War Time in Wallsend

On moon nights, barrels were put along streets and smoke making stuff was burned in them so the enemy couldn't see clearly.

We all had to carry gas masks in a cardboard box with a string attached to hang around our neck and never had we to go out without it.  We were provided with a big apparatus to allow the whole of a small baby to be put inside and, if the need had arisen, we would have had to pump a concertina-like thing to give air to the baby.  Thank goodness they never became necessary.  It was a good decision as we were, luckily, not to be in any great danger.

We had one or two incidents: incendiary bombs were dropped and fell in the back lane between kitchens, 2 Victoria Terrace, near our back door. The noise got us up and our back door was blown open and it seemed as if the whole place was on fire; however, it was soon put out by the fire watchers. It wasn’t my husband’s turn on that night.  Another time a bomb dropped on the railway line, less than a quarter of a mile from our house and one of the sleepers on which the railway line is fixed, landed three back yards from us.  It broke the man-hole cover, which was situated just outside the air raid shelter door.   Luckily, no one was looking out.  The shelters were built in the yard, quite strong with heavy concrete roofs.

My husband made a rough bed of wood and with a mattress.  It was quite comfy and many nights we slept right through till morning.  Alf had brought the cradle from his Father’s allotment which was Alf’s cradle when he was a baby and we cleaned it up and Dorothy slept most comfortably in there.  My husband was in the Home Guard and had to stay in the Plaza in Tynemouth at weekends.  It was the equivalent of Dad’s Army, which has been on TV.

They were taught to use guns, and once they had a demonstration in the Burn Closes and Alf had to step in to shoot at a target and he certainly didn’t disgrace himself; perhaps it was a fluke, but he was right on target. He had to work a twelve-hour shift at work during the war; he was in a reserved occupation so didn’t have to go to war.  Many times he had to ride his bicycle through an air raid, and I used to worry until he got home, as I was alone in the shelter with Dorothy.  I wasn’t really afraid, but I think I would be now.

We didn’t get any news from the radio and only heard by word of mouth where the bombs had fallen.  A land mine fell near the Dun Cow, near Willington Quay. A great deal of damage was done and lives lost; about three rows of houses were damaged.

We had to have blackout material for our windows and no streetlights were lit; the blackout was very strict.  On moon nights, barrels were put along streets and smoke-making stuff was burned in them so the enemy couldn’t see very clearly.

We had rationing of food, clothes, sweets and fuel.  We were issued with ration books, buff colour for adults and green for children. Fruit was mainly allocated to the children.  Sometimes we could get eggs off the ration in the dairy in Station Road.  I used to lift Dorothy in her night clothes, wrap her up well and take her in the pram and queue from 6.30 am until 8 am for 3 eggs.   We used to swap sugar for fats, so I could make some kind of cake, (war time recipes).

Bread was also rationed and we could only get what they called the Rational Loaf, a mixture of brown and white.  We couldn’t get white flour; I think the miller had to make the most use of the grain and get as much as possible out of it.  The merchant ships were often sunk by enemy action, so lots of food was lost at sea.  The fish must have been well fed because fish was not rationed, but, again, I had to queue for at least one hour.  We managed on the coal ration because ours was an economical fire and it heated the water. The gas was often at a very low power and, sometimes, we had a mere glimmer.   Rationing was maintained for many years.

There was great jollification on Victory Day.  Street parties were held, and the food was provided by great effort and ingenuity on the part of everyone; good neighbourly relations prevailed in those days.  The men managed to get pianos from, even upstairs flats, into the streets to help the sing songs and jollification, the kids enjoyed it.  We were glad to get back to some kind of normality, but we were still not very well off by today’s standards.

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