Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibition and the Barguist Beast

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast.


Come along with me on an atmospheric walk around the winding ways of this ancient city where I utilise forty years of experience of hosting ghost walks around York. I shall write as I recall and be as true to the recollections of witnesses and to my own innate abilities as for accurate representation of historic events you may feel the need to go check such details out for yourself.

Oh yes, As we wander I shall try to remain true to my major influence for I shall be explaining as we go along the details of my claim to fame; Son of York’s first ghost walker.

Adrian Spendlow

#2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast

As we head towards our second collection of ghostly encounters we roll away from the Theatre Royal towards a small arch in this broken section of the City Walls (They are called the Bar Walls really but you are probably a tourist).

window man

Pause here for a moment and look up at the guest rooms of the Exhibition pub (Actually tourists will later benefit from my simple guide to York further on in this feature). Do you see a face? No? A full figure of a man? A guest looking out in their underpants, or possibly sometimes without their underpants? Let us go in and find out a little more.

When I did go in there was a very enthusiastic welcome from (I think she was called Christine) Christine, who was thrilled to be able to share her experiences for you all; I have never seen someone so happy to tell of being scared half to death.

Not that the man in the window was totally scary, or at least not initially. She simply told her two workmates that one of them ought to get up there and tell the guest to put some clothes on when viewing Yee Olde Yorke. There was no need, it was explained to her, because there were no guests, they had all checked out that morning, there was nobody upstairs.

She found this cranky and interesting and not at all scary, well not until she checked the rotas and saw that she was on chambermaiding duties.

She saw no one upstairs and felt no presence so decided that the ‘guest’ was a different spirit to the one in the kitchens.

She did see him again but only from outside, and increasingly without any undergarments. It was the kitchen spirit who was unsettling however.

She remained pleased with herself. This seemed to be because she had a deeper experience than the other staff. Yet her experiences were always eventually verified.

Everyone picked up on the atmosphere in the kitchens especially after she had noticed it. Older staff acknowledged that there had always been something uncomfortable.

Like her those who had been there longer had problems with things going missing, crashing noises just as one was swinging in the door, or at other times things being found smashed.

It was Christine who saw things smashing first, well only by a split second. Her and one of the guys went in via the swing door together with arm-fulls of dishes.

butter rough

“Look at that,” there was a butter dish hovering in the air. The instant her mate looked up to see it too it dropped out of the air. It smashed in the sink. She went on to see such things often.


It was her also who would notice when the spirit moved through into behind the bar. “Oh oh” was more or less all she would say, then things started to happen. Almost empty shelves would fill by the next time you bent down to add a pint glass. An upside down wine glass slowly sliding up its rack to crash to the floor. There would be a spate of such occurrences then things would calm and the kitchens would start having problems.

There was also a problem in the public area but Christine felt this was a different presence. When she was tidying up at ‘yucking out’ time she would find one of the wooden table tops to be swimming in beer. She would sort it, move on and look back to see it a-swim with ale again.


This went on over several weeks and then one evening she noticed a glisten and stood still to watch as the table top filled up with beer all on its own, as if the beer was welling up out of the wood itself.

As I watched this table anxiously and while we are ‘sat here’ in the warm let us cast an eye down the road to another haunted establishment.

jovik hotel

Just along Bootham and down to the left on Marygate, there are two places to tell of actually, down near the bottom is the Jorvik Guest House where a figure is often seen in the building; in rooms and in the bar, perhaps all the more spooky for its hazy dark appearance.

Back up the way towards the main road I will tell of a ghost which is so clearly seen it is often not thought of as a ghost.

squaddie times two
squaddie two

The Coach house hotel is the haunt of a soldier. In First World War trench gear he is most usually seen in the bar-room off to the right. At the far end of the serving area. How people generally react is to point out that the re-enactment guy was before them. Staff will say there is no one there and if customers get up from the left ha nd restaurant area sure enough there is only them waiting to be served.

As I am about to scare you about one of the letting rooms I am sorry to say I have forgotten which room this concerns, so when you stay there you will have to take pot luck.

Sit there at the mirror if you will, the chances are you will feel the presence of someone else sharing the long, cushioned, stool with you, look around and there is the indentation of them.


Slightly less common, although commented on by guests a few times a year, look up, in the reflection you will see the lady who shares your passion for long well-brushed hair.

on bed

Ask to change rooms if you will, but one of the other rooms has a spirit who sits on the bed in the middle of the night – at least the mirror lady doesn’t wake you up – sleep well.

Up behind the Exhibition and across the road is a building with a grizzly tale to tell, I am just waiting for the ghost stories to emerge.


The bakery shop there was the scene of something ghastly. A customer was selecting a pie when something dropped down on to it – it was blood.

The residents of the flat above resided no longer. They lay dead. The story is that they had been taking benefit cheques off other residents and one had had enough of going without.


The flat was re-floored and re-let; the bakers reopened – nobody went in.

Back to hauntings or at least monstrous beasts but first torture along the way.


The Board Inn – The Hole in the Wall – we are heading down the alley at the side of there but let us mention the ancient torture chamber reported in the cellar and the steps upon the stairs; the loo stairs. I am among many who hear footsteps behind them on the way to the loo. The many who see a door open ahead of them and feel there is someone else in the loos with them. Listen, someone left.

war etc

All these ghosts. This is York. An ancient place. Battles and sieges. Famines and wars. Jealousy and rages. Poverty and power.


There are more dead under the earth than there are people walking above on the surface. Small wonder that their essence comes seeping out from between the flag stones.


It is not the dead we are concerned about just now it is becoming dead. Being scared to death. Jinxed. Hexed. Summoned. Cursed.


We are stepping down into the realms of the Black Dog of Death.


It is an ancient beast and it is down this alleyway, or the next, or the next. It is a sign you are about to become dead. Whenever it is reported seen there are simultaneous reports of death, or near death, or injurious states – down alleyways – read the reports.


People have seen the hound of our alleys since the long-ships. Word of the dark creature slinking ashore litter the tales of remembrance of the Norse.

flame eyes

This dog is far older of course even than that and it is among the dead. Burial mounds, deathly places, battle scenes, aftermath, anywhere there is death.

dog two

York city sits upon death, it venerates it – thus we have the barguist beast.

dog three

Nip not down a ginnel, turn not from the main-way, stay in the light. The barguest beast gleams its red eye tonight.

Oh yes, listen here for those rules of York…

And here for the poem on the dog of death…


cat dog

Click links below to see previous editions

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #3 Tosh Alleyways

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

Request to receive emails to keep up to date.

I highly recommend:



Living in America

Living in America – A pictorial guide – My sister asked me what it was like where I am living, so here is my attempt to sum it all up.

Welcome to Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Also features ‘Cooking with Lu’ making Egg Fried Rice

One of Heidi’s lovely lamps…


A beady lamp, this must be the sort of things Americans use I think…


The house is over a hundred years old and the original room divider is still fitted. There is a display cabinet attached at each side…


The divider goes up and over…


The other side is a fitted cabinet too. Full of beautiful things. Sewing kits and all sorts…

  • 5

This is a beautiful lamp. It has three bulbs with separate chains to pull to turn them on which is a bit of a pain, but it is worth it…


Always wear a mask, but I find it difficult when we are eating.


A small part of Heidi’s decorative tape collection. They are in pristine condition.


I was feeling left out so I have stated my own tape collection…


The original sink…


The Butcher’s Block


This is what cupboards are like in America…


Or like this…


No here is a completely different type of cupboard, wait for it, this is a pie cooler. How ‘cool’ is that! I hope these were proper pies, ie with pastry underneath and pastry on top. If it doesn’t have a pastry top it is a tart, just so you know. There is a good name for one with only pastry on the top, that is a pot pie. I might even forgive a pot pie for being just a casserole or pot roast with a pastry top. There is one other rule I intend to ensure the globe (or disc if you are  flat earther) comes to learn, it should be short crust pastry not flakey. Lesson over, mark my words well.


Not everything here is over a hundred years old.


Giffa gets behind the wood-burning stove where she is really really warm yet safe from flying logs…


I thought a good way to make use of my time was to make magazine racks for filing my paper work. I am hoping to make a dozen by the end of next week…


I decorated them. There are  enough for Heidi to store all her stationary…




Little Shop of Horrors…


Banker’s Boxes…




That one’s going to take a bit of filling…


The flax hangs drying, the mice climb and dine. Twigs, bits and bark partly fill paper bags to make fire-starters or firebombs. The log was all cut shorter than usual especially for our small wood burning stove…


I need help with this thing. What is it? What is it for? How do I fill it? –


What’s in the jug? How do you know how much to put in?


There’s a lovely expression here in the US of A; Kitty Corner. There is a Walgreens kitty corner to us; diagonally opposite. All of America is square, I’ve worked that much out. It is all blocks. As we walked home in Scarborough in Yorkshire in Britain we went down a steep narrow hill and as we turned a tight bend and looked down at the seafront promenade below, Heidi turned to me and said, “Ah, you were right, Britain isn’t all built in blocks is it.”

