Irene Bell

British Civilian

I was born in 1935 in Bootle, Liverpool, my father was Harold Southward a fireman and my mother was Elizabeth (nee Toy) and she was a fire watcher.  Ours was a modern house with electricity, gas, hot & cold water, no telephone.

To help with the war effort they both collected scrap metal which could be melted down, railings and any scrap metal eg old kettles. They both helped to put fires out after bombings. One of the first things I can remember is my mother making blackout curtains with her sowing machine. In those days everything was recycled:- milk was delivered to your house every day in glass milk bottles which had to be returned, when you returned beer and lemonade bottles you got a penny, old newspapers were taken to be used as wrapping paper for your fish and chips, nothing was wasted. Nobody wasted food, if you did not eat it at one meal you got it for the next one.

I had a sister Edith and I had a much older brother Edward who was in the Army, Regimental #3782911 Royal Corps Signals, Paratrooper 1st Airborne. Unfortunately he was killed on the 20th September 1944 aged 21 at Arnhem.

I went to Roberts Drive Junior School in Bootle, when I was eleven I went to Bootle Girls Grammar School, my favourite subject at school was reading, I played Hockey and Netball for the School. I remember the school issuing us with gas masks and I thought they were horrible things.

Presents were thin on the ground at Christmas and birthdays due to little money being available, like most children. The presents were books and small gifts in a stocking.

One of my early memories was my brother lifting me out of bed and talking me down stairs in to the garden to the “Anderson Shelter”, along with mum, dad and sister Edith, along with a kettle, tea etc. I do not think there were any evacuees in our area due to our close proximity to Liverpool.

Most people listened to the news on radio every night and Churchill’s speeches.

Several people listened to “Lord Haw Haw”. The favourite programmes were:-

Comedians:- Frankie Howard, Tommy Trinder, Arthur Haynes, Charlie Chester, Arthur Askey.

Popular music:-

Flanagan & Allen:- “Run Rabbit Run”, “We’re going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line”,

Vera Lynn: – “There’ll always be an England”, “There’ll be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover” and “We’ll meet again”,

Gracie Fields – “We’ll meet again”, “Sally”, “Wish me luck as you wave us goodbye”, “Bless’em All”, “In the mood”, “Don’t fence me in”, “The sun has got it’s hat on”, “Leaning on a lamp post”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “Sing as we go”, “Roll out the barrel”, “Biggest Aspidistra in the World”, “A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square”, “

Fred Fanakapan – “Walter Walter”, “There’ll always be an England”, “Kiss me Goodnight Sergeant Major”.

Richard Tauber – “Pedro the Fisher man is always whistling”, “Girls were made to love and kiss”, “We’ll gather lilacs in the spring”.

Glen Miller:- “In the Mood”,

Bing Crosby:- “Don’t Fence Me In”,

Marlene Detrich:- “Lili Marlene”, there were many other popular songs which I can’t remember.

There were many other popular singers:- Petula Clark, Ronnie Ronald; Orchestras :- Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey. Apologies to those I have missed.

I remember the Air Raid Sirens going off followed later by German bombers then the terrible noise when the bombs went off followed by the fires.

Food rationing did not affect us too much, dad grew potatoes and carrots in the garden, our uncle was a farmer in Wales so we got some food from him including Damsons, we never went hungry. There were no fruit in the shop which could not be grown in England:- Bananas, Grapes, Pineapples, Lemons and Oranges.

One night dad lifted me out of bed when I was fast asleep and took me down to the front gate, all the neighbours were out and all of a sudden all the street lights came on and everyone cheered and cried, the war had finished.

The biggest lasting event for all the family was my brother being killed. Mum and Dad never got over it and mum was in poor health for the rest of her life.

My sister and I went to the 50th Anniversary of Arnhem, a big parade and we met some very old soldiers in the Parade who remembered their old mate Teddy. A very moving moment, they were with him when he was killed.

22nd May 2018

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