Genealogy, history and memories of Blackley, Manchester, UK

Wartime memories of Blackley by Derek S

At eleven o'clock on the morning of 3 September 1939 we all went into the kitchen to listen to Chamberlain's speech on the wireless and as soon as it was over we went down next door's garden and on to the back fields to fill sandbags. Mr Brown next door had a dugout built into the hillside so was protected on three sides and the sandbags protected the front and roof so we had a reasonable air raid shelter. Air raid sirens sounded for the first few days but were false alarms.

All street lighting was off so everybody had to find their way in darkness until very near the end of the war. All windows had blackout curtains and if a glimmer of light showed outside the air raid wardens would knock on the door and tell you to rectify the curtain.

Before the war, Boggart Hole Clough was surrounded by iron railings but within a few weeks of 3 September these were all cut down along with all in the area - even around private houses - the metal was melted down and used for armaments.

There were many small air raids and the noise was made worse by the fact that there was an anti-aircraft battery on the sports fields next to the cemetery on Moston Lane.

The rationing of food, sweets, clothes etc. came in almost immediately with only vegetables off ration so everyone was urged to grow their own. Only vegetables in season were available - no eggs in winter, only dried egg. If a shop had a delivery of something in short supply a queue would form at once and as soon as this was seen everybody would join before finding out what it was for.

In the Manchester Blitz we were bombed out at our grandparents' house when four bombs landed in the road outside removing the roof, doors and windows. In the City Centre I saw the whole of the south side of Piccadilly between Portland Street and Mosley Street which was composed of large warehouses was one mass of flames. On returning home to Blackley we found that the air raid wardens had put sandbags on a flare in our front garden. Luckily Blackley escaped the bombing although some bombs did land in the Clough.

One of the greatest things about wartime was the attitude of people to each other. There were many times when news was terrible - Dunkirk, Battle of Britain and the Atlantic but people bonded together and worked harder to make planes, armaments etc. - that was the true British spirit which was helped to a great extent by Churchill. Everything stopped when Churchill made a speech on the wireless. One of the worse things that happened in Blackley was when one of our own planes crashed behind St. Andrew's church in Crab Lane with loss of life.

On leaving school I got a job as an apprentice at A V Roe making Lancaster bombers. The staff were mainly women and older men making parts for Lancasters. As interest my wages were £1-10-0 for a 50+ hour week. During 1940, people were asked to donate any aluminium pans to be used to make Spitfire & Hurricane planes.

Joining the army - the RASC - when I was transferred from Glasgow to Southend by train it took 23 hours to do the journey. This was as when you took a train from Manchester to London you sat on your kitbag in the corridor and when you got to Watford the trains would stop until the air raids in London were over. At Southend it was normal for V1s - doodle bugs - to come overhead all the time and if at night you would be in bed hoping that the engine did not cut out above you but of course someone was not so lucky. V2s were rockets which you could not hear coming but felt the explosion when it landed.

Whilst on another course we saw on many evenings hundreds of Lancaster bombers filling the sky to North, South, East and West on the way to Germany. I know it is not PC these days but everybody who saw them going, having endured five years of deprivation, sorrow and shortage wished the airmen all the luck in the world and a very successful raid.

The end of the war in Europe was a terrific relief and was a party I will never forget.

Never was Britain more focused on one thing - the defeat of Germany - the forces and the civilians who worked long hours to support them.