Walgreens is like Boots, it’s a chemist but with beauty products and stuff. It also sells tinned food, snacks, frozen food and alcohol. Wine, beer and spirits. Each state seems to vary on this. Some you have to go to a separate shop. Others like Wisconsin you have to show ID so they can log your DOB into the computer.


Every house has a porch or a stoop. I guess this is a porch and it is ours. I plan to sit there whittling. We are last but one of our street with an auto repair shop at the end.

You get S for such as South Bay Street, that’s how they write it. There are cross roads everywhere. If you were able to get a bus, as it approached, a machine would call out something like, ‘Howard and Mason’. then you would know to get off, except I couldn’t work out how to use the doors.

31 (2)

I kind of understand why they say yard instead of garden. Nobody seems to do any gardening, except for sticking in a few bulbs and riding round on a grass cutter. (This one below is about the most floral I’ve seen.)

I plan to change all that one garden at a time till I’ve gone coast to coast.


The windows are kind of double glazed. This is a survival necessity when the snow gets to about eighteen foot deep. or so I’ve been told.


Then you unclip them and replace them with screens. This is to protect against things called mosquitos, but quite how such creatures survive here I am not sure.


This is the neighbour’s place and beyond are the newly built apartments. They were built by the local church on what used to be their garden and are described as affordable housing.


This is our back yard. You can see the Buckthorn beyond the fence on the strip of land which is ours too. Now they tell me that birds eat the berries of the saplings and then poop out the seeds. They sit on the fence to do it. So as I understand it, every fence in America is lined with hundreds of Buckthorn on either side. Well, ours was. I cut back all the one inside, and I will be working on the outside ones too.

There is a dead tree on our land just beyond the fence. Well, it is half dead, but all the way down to the ground so could go at any moment. I found a chain saw in the garage and I have never used one, so I thought I might give it a go. what do you think?

Ah, Heidi is reading over my shoulder and says I can not, I repeat can not do it myself. We need to get a tree feller feller in. Not three tree feller fellers, one feller should do it.

(And not three smart fellers either.)


Here is where I cut a load of Buckthorn back, but it still needs clearing…


And all along the fence is roots lurking…


Oh no, here they come…


This is the half dead tree… (Whoever cuts it down I hope we get to keep the wood.)


I think this must be Wisconsin… (There must be a lot of Latvians live here or something.)


Hewey and Lewey must be confused…


Vintage bathroom fittings…

(It’s not just Britain who don’t know what mixer taps are it seems.)


There is an attic, apparently, but I have never dared go up there…


There are many things about America which frighten me. This house has a basement! I am going to be sucked into a swirling hole. Aliens are trying to break the gratings. I shouldn’t have gone off on my own wearing just T shirt and Jeans when there is a killer around taking us out one at a time. I have seen too many movies. I think that American movies (Yes there are other types) are more scary if you are not from America. If you are American watching a film, you are like, oh yeah its a basement. You all have them. They are a far less common commodity in other countries.

Lots of thing scare me. UPS vans. I am not even sure which film it was where one kept appearing and you start thinking, he turns up every time there is  a disappearance. Those traffic lights which go over the top of the road, I expect a gang with bandanas to turn up next to our bus and shout, drive or are you chicken!


Everyone in America collects novelty spoons, or everyone in my experience anyway…


My pal Judson asked me to get him a Green Bay Packers cap; I think they play some sort of game or something. Most people seem to have heard of them though.

I am having trouble with communicating over here. Oscar Wilde said Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language. It seems he was right. Back to those Buckthorn roots. I spent several hours searching for a place which would hire us a piece of equipment that would destroy them there pesky roots. I was looking for a rotavator. I stated that I wanted a hand-held one. It turns out, what I need was a stump-grinder. A walk-behind stump-grinder. Hours.

My pal Dwayne is on the case and once he finds one which will fit through our gate to the yard and isn’t $200 dollars a day to hire (no really) he will be out there turning them woody critters to dust.

Why I mention this here, I tried all sorts of phrases in my searches. At one point my attempts to hire garden equipment resulted in a whole page of links to the Green Bay Packers. What on earth they have to do with yard work I have no idea. I mentioned this to one of the students I am working with, (on line), he said, You are in Wisconsin, any search will end up going to the Packers.


The place we pass by at a cross roads, at some point of the compass, which seems a vital method of giving directions here, which is a problem for someone who has no idea which way is which, any way; the big sign says Trucks. I don’t think any of them are trucks. They all have a flag on top. That is several hundred flags. I would stick a for sale sign there myelf, but hey ho.


When I asked a lady in Minot what this was, in the picture below,  she said she was of a family of farmers and their main cop was flax. I said how Heidi had grown this and then I went on to demonstrated how it was worked into fibres. She said, we use a big machine, it’s a lot quicker.

On the large crate below this hanging flax were tons of little brown round things. I asked Heidi what they were and she said they were they flax seeds which had fallen off. They are all over the garage so I investigated. No they weren’t. They were very light and empty. Mice had climbed up the wall along the barn and down the corn sheaves. They had taken one seed at a time and carefully opened it. Then dropped the outer casing. These were empty little packets which once held a seed each.

I told my pal Greg of the Lakota, who is now connected to the corn-growing Oneida tribe, and he told me of how they grew corn. They hung it from beams in the barn, but they created bowl-shaped wrappings that went around the corn just above the cobs. When you turned the light on and went into the barn there were all these little mice faces looking down, obviously thinking, How do we get down there to that tasty corn?


Every month a box turns up full of Japanese stationary. This is a very exciting time and involves shrieking. They are treasured and kept forever…


Not more decorated boxes!


Yes more…


Just how many does one household need? Many…


Here these are known as biscuits. I was wonderfully excited to find some actual biscuits recently in Walgreens; Biscoff. Ooooo, said Heidi, Cookies. No, I said if they bend they are cookies, if they snap they are biscuits. Biscuits are not sweet, you have them with gravy. The gravy is white!


They come in a pretend tin made of cardboard…


Them aint biscuits. We didn’t make white sausage gravy, whatever that is, We had them split and hot with lashings of melted butter.


We found a great store Nearby. A Mexican store. It is great to be able to get fresh produce just around the corner. There are a few interesting things worth a photograph. Pork Scratching warning. Now this is an enormous scratching. Bigger than an American football…


Now some really horrid produce. (I am going to post a tin to Martin, anyone else want an order?) –


Beautiful Icons…




Do you want a cigarette? There’s plenty here…


The owner makes this. It is raw and needs cooking. We asked if it was spicy. We were told no. – It wasn’t hot and tasted like chorizo…


I may spend a lot of time looking out. I do practice social distancing though. I particularly wanted to distance myself from this feller…

76 (2)

I think he was collecting scrap. That must be what they do in America. Oh no. he’s coming over!


We have stockpiled to a degree…


I can think of nicer things to make cough syrup of…


My daughter Lucy’s ‘how to’ on making egg fried rice

And if you click here you can see the second in the series of Living in America with more quirky photos.

Click here for two fun videos are in Living in America 3


My Seven Favourite Books

My Seven Favourite books of all time

I’ve failed.

My friend Olivia challenged me to post a book a day on Facebook and what have I done? Posted them on WordPress.

I’ve failed again. She said I had to post one a day. I’ve done them all at once.

She said I had to pick seven. I’ve picked nine.

That’s another failure.

She said books. I’ve mainly picked series.

I am failing badly.

She said books. I chose a comic book (series).

Fails all the way.

I am supposed to nominate one person a day to keep the thing going. I have published them all at once.

Help me I failed.

You will have to nominate yourself. or share it to others. We have to keep this thing going. It is imperative to the continued growth of humanity. Share and nominate.

First off is the big cheat a comic book. Tin Tin, any Tin Tin.

tin tin

I think my favourite must be this one; The Clan of the Cave Bear. I must have read the Earth Children’s series several times, so that makes it my favourite I guess.


The recording below might be considered a chapter spoiler, but it is also a really good bit. I’ve tried to leave it as a cliff hanger.

The Gap series is intriguing. No one in it is perfect. In fact just about everyone in it is horrid, but there will be a time when each one will have you cheering for them.


Kevin J Anderson is pretty good too. My son Luke says there are more deaths than in the Game of Thrones.


Luke tells me there is a follow up trilogy; The Saga of Shadows.

I needn’t write anything about this next one. My recordings tell it all.


I have written several prose poem blogs as a result of this one…

robert graves

I could just say read anything by Terry Pratchett. No, read everything by him. I will say that if you haven’t read anything by the late great storyteller, keep at it. People often say they found one hard to get into. I don’t see it myself, but folks say that. Think it’s all the characters in the Disc World books. Here is a real departure in Nation. Totally different to all  his other books. Mind you I will be introducing the Long Earth series a bit later down, and they are totally different to any book ever written, ever.


It is not sci fi or fantasy but it is set in slightly alternative reality where history happened a bit different.

Here is my storytellers bible. Well, for Norse stuff anyway. I get all my knowledge of the Norse belief system through this guy.


The Long Earth.


What a team.

