The War As I Remember

By Muriel Bland

Rations per WEEK

  • 2 oz. butter
  • 8 oz. cooking Fats
  • 8 oz. sugar
  • 4 oz. bacon or Ham
  • 2 oz. tea
  • Babies got extra milk but no tea
  • 1 oz. cheese
  • 2 oz. Jam

 In summer you could have sugar instead of jam so that you could make your own jam.

Meat was by price 1 shilling’s worth, so you could have a roast or cheaper cuts like mince or stew to make your ration go further.

If you had hens you did not get an egg ration but you were allowed an allocation of bran to help feed your hens, this was added to boiled up potato peelings and vegetable waste.

Sweets and chocolate were also rationed; I think it was about 4 oz. per month.

Flour was not rationed until after the war. It was on a points system and each item had a different number of points, bread was the least and cakes were a luxury, so they were more. It was your decision about what you bought; ready-made or you could have your flour ration and make your own.

There was also a points system for other goods, mainly tinned foods. You were allowed so many points each month. If you were lucky you could get the odd tin of salmon or perhaps a tin of fruit. Spam was unheard of in this country before the war but became a popular meal (my dad could not stand it)!!! you could eat it straight from the tin or make spam fritters.

Clothes were   rationed and   people were urged to wear shorter, straight skirts to save material. Home dress makers were in great demand as some of them were very talented and could refashion dresses, or if they had faded, turn them inside out. They would cut down mother’s dresses to fit their children. If you were lucky enough to get a piece of parachute silk you were very happy. My confirmation dress was made from parachute silk; a lot of young women went around in undies made from it.

I don’t think we had a banana from the start to the end of the war. Oranges were also in short supply and were perhaps another thing you got on points. Seasonal fruits were easier, apple, pears, gooseberries (these were bottled for later in the year along with black currants,) raspberries and strawberries all had their seasons but that, did not matter as everything we had had a season.

In the autumn the school children were encouraged to collect hips and haws. The hips went to make Rose Hip Syrup. This along with orange juice could be bought from the Ministry of Health Shop at the bottom of Dalton Road. It later moved to Cavendish Square in what was the old North West Drug Stores.

Anyone with a garden had to “Dig for Victory”. The big houses were expected to turn their lawns and rose beds into vegetable gardens.

“Dig for Victory” and “Careless Talk Costs Lives” could be seen on all the hoardings along with a caricature of “Clem” Clem was a cartoon similar to the one on the left, he was supposed to be listening to all you said and reporting it to the enemy.

We all had to save our paper for recycling. Scrap metal was collected and house railings were cut down. Our family home was Melton House, between Dalton and Lindal. One day the workmen came along to remove the railings. Grandma went storming out to see what: they were doing and when they said they had to take railings she went mad, she told them if thev touched them she would hold them responsible if anyone fell off the wall. The wall around the front of the house is about six inches at one side but is six feet at the other side. They left the railings but took the gate after she made them and removed the brass plate with our name on it. Many others were not so lucky and a lot of very good ornate railings went off to the scrap yard. Along with the railings and other things aluminium pots and pans were

collected and smashed up. Most of the railings etc. ended up on the tip behind where Listers was built, along with a Bolton Paul Defiant Airplane that had crashed on the hill above Park Farm at Yarlside.

We were all encouraged to save. School children used to take their money to school each week and would get savings stamps. When you had either ten or fifteen shillings you got a savings certificate, it was in fact a loan to the government to help pay for the arms etc. needed to fight the war.

Most of the schools were staffed by either young women or retired teachers. A lot of retired teachers were either brought out of retirement or kept on long after they should have retired. The young men if they were fit had all been called up and had to enter one of the services. A lot of young women went into the factories or joined the Land Army and took the places of the young men who had been called up. The older men and women had to do “Fire Watching” sitting at the top of tall buildings watching for fires. The men joined the A R P. and the women the W. R. V. S. The W. R .V. S did a very good job; they manned tea wagons to serve hot tea and soup to the men fighting fires and to the service men in their canteens, often the only motherly face they saw in a long time. The W R V S also oversaw the evacuation of the children from the towns they thought were in danger of being bombed. Barrow children were sent to Burton-in-Lonsdale, Burniside and other Rural Places. My brother, cousin and I went to Grasmere as our grand­mother and 3 aunts lived there. In Grasmere there were a lot of children from Newcastle, they had had a terrible time. Several of them never went back, married local girls, and are now part of the local commu­nity.

