The Lighter side of World War Two

Nothing can break the human spirit as long as you can have a good laugh.

Photo of hand-cranked air raid siren

Hand-cranked air raid siren

You would think wouldn’t you that the last place anyone could raise a laugh is in the middle of an air raid, but not so, there is always someone who with a few short words can raise the spirits of those around them.

The occasion is one late evening in 1940, I had joined ARP as telephonist, ARP being Air Raid Precautions. It was my turn to go on night shift at the local ARP post which wasn’t far away. The air raid sirens started up so I donned my tin hat, grabbed my gas mask, but before I could get out of the door we heard the screams of bombs coming down. We dived for cover, ‘we’ being Mum, Dad, Joseph my young brother and the dog.

One of the bombs dropped on the other side of Matthew Bank where we lived destroying most of the houses and killing friends and neighbours. A great blue flame came through our living room window and when it went out again it took with it, amidst a great roar, the fire out of the fireplace and all the windows. We checked to see if we had been injured in any way and as we hadn’t we then looked for our dog that was called Lassie. We need not have worried – there she was under the table. She had got used to diving under the table when the sirens sounded, I think she looked on it as a game. When we decided we were ok I donned my tin hat, grabbed my gas mask again and off I went.

Behind our house were the Corporation Greenhouses in which were grown all the plants and flowers that graced our public parks during the summer months. There was not one whole pane of glass left in them. Picking my way through that lot I belted along the lane and, as it had been snowing quite heavily, the area was covered in an even coating of snow and as the dugout I was heading for was half buried under ground I couldn’t actually see it clearly. I ran over the top and went head first into the snow on the other side.

When the lads dragged me into the dugout I was soaked and covered in snow and soot. On the point of tears as the shock of it all began to set in I heard someone say, “Crikey are they dropping bags of soot”. We all fell about laughing, including myself because someone gave me a mirror and I could see my face which was unbelievable and my clothes. Well I looked like one of the casualties!

Nothing can break the human spirit as long as you can have a good laugh.

If you've enjoyed this memory and would like to share a story of your own why not go to our Contact Page to find out more.