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Author Topic: Home Life in WW2  (Read 130316 times)

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Offline kyn

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #75 on: April 26, 2010, 17:20:50 »
 :)  Thank you for your addition, I do like to read about other peoples life!

busyglen

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #74 on: April 26, 2010, 14:37:17 »
Just come across this thread, and found it really interesting.

I was born in the middle of the War, but have quite a few memories (believe it or not) at the age of 2-3.

We had a Naval officer and his wife lodging with us during this time, and I can remember the lady pushing me in the pram down to the local shop, so that she could use it to carry her provisions.  Whilst outside one day, a huge sandy coloured dog came and put it's front paws up on the bottom of the pram and looked at me.  I can remember screaming, and the lady running out to see what was wrong.  I now know that it was a labrador, and this event caused me to be scared of them for several years.  I encountered one on my way home from school when I was 5 and stood on the pavement crying until a little boy of my own age, took my hand and walked me along the road until the dog disappeared.  Chivalry at 5!  Wonderful.

All of the family used to sleep downstairs in a large room, so that we were ready to go into the shelter when the sirens went.  The Anderson Shelter was just outside the back door, and you went down two steps to get in.  It had two bunks on one side and it was a bit cramped.  I can remember going to sleep in bed and waking up in the shelter, wondering where I was.  My mother was pregnant around this time, and I can remember her sitting in a chair in her dressing gown, knitting baby clothes.  One night she lost a needle, and I remembered that it was turquoise in colour.  It slipped through the floorboards, and when the shelter was eventually pulled down, we found it!

I have a vivid memory of standing on the back steps with my mother in the dark, watching the searchlights over Sheerness Dockyard searching for planes.  I also have vague memories of the ack-ack guns firing.  

Strangely, I can't remember much after that, but it did quieten down a bit.

Another memory relates to the fact that we lived in a large wooden house, which was a fire hazard, especially during the War.  So....we had a red fire bucket of water placed around the outside of the house at 4' intervals and another with sand. There was also a large water container on wheels, and two large tin water tanks in the garden.  Luckily we never had to use them.

It's surprising how much one remembers when your memory is given a jog.  :)

Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #73 on: February 20, 2010, 16:18:30 »
I've just remembered the Sunderland flying boats that were moored in the river on the Strood side, opposite the Esplanade, attended by the same type of dinghy that the RAF used. There were about 4 moorings for aircraft awaiting test flights or delivery to the RAF.

They always came up close to the bridge and took-off towards the south, regardless of wind direction, or perhaps could only take-off when the wind was right. Presumably to take-off the other way would have been too risky in case of engine failure.

They usually landed (if that's what flying boats do) by coming in over the bridge, and that seemed to need a pretty good judgement by the pilot.

I recall being in the Castle Gardens terraces with a pal when a man asked us some questions about the Sunderlands. We thought this was a bit suspicious (no, he didn't have German accent :)) so went into the town to find a policeman. Well, you know the saying about 'when you want a policeman'..?. So, if you ask me what I did as a schoolboy towards the war effort, that was it - I looked for a policeman to come and arrest a spy :).
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #72 on: February 03, 2010, 17:28:57 »
In previous posts I've said that we didn't know much about German atrocities during the war, but here is a re-print, from today's Telegraph, of that of 3rd Feb 1940. So I suppose we must have known, even if it didn't really sink in.
                                                           
If there were any reports about Russian atrocities they would have stopped when Russia became an ally.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #71 on: January 31, 2010, 11:54:30 »
Because this thread is about my personal experiences in the war, I've been trying to remember what we knew about Russia at the time, but it's difficult to separate it from what we learned afterwards, but I'll try.

About 2 weeks after the war started, Russia invaded Poland, and then in November 1939 invaded Finland. I have vague recollections of talk about having to fight Russia as well as Germany. (After the war we learnt that the British and French Governments were actually considering sending troops, via Norway and Sweden, to fight alongside the Finns. Only the peace deal between Russia and Finland in March 1940 stopped that happening). So at that stage of the war the Russians were bad guys and the Finns were heroes.

