Life in Wartime Furness was the subject of a talk given recently by Bill Myers to Barrow Civic and Local History Society. September marked the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 2 and Bill’s talk looked at the role of women during the war.
Preparations for war had been made during the late 1930’s, when local families were provided with gas masks. Anderson shelters were being installed in some local homes and voluntary organisations were recruiting and training volunteers in preparation for emergencies.
At the outbreak of war, ration books and identity cards became part of everyday life. Food was in short supply and pre-packaged food appeared for the very first time. Family life had to adapt to the changing times, especially as women began to do work in the shipyard that had been traditionally done by men. Photographs of the devastation to Barrow’s streets during the Barrow Blitz of 1941 were a reminder of just how uncertain life must have been for everyone.
Local families experienced the upheaval of the evacuation of children to places of safety, away from the dangers of the air raids. As early as 1940, evacuees from cities in the North East and Manchester were placed with families in the Ulverston area. At a reunion in 1989 one of those who had been evacuated commented that, “They were hard times, but we didn’t realise then.” Children from Barrow were evacuated in 1941 to places near Kirkby Stephen and Appleby, some of them for as long as three years.
Photographs and diaries provide a unique insight into life during the war. During his talk, Bill gave details of how some women contributed to the war effort in work outside of the town. Land Army girls worked on farms and in forestry jobs, often having had no experience of the countryside beforehand. The extracts from the diaries of a nurse who had been involved in taking tanks across to Normandy in June 1944 were particularly remarkable. She had been one of a group of WRENS who had brought the ship many times across the English Channel to the beaches where the Allies were landing.
Bill’s talk was a chance for members and visitors to reflect on how the Second World War impacted on the lives of people living at that time in the Furness area.