." She liked to say, "When you've got to go, you've got to go". We used to dance on it, all the kids in the street used to dance on it, and it used to sound like bedlam. We used to practice dancing, looking in a big mirror mum had on the wall. The shelter was massive; no one had one like it, just ones in the garden.
When it was dark one night, my friend Edna Bradley and I were coming up Piggot Street past the Social Circle. I don't know where we'd been but it was about 8 o'clock at night. I felt something going up my skirt, and I screamed, "There's something going up my skirt". We were petrified and just stood still. It turned out to be a great big dog sniffing round our legs. We thought somebody had got us.
Tales from the farm
My name is Hilda Edwards (nee Eckersley). I used to live at Bulloughs Farm, Little Hulton. The Second World War was on and I wanted to be a nurse. My other sisters wanted to go in the air force, and another sister wanted to stay on the farm. One night Dad wanted to talk to us. He said, "If you girls go off to the war, what shall I do? I will have to get some land girls to help me out. If you stay at home I will get a good horse to enable you to manage it". So he got a good horse, a mare, and her name was Molly. We all got on well; Molly took the milkfloat all around Little Hulton and Farnworth. I think she knew every street. It was summertime, and I was in charge. Bennisons foundry was at the bottom of the farm and they had a Home Guard there. Someone asked dad if he would let Bennisons Home Guard use the field opposite the yard to train the Home Guard and he agreed. About 8 o'clock 2 of us would go out to shut all the hens and geese etc. up for the night. After we had done this job, we saw Molly acting a bit queer. "What's wrong with Molly," we said. She was running round and round the field and each time she got to the bottom she kicked her legs up. We watched this for a bit, and thought that there might be dogs running round but they weren't. We decided to go and tell dad. Dad wondered if it might be a warble fly after her. These flies bit horses and cows on their backs, and then it comes up in a big lump. When the lump shines you go and squeeze them and a big maggot comes out. Then you clean the wound. Dad said we should bring Molly in for the night. We did, and examined her but couldn't find anything wrong with her. Next morning she did the round alright, and afterwards we let her out in the field. It was summer. About 6 o'clock that night there was a knock on the farm house door from someone wanting to speak to Harry Eckersley. Dad came to the door. This man said, "You have given us permission to use the field opposite the foundry for Home Guard practise, but please could you not put the horse in the field. It played hell with the practice last night. We were practicing rifle drill on our tummies. Every time the horse came round we had to fly for our lives". Dad brought the horse into another field that night.
Another story from the farm
When they were bombing Manchester we all went in the shelters. Altogether there were 6 of us in the family, 2 men working for us, the milk boy and 4 people from the 2 cottages at the bottom of the farm. When the all clear went dad looked round to make sure everything was alright. On one particular night he said, "There's something wrong in that shippon." There was a terrible noise in there; the cows were mooing and mawking about. Two men went in with him, and there were 9 cows dancing about making a terrible noise. We found out a piece of shrapnel had gone through the roof and right into the back of the cows' buttocks. We took it out and it was alright.
The farm was in Little Hulton near the White Lion, and called Bulloghs Farm. There is an estate there now and it says Bullers on the road.
Several people remembered milk being delivered from the farm.
My husband was in the Navy, on the landing craft. He wasn't called up until later, he was one of the older ones. He said he had a very good war until D Day, and then he had to go over with the invasion forces. We'd arranged to get married on September 2nd, and he'd arranged his leave to coincide with that time. It was very difficult at that time but you were allowed a certain amount for weddings. A few days before I got a letter saying he wouldn't be able to get over from France and we would have to cancel it. It wasn't really like cancelling it, more postponing it. On 14 September I was working in Manchester and got a phone call at the office. " I'm in England, arrange the wedding for Saturday". (It was Thursday) when you think how long it takes a wedding to be arranged now. We had taxis, flowers; you could get basic rations from the Co-op without using coupons. It had to be a cold meal. In Manchester I worked near the barrow boys. As soon as there was any fruit the word used to go round, so working there I'd been able to get fruit and bottle it. We were able to make dessert and trifles; Arthur was bringing cigarettes and chocolates. Everything was going well except the reception should have been here in St James School. It was youth fellowship at that time. Anyway, a friend of Arthur's mother arranged for us to use the Methodists Sunday school for the reception. Everything was fixed up but for one snag. We hadn't arranged any honeymoon. Believe me we spent the night before our wedding in a phone box ringing, trying to find somewhere to go and didn't manage it. My heart dropped. Then a relative of Arthur's mothers said she had a relative in Morecambe of all places. So we rang and she was able to fix us up.