Then in June 1941 Germany invaded Russia, and I remember it was welcome news - the Russians would make mincemeat of the German army. Some mincemeat! - they were at the gates of Moscow within weeks. Nevertheless, the Russians were on our side, so they were now good guys, even if we did have to send them aid via the Arctic convoys. The Finns joined in on Germany's side, so they became baddies overnight. After the European war ended we still had to deal with Japan and when Russia declared war on Japan they remained goodies, although I think some people wondered why they hadn't done that before.

So by the nature of things all we heard about was the German ill treatment of Russian POWs and civilians. We also heard about hostages being shot in other occupied countries, as reprisals for activities of the resistance. But of the fine detail of concentration camps, whether in Germany or Russia, I don't think we knew much.

After the war we heard that the Russians actually delayed the liberation of Warsaw until the Germans had defeated the Polish uprising, so they wouldn't have any opposition to deal with, and other Russian atrocities came to light. Churchill wanted to prevent the Russians from advancing too far west, but US President Roosevelt wouldn't support him.

So, we beat one oppressive regime with the help of another repressive regime. One of the western leaders said "Stalin is a b*****d but, while we're fighting the Nazis, he's our b*****d". That might not be quite right, but it about sums it up.
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seafordpete

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #70 on: January 30, 2010, 11:14:31 »
My Polish daughter in law always says  that the Russians were far more brutal than the German forces, taking or destroying everything they came across.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #69 on: January 29, 2010, 20:25:06 »
Conscription was introduced after we declared war on Germany although the military training act had been passed in april 1939.
Yes, I should have said that "conscription was authorised just before the war". I think the first registrations for conscription were in the summer. But it was when the Act was introduced that we felt war was inevitable. It actually became inevitable on 24th August 1939 when Germany and Russia signed a non-aggression pact, giving Hitler a free hand to invade Poland.

As to attrocities committed by the Russians, we didn't know about those at the time. All we knew was that at long last we had another country fighting on our side. There was even a film, I think made by the MoI, showing what a wonderful country Russia was.
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Offline unfairytale

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #68 on: January 29, 2010, 18:13:51 »
Conscription was introduced after we declared war on Germany although the military training act had been passed in april 1939. Conscription came in October, after Poland was annexed. The Swastika being banned from that game seems to be a bit over the top: The country that fought under the sign of the hammer and sickle commited more murders than the Nazis could dream of. Russia also prvided half of the weapons used in the latest Holocaust: That of Dafur with casualty rates higher than that of Nazi Germany...400,000 in six months!
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #67 on: January 29, 2010, 10:39:34 »
I've just read in the paper that an internet sales organisation has banned the sale of a Dad's Army board game because the box has swastikas on it, on the grounds that it will incite racial hatred. So that's the way to ensure anything like the holocaust doesn't happen again - hide anything connected with it.

So was I inciting racial hatred by mentioning Nazism and Fascism in my previous post?
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #66 on: January 27, 2010, 17:17:52 »
Today being Holocaust Memorial Day has set me thinking of what we knew of such things during the war.

As a 10-year old in 1939 my interest in politics was no more than the school playground 'My dad votes Labour'/'My dad votes Conservative - so ya boo' type dispute. Even that must have been pre-war, because there were no elections to argue about during the war.

But I understood enough to know that some obscure MP named Churchill had been speaking in Parliament about the dangers of Nazism, and that there had been fights in Chatham High Street between the Fascist and Socialist Parties, and that Socialist = good, and Fascist = bad. I knew about the Spanish Civil War and had seen enough newsreels to know that war was something to be avoided. We had heard of concentration camps but thought they were merely places were they kept people who disagreed with the government. We knew of the Hitler Youth and believed that German kids were encouraged to report on their parents' political views. We knew about the Jewish refugees (as I've said earlier, one came to work in Chatham Gun Wharf) and had heard of 'Kristalnacht' in Germany, when Jewish businesses were wrecked. Yep, Fascism/Nazism was bad but, apart from a few extremists led by Sir Oswald Moseley, it was nothing to do with us.

