James Mason was born in Denaby Main, South Yorkshire in 1926. He was called up into the Army in 1944, mainly with the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Connie Mason, née Taylor, was born in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire in 1929. This transcript records their memories before and during World War 2 together with other experiences.

The transcript and the video are about 57 minutes long.

Recorded in Swinton, South Yorkshire on 9th October 2018.

[Pauses indicated by …. ]

Time codes on film indicated by Hour:Minute:Second for ease of reference between transcript and film on YouTube.

Transcript: –

Jim: My name’s James Mason, Jim, and I was born in the colliery village of Denaby Main, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire. The village conditions were row upon row of colliery houses, not detached but row upon row. Eventually, we got the opportunity to move to the nearby village of Conisbrough, which is famous for its Norman castle.

The time came for me to go for what was called the County Minors’ Scholarship, today it’s called the Eleven-plus. I had no training at all, and father and mother were no help because they had no education themselves, so when I went for the examination, I couldn’t understand anything about it. So, I failed.

I think my mother and father really were glad I had failed because they really wanted another worker in the family. So, I started working at 16 [at 14], I was put in charge of a shift which monitored the men going down the mine and I didn’t take to it because they put me on a shift called “afternoons regular” [meaning afternoon into the evening, so he was at work when all his friends were engaged in evening leisure activities]. I applied to leave, and they said I couldn’t leave because it was essential work. But the collieries didn’t work properly because some of the key men had gone away with the Territorial Army when the War broke out.

So, the Minister of Labour was called Ernest Bevin, and he decided to have a ballot of young men to see if they could get enough workers to work in the mines. As it happens, I worked at the mines and I got orders that I should report to Lincoln barracks in my uniform and I thought, well, I thought I was essential to the operation of the mine and you wouldn’t let me leave. All of a sudden, they allowed me to leave. So, that’s another story that starts when I was called up to Lincoln at the barracks there, for 21 weeks training, and I was shipped abroad to land at Ostende in Belgium.

Connie: My name’s Connie Mason, I was born in 1929. I lived in Holmfirth [as in Last of the Summer Wine], that was a village near Huddersfield. I went to school and I lived on a farm and, when I was about 5 [actually, 7], my father died ….   he was a farmer ….   So, we came then to live in South Yorkshire, because that’s where my Mum came from.

We lived in Swinton, so I went to school in Swinton and left school …. and, I don’t know. I started work, I had lots of different jobs …. worked in the mills in Holmfirth and several shop assistant jobs. [She also worked in the Bassett’s, of Liquorice Allsorts fame, factory in Sheffield.]

Michael: Let’s think about some of the memories you might have had during the war itself.

Connie: Ah, yes. When I was about 11 and war broke out, we lived in Swinton. I remember the night they were bombing Sheffield, and everything was lit up, and …. I wasn’t really involved in the war.

Michael: Did you see anything going on around you?

Connie: Not really. Nothing. No.

Michael: What about you, Jim, what do you remember during the war before you were called up?

Jim: Before I was called up, the local newspaper were advertising a charity concert at the local cinema, and in those days, cinemas weren’t allowed to open on Sunday and I think the church had a big influence about that. But this particular show was for charity, so it was allowed to open. That night when the show finished, I came out and all hell broke loose outside and there was shrapnel falling all around which I found out later was from anti-aircraft guns nearby, shooting at the aeroplanes that were bombing Sheffield.

And then, as a matter of interest, my mother had a sister living in Sheffield, so she said, “I’d like to go to see if she is all right”. Well, there were no telephones, what telephones there were, were in phone-boxes and the lines were all down. So, I said, “We’ll wait a bit and go a bit later”. But in between, the Germans came back and bombed Sheffield again, so then again, we had to wait until things quietened down and we went to Sheffield and found out that my mother’s sister and her family were all right. But when we were passing through Sheffield, there was a noted shop called C&A and its sign was falling away from the bombed-out building. And this was in my memory when later I was in Germany after the War and I was stationed in Düsseldorf which had been badly bombed. And we had a Church Army canteen and the street in which it was placed was called Schadowstrasse, and looking down the street, you could see a familiar sign, C&A, hanging from a bombed-out building. So, it seemed to be a bit ironic to me. Anyway…

[The cinema mentioned, The Royal Cinema, is in Mexborough, about 3 miles from Jim’s home. Fourteen-year-old Jim was stopped by a warden who warned him to get off the street, and asked had he got far to walk? Jim replied no, just up the road. He has a piece of shrapnel as a souvenir of that night, that fell in the road. The Sheffield blitz occurred on two nights, Thursday 12th and Sunday 15th December 1940. To find Sheffield, the planes followed the river Don which runs through Mexborough and Conisbrough then, eventually, into the Humber. The shop in Düsseldorf still exists, although C&A no longer have a presence in the UK.] 

