Thank you to Robert Faulconbridge for sharing these memories of the Second World War. Perhaps this account prompts some memories of your own? Do let us know by following LEAVE A REPLY below.
The following notes are long time memories of the events relating to the early days of WWII, I was 15 years old at the time and living with my widowed mother, older brother and two younger sisters.
- Metal railings surrounding people’s gardens, public parks and old church cemeteries were all cut down and sent to the smelters to help provide steel to manufacture armaments for the armed forces. A lot of this material was however very low grade metal. Nevertheless it was better than nothing! We, as a nation, had a lot of catching up to do to reach parity with the enemy. In fact it took five long, hard years to achieve.
Items manufactured spring to mind – ships, army scout cars, gun carriages and Bren gun carriages. The last item was manufactured locally at the Sentinel Waggon Works on Whitchurch Road.
Further up the road, at Harlescott, the Chatwood Safe Co. Ltd., (present name STADCO) was very busy, turning out 25 pounder (P’D’R) howitzer shells. Bomb tails for incendiary bombs, large sound-proof doors for aircraft testing facilities, 12 (P’D’R) gun mountings amongst other things.
- I cycled to work in the dark, and home again in the dark. This routine lasted a long time as it was difficult at times to obtain lamp batteries for the bicycles. During 1940/41 Liverpool was heavily bombed and a stray bomber returning home dropped bombs on the Ellesmere Road, demolishing a house at Phillip’s Scrap Yard. A woman and child were killed. Shortly afterwards, children from Liverpool were evacuated to Shrewsbury. They were all black, and no-one in our street wanted to take any of them in. However, my mother and sisters and I took three in, all from one family. Our friends, two doors away, took two more. However, after a few weeks their mothers came and took them back to Liverpool.
- Two sections/bays of the Midland Red bus garage in Ditherington were commandeered for the construction of the Port (left) wing for the Spitfire fighter aircraft. (This building was demolished recently). The Spitfire fuselage was also constructed in Shrewsbury in a large old wooden garage near the Column on the London Road. The site is now occupied by a Heating Suppliers’ showroom.
- The large ordnance complex at Woolwich, London, moved to Donnington, Shropshire, where it is still today. Almost everything was in very short supply and so Ration Books were introduced for food, clothes, petrol and furniture. To obtain meat one had to be registered with a butcher, with – of course – a ration book-keeper person, for obvious reasons.
- The Local Defence Force was formed, but soon afterwards the name was changed to “The Home Guard”, and was a voluntary organisation. Most large factories and organisations had their own units/platoons/companies. One of the LDF/HG devices designed to obstruct the use of enemy tanks in the event of invasion was the use of lengths of railway line. A length of line was heated in the middle, and bent around to form the figure Ʌ i.e. the letter A without the horizontal middle piece. These were soon nicknamed “hair grips”. Holes dug in the roadway received each end of the Ʌ piece. About six set of holes were sufficient to cover the width of a road. One such road was Abbey Foregate, where the bridge covering the Old Pott’s line, adjacent to the Bell Inn at the end of Bell Lane at the junction with Abbey Foregate road.
- During early 1941 the Air Training Corps (ATC) was formed, known as the 1119 Squadron. Lessons and parades were held at the Boys’ Priory School, Claremont Bank, Shrewsbury at weekends. I was a founder member, but later I served in the Royal Navy – but that’s another story!
- Members of the United States Air Force came to town. They built an air force base at Atcham near Shrewsbury, and the Raven Hotel on Castle Street was handed over to them as a rest centre, so there were always a lot of US personnel in town. Mark’s and Spencer store now occupies the former hotel site.
- Copthorne Hospital (South) was handed over to the Canadian Forces for clinical use.
- In the early days of the war, we were all issued with gas masks and our homes had to comply with strict black-out regulations, and so the Air Raid Precaution unit (ARP) was formed to enforce the black-out rules. The Observer Corps was also formed. We never experienced air raids here, so some people had easier jobs than others.
- When VE (Victory in Europe) and VJ (Victory in Japan) days arrived the fighting stopped, but some of the imposed regulations carried on for a number of years, which was really beginning to tell on people. (There was still a shortage of food, ships and money). Losses of ships and seamen were astronomical.
- When war was declared there were lots of people of foreign nationality in this country. As far as loyalty was concerned they were an unknown element in our midst. So – good, or not so good – they were all rounded up and sent to the Isle of Man where they were housed in large hotels awaiting investigation and clearance – or otherwise! These hotels were all fenced in with high concrete posts and barbed wire. The IOM soon became known as The Island of Barbed Wire. Alas, there were also certain people of our own nation, with dubious intentions, who also had sympathy with the enemy. They too were rounded up and dealt with in a similar fashion.
- The ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) was formed early on. This was the women’s equivalent of the men’s militia. They carried out all the duties normally done by men, except the fighting units, i.e. drivers, clerks, mechanics, bat-women (valets) etc In fact, after the evacuees left us we were obliged to billet two ATS women, who were employed as Pay Clerks at the Whitehall Buildings on Monkmoor Road. We lived in King Street which was near to their office. I remember that they were nice people, and were no trouble at all!