But after 'Senor Mussolini' had invaded Abyssinia and Albania, and 'Herr Hitler' (as the media called them) had marched into Austria and Czechoslovakia, and now threatened Poland, the feeling grew that they had to be stopped. Conscription began just before the war and I think we knew then that war was certain, although dad said, "no, that'll stop it happening".

So the war began and Canada, Australia, India, and all the rest of the Empire declared war on our side (as well as France, of course), so it must have been the right thing to do; certainly in my circle of acquaintances there was no doubt about it. I can't remember hearing much about Nazi atrocities during the war itself; so far as we knew our POWs were treated reasonably well in Germany, and I can even remember a newspaper report and pictures from POW camps. The way the Japanese treated anyone, soldier or civilian, who came under their control was well known - no comment!

After D-Day we got news of French villages being destroyed by the SS, and the inhabitants slaughtered, because the French resistance had been active in the area. Then we heard of conditions in the occupied countries generally, and the ultimate horror was the discovery of the real conditions in the concentration camps, as seen on TV in today's news. We now finally had confirmation that all we had been through over the past six years had been for a very good reason.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #65 on: January 25, 2010, 15:52:02 »
This isn't entirely about WW2, but I think one of my strongest memories is the change in communication since I was a child.

There was a TV service before the war but it stopped when the war began and the first TV I ever saw was about 1949. It had a screen of no more than about 10 inches and was in a free standing consul with the speaker in its base. There was only one channel and broadcasting didn't start till about 7pm.

Radios required an aerial that was usually rigged between the clothesline pole in the garden and the house, with a lead in just like today's TV. An earth lead was also needed, connected to a metal stake driven into the ground outside. If it was not mains powered, and not all houses had electricity, it relied on batteries. My earliest recollection is of glass 'accumulators' about the size of a 1-litre carton that was taken for charging, in our case to a bike shop opposite Troy Town School, Rochester. I think we had 3 of them: 1 in use, 1 in reserve, and 1 on charge at the shop. A later development was to have a dry battery about 8 inches square and 2 inches deep with a plug-in socket for one lead and about 4 sockets for the other lead; this connection was progressively moved from socket to socket as the battery lost power, presumably to bring extra cells into use. I also have vague notions of a 'grid bias' battery, about the size of a 20-cigarette packet; does this make sense to any radio engineers out there? Then we progressed via the so-called 'portable', not because of its small size and could be carried about, but because it had a built-in aerial, to where we are today.

Telephones were out of the price range of the average family, but I remember one in my dad's office at work with a little generator that he wound to call the exchange. The first telephone I had at home was about 1970, with a rotating dial. I think 'Subscriber Trunk Dialling' (STD) had just been introduced. Previous to that you could only dial local numbers; for longer distances you had to dial the operator and ask, for example, for 'Barchester 3526'. Now we have the situation where I'm sure some youngsters would rather go out naked than go out without their mobile phone.

To me the ultimate in communication is to sit at my laptop and pass pictures to and from the rest of you as easily as if we were sitting next to each other, yet to my 11-year old granddaughter this is just how it's always been, so "what's clever about that?". I wonder what she'll be amazed by when she's my age.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #64 on: January 24, 2010, 23:06:07 »
Re the Lincolnshire (and Norfolk and Yorkshire) airfields. I believe it is standard practice for aircraft to circle an airfield anti-clockwise after take-off and while waiting to land. Some airfields were so close together that their circuits overlapped and one of them had to have a clockwise circuit to prevent aircraft between them flying in opposite directions, and we are talking of night flying. Sounds a bit dicey, but wartime safety standards would horrify todays regulators. In deciding the degree of concentration of RAF bombers over a target, for instance, in order to swamp the defences, there was actually a mathematical calculation of how many collisions would occur and how many bombers would be hit by bombs dropped from above.  Provided that figure was less than the likely loss through enemy action without such concentration, it was acceptable!

Thanks for the compliments. Thinking of things to post on the forum has certainly improved my memory (a case of 'use it or lose it') and I'll certainly come up with some more posts.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #63 on: January 24, 2010, 17:54:07 »
I don't think there's much more in the way of specific themes that I can write about, so here are some odd memories that have come to mind recently.