00:09:41

Michael: OK. Let us go back to you Connie and we’ll go back into the War really, and when you were, as a child, you were born in 1929, I think, so, as a child you would have been about 10 or 11 years old. What do you remember of things like rationing?

Connie: Oh yes, I remember that.

Michael: What sort of things were going on with rationing that affected you, let’s say?

Connie: Well, I don’t really know how people managed to live because we didn’t have much, we didn’t get much rationing. Lots of things were scarce that we …. such as fruit and bananas and stuff like that ….   we’d never heard of them. But apart from that ….

Jim: It helped being on a farm, though didn’t it?

Connie: We weren’t on a farm then, Jim.

Jim: Oh!

Connie: We were in Swinton then, so ….

Michael: So, you’re not on a farm so you had to rely on whatever ration books you had and so on. Did you manage to get …. did your parents have chickens or anything like that?

Connie: When I was, yes, when we lived at Holmfirth, my dad was a farmer and we had chickens and I suppose we’d be all right for food then.

Michael: What was your average day, would you think, during the war, what would you be doing, going to school?

Connie: Yeah.

Michael: Did you have friends around you?

Connie: Yeah. Lots of friends.

Michael: And what did you do about things like entertainment, for instance?

Connie: Well there were cinemas in those days. That was about the only thing.

Jim: That were at Mexborough, wasn’t it?

Connie: Yes.

Michael: Come back to you, Jim, what do you remember of things like rationing during the war, before you were …. because you were working in the mines for a while? But, before that, what do you remember, how were you affected by things like rationing?

Jim: Well, the thing was, my father eventually took a shop and of course he was involved in giving people, who signed up to him, rations. So, you can understand that if there’s any left over, the family got it. So, we didn’t feel the effects of the rationing, apart from things like bananas, and things that were imported.

Michael: Yes, and oranges and things like that…

Jim: Oh, no. I think you used to get special coupons, for oranges, didn’t you?  For our Robert, for orange juice?

Connie: Yes. [Note that Robert was not born until 1949, although rationing was still in place.]

Michael: I think that, for children, there were special coupons for oranges, you’re right. Am I right in thinking that you were in the equivalent of what, today, they call Dad’s Army?

Connie: That’s right.

Jim: The Home Guard, yes.

Michael: Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Jim: Well, the thing about that is, being deaf started when I had to go to fire a rifle at the firing range and the rifles were ex-USA First World War rifles and they was condemned for use by American soldiers, but I think, because of the emergency, they were prepared to let us suffer any effects, and I think, from that day that I fired that rifle, my ears were affected but, when I went to join up …. the examination was cursory, like, weren’t very thorough, and I was accepted into the infantry at Lincoln. From Lincoln, I went up to Northumberland, where we, again, were subjected to rifle fire, or machine gun fire, to adapt us to the conditions that we would expect in the front line.

Michael: You were with the Royal Welch [written incorrectly as “Welsh”, in the correspondence] Fusiliers?

Jim: Yes. And, by the way, in your literature, did you know that [it was misspelled]?

Jim as a young soldier

Michael: I actually, I didn’t check it, but I copied it from the Forces War Records. So, they’ve got it wrong, and you’re quite right it’s with a C isn’t it, not an S. Rob said that you would rib me about it when we got to that point. I’m very happy about that, but, so you were training in Northumberland. Presumably somewhere near Otterburn were you? Or that part of the world?

Jim: Otterburn? Yes.

Michael: That’s right, those are the training grounds …. still are.

Jim: That’s right. In the Cheviot Hills were these places where they had the machine guns, and you had to listen to them firing, and what the effects were when they went over you.

Michael: So, that was live bullets ….

Jim: You were down below, but that were to get you used to machine gun fire.

Michael: And that was in 1944, I think.

Jim: Yeah.

Michael: So, you went through your training, what happened next?