One of the first jobs done in schools was to put tape across all the windows to stop the glass from shattering. It was a type of woven bandage with an adhesive, you wet it and put it crossways on the glass, to stop the glass shattering. This was also done in homes using a translucent type of plastic which was put all over the glass. It kept out a lot of light but people felt safer.

Air Raid shelters were built. One was put outside the school at Roose, we had air raid practice and had to file into these in an orderly manner if the siren went. The shelters for the people who lived in Roose were built in the back streets, one for every six houses. They had two compartments; one small one that just held one family, and the other side much larger held the other five families. Each shelter had two blast walls either side of a back yard door. The shelter itself was between the two centre houses of the six. When they were first built all the bigger boys had a great time painting camouflage on the flat roofs. When in the shelter someone would start to sing it would just go from one song to another. This helped to pass the time and to lift peoples’ spirits. If you had a garden then you were given an Anderson shelter. These were pieces of corrugated metal that fitted together with bolts to form an arch with a solid back and a door in the front. They were covered in soil and had a sand bag wall about two feet away from the front as a blast wall. You could then grow crops on the top of them.

Everyone was issued with a gas mask, and we were expected to carry them with us at all times. Young children had Mickey Mouse masks they were more afraid of the masks than the gas. Babies had one that they were put into and straps were fastened between their legs. It is a good job we never had to use them, an aw­ful lot of people would have died try­ing, to get their children and babies into them. Along with our gas masks we had to carry identity cards. These had to be shown if you were stopped by the A.R.P. or any official body. Lights were not allowed, the black out warden used to go round at night, and if you showed a chink of light you were told to “Put that light out” and if you persistently did it you were fined.

There were no street lights for the motorist to see with. All trees and lamp posts had to have white lines about a foot deep painted round them about three feet from the ground.

Army camps were set up all over the place. There was one on the cricket field at Roose along with a barrage balloon. Another camp was along Rampside Road with another balloon, close to Rampside Church. The airfield at Walney housed the airmen and some American Air force men. Many of them married Barrow girls and they went off to the Sates at the end of the war as G I Brides. Two girls from Roose, Lorna and Claire May, both married and went back to the States. Lorna’s husband was a pilot when he was going back to the States he flew his plane at roof height along the back streets between North & South Rows, so that he could wave goodbye to his wife. We as school children were in the dining room having our lunch when Miss Benson yelled under the tables and we all went down (you did not ask ques­tions as to why, you just did as you were told). Two women in the back street passed out and Tex calmly waved to his wife and flew of to America. He was reprimanded for this as all the planes’ numbers could be read and he was reported. Another army camp was at the top of Mill Brow, later the buildings were con­verted into bungalows. Apart from the army and air force we had sailors of every nationality, colour and creed. They came in with ships that needed repair or to sail the new ships and subs that were being built in Vickers. The soldiers from the camps at Roose and Rampside Road used to set up concerts; some of the men had very good voices. I still remember one tenor who sang “A Wandering Minstrel I” and “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes”

At the top of Roose Bridge they built a Pill Box (it is still there), there was another one on Crooklands Brow, Dalton. On Roose Bridge they built a chicane, a sort of dog leg ( the bus drivers had real problems trying to weave the buses in and out of that). This was also on the pavement and you had to show your identity card before they would let you pass ( the ARP had a wonderful time, they were in charge, (Dads’ Army had nothing on them). They put huge concrete cylinders on the pavement. If we were in­vaded the people of Roose were expected to roll these out into the road to stop the Germans tanks getting into town (it did not matter about us poor souls on the other side). Along with the cylinders were drums of oil, which had to be lit so that those same Germans could not see where they were going. Also at the bot­tom of the second block of cottages at Roose was a static water tank. This was never used as I know of but I do remember it had a distinct aroma, (in the long hot summers of yester year).

At one time there was a battery of wooden guns along the coast road, this was to make any German reconnaissance planes think we were better defended than we really were.

At night we used to watch the sky to see if they were tipping on the slag bank on Iron Works Road. The hot slag would light up the sky then you thought there would be no raids that night. I recall one sum­mer evening hearing the older ones talking. They said “O! they are tipping tonight so no raids”. The words were hardly uttered before the siren went and we were all in the shelter. I think it may have been a false alarm as we were not there for very long.

