My Mum’s War

World War Two was different to the Great War.  Everyone was involved and everyone was in danger. When the first bombs fell on Bridlington in 1940 we knew it.  Our speaker Bro John Walker looked at the impact on a typical Bridlington Mum, his Mum.

There had been intense national preparations for war with 187,000 hospital beds identified, car factories switched to the manufacture of aeroplane parts, and evacuation plans made.

Bro John’s parents had been married for 5 years when the war started. His Dad joined the Home Guard and worked erecting coastal defences. Ration books were in use by January 1940. Anderson shelters were built in gardens, and an indoor Morrison shelter, like a sturdy cage, appeared next door in Olinda Road which Bro John’s family would also use.

Lots of items needed to run a family home were no longer available. There was no timber for furniture. We were urged to “Make Do and Mend”.  It was a time of dried egg powder and tinned whale meat.  Any food scraps would be fed to chickens and pigs.

Bro John’s Mum received parcels from a Canadian aunt which included tea bags which were a puzzle to her. She snipped the bags and put the leaves in the caddy. The Government published a booklet of “150 recipes for ration time cookery”. They were some of the best recipes, but also some of the worst.

Bro John’s Dad was called up in 1943 and fought in a tank regiment, and his Mum was allocated two billeted RAF men. Meanwhile Dad was billeted with a Dutch doctor’s family who kept in touch for many years after the war. They sent two silver spoons for Bro John’s Christening.

Mum’s brother Ernest became a commando and was the first to achieve 1000 parachute jumps. Her sister Margaret joined the ATS and became a corporal.  Food rations were reduced. Oranges were for children only. People were urged to eat potatoes instead of bread, but soon the cartoon, “Wot no Potatoes” appeared.

Bro John, as little more than a toddler, could remember Bridlington being full of tanks preparing for D-Day, some with Polish crews. The memory was no doubt fixed by the chocolate the tank crews gave him. Another vivid memory was the flames from FIDO lighting his way to his grandparents’ house at Carnaby.

Dad returned home from the war in 1946. Bro John, although a child, recalls being put out at no longer being the “man of the house”. Bro John is sure that men returning from a traumatising war to wives who had suffered years of worry and making do, made careful marriage rebuilding necessary.

Joan Turner thanked Bro John on members’ behalf for an excellent talk. She added Bro John’s talk had evoked some war memories she would rather forget, but regretted that the sense of national purpose that the war gave us has since evaporated.