I remember Grandad coming home with a tin helmet on and carrying a big torch but didn’t realise that he was an ARP Warden. I can remember him taking me to the top of a hill one night and him saying that “them poor devils in Manchester are getting it tonight.” But to me the fires over Manchester were just a lovely red glow in the sky.
I don’t ever remember going into the Air Raid Shelters. There was a big one under the market but I can remember getting under the table and the stairs when the sirens sounded, and I can remember the cries of “Get that ruddy light out” and “All clear”. Also our house suddenly became full of torches, batteries, blackout material and rolls of sticky tape to criss-cross the windows.
Now the Blackouts were in full force with not a chink of light allowed to show anywhere, going out at night was like being totally blind, what you didn’t bump into you fell over. After a visit to the Regent Cinema on Deane Road I was coming home on the Tramcar when the air raid siren went, the tram stopped and we all had to dive into the air raid shelter at Cannon Street. When I finally got home after the all clear I got a clip round the ear hole for being home late. I found out after this that a bomb had dropped on Punch Street.
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.
1941. The blackout was in force, and no lights were allowed anywhere. German bombers were over every night, pounding Manchester and we could hear the noise as well as see the havoc being caused. There was an air raid shelter behind St James Street, although they were all fields then. The ARP Wardens were like us, watching the skies. We were a group of teenagers on our way home from dancing at St James’ Church Hall in Harrowby Street. In those days, an old man used to look after the boilers underneath the church and he slept there as well.
Whilst we were watching the assault on Manchester, one of the Wardens said, “My God, its enough to waken the dead!” - just then the old man popped his head over the wall, near the gate on George Street, and said - “Is it going any quieter yet mates?” - Whoosh! - we all ran! He gave us a heck of a fright and we were all gone!
We always had to be ready for the air-raid sirens going off even in the middle of the night. They would wake us and you had to make your way down to the shelter, but that got too much with four kids, so I had this big tailor’s table in my kitchen so I would put them underneath that in case the house got hit. This table had a metal sheet through it so I thought it would be safe. It took all my strength to carry my youngest child in the big tube like gas mask. This had to be pumped to keep it full of oxygen or the child would suffocate. At the end of the War I had five kids. No mother was more thankful than I to think that with God’s help I was one of the ones that survived with a family still intact.
The worst thing of all, I think was the blackout. When we got home we had to start putting black curtains up at the windows and we hadn't to show a light at all. All the lights were out, it was very difficult, but you weren't afraid to go out, like we are today. I never know anyone being attacked or anything like that during the blackout. No, we were safe. In fact people all got together in the War - much better than they do today.