Photographs of bomb ravaged Bridlington were taken by Foster Brigham as an official record. Our speaker Mrs Delia Smith was surrounded by a display of these photographs courtesy of the Bridlington Local Studies library. During her talk she was able to add those little details from her memory of her childhood in wartime Bridlington that brought those photographs to life.
Delia’s childhood was not easy even before the war. Her mother died and her father had seven children to bring up. During the war her father, a reservist, was moved away on war work and the eldest daughter, still in her mid teens, had to manage the family through those war ravaged times.
Over 2000 children were evacuated to Bridlington and Delia recalls her sister’s horror as the Women’s Voluntary Service knocked on the door hoping to add yet more children into her struggling all child household.
The evacuees left when the bombing began in June 1940. Delia and her siblings spent air raids with mattresses under the stairs. The shelters seemed scary places to her.
The East Riding coast was seen as a potential invasion site. Delia described the severe access restrictions on the sea front.
Many families moved inland. Their empty houses were requisitioned for bombed out families. Rationing started in 1940. Delia described the impact, and reminded us that rationing was still in force in 1954. The town suffered financially and Delia remembers rumours that the whole town would be evacuated.
Bridlington was invaded later in the war, but by friendly soldiers and airmen of different nationalities, together with their tanks. We know now they were preparing for D Day. Delia can remember being rebuffed by a sentry as she and her friends stumbled upon a store of ammunition on Woldgate.
The Spa was taken over by the RAF and smelled of cabbage. It was painted white throughout the war as a landmark for our returning bombers.
Delia had so many stories. An eloping nun, FIDO, post box tops that would change colour in a gas attack. Can that be true Delia wondered?
On VE day Delia arrived at school to find it shut. Church bells were ringing. She knew this was a warning of invasion. Fear soon turned to joy and she recalled the celebrations that followed.
The vote of thanks was given by Bro Frederick Stephens. He remarked how such first-hand stories leave such a massive impression.
After the talk we were treated to war time tea and biscuits. The tea was strong and the biscuits, made from just flour, milk and lard, were “different”. This gave people the chance to study the displays and talk to Delia.