Copyright 2014 Hidden Wirral
Check out these photographs and stories of life during WW2 in Wallasey. Many of these pictures are in our WW2 War Museum in the New Brighton Secret Tunnels.
On September the third 1939 I sat quietly by the wireless with my parents listening to Mr Chamberlain telling us that we were at war with Germany. My brother slept peacefully in his pram but I realized that this was a really important message.
I was six and a half years old and although my inquiry about the wailing sirens in the previous months had brought the answer, " They are new alarms that they are trying out in case we have to be told of danger." ,I was blissfully unaware of the the radical changes that were about to happen to our lives. We lived in Wallasey on the banks of the River Mersey. We had recently moved from another part of the town and lived in a pleasant council house, that was not fully furnished as my parents had married at the time of Depression those were had years on Merseyside. After years of very sporadic employment my father had found work at sea, often away for many months at a time but now he had found a job ashore. My parents had thought that there was a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
After the broadcast I looked at my parents' anxious faces , half understanding their talk of war mongerers, and then went out into the garden with my skipping rope to find reassurance in normality.
Two men called one evening to fit us with gas masks. They showed us how to put them on, putting our chins in first and pulling the mask up over our faces and the straps over our heads. The strong smell of rubber was both alarming and intriguing, reminding me of new Wellington boots.
My mask was blue, the grown ups had black masks. After a little while my oval window misted up and the friendly man explained that I would have to sit still and not talk much if we were wearing the masks to keep us safe from gas.
My baby brother was terrified at the sight of us in our masks and hated being put into his whole body mask. He screamed and kicked and his window was covered in steam very quickly. My poor mother couldn't get him out fast enough, he emerged red and purple in the face and took a long time to calm down.
An announcer on the wireless told people how to get their children ready for evacuation . They had to have a luggage label with their name and address tied to their coat lapel. They had to have nightwear and a change of clothes in a haversack. If a haversack couldn't be provided one had to be made out of a pillow case. My mother told me that I was going to be evacuated and that it would be a big adventure.
The day came when I had to set off on my big adventure. I had my packed haversack, my gas mask and a luggage label tied to the top buttonhole of my coat. My mother ,unusally, walked up the road to school with me.There was no big farewell scene ,she probably just told me to be good. There were lots of excited children in the school yard . The teachers lined us up in classes. Because I was new to the school the children in my class were really just acquaintances, so I couldn't latch on to a special friend. I looked about for haversacks made from pillow slips - but didn't see any.
When everyone had arrived and the registers were called we were formed up into ranks and files like soldiers and marched off to the little local railway station. We marched on the road, the pavements were lined with people waving and calling out encouragement. I looked for my mother in the crowds but didn't see her, so assumed that she was too busy with the baby to come.
Years afterwards when I told my mother this she was shocked that I hadn't seen her and my Gran who were both there waving.
I knew the trains that ran on this little branch line as I had travelled on one during a Sunday School Treat. We had gone to a station called Heswall Hills, about eight miles away by rail, and from there we had gone for a picnic and a sort of Sports Day.The carriages were separate with no corridors to join them. To open the window you had to pull a heavy leather strap up and towards you before you could use it to gradually lower the window. When you had the window where you wanted it you had to press the brass stud on the frame into a hole punched in the strap.
We were all chattering excitedly as we got on the train. One of the boys set about opening one of the windows but was quickly stopped by a teacher. There was lots of happy chatter,I didn't notice anyone looking unhappy.Before long we arrived at Heswall Hills, where we got off the train.
I think that we went on 'buses but really can't remember, I also don't remember anything about eating any food.We eventually arrived at something like a village hall in a big room set up like a class room with tables but no chairs.We had to sit up on the tables we were told that two special ladies were coming, a President and I think a Chairwoman. They were going to pick chilren to take home.
I can't remember now what those two ladies looked like, I think they may have worn uniforms, but I know I thought that they looked very smart and wealthy. The other women present showed them great repect. The President wanted two children so she chose twin girls. The other lady came across to me and asked me to go with her. I went without saying goodbye to anyone. In the next room a woman at a table gave me what I suppose were iron rations,the largest chocolate bar I had ever seen, some condensed milk and some other things.
When we got outside we walked to a lovely red sports car. I had only been in a car about twice before, even our doctor came to the house on a bike! Inside, the car smelled beautifully of petrol and leather. AS we drove along the lady told me that she had twins at home who were also six., Christine and Christopher. We drove into a sweeping drive leading what seemed to me to be a mansion.
Standing in the large entrance hall I was introduced to the cook who was given my iron rations, and other servants, I think. Then I was taken up the grand staircase to a large room that was the day nursery, and introduced to the nurse and the children. I knew about children's nurses and nurseries , presumably from Children's Hour aand story books.
The nurse took me to a small room with a bed and a chest of drawers and a wash hand basin with taps. I'd never seen a bedroom with a plumbed in basin before but thought it a very good idea. We sat on the bed while the nurse wrote to my parents on a picture post card of Heswall ,after consulting with me and I signed it . Then she suggested that I might like a wash.She soaped a fannel and began to wash my face. I was a big girl and my mother hadn't wash my face for me except at bedtime for many months' I felt suddenly very homesick and burst into tears crying that I wanted my mummy.
After the sobbing had subsided I had a biscuit and a drink of warm milk and lay on the bed as directed for a nap.I went straight to sleep.
I was never upset again aand don't even remember thinking about my home and family! It is hard to understand that now, as I had been an only child for six years and had been a close companion to my mother while my father was at sea.I don't even remember receiving any letters from home, if I did they made no lasting impression.
I slept in that little room for several nights' I suppose that was to make sure that I wasn't infectious. Then I joined the children in the night nursery and shared their bath time. Three in a bath! It was a bit crowded but fun.
An evacuee school was set up in a village hall, small tables and chairs were crammed in making it difficult for the teacher to get round. The only equipment we had was paper and pencil and I think reading books. I don't remember learning anything new while I was there but we were happy enough and I don't remember any naughty behaviour.
I got on well with the twins and felt totally part of the family except when the gardener brought the pony round for the twins to ride on and I was not included! They seemed hardly ever to see their mother who never ate with us although if she was in we would go down to have elevens's with her. Their father was in the army and occasionly showed up looking smart in officer's uniform. If visitors came in the evening for dinner the twins would go down in their nightwear to be introduced and I would have Nurse all to myself.
After I had been there about a month the twins and I were playing on the top terrace of the garden when the nurse asked me who this was who was coming up the garden. I stopped and looked and saw a young smiling woman wearing a navy blue swagger coat, they were very fashionable at that time.I looked for a minute or so before remembering that my mother had bought such a one earlier in the summer. Then it slowly dawned on me that this was my mother.How quickly children forget.
I was delighted of course, and had so much to tell her. I told her that everyone had been talking about the the evacuee women who had wet their knickers. My mother became very cross and explained that the women concerned were all just about to have babies. They had travelled in a train with no toilets then had had to stand waiting for 'buses to take them on, there was no where for them to get to a toilet.They were very unhappy and embarressed.
Although I enjoyed being with my mother I quite accepted the fact that she would have to leave me soon. I think that she visited two or three times , the only time that I cried when she left was when we had gone to the bus stop with her, I was playing about with the twins when the 'bus came and missed her goodbye kiss.
My mother had been evacuated to a near by village, the first house that she went to was dirty and she and my baby brother woke up with flea bites. I think that they only stayed there the one night.
When Christmas came I went home to Wallasey for a few days. While I was there my parents decided that as there was no sign of danger they would keep me with them. So I never got to say goodbye and thank you to the people who had made me feel so welcome.