If I was going to read Pratchett, this is where I would start…




The Day it Rained Inside the Bus, by Adra

The Day it Rained Inside the Bus, by Adra 

We went to my favourite place; Peaseholme Glen with its little path down the hill. The squirrels follow you as you walk alongside the narrow rushing stream. The statues along the way make you stop and look, but you soon want to move on again because of the sound of the next of the mini-waterfalls. There are a couple of dozen of them. You want to rush from one to the other.
Now, I had heard from many people that there were fairy’s living among the trees. They come here to watch the water sparkle and to hear the children giggle. I had heard this, but I wasn’t sure I believed it. Until the day I saw one. My little visitor heard my talk of them and she ran ahead. Now this is the little girl who when she hears that I am a storyteller she wants to tell me all her stories, but I am not sure she believed me.

Whenever we saw a fairy she was nowhere in sight. Yes, we saw a fairy. Off my little friend would run, and as we tried to catch up there would suddenly be a tiny voice from within the woodland. It was a fairy. Then a few trees ahead along the way my little friend would pop out from the trees and we would tell her about the fairy voice. Off she would run calling out she thought she had heard another one. We chased after her. We didn’t see her, we saw a fairy. Skipping about among the twiglets to the side, dancing and fluttering. Then, sure enough a few saplings ahead out popped little E, “Did you see the fairy?”
This happened all the magical way down the twisting, winding, enchanting pathway.
We came out of the glen, into the park. Normally it is a really really good park, with lots to see. Everyone wants to sit and see. We couldn’t see. It rained so hard that our eyes were inside waterfalls. Our shoes filled. We felt our way up the wide steps to the café, all we could do was have a hot chocolate. If we sat in the warm with a hot chocolate covered in whipped cream, marshmallows and sprinkles we could look out of the window and wait till we saw it stop. It didn’t stop. It rained all day. We couldn’t see out of the window and they announced that they were due to close. We had to go.
We managed to find our way out of the park to the far end of town. We were a long way from anything. Then a bus came. We got on. Now this is a special bus, it is open-topped. People climb up the stairs all excited and sit on the very top to look out and get excited. We didn’t. We were the only people on the bus and we went into the lower deck and were glad to get out of the rain. It rained inside the bus.
The rain was so heavy it was coming on through the seam. In through the ceiling. In through the windows. It concentrated itself into fine thin heavy lines of twisted waterfalls and pointed itself right at you. One stream down a leg, one stream down you neck and one in your eye. The little girl looked up (a bad mistake) and she said, “When we get there can we go on the beach?”

We could not go on the beach. We could not see the beach. So we promised that we could go in the amusements. There are amusement arcades all along the front in ‘sunny’ Scarborough.

We got off the bus. We went to my mum’s. We got dry as best we could. E had more hot chocolate and then it was suggested that it was time to go to the beach. No, we had to explain it wasn’t going to be a beach day.

We went out anyway. I hung back. I let them get ahead and I went in a gift shop.
Then I rushed along and caught them up, just as they went in a big door. It was a large way into a noisy room full of flashing lights. We went to a machine which gives change.

We got two Ps. There were the push a penny games. Big games. You climb up on to a standing step and you pick which slot to put your penny on. You think about when and then, you let it go.
Now some of these have plastic toys in them. Key rings and little creatures from the films. They are supposed to come out with your winnings, they never do. You might see them getting a little nearer the winner’s slot though. That is enough to get you all excited and you put more money in. You get a whole bowl of money from the ‘free two P’ machine and pretty soon you are asking for more.
It does pay out though, clunk clunk clunk, and if you are very very lucky, clunk.
This little girl got lots more winnings than that. Every time there was a clunk the pay out slot was filled with a handful of seashells. They were not on display anywhere and grandma seemed to point the other way for a second as the winning come in. The little girl looked where she pointed and there was nothing, but she had heard the clunk, she looked down. In the winning slot, along with a few pennies, was a handful of beautiful shells. They were all different colours.

We went from arcade to arcade. In everyone, as well as the penny winnings, there they were again, they were all paying out the same. By the time we left the sea front she had a whole bag of beautiful shells. They were just like the ones you see in the gift shops.

We timed it right and got the bus to town. There was plenty of time before the train. So we took the little girl who’s shoes were full of rain into a local café. We had as many burgers and hot dogs as you would like to imagine. We had more hot chocolate of course then fruit pie and ice cream; lashings of ice cream.
Then the little girl said, “Sometimes,” she stared out the window when she spoke, “Sometimes, when I am disappointed, I get a bit naughty. This was a very wet day and I didn’t get to go onto the beach. There will be other days though and we will be in the sun”
We went to the station. I stood on the platform and waved. I will never ever forget the day it rained inside the bus.

Adrian Spendlow



Walking with my Brother by the late Ronald Spendlow

A kid-brothers long held memories.

Alf is third from the left on the back row.
(Sorry about the photo. It is the only one I have).
Received about 1943.

Walking With My Brother

Ronald Samuel Spendlow – 2010

I was amazed when Dad told me how his older brother Alf had started talking in his nineties about his experience of being a prisoner of war in the second world war. As he said things my Dad would say something like, ah yes that was in Stalag 18 and Alf said, how did you know that, I never told any body. Alf had forgotten that when he got home he went out walking for hours every day, and my Grandmother told Dad to go with him. So young Ronnie walked alongside Alf along the cliff tops as he talked and talked. He was kind of talking to himself, working it all through. then he never talked of it again for all those many years. Yet my father remembered and when he was in his eighties he wrote it all down, without needing to ask Alf to remind him of anything.

I have published this because it will be of interest to many people, especially family, but also as an aid to a project I was collaborating on. I am working with history students from University Wisconsin, Green Bay on Dad’s steam days memoires and this will be a good reference tool for them.