All the girls at senior school were expected to knit for the service men. This being a naval town we knit for the navy; socks, scarves, balaclavas. The poor sailors must have been desperate to wear some of the socks that were knitted by my school friends. My heels were turned by my mother so were of a reason­able quality. A lot of schools adopted a submarine; Risedale’s sub was the “Terrapin” We used to send papers and magazines along with anything in the way of sweets and chocolate that could be spared.

Most of the buses were driven by women or men who had not passed a medical for the Services. If you were a worker and had a weekly ticket you could go to the head of the queue and get on the bus first. Some of the house wives were not to happy about this but were told by the conductor “you should have gone home earlier”. Most of us only had a short lunch break and if you had to wait long for a bus you did not have time to eat. If I remember rightly a weekly ticket for Roose to the Town Hall was one shilling (five new pence) and you could travel as often as you wished in that week.

Apart from the ships and subs built in Barrow there was an aeroplane factory at Ulverston, where Glaxo is now. Short Sunderland Sea Planes were built just outside Bowness where the White Scar Caravan Park is now. The trials were done on the lake. During the war there were no steamers or even rowing boats allowed on Windermere, they could have held spies. The workers in Vickers, both men and women, worked very long hours, mostly from 7,30 am to 7.30pm. Others worked a three shift system 6 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 10 pm or 10 pm to 6am. Mostly they only got Saturday afternoon off and one weekend a month.

The worst bombing in Barrow was in April and May of 1941, we did have other raids but these were the worst. I do remember one raid in November of 1940; my brother and I were staying at Melton as our mother was expecting another baby any day. We were woken up and taken down into the cellar (Melton had been a hotel before my family went to live there and it had a huge cellar). We were very comfortable down there and my uncle decided to bake some potatoes. They were put on top of the paraffin stove (kept down there to keep us warm on the cold nights). We never got to eat them as the all clear went long before the potatoes were ready. That was about the time when Prospect Road was bombed.

During the worst of the bombing Hindpool, the Town Centre, and Hawcoat were very badly affected. Many houses and shops were demolished. Two churches on Abbey Road were hit and part of the Public Baths on Abbey Road were also demolished, the Technical Collage lost one of the fancy pieces off the roof. Roose House was demolished and Patterson’s farm lost its roof. I do not think there was a house in Roose that had a full complement of windows after that raid. If you had lost all your windows you were allowed some glass to let in some light into your home but you could not re­place all your windows.

When the blitz was on many people decided to leave town at night, many went to Leece, Newton or Stank just to have a quiet night My uncle, aunt and her mother said they had had enough, (they lived in Scott Street) so landed down at Roose to stay with mum and dad. That was the night the bombs landed in that area as soon as the all clear went, they went into the house rooted about in the soot to find their shoes and left for home. Roose had been worse than staying in town. One thing about it was that nobody needed their chimneys swept as all the soot had come down with the blast, a lot of people had their ceilings come down and walls were cracked from top to bottom. If possible ceilings were replace but the walls had to wait until the end of the war before they were repaired.

Food was a challenge. You had meatless stew, the meat had been replaced with Oxo. In this part of the country we were lucky. People in the cities had to queue for almost all their food and in London fresh meat was in very short supply. Milk was rationed. Our milk man was Dick Postlethwaite from Stank, he arrived no matter what the weather with his horse and trap, milk churns and his ladle to measure out the milk. In the snows of February 1941 he arrived as large as life with the milk on a sleigh. His customers all had home delivery, if you got your milk from the Co-op you had to go and collect it.

The weekend of the snows Shirley Pettifer was born at Moss Field on Leece Lane. The snow was so deep the mid wife could not walk in it, so Mr Pettifer carried her on his back. We used to see a lot of men in bright royal blue suits. They were from Conishead Priory, which was used as a convalescent home for recovering service men during the war.

From the bedroom windows in Roose you could see the glow of the flames in the night sky over Liverpool. In comparison with London, Coventry, Newcastle and Liverpool we were very lucky.

As the war drew to a close we all got very excited and started to collect old wood and anything else that would burn. All four sets of blocks at Roose had their own bonfire, there was great rivalry between them, each vying for the biggest and best. When peace was declared the bonfires were lit and a wonderful time was had by most people, not forgetting the families who had lost loved ones during the war. Later there were street parties when all the mothers got together and baked what they could to give the children a treat.

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