"those of us in the dance hall, when we heard the first thud, the lights went out, the band stopped and we all went to the floor, we laid on the floor."
I lived in a village. I had experiences that would have been different than people that lived in cities and towns, of course. What happened with us being in a village, the bombers, when they had been bombing London and the bigger cities, of course, some had bombs still left on their planes and they would drop them as they were going, racing back to the coast to get away. And if they had bombs onboard, that is when they would drop them and the villages and countryside would get them where normally they wouldn’t get them at the pace that they did in the cities.
It was at one of these, such times that I was in the dance hall; I suppose I was about fourteen when the war started, so I was probably sixteen. I was in the dance hall with my friends and there would be a lot of army [personnel] there, army who would be stationed around the area where I lived. There was a workmen’s club where my dad and the men would go for a beer or play pool or whatever. Then there was a very small section where you could perhaps get six more cars in there and the cars are small, or they were.
And then there was the dance hall where I was. There was a high-explosive bomb dropped by one of these planes that wanted to get rid of it, so it could get away quicker. And it fell in open ground at the top of what would have been our recreation ground, like a ball field you’d call it, I suppose. So it didn’t do any damage other than make a big hole. The second one that was released came down; it hit the bottom of a great big tree. The tree sort of fell on the Red Cross room on this building which was at the back of the building. My father and other men were in the front part of the building. Luckily, nobody was killed. Quite a bit of damage, property damage.
It wasn’t long be … Oh, we heard, those of us in the dance hall, when we heard the first thud, the lights went out, the band stopped and we all went to the floor, we laid on the floor. Then the second thud. But as I say, it didn’t do any human damage. It did property damage. The lights came back on after a while, it wasn’t long before my father was at the door of the dance hall looking very bedraggled and dusty. He was all dusty. And he had come to take me home, of, course, and as other fathers were there to take their daughters home.
When we got home, probably a five, seven-minute walk, my mother and my brother and sister were home; she didn’t know where I was, where my father was. I mean, she knew where we’d gone but two bombs, didn’t even know where it was in the village. Anyway, when we got home, gosh, she was very, very pleased to see us and she was standing there with a bread knife in her hand, she’d been slicing bread and when the bombs fell, of course, she was petrified. She didn’t know. And it was the same as seeing your children off to school. You’d kiss them goodbye, you didn’t know, you didn’t know whether you’d see them again. You know? It was a very very traumatic time and although we were young, usually when you’re young, you can accept things easier than you can when you’re older. And so that was my closest experience with bombs dropping.
But it wasn’t long before I was at the factory, no. Because my friends were working there and my dad went there to work and my brother was there. My brother went, he was three years younger than me but he finally ended up there. It was [a tannery]; we used to hides… the hides of animals, sheep and I don’t know if it was calf;the heavy animal hides came in. And they were, well, we didn’t work with those. They had to be in what they called the lime pits and there was mostly men working down there, men that were unable to fight. And the lime would take all the hair and skin, all the hair and stuff off. By the time they came up to us, the sheepskins in the room that I worked in, a huge room, they were wet, wet sheepskins and we had great big frames, huge frames, steel frames I suppose they were, with lots and lots of holes in them.
And we had aluminum clips and we had little leather bags around our tummies with these clips in. They weren’t heavy. Because we had to take these clips, put them around the edge of the skin, and the end of the clip would fit in these holes on the frames. And you’d fill the frame with skins, wet skins. Then they would dry overnight and then they’d go to another process in another part of the factory. So I worked in the drying room.
If the air raid siren went, we were up on the third floor, quite high, and there were air raid shelters on the property but they were half full of water, so there was no point in going down there. We just used to stand outside and watch the dogfights, watch the fighters [aircraft], the Messerschmitts and the Spitfires, take it all in our stride.