Ron’s words…

Memories – Why memories? Attending one of my wife Connie’s history meetings in Burton Fleming Village Church Hall, the secretary gave a talk about his father’s time in the war. I was asked by David one of the members.’ What did you do in the war Ron’ before I could answer we were interrupted by another member. This made me think. When I arrived home I took stock of what I had written about those years; a small book about the bombing in Hull, in which I explained that I worked on the railway in a reserved occupation and in it referred a little to my brother’s time as a Prisoner of War in Germany. Not a lot because he said everything he had told me when he first came home, I had never to talk of it again. The book was accepted by Eden Camp, in one of their competitions. I had also written a large scrap-book of my life story up to the day we came to Scarborough and one about working on the railways from starting in at Dairycoates Locomotive Depot in 1941 till about 1946. What else could I write about, this was on my mind for a few days?
Then later we went on a few days holiday to Tenby in Wales, while on the bus I received a phone call from Phillip.
He is my brother’s eldest son saying he was on holiday in Tenby and could we meet up while we were there. His had been ringing his mother to see how they were. This was how he learnt we were to be in Tenby the same time as they would be.
We had not seen him and Ann his wife for a few years. We arranged to meet at our hotel on the Tuesday afternoon that was our free day of the holiday. We had an enjoyable time catching up on our families and their progress.
In the course of our conversation I found out they knew little about my brother and their mother’s life together from before he and his brother were born.
I knew by experience that he was never forthcoming about his life in the camps and future events.
He always said I ‘talked too much’
As he approached his nineties he began to talk about some of the things he had experienced and produced some tapes he had recorded about life in the army. Barbara, Alf’s wife, said she could not type them because of the language. He had told it in the vernacular of the time in the prison camps.
We have tried hard to get them typed out though friends of our son in York, with very little success. (NB a friend of mine did type up a couple of chapters – word for word, except for the ‘language’ –  and Barbara got a copy. I have copies I could post of requested. Adrian)
We both had a good upbringing, with our older sister Lillian, who taught music and ran shows with her students, in which Alf and I took part. He told me that, when I was born at 68 Brunswick Avenue, Beverley road in Hull, he remembered Dad taking him upstairs to see me in my mother’s bed with her.
We moved from there to 48 Foston Grove in East Hull. Some time about 1930 we experienced an earthquake. Our Lillian ran classes and concerts. Kids down our street came on a Sunday morning to buy sweets that my mother sold to pay for the dresses and costumes needed for them. My mother and our Lillian would make the dresses and costumes themselves, often working late into the night.
The shows where held in St, Aiderns hall on Holderness Road and sometimes in East park. I would be four when I first acted on stage doing the Posthorn Gallup with a little girl as my jockey. We were dressed in black and yellow diamond patterned dresses with white ruffled collars.
I remember Alf singing a song at East Park Show called, Sitting on a Fence All by Yourself in the Moonlight: dressed in a similar outfit. I think we were supposed to be Pierrots.
The takings the shows brought in, our Lillian once told me came to about £6 to £9, remember there were 20 shillings to the pound, so that was a lot of money in those days. As far as I know the profits went to the blind people’s funds.
Dad was a spell foreman at Isis Oil Mill in Stone ferry, earning £4 5s a week. Each 8 hour shift was called a spell, one week starting 7 to 3pm, then 3pm to 11pm, and the next 11pm to 7am. He ran a lot of the activities for the workmen under him; organizing dances at the Beverley Road baths, swimming sports and outdoors sports as well. At the dances he would be the MC. So he and Mam would lead off the dancing, and they loved to dance when the radio was on they would often get up and dance round the kitchen. His trade was Mill Wright, he could do anything in the building trade. He even served his time with a net maker, making his own hammocks – he often slept in one on a warm night at our holiday bungalow! I helped him build the bungalow in our back garden at home, and then assemble it at Charity Farm, Sewerby.
Alf once said, ’He taught us how to save money by showing us some of his skills’. He also would say if you want a helping hand there was one on each end of your arm.
He bought used leather machine belts for five shillings from work and mended our boots with them, when we walked in the rain we left oily patches on the paths.
The first time I took my boots round once I was married to be mended, he said just a minute, went out to his shed and came back with a last and a hammer, he said here you are you are married now mend your own. Good job he had taught me how to.
Alf’s interest was aircraft and flying them. He would take me to Hedon airfield on our bikes to the air circuses, watching biplanes and monoplanes do all the different manoeuvres: loop the loop, falling leaf, spirals and men standing on the wings while flying.
We stood on the side of the road near Southcoates Lane School waving as Amy Johnson went by in a large open car with the Mayor of Hull, after she had flown single-handed to Australia.
He would spend hours making planes with balsa wood and paper canvas then brush banana oil on it to tighten it. The oil stank to high heaven. They were driven by strong elastic bands and would fly a fairly good height and distance. In the run up to Christmas in his spare time he worked for our uncle Will and aunty Gertie at their fish and poultry shop on Holderness Road plucking turkeys and chickens, skinning rabbits for which he got 5 shillings. I knew he had his eye on a model plane made by Meccarno, well, on his way home he bought it.
When Dad saw him bring it in he played war, mainly because Alf had not asked him first if he could buy it.
When we were at home in Hull, on a Sunday we had to go to Sunday school on a morning, Alf would take me there.
I think he was in the choir; he also was altar boy with the Vicar and at some of the main services he walked down the aisle swinging the incense; St, Michaels and All Angels was high church. I asked at Sunday school class what to say if I was asked what religion would I was, the teacher said to say I was a protestant: one who protested his faith in Christ?
Alf taught me to ride my bike, dad had made me. He did not teach me to get off so I rode round the block till I fell off.
When I was 10 he had already been working at Home and Colonial grocery stores nearly a year. Not long after that he worked at Rank’s Flour Mills in Hull they had a baseball league and Ranks had a team in it called Rank’s Green Socks. So he joined and became a good all rounder, ended up playing catcher, he was known as a good one. They played at Craven Park on Holderness Road. American spectators saw him play and offered him a chance to go and play in New York. For some reason Dad did not let him go.
The years up to 1939 where good years, August, I left school and started work at Balloon Yeast Stores as errand lad and warehouse boy. September, came the war with Germany; Christmas of that year was the last we would have as a family till after the war.
The last three months of 1939 Alf spent a lot of it trying to get in the RAF with the hopes of becoming a pilot. To do that in those early months of the war you had to be a well-educated Officer and a Gentleman.
Beginning of January 1940 his call up papers came. After his basic training he passed out as a driver in the Royal Army Service Co. Just before he went to France, I remember returning home from work and as I turned into Stephenson Street there was someone in our front way, as I rode nearer I realized the khaki-clad figure was our Alf.
He was waiting to see me, he was only on a short leave. This was the last time we would see him for over 5 years.
Just before the battle of Britain they made the grade in the air force of sergeant pilot, this was too late for Alf. He was already committed in France.
The first months of the war were called the phoney war, it was not phoney to us, when the news of Dunkirk came, also came a telegram from the War Office telling mam and dad that Alf was missing believed killed.
They both cried. This was the first time I saw my father cry.
A friend of mams, Mrs Tidey also had a similar telegram about her son Vivian. When they met shopping they would ask each other if there was any news. Fourteen weeks later we went to live at our Lillian’s house to be further away from the bombing, she lived at the other side of Hull further away from the dock area. After leaving work I rode to Stephenson Street to see if there was any letters. As I turned into the end of the road I could see my aunty Frances’ father in our front garden, he was our postman, he was waving a postcard and shouting, “Come get this to your mother as quick as you can. Your Alf is alive. He is a prisoner in Germany”, That’s better than being dead.
At the end is a postcard like we received sent at a later date, the address had been altered to where we lived for a few weeks after we were bombed out. I rode as fast as I could to Silverdale Road on Beverley High Road to my sister’s house where we were staying. Mam and our Lillian sat and read and read it. It said he was well. But could we send some food, we were all laughing and crying at the same time, he was alive. Dad made some inquiries on how we could write back to him and send him food parcels. Letters had to be a type of air mail, you had to be careful what you said or they would be censored and sent back. We could send one parcel every three months it had to weigh 10 pounds exactly. Riding round Hull on my yeast round I would get as many bars of chocolate as I could and get the right type of box and paper because if it weighed a fraction of an ounce over, you had to take it home and pack again. On one occasion the string was too thick, this brought it over weight, so I had to find thinner but stronger string. Mrs Tidey called one day to ask mam if we had heard anything. When told of our news, she said that she had not heard anything, but that it gave her hope.
We moved back home because the bombing was all over. In Hull, the area round were our Lillian lived got it badly.
We were bombed out on May the 8th and 9th how could we begin to try and tell Alf.
Lillian’s initials were L M S, Mary being her middle name, we all knew that dad often said when spoken quickly sounded like Hell of a mess. So when Alf asked how were we all getting on, dad wrote saying the house was like your Lillian’s initials.
The years passed, which I have written about in another two stories, one called The Peoples War tells of the story of the war in Hull, 1945 on V E Day dad and I spent most of the day down at the Railway Station. Word had gone round POW’s had been liberated and were on their way home. We saw some arriving home, one was the husband of a woman in Sewerby Village, this gave us hope. She told Dad while they were waiting on the station platform that they had only been married four weeks when he was called up and had not seen him since and she wondered if she would know him. When he arrived Dad said the instance she saw him she ran down the platform shouting his name. He had not altered he had been placed with a farmer in Poland who made him work hard, yet fed him fairly well.
On Sunday morning I woke at 10 o’clock to find that Dad had already gone to the station. The reason I slept in was because I had been working nights all week. About 11 o’clock he came in with Alf, smiling all over his face, kissed mam, who with tears in her eyes gave Alf a kiss and a great hug. He looked at me wondering who I was I suppose; I was five years older and no longer a school boy.
While we all talked he kept his army valise near to him all the time and would not let us touch it. After our dinner he asked if he could go to bed, he slept till next morning. Dad said, ‘I wonder what there is in that valise he won’t let us touch, we decided to have a look, we found it was full of cigarettes, apparently they were currency in the camps. Money to buy food he told me later.
I knew my shed foreman would be at work so I went straight down to see him and asked if it would be possible to have my week’s holiday. When I explained why he immediately said yes. So began a week in my life I have never forgotten.
I had decorated the house with flags and a large banner which said welcome home Alf, mam found him looking round the cottage, he said this is not my home as I knew it, we realized that the 5 and half years he had been away he would have been thinking about 39 Stephenson Street which was the home he left in 1940.
Tuesday I asked him what should we do, “Go for a walk,” was his answer. So we set off down to the cliff top, turned towards Bridlington, and kept walking, when we got nearly to Fraisethorpe I said I thought we should turn back. That week I wore two pair of shoes out walking to Fraisethorpe and back.
While walking he avoided any officers and any women. He was in a working camp where the highest rank was sergeant, for five years the only Officers and women he saw were German. We walked and he talked and he said I was never to tell anyone about what he had told me.
Alf said after his training he was stationed in Margate, then he went to France, they had five bullets apiece.
When the convoy stopped for the night they were given pick-handles to guard the trucks with, mainly to stop thieves steeling their petrol till they got near the Germans.
I asked how near was he from the fighting, from the truck he could see grey uniform figures in the distant.
They were being shelled and fired at, to see the burnt out lorry with the drivers in was not a pretty sight and at night you could see men running and tracer bullets would stop and a man would fall.
He was given orders to take some V I Ps to Dunkirk, they came to a bridge over a river and an Officer waved them across, he said they were lucky as he had orders to blow the bridge. He and his men did do that, Alf said even though there where people on it. They came to a place called Doulleens as they approached the main road through he stopped and when he was by asked the captain with him why, he said I have a feeling I should not drive down there. The Captain ordered him to get going or he would shoot him, the vehicle behind got impatient whipped round them and hit a mine not far in front of them killing themselves. His Captain took notice of him after that.
Sometime after this he must have been taken prisoner, because he said they escaped and the two of them were given clothes and a map by some French to find their way to Dunkirk. Three days later they walked round a hedge straight into a German tank crew having a brew up, they walked passed them whistling, one of the Germans saw their British army boots, once again they were prisoners. The front line troops treated them fairly well, I gathered one of the Officers had been at Oxford in England before the war. The troops in the rear were a different kettle of fish if you refused to give them your gold rings, they would cut your finger off to get it.
The next day we set off again and I listened as we walked, time and distant passed with me not noticing, fascinated with what he told me. He said he was gathered in a field with hundreds of others, while there he met a lad who had been at Southcoates Lane School with him who admired the blanket Alf had to cover his self up with.
That night it was a strong wind and heavy rain the field was full of hollows and some of them filled with the rain water. Some of the men who slept in them in a very exhaustive sleep drowned. He said he was on higher ground therefore lucky in one way, the only thing was someone had pinched his blanket.
They were loaded into cattle wagons, they were not allowed to sit down but had to stand till the wagon had 75 to 80 in it. If you wanted to go to the toilet your mates round you suffered. He said that as they passed under a bridge a young woman tossed a packet of food down but it went between the wagons. How many days they travelled he did not say, I gathered that they ended up at Trier from there they marched to an old Hitler youth camp, not far from it he collapsed on the road side, some black mates picked him up and carried him into the camp, I asked him what would have happened to him if they had not took him into the camp, he said the guards would have cracked his skull with a rifle butt and I would not have a brother. When inside they were told to strip ready to be deloused, he said they put them into a shower room and washed them down with a hose pipe, first with cold water then with scalding hot water; they all changed colour he said.