If the target was in N France there would be mass formations of US bombers setting off on a raid. Similarly, at night there would be a continuous roar as RAF bombers set off. In any case, there were always aeroplanes about, mostly small formations of fighters from local airfields.

In the town centre it seemed as if every other person was in uniform, many with their nationality shoulder titles: 'Canada', 'Poland', etc. The most outstanding were the US uniforms of a quality that our own forces could only dream of.

This is not really a memory, because I didn't find out till after the war, but the Poles had their own hospital that used to be alongside the A2 at Dartford.

Military vehicles seemed to outnumber civilian ones, especially in the run-up to D-Day. It was about then that I first heard the explanation of why the south of the country was generally flat and the north was more hilly: The land had tilted under the weight of military equipment! There was a similar story about airfields in Lincolnshire; it didn't matter if a plane overshot the runway - it simply ran onto the next airfield!

Apart from the telephone, which most people didn't have, the means of rapid communication was Telegrams delivered by 'Telegram Boys' on their bikes, and a knock on the door by one of these was the event most feared by people with relations in the forces.

Getting about was generally easy, although it was common for a bus to be full and you had to wait for the next one. There were no driving tests, only provisional licences being issued, but you didn't have to be accompanied by a licensed driver or carry L-plates. After the war those who'd held a licence for more than a certain time were exempt from the driving test - I missed the deadline by 3 months and had to take it. (Bearing in mind my age, that must have been 1947 or 1948, well after the end of the war).

British Summer Time (BST) continued from autumn of 1940 and Double British Summer Time (DBST) was introduced between spring and autumn each year from 1941. It meant going to school in the dark in the winter. We went back from DBST to BST in July 1945, and to GMTin October 1945.

I've mentioned this previously, but one thing the black-out did was to show up the difference between a moonless night, when you couldn't see a hand in front of your face, and the full moon, when you could almost read a book in the street. The stars on a clear moonless night were a sight to behold! Sadly that is a sight spoiled by light pollution today.

Hand torches were allowed but had to have a layer of tissue paper inside the lens, and vehicle headlamps were masked, with just a narrow slot for the light.

Shortages meant that if anything broke it generally had to be repaired, because it couldn't be replaced. As a result, many people of my generation are still reluctant to throw anything away.

I remember getting a ride up Star Hill one Sunday morning, with lots of other kids, on top of a Churchill tank after an Army - v - Home Guard exercise. It was a bit unrealistic (a) because the 'Battle of Star Hill' had been watched by civilians standing further up the hill and (b) the tank we rode on had been 'destroyed' by a Home Guard throwing a bomb - a bag of flour - from the flat roof of a nearby shop!

An assault landing craft in the water looks small, but on the back of a low-loading trailer it is huge, and one toppled off its trailer one day and ended up against the wall of what I think are alms-houses at the top of Star Hill.

I've heard it said that war is 1% terror and 99% boredom, and while I think that's an exaggeration, I've tried to give some idea of what life was like during the times they weren't terror. But I was writing about the Medway Towns seen through the eyes of a 10 to 15 year old boy; there are many people whose proportion of terror was much greater than mine, and probably some whose proportion was less. However, even living in the extreme west of the UK didn't guarantee safety: Cardiff, Swansea, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Belfast were all blitzed.

I'm happy to continue this thread for as long as anyone wants.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #62 on: January 21, 2010, 12:51:06 »
This is from the 1942 edition of 'Pear's Cyclopaedia', to provide a snapshot of life in Britain in the middle of WW2. Money has been converted to decimal currency.

Normal letter = 1p; Dog licence = 37.5p/year; Driving licence = 25p/year.
Car tax was by 'nominal' horsepower calculated by a formula. For an 8hp car (roughly today's Ford Fiesta) it was 10/year.

Income tax (simplified):
Personal allowance of 10% of earned income with extra allowances according to the size of the family, if any. The result was that a single person earning less than 110/year, or a married couple with 3 children earning less than 322/year, paid no tax. The first 165 of taxable income was taxed at 32.5%, and the rest at 50%. Surtax was payable on taxable income above 2000/year. To put this in perspective, 200/year would be a good 'manual' wage.

