War Memories by Diana Owen

War Babies don’t take Sugar: memories of how people coped

With Diana Owen

Meeting of 9th February 2012

Diana was a war baby in Sheffield. Her father was in the Territorial Army, so was called up very early as a tank driver in the Royal Tank Corps whilst his wife ran his business. Auntie Ruth, having no children, was drafted into engineering, she was also an Air Warden. Dad was to be sent to North Africa, and left Mum with a pistol to protect herself from the Germans. He never went as someone exploded a blank through the viewing slot of the tank and ‘sent him gaga’ for sometime – perhaps a good thing as a lot of the Regiment were killed.

No children were evacuated from Sheffield (Eric WH told us he was evacuated from London).

One of Diana’s earliest memories was being woken up by sirens, then waking up Auntie to go to the shelter – Diana dressed in a siren suit. Before building the shelter in the garden they used the cellar with Diana in her cradle under the stone table. A bomb landed about 50 yards from the house and just the shockwaves did loads of damage and broke all the windows.

Sundays were spent cooking and on housework then playing and reading in the afternoon. Every girl was expected to knit and embroider. Mum and Auntie Ruth did embroidery every night around the radio. 6:45-7:00pm was the children’s’ radio time with Dick Barton.

Rationing meant Mum had to carry all the ration books around the grocer, butcher, greengrocer and then another butcher – the food was delivered though. Only 2oz of butter was allowed per week, so a foul ‘special margarine’ was provided and dripping (a great treat) was kept from the Sunday roast. Allotments were very important for food. Cupboards were full of preserves, including eggs in ‘water glass’ (not to be broken straight into the cake mixture as they didn’t always stay fresh!). Toilet roll was precious: 3 sheets of Izal Germicide were allowed per visit.

When sweet rationing ended, the local sweet shop had to close for a week as all the stock went in one day. Gillian WH remembered getting food parcels from her brother’s American pen friend and eating her first banana with the skin on. Diana said banana skins were saved to polish brown shoes. An array of wartime items and memories were shared: Lotts bricks, Bako, Mr Buffin books, The Beano and Dandy, Sunny Stories, Diana’s 1946 Christmas doll, the Thor washing machine, tobacco tins, family photos, embroidery by 8 year old Diana …. CS