So we spent our honeymoon in Morecambe. It was 8 o' clock before we managed to get away, catching a train at Bolton, followed by everyone with confetti. We got to Morecambe, and it was blackout, pitch black, no taxis and we didn't know where we were going. We did find it though.
Everybody rallied round and brought things. A farmer friend brought cream etc.
In 1942 you had to fill a form in put down the job you did. I worked in printing but couldn't stay there. I was a book binder, so you had to choose war service. I went home and talked it over. I'd never left home before. So I was upset.
The choice was ATS, WAAFS, munitions or nursing. I decided on nursing. I had no idea what it would entail, so I went in the civil nursing reserve. We worked with Queen Alexandra Nurses (sisters) and the Red Cross. We wore blue, all the full uniform and we got about one pound odd a week. I tried to save . I was in Whittingham Military Hospital, a mental hospital which had been taken over. I came home on Saturdays at 4 o'clock. There were 500 sailors, airmen, soldiers, or civilian casualties. We also had ladies sent there injured when their homes had been doodle bugged. I went to the station to pick them up. We brought them on lorries and got them on the wards. The Soldiers etc had to go in the corridors, while they went in the wards. The Soldiers didn't mind. They had field dressings on when they arrived. On my first day on the ward, there were all these soldiers and they brought a man in aged about 17 from Fulwood barracks. "Come on Nurse Powell", the sister said to me," You can help me with the trolley". Next thing I was flat out on the next bed. He'd come in with a boil, which had been lanced, and a tube put in. Next day I had to go round again. Next one was a man who had lost part of his stomach. I could stand that and used to put dressings on him. He told me he lived in Belle Vue. He was a twin who had lost his brother, killed at Alexandria.
After that we got Germans, and Russians, and Polish. We had to have soldiers from the barracks at Fulwood with bayonets to look after them. If we went into the Germans we had to have a soldier with us. I can remember one man sent me a ring with a naval crest on, which I wore. I was treating a German officer who had been wounded, down below, very nasty. He took hold of my hand and looked at the ring and spat on my hand. I thought how awful.
You could go to others who were so grateful. I only had six weeks training. I worked 2 years from 1944 to 1946, and then I married, at St James. We had our reception here in the school.
It was a hard job. We had to scrub and clean I was tired out, and I got anaemia and a series of boils. I went back to printing. It didn't make me want to be a nurse. Mr Townsend, the vicar died while I was away. I was allowed to come home for the funeral. My mother in law did the cleaning at the vicarage. He wanted me to be a nurse. I wanted to get married.
I was born when my mum and dad lived in Little Lever. We moved to a house in Hall Lane near where the allotments were. During WW2 in 1940's a bomb dropped in allotment near the houses. We'd been running to the shelter several times in the night, I had a young baby brother, only 7 or 8 months old when we got back home after all clear, we were all so tired no one heard him crying. There must have been a stray bomb, which went off after, and he had a convulsion and choked. My sister had a nervous problem for several years as a result.
"When my husband was on leave we decided to go to the Savoy, like all the courting couples. We were upstairs snogging away and then the lights went on at half time. We realised we weren't sat on a seat; we were sat on a piece like this at the side. Everyone was looking, and my legs were dangling over the side. It is a wonder we didn't go over the top, we weren't on a seat, we'd sat there in the dark, and his arms were all around me".