Then they were given Polish uniforms to wear which still had bullet holes in them, it was obvious what had happened to the polish offices and men.
The next place talked about was a Fort they were in, he and some others were sent down into the cellars in which potatoes had been stored, but were going rotten. Their job was to sort out the good ones which was rather messy.
One of the officers who was drunk started taking pot shots at them with his luger; Alf never said if he hit anyone.
What he did say was that in one part of the castle there was a pile of bodies of some of the prisoners who had died of malnutrition or had been shot and the Camp Commander would not let them be buried.
I went to bed with all this on my mind and wondered what was to follow the next morning. The morning came we were walking again, he said they were moved to a working camp that held 500 men near Bromberg (Bydgoszoz) and Thorn (Torun). There were 29 to a hut.
One of them in his hut was Harry Nichols who for his bravery was awarded the first Victoria Cross of the war; Harry survived the war and went to live in Australia.
The German bands they sometimes heard when out working played a song about, We are sailing against England. They would land on the East coast of England and strike across the country to Liverpool cutting the country in half. That is why they did not bomb Salt End on the Humber they would have needed the petrol. They said they would send our men to labour camps in Europe and give women to German Officers and their men to create a German country.
I asked him if he had ever received any parcels, yes he replied the only thing was the German guards smashed them with their rifle butts and broke them all up, they saved what they could and put the rest in big pans boiled it up and ate it.
They went out work digging trenches on Herman Goring’s estate, it was sandy soil, there was no shoring boards if you were not careful the sides would collapse and bury you. Marching to work he said he saw young girls who were Jews scrubbing the pavements with little brushes.
One day in camp he had been to the bogs, as he came out another lad went in and in the dark as he came out turned the wrong way strode over the trip wire and the guard in tower shot him. He thought how easily it could have been himself. He and another prisoner had toothache, they were taken by a guard to a dentist who said he would take the tooth out, he also said he could not use anaesthetic he needed it for his regular customers. They still had them out.
He and another lad took really ill, they sent them to a ramshackled hospital. The beds were wooden benches, after laying there for some time without any attention the other lad said ‘Alf I am getting out of here.’
He asked him how, we can hardly walk, as he watched the lad just laid back and died. I said what did you do, well I got up and asked to go back to camp and stayed well away from doctors and hospitals.
You were always hungry he told me, when they got their bread ration it was often mouldy. If a new prisoner had arrived they would all be round the table watching him because they knew he would cut off the mould, when he did they scooped it up and ate it. It was not long before he ate the bread; mould or no mould.
When they received Red Cross parcels he said they were best of friends it was different they were on German rations.
One of the guards differed with their Sergeant who in the course of the argument took the guards rifle off him. He was ordered by an Officer to give the guard his rifle back, he tossed it back and the guard dropped it, the guard was given a dressing down by the Officer and put on a charge. Yet he never said a word to the Sergeant just grinned and walked away. One guard who was such a nasty individual they wondered how they could get rid of him. The winter came and as they marched home up a very steep hill at the top they saw the locals had made a rather long steep toboggan run down the side of the hill. That night they worked out how they could deal with guard.
The next night coming home in a dark cold frosty evening as they neared the top of the hill the leading men edged the guard near the top of the toboggan run then pretended to trip over knocking a mate down in front of him causing the guard to fall down the slide, by the time he slid down on his backside to the bottom he had worn his trousers out.
Alf said they never saw him again.
It appeared boredom affected some of the prisoners in different ways; one was continually taking a cigarette lighter to pieces and putting it to together again, after months of doing this he suddenly said he knew why he was doing it.
When he was taken prisoner with a group of his fellow soldiers they were stood against wall and the Germans machine gunned them, as they fell he was buried underneath his mates one gave him the lighter and said keep this and it will remind you of us and were we are. The night came and even though he was wounded managed to push his way out and crawl away. When he was captured again they treated him better and when he got out of hospital he was sent to Stalag 20a were Alf was.
One who received a Dear John letter went quiet and played on an old piano they had acquired most of the time he was in camp. When anyone received a Dear John letter, he would go quiet walk away and not speak for days.
While watching a camp concert he said he saw a Welsh sergeant’s hair go white as he sang the Land of our Fathers. Just before he came on stage the German guard gave him a letter which said his father, mother, wife and kids had all been killed in an air raid in Liverpool where he lived.
They were moved again, this time to a place called Marienburg (Malbork) near Danzig (Gdansk). Danzig was a port, the only one the Poles had. Somewhere about this time the name of another prisoner came up in his conversation called Kippax; I never learnt his full name. He said Kippax had landed at Calais with the London Rifles in the morning as the Germans entered the town and by the afternoon he was a prisoner. When he arrived at the camp of Alf’s I never found out. I gathered that being brought up in Soho he was very street-wise.
They were sent to work in some newly built apartments in Danzig, when the central heating was turned on it was just like a big sprinkler all the rooms were wet though. French POW’s had been working there and just before they left they had knocked holes in pipes with six inch nails. When they were occupied the apartments each side of the entrance was occupied by Nazi party members so they could report who went in and out.
Roll call one morning they were asked if there were any plumbers among them if so step forward Kippax stepped forward taking Alf with him, who whispered, ‘I’m not a plumber’, Kippax said you are now.
He was placed with a Polish Plumber who taught him as they went along. It stood him in good stead later in the future. The plumber had turned German, when asked why, well as a Pole my children starve; now I get German food rations for them. Once again hunger raised its head. Kippax was given a job in the plumber’s store, by giving a little extra gear away, in other words fiddling; he got some bread in return to take back to camp.
When marched to and from camp to work, the Sergeant would call them to attention when passing though civilian areas. Marching smartly to show they had no fear and when issued with new uniforms from England they looked smarter than the German guards. When he mentioned fear I asked him if there was any time when things went wrong and nothing seemed to matter. Yes he replied, once when working on the railway they were near a signal cabin and a train of box wagons pulled in the sidings, the German guards with it opened the doors, they were full of Hungarian women. They were Jews on their way to a concentration camp. One young woman who had a tin in her hand wanted to fill it with water at a tap outside the signal cabin and the guard stopped her. Alf said, we all went quiet, started towards him and demanded he let her go to the tap. He took the safety catch off his gun and prepared to shoot us. The signalman shouted down to him not to be a fool he may kill some of us, the rest of us would get him and we would have. He let her and she was loaded up with the rest of the women, one of the lads said she had just a few pieces of potato in the tin.
On one occasion while carrying buckets of a type of soup made with cabbage to their huts for their meal which they were sick of having anyway, they knew the German Guards would be sat outside their office having a smoke, as they passed one of them accidently tripped over giving them the opportunity to tip some of the buckets over the guards covering them with the contents.
At one point some of them were sent to work in a sugar factory, one of the lads said as they returned to camp at night and stopped to be searched, the guards told them to hold their great coats away from their body’s while being searched, this meant the inside of their coats was not touched, so if they stitched a handkerchief at waist level they could fill it with sugar and get it into camp. This went on for a few weeks till they got a stock of it. Then one day one of them had a small hole in his handkerchief and a small stream of sugar began to pile up at the back of him. Before they could warn him the guard saw it. That was the end of that. Alf said in the confusion he managed to toss a shoulder bag of food he had scrounged to his mate Kappa on the other side of the fence. The guards searched their huts looking for sugar, some of the lads managed to salvage some of it.
Life in the huts could be very boring he told me, if the weather was very bad and they were confined in for weeks they got very depressed. Kappa ran a race game with Alf’s help. You had two dices and six race horses, you throw the dice the first one represented a horse number, the second one the amount of squares the horse could move. They gambled with German paper money they got sometimes for work they did. Lit their cigs with them and rolled tea leafs they had mashed till white in them when they had no tobacco to smoke. The Germans said if they banked it they could claim it back. They just laughed. Kippax decided he and Alf should put some in the bank; money they had won on the horse race, even though they would probably not see it anymore.
Xmas 1943 they ate better than we did. While working they took the chance to nick some rabbits and chickens. One of the prisoners in their hut had been a chef in a big hotel in London, he said if they saved some of their chocolate out of the Red Cross parcels he would make each of them a mass log. The only meat we had was a piece of sausage about a pound and half in weight that my uncle Donald who was a butcher brought us. We were bombed out and living with another aunt and uncle. So the sausage had to do for six of us.
One of his fellow prisoners found some red material and made them a red poppy each and on 11th, November turned out for 6.00 am roll call and almost immediately they were surrounded by SS troops with their machine guns at the ready. They were asked where was their radio and was that how they knew about the Russian Victories at Sebastopol and celebrating them by wearing the red poppy. The camp Sergeant explained that it was world war one armistice day and it was to commemorate the dead of that war that was why they were wearing the poppy.
They were stood in the icy cold all day waiting for verification from Headquarters in Berlin. It came late at night.
Only then did the guards allow them back into their huts. I often wondered what they said to the poppy maker.
One of the worst jobs they had was when they were ordered to bury some Russian prisoners of war, some of them looked as if they were still alive, he said they knew that if they complained they would be hit with a rifle butt and thrown in the pit with them.
Kippax said one day, we have an invite out to dinner, Alf thought him mad. Apparently the apartment he had been working in was occupied by a high ranking Naval Officer, who told Kippax if they could get out of camp without being seen he would cook them a meal. Somehow they managed to do as he asked. He entertained them to a good meal when asked why, he replied that he was not a Nazi just a German who if did not do as he was told like them he would be shot.
Before the war when he was a Captain of a merchant ship he had often docked at Hull and in that port he had been made welcome and hoped by helping them, he was returning their friendship.
I asked him if they had ever tried to escape. He and Kippax had once while working near the docks in Danzig, they had managed to get aboard a Swedish cargo boat, when the Swedish sailors returning from a good day out saw them they started making a lot of noise which started to attract the Germen guards on the docks, so they made best of it and went back to where they had been working.
One morning, train loads of people, a lot still in their night attire, began arriving in Danzig and were in a shocked state, they were survivors from the bombed city of Dresden. When they found out that some of the lads were British POWs they hung them if they got their hands on any of them.
On one day of my walks with him I had said about the distance we were walking each day, he just laughed and said
I walked 500 miles on half a loaf of bread with a broken bone in my foot. I did not take much notice at the time.
What he told me then brought it to reality. They were told the Russians were getting near and they were to be marched towards Germany away from them, has they marched they passed a concentration camp and saw SS Troops drowning the women prisoners, he said they put all the sick and those that could not walk on carts, then fastened those that could walk to the carts with chains who were then made to pull the carts into a nearby lake and drown themselves.
They marched he said, from Poland to a place in I think somewhere on the river Elbe in Germany, they passed Peenemunde, from Danzig to Peenemunde on the map as the crow flies is well over 400 miles. Peenemunde is where the rockets were being made. Marching on he said there was that feeling all the time of hunger, they saw a field of carrots, the Guards shot some of them trying to get some. Yet they stripped the field clean of carrots even though they were shot at. He said he and a large number of the lads were halted near what I think was Harburg railway station and had to take cover under the wagons because it was bombed by British planes. The next morning when they woke up they noticed some of the guards had gone and one of the lads came and said he had found an open wagon with butter and eggs in it and there was no guards with it, ‘lets go and get some.’ One of the lads had found a bottle of schnapps and he was shouting the houses near had white flags out. They laughed at him, they said he was drunk. Then to their amazement American soldiers started to arrive, it took a long time Alf said before they were being set free. The Americans plied them with food which was too rich for their stomachs and they were sick.
As soon as they got used to the fact they were liberated he said they saw the SS officers and Germen soldiers taking their insignia off their uniforms to avoid arrest, but the Yanks did not take any notice when told what they were doing.
He did say some of his mates caught one of their guards who had always ill treated them, he did not say what happened to him only that he did not like the noise that came from the wagon they had him in.
They were taken to an airfield and told they would be flown home to England. He was going to get that flight in a plane he always wanted. When the air crew saw the amount of gear they wanted to take home with them, they showed them a crashed plane at the top of the airfield and said you can only take a certain amount with or they would end up like the ones in that plane. On the way home he said the crew flew over Harburg so they could see how badly the bombing had been, allowing them to see it from the bomb bay.
On landing in England they were deloused and issued with new uniforms and examined by doctors and interviewed by an Officer. He was granted all the leave he had missed and sent on his way home. He was asked had he put any money in a German bank, he said yes and after he had been home for a while he received a cheque for £16, he wished he had put more in. Sometime after he had been home we were walking near Joyland amusements we met one of the men he had been with in the fort at Torun. He asked Alf if he remembered the officer who would not let them bury their dead, Alf said he would never forget. Well Alf he replied, I have been to the Nuremburg trials as a witness and he was sentenced to be hung for war crimes.
After about two months leave, he was posted to a Company Supply Depot at Working.