Jim: Well, the Major, he said he’d like to put me through a Cadre course [cf Wikipedia ….   Cadre (military)] with a view to being an NCO. And I said, well I says, all my mates are going to the front line and I’d like to stay with them.

So, we were shipped down to Southampton, then in a troop ship taken to …. not Antwerp ….

Rob: Ostende ….

Jim: Ostende, and from there, I were no longer a …. I was in the Yorks and Lancs when I were training, but when I went to Belgium, Ostende, they sent me to a reinforcement holding unit, and in stages, I was moved nearer the front line, and eventually sent to the 6th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Michael: Yes.

Jim: And, when I arrived where they were, they were preparing to go over what they called the Juliana Canal [cf Wikipedia], but before that, the sergeant came round and he says “Are you trained on PIAT?”. Well, I weren’t prepared for this and I said yes!

A PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-tank), is a very heavy weapon. And I only weighed about …. in my book, in my AB64 Part 1 [Soldiers’ Pay Book, including medical details], I’m 7½ stone, so I knew I was going to be lumbered with this big gun, which was …. I had a mate who carried the shells, and we were told we were going to cross this canal, the engineers had swept it for mines, we were going to have Monty’s Moonlight …. have you ever heard of that?

Michael: I think I have, yes.

Jim: Well, Monty’s Moonlight where the searchlights shine up to the clouds to reflect the light down so you could see as you advanced towards the enemy. And, despite the fact that the engineers are supposed to have swept it for mines, all of a sudden, an explosion occurs and my buddy then, I’d only known him a few weeks, shouted out “Oh”…. I could hear, I could tell with his voice who it were, “Mother, mother!”, and when the sergeant realised, he said “Stay where you are!”.

And he made, I mean, putting himself in danger as well, he made his way to where, they called him Porky, because he were, I mean …. he were a bit stout. But when he got to him, he found out that the mine had blown Porky’s foot off.

Now, I’ve told you that the engineers swept the opposite bank of the canal, why didn’t they detect this mine?

Michael: Quite ….

Jim: Because it’s made of wood! It’s a shoe mine. And it’s like a box, that when you step on it, it releases a thing that causes an explosion, and it’s an anti-personnel mine. You know it’s not meant to be a blowing-up-a-tank mine.

00:20:59

And so, we proceeded then until we got to the bank, where the …. Roermond …. the canal passes through [cf History tab in Wikipedia: Rur, also Roermond & Operation Blackcock]. We stayed there for a little while and then they moved us out of the front line, ‘cos it were getting near Christmas, to a place called Herentals in Belgium. And we were supposed to have our Christmas dinner there and they changed the orders because the Germans had broken through the American lines in the Battle of the Bulge.

And we had to force-march to a place in line of the attempt to get through to Belgium. So, we stayed there for a while and then we were ordered to move further forward towards the front line and we got to where the Americans were and all around was evidence of killing.

Tiger tanks with men just getting out of the tanks killed and in foxholes which were perfectly round hole and we couldn’t understand, how could anybody dig a perfectly round hole like that? But we later saw this great big machine with a corkscrew on it and it were for telegraph poles. But looking around the area where the bodies were, we went into a barn and in that barn,  there was straw on the floor ….   and, by the way, the first Yanks I saw, when they came out, he says “What you ….   I think you’ve heard this before, Connie ….  

Connie: No, I don’t.

Jim: …. what are you **** sucking limeys doing here?” And he were chewing bacca and he went ….   [spitting sound] ….   went like that. So, I didn’t say anything to him, like, but later, when it quietened down a bit, I looked round this barn where they’d been staying and, on the floor, I found a New Testament. A bit dog-eared, like, and it had got an address in it, a name, so I thought now-then, what do I do with this? Has this chap discarded it, or has he lost it? So, I’ve still got it. I didn’t pursue that at all.

And then I looked around again and explored and I heard a grunting coming from a barn, and I went gingerly and opened the door, and I found my sergeant, the same one as I’d started off with …. He came from Hereford, which is agricultural country, and he’d got a rope fastened to an animal’s legs, that was coming out of a cow’s bottom, if you know what I mean. So, he said “get hold of this rope with me and pull this ***”, you know, and they pulled this calf out. I mean, I’d never seen owt like that before. But it was just surreal, you know, with all this death round about you.

Michael: And here’s new life!

St Christopher given to Jim by the Belgian Family.