National Insurance (simplified):
All manual workers, and non-manual workers earning less than 420/year, paid NI, but non-manual workers earning more could pay voluntarily. Rate was 9p/week for men and 7p for women, of which the employer paid 4.6p/week.

Benefits:
Free medical attendance and treatment, and free medicines (See note below).
Sickness/unemployment benefit/OAP: 75p/week for men, 60p for single women, and 50p for married women.
Maternity benefit: 2 for an insured woman or the wife of an insured man.

Taxes were payable on a vast range of items: Rental agreements, cheques, sale of stocks and shares, marriage licences, carriages according to the number of horses (that's what the book says!), and many others.

Life expectancy for males was 66 years, and for females it was 69 years.

As well as entry exams for Navy, Army, and RAF Colleges, there were exams, among others, for the Civil Service, Indian Police, Colonial Police, and Municipal Councils.

Note: I think this refers to GP services. We had a 'Hospital Box' in which a few pence was put weekly. This was emptied and re-sealed by someone who called at intervals, and entitled us to treatment at St Bart's Hospital.
There were also sick benefit societies like the 'Oddfellows' that paid sick-pay etc.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Home Life in WW2
« Reply #61 on: January 18, 2010, 20:50:00 »
A bit about schools.

Schools were on holiday at the start of the war and, for those of us who were not evacuated, did not open again until about Easter 1940. I am assuming that date because we moved from Chatham Gun Wharf to Rochester after the heavy snow of the 1939/40 winter, and I ended at St Johns School, Chatham, and re-started at Troy Town School, Rochester.

At first it was just going in to get homework, then it became half-days, and finally full-time for September 1940. I imagine it was related to the fact that during the 'Phoney War', when the expected raids didn't develop, evacuees drifted back home.

I'm a bit vague about procedure for air-raids, because I can remember having lessons in the school shelter, as well as my mother collecting me outside the school and taking me home. We only lived 'round-the-corner', so perhaps there was a special arrangement. I also remember getting into trouble for not going back on one occasion when the all-clear sounded.

In those days there were Elementary Schools where pupils stayed throughout their school time unless they went to one of the selective schools. The selective schools I remember were:

For Boys:
Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (Grammar School) in Rochester High Street.
Rochester Junior Technical School in Rochester High Street/Corporation Street.
Chatham Junior Technical School (Holcombe) in Maidstone Road, Chatham.

For Girls:
Rochester Girls Grammar School in Maidstone Road, Rochester.
Chatham Girls Grammar School at the top of Chatham Hill.
Girls Technical School at Fort Pitt, Chatham.

Starting ages were 11 for the Grammar Schools and 12 for the Technical Schools, and there was a separate entry test for each for free 'Scholarships', or parents could pay. Leaving ages were 14 for the Elementary Schools, 15 for the Technical Schools, and I'm not sure about the Grammar Schools.

I took the Math School test and (look away now :)) failed, and the Rochester Tech School test and (OK to look again :)) passed, for starting in September 1941. We had the individual school uniforms, but Rochester and Chatham Techs were combined, with class members mixed, and we spent some days at Rochester and some at Chatham. We also had some lessons in the Math school.

I can't remember much about qualifications. There was 'Matriculation', via Grammar Schools, for university entrance. There was a 'Dockyard Apprentices' exam, which I didn't take because I didn't want what I thought would be an indoor job, and there was an 'RAF Apprentices' exam which I didn't take ( I now wonder why, because I was a mad keen aircraft buff). The Tech schools entered for exams run by the College of Preceptors, but I didn't enter those because I left school 6 months early to start work, as per the topic 'A Civvy RE' (so, as in 'The Weakest Link' I 'left with nothing' :)).

I can't find much relevant information about the College of Preceptors, except this extract from Wikipedia: ?The college initially awarded qualifications for secondary school teachers and pupils.?

About the only other thing I remember was being in school about 1943 at Holcombe when there was the noise of a diving aircraft and gunfire, and the teacher made us get under the desks. It turned out that a lone enemy aircraft had dived out of the clouds, and sirens were not sounded for lone raiders. Also, a classmate died of polio, which caused a big shock in the class. I even remember his name was Fox, and he travelled daily from Faversham.
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