All these years later, as I told you at the beginning of this tale, Alf has started to talk of his experiences at last. When I listened to him again the decades fell away. When I showed that I already knew some of the stories he was telling me he was astonished that I knew already. Those weeks of walking and talking with his ‘kid brother’ had been a way of getting it off his chest. He had had no idea that as his younger brother I had carried the memories with me, silently sharing his burden and full of admiration for someone who had gone through so much.




Railway Pictures from Steam Days

Railway Pictures from Steam Days 

These pictures are part of the research for a forthcoming edition of the book, Steam Tales by the late Ronald Spendlow and myself Adrian Spendlow. The book is being created in collaboration with history students from University Wisconsin, Green Bay.

For now here’s is a selection of pictures…

(There will be many more to come from the team.)

dad 01
me bish station
Me at Bishop Auckland Station, oops sorry it’s York
firebox stuck

Dad got stuck just like in the above picture and was hosed down with very cold water for  a long period until they could get him out.

mallard foot plate
Footplate of the Mallard

Footplate of the London and North Eastern Railways A4 class 4-6-2 Locomotive number 4668 The Mallard. It broke the world land speed record for Steam Traction at 126MPH. This was the size of the Firehole door my father had to crawl into.

Below is a cut away engine showing the fire-hole and brick arch from the inside. I wouldn’t want to clean in there.



boiler washers

Above and below are boiler washers in action.

boil washer 02
engne climb

Climbing Up for maintainence. Below is the Coal Stage.

coal stage



Then a water tank.

a watertank

Then a larger tank much like the one they had in Bridlington.

watertank large

Passenger train crew topping up.

passenger crew to up

Sorted coal.

coal front (2)
coal 2 (2)

Locomotive hoist Battersea Running Shed from Steel Highway 1928.


Bridlington Station nowadays.

brid station

And a personally named ticket. Dad always referred to them as a ‘priv’.

brid ticket (2)

I find it interesting that this poster, and similar ones, advertise free activities. Nowadays it is all about money. There were overnight tickets to be had too.

brid poser

Lines needed to be maintained also.

american built

The track and plates had recently been reorganised and then are critically observed by a plate layer aboard an American built 5820. She creeps over points aiding the in-bedding of sleepers, under the watchful eye of the plate layer. The self-propelled Grafton steam crane has been laid up following its stint of lifting.

A new cleaner was invited to attend an interview.

cleaner start

They set him on.

cleaner cert

He was promoted.

186 shifts

Ron underwent a medical.

med exam

He was called up to the armed services.

call up papers

It was cancelled.

call up cancelled

I am very grateful to my old work-mate Mike McPeake for the following pictures. We worked in Mental Health together and he is now a steam engine driver. In fact the parts he shows here are probably the very same tutorial parts my father learnt on all those years ago. The students and myself look forward to hearing more from Mike and will be pleased to receive any information, reactions and images.

(He has also agreed to be interviewed by the Green Bay students, this will go really well, unless he demands we get the Dwight D Eisenhower back.)

donated by the taskers

Above refers to the North York Moors Railway which runs through the moors north of York from Pickering to Whitby. Whitby is the home start of the novel, The Undead by Bram Stoker, so is known for being the supposed burial sight of Dracular; and Robin Hood is also in the ground there somewhere, or so they say. We are lucky that the cuttings and line way were preserved when so much of the older rail lines were destroyed. It is marvellous that this service continue, it is because of people like Mike, who would become an engine driver after a career in Mental Health Nursing. what an amazing achievement.

We are also grateful to the Taskers for the donation of a fine piece of tutorial equipment which enabled new people to learn the ways of steam.

He went on the same class as my dad all those years ago.

hull loco m i

I see from this brass plaque above on the donated item that these classes were running well before my father started to train. He started in 1941. Classes were on Sunday mornings, on the staff’s only day off, and the driver gave his time for free as did the cleaners and firemen.

training parts from mike 03
training parts from mike 02
training parts from mike 01
system explanation from mike 02
LMS system explanation
system explanation from mike
Pacific system explanation
steam system from mike
Steam system
parts from mike
mutual improvement class from mike
The Mutual Improvement Class

The insignia for MIC (That’s all I know).

mic insignia from mike

Now let’s have a few tickets.

aldgate (2)
swanage (2)

Some engines.