Jim: And so, they then brought us back to Belgium. We had seven days in a village, called Herfelingen, which is in Brabant, which is Flemish, I think. Well, the family was Flemish, anyway. And there was three girls, and the father, he pretended he’d hurt his foot so he didn’t go to work. I don’t think he trusted us.

But, all the girls took me into Brussels, which weren’t far away. It were like, a train ran past the, the village, you know, where they lived …. the house. A steam train. And, I mean, when I came onto the railway, I realised there were quite a few places that had these local steam trains.

Anyway, then they moved us, eventually, to Düsseldorf and, when we got there, we were …. mind you, we’d reached, we had to reach the Elbe, where the Russians were at one side, and we were at this side, and we did see one Russian …. I don’t know how he’d got over the water, but all he were looking for were a tic-tac. And we were looking for bloody tic-tacs an-all.

Anyway, the sergeant said “Now we’re gonna practise street-fighting, because we’re gonna attack Hamburg. And we’re gonna train ….” And then, a couple of days later, came back he says “Change that order. You’re gonna get ….”, because we had second suit, what we called a “best suit” in the echelon in rear of the front line. He says “They’re sending the best suit down for you. You’re gonna put it on. They’re gonna bring troop-carrying vehicles. You’re gonna get in them, and you’re going to go into Hamburg and, on no occasion at all, would you acknowledge the Germans”, because they declared that they’d been sent to Coventry, well whatever you’d call it, for what they’d done.

00:29:31

So, eventually, we got to Hamburg, and …. we were guarding a railway bridge, over the River Elbe, which goes through Hamburg. And, in the nearby flats, there were still the civilians, and you would think that we’d turf the civilians out, for us to go in, but no. We treated them properly, and we stayed in the basements. And we caught one chap …. we were ordered not to let anybody out, but let anybody in as wants to go, because there were cholera and all sorts. And …. we caught this chap coming out with a sack over his back, so we stopped him. And when we looked in it, it were full of sardines ….   tins.

Michael: Oh, tins of sardines!

Jim: So, we took the sack off him, and sent him back. And we gave the sardines to the civilians. So, from there, we moved in stages down to the Rhineland, and became the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). And, we were given all sorts, we were in the airport barracks, and things were still a bit basic, and we had to use our mess tins to eat out of. And the …. what happened was you slopped out, like, what you’d got in your tin, dipped it in another dixey with hot water, rinsed it in another dixey with clear water, at the start, but you can imagine, after about half a dozen had gone through, got contaminated. And I think, myself, I caught gingivitis, which is a disease of the gums, from that. And the treatment for that was to go to an isolation hospital in a town called Iserlohn [British Military Hospital – BMH, Iserlohn]. Well we used to call it I’s-alone and we used to sing “I’s alone in Iserlohn”. So, the …. eventually, they set us up in bed with a bottle of penicillin with a screw to control the ….

Connie: It was a drip.

Jim: Eh?

Connie: Was it a drip?

Jim: Ah, make it a drip, yes. You’ve got it. And, at night time, you had to keep it in with a piece of Sellotape or something like that, but it was so awkward to do that we used to unscrew the regulator and drink it down to seven o’clock, next morning. And it didn’t have any effect ….   I think it got shot of the gingivitis quicker that way.

So, we had quite a few …. when we first got to Düsseldorf, we were at a place called Benrath, they say “Benrad”. It’s actually a schloss, which is German for castle, but it’s not, it’s like a big house. And when we got in the big house, it looked to me to …. it’s not …. there’s summat funny about this because this is officer-type, you know, accommodation. And, anyway, there were a bierkeller, there were a main living room, and upstairs, there was the bedrooms. And in one bedroom, we saw a ceramic thing, and nobody had seen one like it before. So, we couldn’t understand what it was for. So, we thought it can’t be for pooing in because there’s no way it’s gonna get out. But, anyway, when we found out later, like, it was a bidet. Well, we were only working-class lads. We’d never seen a bidet in us lives.

And, another task we had was we had to guard people in …. there were British soldiers, that had deserted, in the German prison. Anyway, another task was that we had to go and act as guards at a trial of a man who was called a Gastarbeiter ….   a Gast worker, a guest worker, which had come from one of the occupied territories to Germany, to work. And, when the war was over, he took his revenge, and it involved murdering a farmer that he’d worked for. So, we had to stand guard in the court-room and, eventually, this chap were found guilty, and the sergeant says “It’s our duty now, to carry out the sentence”, which was execution by firing squad.

