Raymond Barry is 85 and has never forgotten growing up in Linthwaite during World War Two. Here are his memories which include everything from cows being killed by wayward German bombs to life on meagre rations.
I was born at 195 Lane Top, Linthwaite, in 1933, around 300 yards above The Sair pub and can faintly remember an occasional jug of ale being brought up from The Sair for Sunday lunchtime.
My family moved from there to 82 Cowlersley Lane in 1937. Sunday school was at Milnsbridge Baptist church during the early days of World War Two and we kids would often find the square outside the big nearby hall filled with soldiers who had lain down during the night for what passed for sleep. By good fortune, general war damage to our area of the north was regarded overall as ‘slight’ in military and political terms.
Undoubtedly this was correct on the World War Two scale of things but a freak happening to a dairy farmer’s milkers on Slaithwaite moor took place after he had commented on how peaceable his herd looked as they settled down for the night after milking.
That night, wanting to jettison its load to quicken its homeward speed, a German bomber discharged its bomb bay and the majority of cows in the herd were brutally destroyed.
In the early 1940s we saw another of war’s aspects - refugees. To say that they poured in would grossly overstate the case but certainly there were several new families who came from afar. London and the Channel Islands are the ones that stick in my mind. Local concerts were held to raise money for ‘forces comforts funds’ which translated into fags and chocs.
Schools became the warehouse points for gas mask distribution, servicing and updating, also accepting responsibility for children when the alarm sirens sounded during school time. When these were heard my older sister and I crossed the road from New Street school and were cared for by the wife of the local butcher, Mrs Rhodes, until the ‘all clear’ siren came and we returned to school.
Ration books were printed, different pages were for different types of foodstuffs and they were printed with small rectangles representing different weeks of the year. Some special small scissors came into being with a right-angled bend to their blades to make coupon cutting supposedly quicker. Surely the most fatuous invention of wartime.
Weight values of food coupons were always in ounces, nothing was rationed in pounds and the only thing in gallons was motor fuel. Not that such rations were available to folks who were then an utter rarity – the owners of cars. The milk lady from the farm came daily by horse and cart carrying a knapsack on her back (similar to today’s garden sprayers). Inside were hung a couple of round thin metal cylinders of one pint and half pint capacity and milk was measured out into each householder’s jug which was then placed onto the cold stone step of a cellar.
The thing that put Home Guard volunteers onto a high plain was that they were issued with .303 Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles. The same rifles remained as standard issue years and years later despite other nations adopting lighter, therefore easier-to-handle models for dealing out death.
In the 1950s, as a National Serviceman, I still had to lug one around, either on guard duty in Egypt or on parades.
Exciting childhood weekends were also occasionally enlivened still further by being at the Home Guards’ practice firing range near the Will’s o’ Nats. pub at Blackmoorfoot. Riflemen lay prone and fired at targets on the hillside 200 or 300 yards away. We children stood close behind them and carefully watched the ejected spent cartridge cases, mentally marking where each had landed for when the faux-military contingent had departed. Always some cases were salvaged from spaces within the sandbagged area and made respectable souvenir trading swaps. The big prizes were cartridges that were entire but they were few and far between.
Downed aircraft were a treasure trove of souvenirs. A Flying Fortress came down in the Deer Hill area and three or four of us set out after school one evening in the general direction and were soon well into the barren moorland.
Brian Halstead dramatically pointed his finger and uttered the word ‘sighted’. The huge tailfin was so out of place in thousands of acres of peat. We had found it but all the small portables appeared to have been already swiped.
‘Window’ metal foil distraction to fool enemy radar was of low swapping value and was scattered all around. The armaments had all been removed. We anxiously but unsuccessfully searched for anything resembling a cannon shell. At a different time we also examined a fighter plane at Marsden’s Blake Lea.
Standard Fireworks deserves a special mention as it was vital to frontline battles.
Even we schoolboys could figure out why they had a main office completely separated from the myriad small Nissen-type huts well spread out over their site comprising many acres. Not only that, but each hut was surrounded by high mounds of earth and, in many cases, with stone retaining walls. Their range of production was unknown, save to those in the factory, but two of their outstanding lines were impossible to keep secret since these were regularly tested throughout each week.
They were Very lights and illuminating flares. Very lights were coloured markers fired into the air from a so-called Very pistol and these were being tested throughout every week. Also being less frequently tested were illuminated flares. In some respects, these resembled a field mortar with their metal construction and were (presumably) fired from a genuine mortar. Purpose here being illumination from their magnesium charges as they floated slowly down to the ground with small parachutes.
A tragic accident happened when amateurs tried to dismantle a live mortar. It exploded, killing members of a family.
In warfare, fired from a 2½” steel tube, they had an awesome explosive power.
Talking of which, each Friday at 12.30pm an enormous explosion would be regularly heard from the Crosland Hill tops, followed by a cloud of smoke.