Street lamps were turned off

by Charlotte Tate

I was three years of age when war broke out on 3rd. September 1939; then the world changed suddenly for the young and old alike. It seemed to me, as a little child, that everybody had suddenly become very busy.

My father and the uncles who were not called up were doing work relevant to the war effort. They would go to work every day and would then have other jobs to do at night, such as fire watching. One of my uncles, William Breakwell, a railwayman by day, joined the Home Guard. It was exciting to see him, with black shoe polish on his face, going out on night exercises, carrying his rifle.

Houses stopped being built. The street lamps were turned off. Petrol was rationed and only sold to people who needed their cars for business purposes.

People came to the house to give advice on how to survive bombing raids. Holes were dug ready for air raid shelters to be built. Blackout advice was given. Every house had blackout curtains to the windows. Not a chink of light was to show. Even hand held battery torches, so necessary now that we had no street lamps, had to have sticky paper put over the glass to dim the light, lest a German bomber pilot overhead saw a glimmer of light and realised that there was a village or a town below, and let a bomb drop on us.

We had an Anderson shelter built at the end of our garden. Some people had Morrison Table Shelters, placed indoors. They were like big iron tables and one would crawl beneath them to shelter when there was an air raid siren warning. My grandparents, who ran the Ansells Outdoor in High Street, were advised to use their cellars as shelter from the bombs.

Barrage balloons appeared in the sky over Quinton. They were supposed to stop low flying enemy aircraft, I think. They looked like glossy, grey elephants, rocking and swaying in the breeze. There was one anchored to a great iron ring, set in concrete, in a field close to Wiggins Sports Ground.

© QLHS 2005


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