So, that night, we had to hand our rifles in, and then the sergeant took them out at random and, fortunately, I wasn’t one of the chaps that was picked out to be the executioner. But the lads just said that there …. I don’t know whether they’d make him docile or, you know, perhaps ply him with drink. But they said there was no struggle or anything like that. Just ….

So, and then another thing I objected about this one strongly that, if you remember in …. well, perhaps you wouldn’t remember …. in 1947 there was “the big snow”. Well, they sent us to a place called Celle, and billeted us in an old Prussian barracks. With very basic facilities. You’d to go a mile to go for a wee. And then we’d got to go down to the forest, and the forester would show us how to cut the trees, and we found it so difficult that we went on strike. And, anyway, the regulations …. the officers and that got the message and took us back to the barracks. But, I remember, myself, one of the trees we cut down, I put my name on it, but I don’t know where it landed up.

Michael: Probably in a fire, somewhere, I should think. Probably as a log, do you think?

Jim: No, but you see, the forester said we were cutting it too high, where we should be right down at the bottom. But it were too much. We wouldn’t have it. We joined up to fight, not to cut trees down.

Michael: Yes.

Jim: We didn’t join up …. we were called up.

Michael: Yes. Did you go to Hohne, whilst you were in the Celle area?

Jim: Pardon?

Michael: Did you go to Hohne ….   that’s near Celle, isn’t it? That’s a British camp there. I don’t know if it’s still there now, but I think it’s spelt H-o-h-n-e, if I remember rightly ….   Hohne.

Jim: No, I can’t recall that name. Was it a displaced persons camp?

Michael: No, it wasn’t it was a British army camp for the BAOR, after the war, certainly. I think it’s still going, as far as I know. [cf Wikipedia: Bergen-Hohne Garrison, closed 2015. See also: Celle.]

00:39:41

You were in Germany, but it didn’t end there, did it, for you in the army? Because I think you went to France, didn’t you, didn’t you say, just for a short while?

Jim: No. I didn’t.

Rob: Paris?

Michael: To Paris?

Jim: Oh, I went to Paris for a victory parade. And …. we were taken down in troop-carrying vehicles, and placed in a tenement, somewhere [possibly Barbès-Rochechouart] …. [to Rob] Do you remember that place, can you remember, what they called it? Anyway…

Rob: It was near the Gare du Nord, wasn’t it?

Jim: Yeah, but the… when we went abroad once (circa 1960) we went there because there was a restaurant. Anyway, the thing about Paris was that …. I’ve got a photo in there, of us marching down the Champs d’Elysées.

Michael: Oh, yes?

Jim: And the one in the front, is the goat [a goat from the Great Orme herd has been the regimental mascot, since first presented by Queen Victoria in 1844]. But, the padre, in Paris said, after the parade, “Now then, if you like meet up tomorrow morning at such-and-such a time, and I’ll show you a few of the sights.”

Well, one of the sites was the Opera House, and he says “Come up, come up and stand on the stage and then you can say you’ve performed on the Paris Opera House stage.” I says, “Right!”. But, then we went from there back to Düsseldorf. We moved out of Düsseldorf, to a place called Hubbelrath.

Michael: Yes, and what happened there?

Jim: Well …., I was quite a senior soldier then, because the sergeant put me in charge of the armoury. So …. and then, I mean, we more or less went on leave. That’s it!

Michael: So, what year was that, was that 1946, 47?

Jim: I came out in ’47.

Michael: Yes. Did you not tell me you were at some stage quite close to the Danish border?

Jim: Yes. We were in a place called Heide, H-e-I …. I mean there’s Hyde in Cheshire …. but it’s spelt H-e-i-d-e, and it’s in Schleswig-Holstein. And …. the period we were there, we were guarding these Nazi bigwigs, like, but they’d been put into civilian clothes, so you had no idea what rank they were. But another strange thing were, all day long, on the road coming out of Denmark, were the army that had occupied Denmark. And they’d got no motorised vehicles, they’d horse and cart, just basic just basic cart to sit on. Another thing we noticed very much, they hadn’t got any big armoury but they’d each got a rifle. Now, we were told that the rifle were for protection for if the Danish took advantage, you know, attacked them. I mean, they’d dominated them but we found out I don’t think there were anything happened like that.

