The War Years
Having survived a very premature birth and a month in an incubator, at 3 months old I developed Whooping Cough and Pneumonia and apparently nearly died, but obviously I did not. The next child born, my brother, died and 2 further brothers subsequently developed Muscular Dystrophy and became invalids. A fourth healthy brother was born when I was 13 years old. It took me some years to realise and appreciate how blessed I was in surviving and I did grow up with a sense that I was meant to be alive.
The Liverpool Waterfront
I was born in Liverpool, a large industrial sea port in the North West of England and about 220 miles from London. The sea and ships have always held a fascination for me and there is a strong seafaring influence throughout the male side of my family. Great Grandfathers, Grandfather, Father and then my son and husband for a period of time.
The second world war broke out when I was 10 months old and continued until I was 6. Living in a major seaport meant that there was major bombing and devastation, but as a family we were very fortunate, nobody was killed. Obviously being so young there is only so much that I can remember, but the lasting impression was one of hearing the sirens as the planes came over and the all clear sirens as they left. I am sure that for the adults this was more than nerve racking, but for me it was just part of life. The unpleasant side was seeing whole streets flattened afterwards.
During the war we lived with my Grandparents and I still remember the brick and concrete air raid shelter in the back yard where we spent many hours with candles and blankets. Other times we sheltered under the stairs until the all clear sounded. My Grandfather was a fire Warden so I am sure it must have been a hair raising time for my Grandmother.
At some stage during this time the female members of the family were evacuated to Wales for a time. For me being young, I went with my Mother and Grandmother. My single Aunt who lived with us was part of the Women’s Auxiliary Service so she was away. Not as good for children of my husband Alan’s age as they were evacuated without their parents. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be 8 years old and sent away, far from home, to a strange house, strange people, in a strange countryside and a strange school. Obviously experiences varied depending on where one was sent. Alan was fortunate to have his older brother with him. For a time we had 3 French Sailors billeted at my Grandmother’s house and they would bring things over from France and teach us words in French.
Obviously there was much excitement and celebration when the war ended, but I have no memories of this, only the sights I see in the media to go by. What I do remember is seeing my first banana. Ships were used for war purposes so imports of foreign fruits did not exist. Being able to go into a shop and buy unlimited sweets (candies), provided one had the money, was another luxury. To see an end to tins of dried egg brought over from America was another treat. I remember this awful bright yellow looking powder mixed with water. I guess that at the time we were grateful for whatever we got.
It was quite some time after the war ended before ration books ceased. Clothes and food were rationed. Something like 2 rashers of bacon and 2 oz. of butter per week etc. Of course shopping was a very different experience to that of today. For instance a co-operative store with a different counter for each kind of commodity, so a trip there could involve six different queues. I remember being asked to stand in one queue while my Mother stood in another, and of course they were always close to home. I did not know anybody with a car in those days. I certainly remember my Aunt managing to get hold of a used parachute which she turned into silk underwear. Silk stockings came only via. the American Air force. Ladies drew a black pencil line down the back of their legs to make it look like they were wearing stockings.
A post war experience that I have never forgotten, was being taken down to the dockside when the ships brought home the prisoners of war. The emotion, the tears, the wave of excitement, the crowds, the noise and the whole world, or so it seemed, singing Land of Hope and Glory as the mass bands played. Unforgettable.
My 3 childhood homes. These photos were taken on a visit I made 2 years ago when I went back to Liverpool to visit my childhood haunts. (Sorry about the cars)
This was my Grandmother's house - bigger than it looks. Sitting Room, Dining Room, Living Room and Kitchen with a Wash House (laundry) and Lavatory in the Back Yard. Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms and a large bathroom and lavatory. We also had electricity.
My parents first house was in this street but the actual house no longer exists. This was what is called a two up/two down. Two rooms downstairs plus a kitchen and a lavatory in the back yard. Two bedrooms upstairs and no bathroom. We were bathed in the living room in a tin bath in front of the fire. Just gas mantles and candles, no electricity. The front door led straight into the front room and the stairs led up from the back room.
This was my parents second home where I lived until I was 16. This house had 3 bedrooms and no bathroom. We were fortunate. We had a cellar and it it we had a proper full sized bath. It was free standing with a cold tap. No hot water in the house. There was a large boiler in the cellar where the water was heated and ladled into the bath. When the plug hole was drained the water ran straight onto the tiled floor, down a gully and into a grid. The coal was also kept in the cellar, but in a different compartment. Downstairs there was a Sitting Room, Living Room and Kitchen. The lavatory was in the backyard. I remember when the gas mantles were taken out of this house and we had electricity installed. No more going upstairs to bed with candles.