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Life during the War

by Kath Burke

As a young mother in the war years, there wasn't only rationing, but all the different tasks we had to undertake. At the beginning of the war, I had three children, one girl and one boy the other a girl was born in the summer of 1940.

My Mother worked in the munitions factory and she also had members of the RAF billeted in her house. She could not cope with work and these men so it fell on my shoulders to help a bit at meal times to prepare vegetables and potatoes and baking bread. My father did the cooking because he did not start work until late at night. There were six air force men and three children and two houses to be kept going. So for my part in the chores that meant getting up at 5.30 and keeping going till 7 o'clock at night, when I took my kids home to put them to bed.

I lived around the corner from my mother who lived in a big house that was owned by Eckersley Mineral Waters works, it had six bedrooms. In 1942 I had another child that meant four all together all under five years old. These children needed my protection at night because of the air raid because I lived near the railway, and my husband worked away, he was exempted from the army because of his job. So there was no help from him. Bringing up these kids took up all the time and money I could get my hands on.

I had a shop bill at a little shop, called Joe Mills, so my kids were decently fed, but for clothes, I bought second hand or gave my clothing coupons for garments. Curtains were made of crinkled paper and put up with drawing pins. I cut pennies out of the oilcloth to put in the gas meter for lighting and cooking.

We always had to be ready for the air-raid sirens going of even in the middle of the night. They would wake us and you had to make your way down to the shelter, but that got too much with four kids, so I had this big tailors table in my kitchen so I would put them underneath that in case the house got hit. This table had a metal sheet through it so I thought it would be safe. It took all my strength to carry my youngest child in the big tube like gas mask this had to be pumped to keep it full of oxygen or the child would suffocate. At the end of the war I had five kids. No mother was more thankful than I to think with God's help I was one of the ones that survived with a family still intact.