Michael: No.

So, you came out of the army in 1947, what did you do then?

Jim: Well, I could have gone back to my old job at the colliery, but I fancied a change, and my brother [younger], he worked at the locomotive depot at Mexborough. So, I went and signed on there, but I was classed as an “adult engine cleaner”, for a start. Then, there were young lads, perhaps 14 or 16, and other lads who’d joined the army …. who’d joined the railway to save ’em being called up. Most of these were people with businesses, you know, they couldn’t do with going in the army. But …. I had to put up with this state of affairs because that were the system.

Michael: Did you find that there was a certain amount of antipathy between those who had been in the army and those who had not been in the forces?

Jim: Well, I’ve never not, sort of, you know, come across it, myself. But, there were a feeling about some people. I mean, they were only young people, so I think the same as if they were in a business, they could say that if they didn’t stay out of the army, the business might collapse, you know.

Michael: Yes. Yes, OK, yes, that’s .… No, I have heard that there were occasions after the War when people who’d been to war, and those who had not, didn’t necessarily get on with each other terribly well. I suppose they felt that some of them had shirked their duty, if you like, in a way. That may not be the case.

Jim: No. I tell you where we’d got a few, not Christian, what do you call it? …. from Iraq and places like that.

Michael: Oh, right, Middle-Eastern people, of some sort?

Jim: Ah! And I’ll tell you… this is interesting, I was friendly with a chap who was a railway guard, who’d lived in India. His father was a soldier and his mother was an Indian, and so he was one of these that were cast out of …. they didn’t want him. And I felt very sorry for him. Very intelligent chap.

Michael: When …. tell me a little bit about how you met Connie. And you can say a few words, here, Connie, if you like!

Jim: Well, the thing were, at Mexborough, there were a permanent funfair. It attracted a lot of people, didn’t it? And …. I mean, I just went down there and saw Connie and took a fancy to her.

Connie: He was on leave, he was on leave, weren’t you?

Jim: Was I?

Connie: You were on leave with a lot of ….

Jim: I was still in the army, wasn’t I?

Connie: Yes, and …. you’d got about five or six mates with you, all …. Ernie Swift, and can’t remember their names, but there were about …. most of ’em were on leave at same time, and we just got talking, all of us, and …. that’s it.

Michael: What did you think of him, to start off with, Connie?

Connie: Well, he …. at first …. Well, he was in the Army, so I didn’t have to put up with him a lot, ‘cos he were going back to Germany, weren’t you? And …. his mum had a sweet shop.

Jim: Ah! That were an attraction!

Connie: We couldn’t get any sweets. His dad had a car, which helped as well, so ….

Jim: I could drive.

Connie: So, you were a good catch, weren’t you!

[Jim’s father, also Jim, joined up for the first world war, but we have a copy of a letter from the military records, that his mother wrote to the authorities, pointing out that he was under-age, so he was sent home again. He was then away, in the thirties, working in the mines on the Gold Coast and, possibly as a consequence, was to become a “deputy” in the local colliery, which would involve better pay than the average. Their shop, rather than being a sweet shop, was general groceries but with a certain number of jars of sweets available, certainly post-war. It was very similar to the one in “Open All Hours”, except it was even smaller, being single-fronted and mainly was just the front room of a standard mid-terrace house. It was run by Jim’s mother ….   who was tougher to deal with than Ronnie Barker!]

Michael: So, he had a certain amount going for him?

Connie: Yes!

Michael: So, that was about what, about 1947?

Connie: Yes.

Jim: I had to go back to do a …. to Germany.

00:49:59

Michael: So, when did you marry?

Jim: Pardon?

Michael: When did you marry?

Connie: ’48, was it?

Jim: 19…

Connie: … 48.

Jim: ’48 was it, ah! Have we got a picture of it, up there?

Connie: Yes.

Michael: So, that means you’ve been married …. I have to do my mathematics …. how long have you been married? ’48 ….

Connie: 70!

Michael: 70 years!

Connie: Yes.

Michael: That’s a pretty good feat, isn’t it?

Connie: Yes, it is isn’t it. I need a medal, but I’ve not got one yet!

Michael: Has it been that difficult?

Jim: A what?

Connie: I need a medal.

Jim: I thought you were going to say, “I’ve only broke one mirror!”

Connie: No!

Michael: But, I mean, that’s an exceptional time together, isn’t it, 70 years.