"There weren't many double seats so me and my boyfriend used to go early to the Hippodrome which was in Egerton Street. I lived in Harrowby Street. The Ritz was the best, and the Empire on Albert road was the scruffiest. Women wearing shawls used to take babies in there".
"A gang of us used to go. It was 3d or 6d to go in; we used to say if you don't let us in by the side door we'll give you a damned good hiding. She used to open the side door for us, and let us all in".
"I used to go to the penny rush on Saturdays. I remember the first tellies. I remember seeing that, and a silent movie - Madge Evans in Broken Blossoms".
"If it were a good picture you'd often be skriking all the way through. Every time I saw a Lassie picture I'd be skriking, and crying but say what a good picture it was."
"In the old days it didn't matter if you missed the beginning because it was continuous.
I used to work in the pictures and I loved seeing all the films at the Ritz."
" My mum used to work in a cinema café and get free tickets - the Ritz in Barrow in Furness."
"I remember standing in the dole queue with my mother not sure how old I was, but it would be about 1926. We waited ages and ages. I don't remember doing that with my father - he had a greengrocery business with a horse and a cart. My mother was a spinner or weaver, in the cotton industry."
"If there was ever anything going on at the mission or Methodist churches like potato pie, or black peas we'd be there. I had no mother. There was never anything at the Church of England but there was always something going on at the Salvation Army or Methodist Church".
"I was very religious and used to go to the Methodist mission or the Church of England depending on which one was having a trip to Southport".
" I remember ice cream man selling black peas or baked potatoes in winter. There was an ice cream man with a tricycle. There were chocolate boats for 2d? I used to walk home from Horwich to Westhoughton, save my 2 ½ bus fare so I could have a chocolate boat."
" I was fortunate. My mum had a maiden aunt with big garden with fresh fruit and vegetables. My mum's mother could make delicious pies and cakes. I was really well fed. We took our sugar rations up to aunties to make jam etc. This was Barrow in Furness."
We moved from Hall Lane to Railway View facing the railway bridges opposite Devon Street. Every time a train went by we had to hang onto everything in case it fell off. From there, when I was about 6 we moved to Annie Street, we moved on Good Friday. Annie Street was off Fylde Street. We lived there up to getting married. Mam and dad were some of the first to be evacuated when Fylde Street collapsed in 1957. A sewer went down, starting with a little hole. A greengrocer, on the corner of Thynne Street had just been to market to collect things. When he got back the police were guarding his house. He said, "You can't go in here". The grocer said, "You please yourself mate, my children are asleep in there." All the front of the shop had gone but the kids were safe. He had a till in the shop, with all the takings in, but it was never found.
Mum and family were moved to Watermillock, and then to Castle Street to what used to be the blind school, and then to a council house in Breightmet. I don't think my mum ever got over all that moving. It was a big shock when that happened. I went home to try and help us as best I could. The sewer had been built on sand. Fylde Street works weren't particularly old.
Another member of the group said, "My dad used to work near Fylde street, and one night he came and said to my mum " There's something going to happen down there, because there has been water running all night and you could hear it as if something was going to give way. It was only a week or two after that it happened. It was a miracle no one was killed".
I lived in Worsley road. There were 8 of us. Four had gone in to the army, leaving Sam, Doris, me and our Ethel. We didn't want to go to school this day. We went to East Council School, our house had a veranda. Sam and I got on it and Doris went to school. My dad met her and said, "Where are the others?" She said, "They've not been to school." We were still on the veranda. We got a good hiding. It was good watching everyone go by but we got a good belting for it. It wasn't worth it.
On our side wall we used to have an advert for Heinz soup, tomatoes, chicken, etc. We used to make sloppy dough-dough. It is just dirt and water, and we used to throw it to see who could hit the tomato soup. My father came home and he took one look, and said, "Who's done that". We got another good hiding. We all left home before we were 16, that's another story.
I used to stand in front of young Doris to stop dad hitting her.