Today is the 70th anniversary of VE Day – the end of World War Two. I have seen very little about in the media – I suspect the General Election has overshadowed it, which is really sad. It is such an important part of British history, and each year it seems to get more and more overlooked.
One thing I always meant to do was ask my Great Uncle Fred about his experiences during World War Two. He fought in it before being wounded, and I bet he had some brilliant stories to tell. Sadly, I just never got round to it, and he died a few years ago, taking those stories with him.
When I realised it was the 70th anniversary of VE Day, I knew I wanted to write a post about the war, to mark one of the most important periods of British history. So many people died both fighting and as a result of the Blitz to keep this country free, that it seems almost disrespectful to let it go without a mention. On a more selfish note, I find World War Two incredibly interesting, and I will never ever pass up on an opportunity to learn more about it.
With this in mind, I phoned my nan. She is 81 (and on Facebook & Instagram – how cool is she?!), so she is one of the younger members of the war generation. I ‘interviewed’ her about her experiences during World War Two, which is what I am going to share with you. It makes me a little sad that I’ve never asked her about it until now, but better late than never!
When I say I interviewed, I phoned her and we had a chat about what she can remember. It was over 70 years ago, and she was only a child. I have obviously paraphrased it to make it flow and read better, but these are her own experiences.
I was born in April 1934, so I was five years old when World War Two was declared in September 1939. I don’t really remember the announcement – I was probably too young to understand what was going on, and if I did realise, I thought it was ever so exciting!
My first memory of the war was being taken down to Tyseley railway station (we lived in Tyseley at the time, which was, and still is, a massive industrial area in Birmingham). We stood and watched the troops being sent off on the trains. I also remember going to see the tanks by the bus garage in Acocks Green (where we later moved to)- one nearly ran over my foot!
I remember when we got our gas masks, which we had to take everywhere. We thought they were really exciting, especially our baby sister’s – she had to sit in hers.
In our back garden we had an Anderson (air raid) shelter. It had bunk beds in so we could try to sleep during the raids. When the sirens went off, we would turn the kitchen lights off and one by one, led by one of the older children, we would make our way down to the shelter. Our dad, who had been a soldier before and during World War One had to go out on nightwatch, which of course we all worried about.
We were very lucky considering we lived not far from Tyseley, and the factories which made the Spitfire planes was only down the road in Castle Bromwich. A few bombs landed on some houses the other side of the park, but the closest one to us landed just down the road, outside the shop. Miraculously, it didn’t damage the shop at all – it didn’t even break the windows, but instead damaged the water main, which was really noisy!
Obviously, everything was rationed, so things were in short supply. We kept chickens in the back garden, and often swapped them for other things we needed, like material for clothes. We loved the chickens, and got really attached to them. When it was time for them to be slaughtered, we were gutted. I remember them attacking the milk lady! As well as keeping chickens, we grew carrots, cabbage and potatoes in the garden. All the scraps were boiled up to feed the chickens, and it used to stink! People were so desperate for material for clothes (which was also rationed) that when a barrage balloon burst and came down in a nearby field, everyone rushed to collect the material to make knickers!
My eldest brother, Fred, was called up to fight. I remember playing in the back garden and seeing a man in a blue suit that I didn’t recognise walk up the path and through the back gate. I heard my mum scream in delight – it was my brother! He had been wounded and honourably discharged.
I wasn’t evacuated because I was quite poorly throughout my childhood. My sister Mary, and brother Wilf were evacuated to Coleshill. Mary was with a nice family and was happy. Wilf wasn’t quite so lucky, and ended up coming home. My older sisters, Phyllis, Gladys and Doris all had to go to work. Phyllis and Gladys worked on the buses and Doris worked in a factory.
This is where got to. I speak to my nan a lot, but don’t often phone out of the blue and ask her to remember something from more than 70 years ago! Hopefully, I’ll be adding more to this soon!