Connie: Yes, it is. Unusual, yes.

Michael: That’s why I slightly failed over my mathematics, because I was expecting 60, but then of course you were right, 70. And, you had family?

Connie: Just Robert.

Michael: If you were looking back, do you have memories, Connie, about when war came to an end? Do you remember the night, of VE Day…?

Connie: Yes, VE Night.

Michael: What do you remember about that?

Connie: I just remember having parties and things, and …. yeah.

Michael: Did you go out into the streets and celebrate?

Connie: Yes, I think so, yeah.

Michael: Where would you have gone?

Connie: We lived in Mexborough, then, so it would have been in Mexborough.

Michael: Yes …. And then, I suppose everyone was expecting change as things got better.

Connie: Yes.

Michael: Did that happen for you, because …. ?

Connie: Well, it didn’t make a lot of difference, but we were pleased to be out of it, away from it.

Michael: Yes, indeed, and the threat.

Jim: You worked most of your time, didn’t you?

Connie: Yes.

Michael: Because rationing didn’t come to an end for quite a while afterwards, didn’t it?

Connie: It didn’t, no. It was a long while.

Michael: I think about 1954, was it, sweet rationing? I mean, your father, running a sweet shop ….

Jim: Yes.

Michael: There would have been restrictions right the way through to the early fifties.

So, are there other things that you would like to tell me about, which you think, you know, that you perhaps overlooked, or wanted just to mention?

Jim: Just what, love?

Michael: Have you got any other things that you’d like to mention, about your experiences, whether it was before the war, during the war, after the war? Things that you’d like to talk about?

This red steam engine is of a restoration/historical project.

Jim: Well, the only thing I can say is I took an interest in Trade Unionism.

Michael: Oh, yes?

Jim: And I became the Branch Secretary of the loco-men’s union (ASLEF) at Mexborough. And, at one time, we had 500 members.

Michael: Yes. Those were difficult times?

Jim: Yeah, they were. They weren’t good wages. But, I mean, I had no qualifications, so I had to stick …. I moved to get to be a driver, and I worked at Rotherham, at several depots there.

Jim on the footplate of a working diesel.

Michael: So, if we were to talk about… I mean, compare those days with the sort of thing we are experiencing today, and there are some similarities, I suspect …. apart from there’s no coal mining any longer, so that’s all gone.

Connie: That’s gone.

Michael: What would be your advice to someone growing up in the world today? How would you advise them, as to how to get on with life, for them to try and …. ?

Jim: Well, I don’t think they’d take any notice, because …. I mean, you get girls, they’re so ridiculous, they’ll rip their trousers, when we couldn’t afford to buy a pair of trousers.

Michael: Yes. That is true.

Jim: They’ll rip them, as a fashion statement.

Michael: Yes. That is true. What about you, Connie? I mean, would you have any advice for anyone growing up today?

Connie: No. I can’t think of anything.

Michael: I mean, it’s a different …. I think it’s a difficult world, isn’t it, for people to live in these days?

Jim: Would you think it were easier then, or now?

Connie: Me?

Michael: Do you think, bringing a family up, and things like that?

Connie: I don’t know. I think.

Jim: I mean, we didn’t have anything such as Child Allowance, never had it.

Connie: A what?

Jim: And, in any case, you didn’t get it for the first child.

Michael: Yes. Ok. They were just thoughts. Have you any other things that you would like to say, Connie, before we sort of …. ?

Connie: No. I think young people today have got …. seem to have more money and, you know, they seem to get everything. I don’t know whether it’s easier for them, but they seem to get things easier than we did.

Michael: Yes. I mean, in your day, I mean, in 1948, growing up as a young married couple and, before long, having a child as well, I bet you didn’t have a refrigerator …. or ….

Connie: No, nothing.

Michael: …. washing machine, or anything like that.

Connie: Nothing at all, no.

Michael: I mean, there are big differences about what you assumed you should have in those days, I guess, and what people assume today. It’s certainly very different from that point of view, I guess. Yes…

Well let’s bring it to an end at that point, I think, but thank you very much, both of you, for being prepared to be interviewed for WARGEN. Thank you.

Connie and Jim: Thank you.

 

End of Transcription

Interview recorded by Michael Thompson, Hardy Productions UK, Manchester, for WarGen. Transcription by Rob Mason, Connie and Jim’s son.

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