During the Second World War there was a lot of heavy freight so more powerful locomotives were needed. These were mainly for military uses both here and overseas. So tanks and things were pulled into Europe. The LMS 8F was used until 1942 then a design was developed which was simpler and quicker to construct.  The Ministry of Supply commissioned The Austerity. R A Riddles was on charge of directing the manufacturing process and the first engines were on the lines by 1943. The 2-8-0 and the 2-10-0; built to the minimum standard yet they proved to be very popular as they were extremely sound. These engines saw service in Europe, Middle and Far East and after hostilities were over five hundred and thirty three engines were bought by British Rail and prior to that two hundred engines were bought by LNER. They became known as the WDs and here above we see No. 90611 about to pull out of Burnley. the shunter is reporting on the condition of the load to the driver before he heads off with his coal train. (Information gathered from the writings of Joe Richardson.)

Robinson introduced an engine, the Great Central Railway’s 8K 2-8-0 in 1911. It saw military service in the Great War. Engine No. 63701 was built in 1918 by Robert Stephenson & CO and was bought by LNER in 1925 and classified 04/3.

Grisley’s 2-8-0 freight design was introduced by Great Northern Railways in 1918; this engine was a prototype and was the first three cylinder engine to have just two valve gear sets, with rocking shafts to work the middle valve. Following on from those twenty five 0/2s the LNER eventually bought forty one between 1932 and 1943, they became their group standard design. They had side window cabs and left hand drive. (Information gathered from the writings of Geof Rixon.)

austerity engine

I took the information from my father’s memoires and there seems to be a picture missing.

Talking of Stephenson, here is the famous Rocket from the firm which started it all.


And a couple of D20s.

d20 01

Class D20s were the type of engine used at Bridlington Motive Power Depot. The 2360 was converted from a Stephenson Link Motion to a J39 Motion and from right hand drive to left hand drive. It was transfered to the Bridlington Depot in 1943 and the first to drive it were Ronald Spendlow and his mate.

d20 02

Two pictures of 4-4-2s.


The LNER’s three cylinder C7 4-4-2 was designed by Vincent Raven and was previously NER class Z. Here below is a class Z, No. 2167, approaching Ripon.

(Information from the writings of David V Beeken)

442 through ripon

Then a schools class 4-4-0.

schools class 440

A 5820.


Duchess of Hamilton.

duchess of hamilton

The dimensions of a 730.

730 dimentions

Now for some rolling stock.

Here are the dimentions for a North Eastern Railway carriage.

carriage dimentions

I couldn’t find an example of a Common Use Waggon but this looks like the sort of waggon my father and workmates had to shovel coal into, although it is from Canada.

sentinel rail car

They had Sentinels at Bridlington Locomotive Depot so my father will have driven them. Here is a Sentinel Rail Car and a Sentinel Goods van. LNER had transferred Sentinels to Carlisle Canal shed and they were in service to Port Carlisle, Langholm and sometimes to Silloth. David Stratton, a cleaner, had recollections of them, they ran without a guard, so were the first case of single-man workings. He reported that they had up to three goods vans, (as shown below), and occasionally they would have a second engine as part of the train, a Brake Third. This one, photographed in 1931, has at least one carriage attached.

sentinel goods van

Now a few collectable cards of British and American engines.

The Baltimore and Ohio.

ohio front (2)
ohio (2)

The Cock o’ the North.

cock (2)

The Silver Link.

silver (2)

The Green Bay Route diesel engine, as driven by Kerry and Gary.

green bay route

Diesel Railcar and Trailer.

rail front (2)
rail (2)

Princess Margaret Rose.

princess (2)

The Beyer-Garrat.

beyer front
beyer back

Now I am not too sure why I have included a fire fighters cart, but it is steam driven, and therefor splendiferous.

fire front (2)
fire fight (2)

A few pieces of art.

Leaving work from the carriage works by Gramey Smith.

leaving work (2)

A steel shelter by Gramey Smith.


A train by Gramey Smith.  While I told stories at a day centre for elderly people Gramey drew art. Pat a lady who attended there said she could only draw trees, so Gramey drew this to inspire her.

lms gs

Here’s Pat’s train.

pats train

(BTW Pat said that LMS stood for hell-of-a-mess.)

Next are a few of the things my father would have seen from the cab as he drove through this war-torn country.

Two of Tank Landers.

tank lander
tank lander two

A mock up of a tank lander used for practicing on the coast near Bridlington.

mock up troop carrier landing craft

The Rail Service serve us.

we serve

Parachutes (I don’t know if they are Allies, Axis or incendiary).


Bombed out in Hull (A couple of pictures).

bombed hull
bombed 2

And to finish, some old family photos.

Mum’s Mum.

mums mum mary

Dad’s Mum.


Dad in uniform.

dad uniform

Me on holiday, we often went rambling and we stayed in a converted railway carriage.

me on holiday

Dad’s Dad Fred.

grandad fred

Mum and Dad on the beach.

run and connie on the beach

Dad with a pal.

dad n pal

Dad’s parents.

dads parents

My sister and I with Mum and Grandma.

me an ginny with grandma and mum

Mum and I.

mum and me laughter

Mum and Dad.

mum and dad carlton


ron 3

I’ve saved the best till last; my dad’s homemade wooden car.

dads car 01
first public railway bridge
loco 1 with horse
Opening day
s&dr opening art
First public train service
stockton map
Woolley_Rescue_Checks (2)
mum to edit (2)
violin (2)
Ron with Violin
dad n pal (2)
dad uniform (2)
manual (2)
Yorkist Range for sale
Wellington’s Yorkist Range, partly used.
a signal box from york
A York signal box.
Two Railwayman’s Cottages (In Derbyshire.)
Ours were very much like this.
Apparently they still sell them.
What a surprise
Cyclists and walkers of all ages stay in Youth Hostels such as this one in York. You may be given chores.
There are usually private rooms available, but it is cheaper to share.
The Phoenix stopped being a club and changed to the Junction pub for a while. It was knocked down to build apartments.
60s Overgate
Gas Show Rooms (Not York).
naburn 1
The grand entrance way to Naburn Hospital
naburn 2
View of Naburn Hospital from the playing fields
naburn 3
Naburn Hospital from the air
hen house 1
Railway carriage as shed
hen house 2
Hen House
aslef badge 2
ASLEF badge
aslef established badge
aslef many
aslef protest
Union protest
aslef retired
Still proud
n u r button
new hollanda1 rail rmt nur-new-holland
nur badge 2
Another badge
nur strike

Dad said that if you had been on strike you could order a badge. you wore them all down your uniform label. Then when you were in any meeting they spoke for you. ‘I mean business. I am a big union guy. If you take me on you are taking on the whole nations members.’

gresham for sale

railway institute york

arw shelter
Air Raid Warden’s Shelter (and office). (BBC site.)
brid mpd
Prisoner of War  Camp from WWII




snap tin

Sandbox and delivery pipe of a DB Class 103

The original uploader was Schorschi2 at German Wikipedia. – Own work (Original text: Eigene Fotografie), Public Domain,

Me in a pram by Gramey Smith
The toolbox shop by Gramey Smith
swings gs
Swings by Gramey Smith
walk 05
A guided tour by Adrian
walk 03
Tour of Shambles, York
walk 02
Taking a tour
sardinic retouched large 01
Spooky Adrian
Cobbled Street 1
Come follow me – photo by Dave Restless
Life is a city (3)
For chapter four
The Great Reaper (2)
For chapter four
Connie Spendlow unknown year (2)
Pricker Rod
A pricker rod by Adrian
strike breaker
For chapter two
black leg
For chapter two
For chapter two
Adrian with a class of school kids around 1987
Me with a class of kids
Cheapest of Commodities
For chapter five
Duke Squashy Hat
The Duke 01
Duke Tilt
The Duke 02
Miss Jackson
Poem by Adrian using his father’s words. (for chapter one)
Life Goes on by Ron
For chapter two

Below is the bathroom on legs sent for chapter seven by David Jakeman

rail coach (2)

stockton poster

Link to pictures of York’s railroad museum.

Link to Dad’s memories of the bombing of Hull.



The Home-Front Ordeal by Ronald Samuel Spendlow

Standing in the school yard at Southcoates Lane Senior Boys School, watching the sky shining bright yellow, with black clouds scurrying across it, I thought are these the war clouds everyone is talking about.

It was August 1938, nearing the summer break from school. Time for me to leave, I was now 14 years old; 15 in October. I had had one or two interviews for jobs, which were unsuccessful.

Just before the end of term my father said I had to go one morning to Reckets works were he had arranged for me an interview. So I went early to school to tell the head teacher where I was going   He said I had to go back to my class room, there are no vacancies there.

Being early I decided to go back home and tell my mother what he had said. I was told that my father had made the appointment and I would have to go. What dad said, you did.

On arrival at the office, I was sent in for the interview with my mother, we were told, the headmaster had sent a letter with the school’s head boy. To say I had played truant from school and, gone against his orders. So I lost the job.

