The Wartime Memories of Pat Hemingway

Pat Hemingways Memories of WW2

I was born in 1930 at West Melton, Rotherham,  a coal mining area. I was an only child and my parents were Richard Grainger and Annie (nee Butterfield, from Castleford, Yorkshire). Dad worked in the local Co-op and was also a special Constable, he failed his medical so he was unable join the Forces. As a special treat when I was nine I was allowed to clean and polish the buttons on his tunic. Looking back it was amusing that every Sunday morning the special Constables met in the local brewery.

Our house was a large terrace,  originally no electricity but gas lighting, electricity was installed in 1936 a single lamp in each room and very few plugs only downstairs. We had coal fires and a coal fire to heat the “Copper” in the corner of the kitchen which was used to heat water as we only had a cold tap. Mum used to ladle warm water into a bowl for us to get washed in. On wash days she had to ladle the hot water in to a large peggy tub to wash the clothes in using a poser. Friday night was special, bath night for the family in a tin bath in front of the fire. Like most people we lived in one room.

The government employed men to build air raid shelters in peoples gardens we had one to share with the house next door, we only used it once for a couple of hours it was damp and cold so when the air raid siren went off we went into our cellar which was cosier.

We had a radio powered by an accumulator, just after we got electricity Dad spilt some acid from the accumulator so mum said it had to go, we got a new electric radio. My favourite programmes on the radio were “In Town Tonight”, Arthur Askey, Dicky Murdock (Stinker), I used to sing along with Vera Lynn and Grace Fields. Everyone listened to Churchill’s speeches they were a terrific morale booster to everyone. There were eight cinemas in Barnsley and they were well attended as people went to watch the “Pathe News” on the latest development in the war.

When I was about five years old I went to the local Methodist Sunday School, morning and afternoon, I was a good attender and received a book to confirm this. Whilst I had to go to Chapel twice every week on a Sunday mum and Dad only went once a year and that was on the Chapel Anniversary where dad played the violin.

When I started school I had to walk one and a half miles to the school at Brampton. I had a gas mask which I carried in a tin this came in handy when it snowed as I could sit on it and sledge down the hills.

At school we had regular training to see if all the pupils put their gas masks on correctly. In 1943 dad was promoted to be manager at the Co-op in Barnsley so we moved to the managers house which was much larger but unfortunately we did not have much furniture. When I was eleven I passed my eleven plus and went to Barnsley Girls High School, my favourite subject was art, I worked hard at school and passed the “School Certificate” in eight subjects:- English Grammar and Literature, French, Latin, History, Geography, Maths, Religious Studies and art. The only time I met any evacuees was at Barnsley Girls High School.  I then went to Leeds University on a Teachers Training Course, it was here that I met Len Hemingway for the very first time at a University dance, Len was five years older than me, we married five years later. Len in fact joined the Yorks and Lancs’ Regiment, he went on an officers training course and was a Lieutenant, he was  posted to Berlin just before the war finished. He always mentioned that all English Military personnel were very careful to keep out of the Russian sector. Lieutenant Len Hemingway like most military people never spoke about the war.

Like all families we suffered from food rationing, but all my friends never believed me with my father being the Manager of the local Co-op. I can remember eating bananas, oranges and grapes after the war finished. Often there was Military Parades in the town which also included ARP’s, Special Constables, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides etc, all monies collected went to the local hospital, remember there was no NHS in those days.

Living in a mining area and only a short distance from Sheffield (one of the countries major steel producers) we were used to seeing German bombers and Lancaster bombers and Spitfires, Hurricanes ( we were pleased to see the red, white and blue circles on the English planes). We witnessed several bombing raids on Sheffield and the major railway junction at “Wath Hump Junction”, like most people we got used to them. There were a lot of Barrage Balloons protecting the railway junction and the pits and I was fascinated by them. I can only remember one plane coming down in our area. Everyone I knew was petrified of “Doodle Bugs” you could hear them coming by the weird nose they made but when the noise stopped everyone panicked.

“VE DAY” was very special, all the streets were decorated, Union Jack Flags were flying everywhere, mum put our Union Jack out of the bedroom window, the last time she had used it was at King George V1 Coronation in 1937. Everybody was laughing and cheering, music and dancing everywhere, bonfires in streets a fantastic celebration.

Pat Hemingway July 2018




Shane Greer

Author: Shane Greer

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