Days Gone By: Did you spend cold nights in an Anderson shelter in the garden of your Ipswich home during Second World War?
PUBLISHED: 17:00 27 January 2016
There are still many gardens with former air raid shelters from the Second World War being used as sheds.
These corrugated steel structures were known as Anderson shelters, named after Sir John Anderson who was nicknamed the “Home Front Prime Minister”. He served as home secretary, lord president of the council and chancellor of the exchequer.
An Ipswich reader tells us in Days Gone By how she can clearly remember the day she watched, as a four-year-old, when her father and a neighbour shared the task of digging a hole in the garden for their shelter.
Lesley Keeley also tells us how a wartime childhood was so different to today.
Sweets, like most things, were rationed and Christmas brought just a few precious gifts, including a lump of coal for good luck.
Also featured this week are readers’ letters with their memories from previous Days Gone By features, including information about the days when a Rushmere St Andrew company supplied giant steam rollers for use on road repairs.
A recent Days Gone By featured memories of a shopkeeper in Handford Road, Ipswich, who purchased clean treacle tins to refill with surplus paint when decorating supplies were in short supply after the Second World War.
Julie Oldring, of Ipswich, wrote to say: “Mr Oldring, who used to buy clean treacle tins, was my great uncle Herbert who had a shop on Handford Road, Ipswich, near Dillwyn Street. He was a French polisher by trade. He was the youngest brother of my grandfather, Albert Oldring, who was the firm’s resident engineer/fitter at Fison’s Bramford. He worked and lived in the fitter’s cottage, which was within the factory walls by gate number two in Papermill Lane from around 1915 until 1959.
My father, Fred Oldring, was brought up there and went to Bramford School. He remembers getting unofficial lifts home from school by going to Bramford Mill lock and jumping on to Packard’s barges just as they left the lock, so getting a free ride home.
Upon leaving school my father became a trained woodcarver, carpenter and joiner, encouraged largely by his great uncle and went on to work for Greens, Reavells (drawing tank patterns during the war) and finally Cubitt and Gotts who specialised largely in church and stately home repairs. There are still many examples of his work in Ipswich today.”
Lesley Keeley, from Ipswich, said: “I was four years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939. I remember my dad, with the help of the neighbours either side of our house in Kelly Road, Ipswich, digging the hole in our back garden for our Anderson air raid shelter to go in, then helping them do the same in their gardens. “There was a great community spirit in those days. The doorway of our shelter had a sack nailed up to prevent draughts and the corner cracks were stuffed with newspaper to stop the earth coming through, you could hear the earwigs scratching, trying to get in. We also had government issue bunks to sleep on. These were just a wooden frame with thin strips of metal across. Many nights were spent down there, sitting by candlelight, waiting for the ‘all clear’ siren to go.
Sweets were rationed then, sometimes only two ounces per week. It was a tough decision deciding what to spend your points on. Mine was usually Palm Toffee, which had to be broken out of its tin tray by a small toffee hammer and weighed out on brass scales by the sweet shop lady, Mrs Hayward, in Dickens Road, Ipswich, who had an ‘Eton Crop’ hairstyle, wore trousers and owned a cat, which slept draped over the sweets.
Wartime Christmases were very frugal. We felt quite lucky to get one present and a small stocking containing, a tangerine, a couple of walnuts, a silver threepenny bit, a lump of coal for luck and a colouring book. One year my main present was a wooden stool, hand painted red, yellow and green. I loved it! The christmas tree was a large branch cut from the Rosemary bush in our back garden and decorated with paper chains.
Winters then were very cold. Most people suffered from chilblains on their toes. We had to use our fingernails to scrape the ice off the insides of the bedroom windows to see out, but the ice did make beautiful, ferny patterns.
Other wartime memories are of when my dad, who was in the RAMC and posted to a hospital in West Africa, sent us a large coconut in its outer shell through the post, with stamps and our address painted on the side.
I still have the journal dad wrote about his time abroad, starting with his sadness at waving goodbye to his wife and children at Ipswich station and ending, two years later, at his joy of sailing up the River Clyde, on his way home.
Days Gone By recently featured Rushmere St Andrew, including Dawson’s wind and steam mill and views of the village from over a century ago.
Russell Whipps, Ipswich, said: “I have a photograph I took several years ago of a shop on the corner of Holly Lane and The Street, Rushmere. It is now a private house, the Tolly sign has been gone a long while.
I also have photographs of Billy Jeanes, with a steam road roller belonging to Dawson’s of Rushmere. A 1929 Kelly’s directory lists Alfred Dawson both as a miller and contractor for steam ploughing, cultivating road rolling, haulage, threshing and general engineers.
Dawson’s employed Billy Jeanes to use the roller, and other steam traction engines. Billy lived at Wrentham, and used to help my uncle to renovate steam engines at Woodton, Norfolk, where my uncle had a garage. Billy died in 1983, the same year as my uncle.
Billy had his own Garrett Steam traction engine, which his wife donated to Leiston Long shop museum. It is still at the museum with his name on it.”
The now closed Falcon public house was included in the Rushmere St Andrew feature.
Judy and Peter Rolls emailed to say: “The couple at the bar of the Falcon were the landlady and landlord, Steve and Mim Silverthorne. In the pictures of a musical evening were members of Kesgrave Basketball Club. We used to meet in the Falcon after a basketball match for a social and sing along.”