Later I learnt the headmaster chose which boys could have interviews, this was an arrangement with the man I saw.

I also had an appointment for employment at the Hull Brewery. While waiting for a reply, I was taken on at the Balloon Yeast Stores as a warehouse boy all week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, I delivered yeast round shops in East Hull.

Each morning I had to go from the warehouse in Prime Street to the shop in West Street, to wash the shop windows.

The war came on a beautiful September morning. I saw my father cry for the first time when it was announced.

That night the first air raid warning sounded.

Instead of going to the air shelters, and taking cover, we went to look for war planes, which never came There were plenty of search lights though.

The war came nearer home in January 1940. My brother was called to the colors. This was the phony war. Then the Germans made it a real war. Attacking, my brother told me later, and pushing them towards Dunkirk. Just before he arrived there, he was captured.

We at home received a War Office telegram, telling us he was missing believed killed.  Once again I saw tears come in my father’s eyes. He knew what war was like.

After Dunkirk the air raids became more intense. The battle for Britain had begun.

August 10th, 1940, my father and I had a weeks holidays from work.  We bought an East Yorkshire bus rover ticket for Mama, Dad and myself. This allowed us to travel to Selby, Witherensea, Hornsea, York, Bridlington and Scarborough.

On the Thursday we visited Scarborough for the day

We were walking on the south side, from the Spa towards the harbor, when an aircraft came towards us from the sea side. I told my dad it was a Junkers 88 bomber. He laughed at me.

The crew turned their guns round and sprayed all around us with bullets, he no longer laughed. We dived under St, Nicholas Garden shelters, good luck must have been on our side, and none of the bullets hit us.

Under the shelters the long seats were occupied by about 100 surprised looking soldiers cleaning their rifles.

My father said’ Those are Lee Enfield rifles, in the last war my mates and I could fire five rounds a minute, you could have shot that plane down.’ One replied, don’t be daft mister, we have not got a bullet between us, and if we had we would be on a charge for firing it.

In later years I was telling our Alf this story, he said, ‘When I went to France we had only five bullets each.’

In later years I learnt that a close friend of mine from Hessle, when he was fifteen years old he had been on the receiving end of those same bullets as me. The plane was flying back from a raid on Driffield airfield.

Passing the Scarborough Gasworks, they dropped a bomb, killing a young child playing in the fields.

Travelling home on the bus, just passed the Grindall road junction, with the main road on the top of White Hill, was a crashed German Bomber.

Running up the hill towards the aircraft was a Scottish soldier, his kilt flying, in his hand was just a bayonet, he was shouting at the top of his voice, “Surrender!”

The aircrew were just climbing out of their plane, had Lugar pistols strapped to their waists. They could have shot him down very easily, Yet they all raised their hands and surrendered.

Passing Driffield airfield, where the raid had taken place, we saw dead and wounded being brought out on stretchers into ambulances.

It was a reprisal raid, because Driffield aircrews had bombed their aerodrome. About sixty German aircraft had been involved.

As we approached Holderness Road in Hull; our bus ran into an articulated lorry. We all ended up with cuts to the arms and faces. What a day.

The raids were getting more persistent, so we moved over to where my sister lived in Riverdale Road, on Beverley High road. Living with our Lillian, meant we were further away from the dock area, the large factories and mills.

This did not work out like that; we were bombed there just as much.

One night the air raid warning went, and then half an hour later the all clear sounded about two am, we were just getting settled down in bed, when to our amazement the whole area began to shake with falling bombs.

Looking out the bedroom windows, what with the moonlight and light from the moon, we could see low flying planes: A type not known to my mates and me, we did not have them on our identity cards.

These cards were issued to fire watchers and home guards, they had German aircraft shown at four different angles. Playing card games with them taught you to know the different types of planes.

The word went round that they were Italian aircraft.

Later that day my sister learnt that Silverdale road had suffered the most and one person had been killed, considering the damage done we were very lucky.

Later that day my sister was told of one of her neighbours, waking up in their shelter, got up and went into their back kitchen. As she was putting the kettle on to have a welcome drink of tea her daughter said,’ Mam this not our house.’

’Don’t be daft,’ came the reply. Looking round the kitchen she realised that she did not recognise anything there.

On going outside they found that as they slept in their shelter a bomb had moved it two gardens up. The shelter was made of solid concrete, built on soft garden soil. The bomb blast had been strong enough to move it to opposite the back door of their neighbours.

Leaving work one evening I decided I would call at our house in Stevenson Street to see if there was any mail for my mother. As I turned into our road end I saw Mr. Hurran our postman, shouting and waving a postcard he said, ‘Get this to your mother’ ‘It’s a card from your lad he is alive’.

It said he was a prisoner of war and could we send him some food. The address was a Stalag in Poland.

He had been missing fourteen weeks, being alive was all that mattered, even though he was away five long years, at least we got him home. Not like a lot of lads.

My mother and father decided to return to our house in Stephenson Street. My sister’s house was no safer than our house. It just seemed to get worse and worse.

After we left, my sister had to move two or three times, because of the bombing.

While delivering yeast on my rounds of the shops, I never knew if the shops or bakeries would be still standing or blown down. If any of them were, at the end of my rounds I would call at the police station to look at the notice board and read the lists of names to see if the people from my shops were still alive.

Each morning the police posted these lists, they had a big black edge to them like a death card. Rather upsetting.


In Garden Village area I saw a house looking like as if it had three levels, the bottom third had moved to the left, the middle to the right and the top to the left like the bottom. But it was still standing.

A lot you saw was hard to believe.

I called at one in Stoneferry, as I walked up the front path I noticed the green shades and curtains were still drawn. I knocked at the front door, I received no answer. Waited a while, and then decided to try the back door. There was no back door.

The whole of the back of the house had been blown away.

Like something out of a film set the front way was still standing. It had not even disturbed all those curtains.

The elderly lady lived by herself, who kept the shop on her own. I found she had been taken to the shelter of a friend’s shelter, before the raid began, at least she was still living, thank the Lord.

My father earned his living as a spell foreman in an oil mill in Stoneferry, working three shifts. He had the right to employ and sack men, which was a very hard task before the war, with all the poverty and the hard times in the twenties and thirties.

One morning one of his men reported two hours late for duty. When asked why he was late, he replied, ‘Well Fred, I got up at the usual time five am, had my breakfast, gathered up my grub tin, picked my cycle out of the shed, set off down the garden path in the blackout. I reached the front end of the house, I tripped over some rope and fell flat on my face, and I thought I’ll kill my daughter for leaving her skipping rope laid about.

But Fred, when I turned over, I was looking at the biggest unexploded bomb, you have ever seen’.

Dad said, “What did you do.”

‘I messed myself. After warning every one, I got washed and changed, and then I came to work.’

After the bomb disposal men had dealt with it, I went on Sunday morning to see it. It stood leaning against the front window, without its tail fin, it was rounder than a large dustbin and stood from floor to ceiling. Level with the upstairs guttering.

One dropped in the street next to it, demolishing 40 houses.

Parachute mines floated down exploding on ground level, thus covering a large area. The blast expanded outwards causing a vacuum.  The vacuum then sucked everything inwards doing more than its share of damage.

In the spring of 1941, the bombing increased.

I would arrive home from work, have my tea and go to bed.

The sirens would go round about nine to ten o’clock. Mam would wake me up. We were on our own when dad was on night shift. More worry for mam.

The pathfinder planes would come first and drop parachutes with about twelve incandescent lights burning on them. They lit up a vast area, so the bombers could see their targets.

Mobile guns were used to shoot at them to try and put them out. The guns often stopped in our street, firing away over our house tops, the rapid fire droning was deafening.

One night while the chandeliers came floating down, we heard a different sound. A strange whistling, next thing we knew we were covered in incendiary bombs. The whole area was lit up with them as they burst.

We had been told that you must not throw water on them. Just cover them with soil, sand or carpets. We dealt with those near us and then went next door to help our neighbour, just in time to stop her throwing water on them. They would have burst in to small pieces.

Bonfire night had never been like this. Fires were all over the place.

May 8th, and 9th, two nights I have never forgotten.

When the warning sounded my mother woke me up, already the anti aircraft guns were firing. You could hear the high explosives exploding.

Five minutes walk from our house on some land behind Bindley Street, four 4.5 anti aircraft guns were firing, they sounded like express trains going up into the sky.

A sky already lit up by search lights and the glow of fires, seven miles of dock land, would be ablaze before long. You could read by the glow from them.

From Hedon airfield, they fired a barrage of thirty rockets, exploding in a square of steel. Any aircraft caught in it would be torn to pieces.

What goes up must come down and it did in the form of shrapnel. It made a mess of the roofs of our houses and, if you were unfortunate to be outside in the open you could be severally injured or killed.

I went to the back to look outside. I saw what I thought was a man on a parachute coming down. Next thing my father was stood behind me saying, ‘Come inside, that’s a mine not a man.’

As I dived under the table there was a loud explosion.

I heard the sound of breaking glass above the table. The living room window and one in the front sitting room had blown in. There was soot everywhere.

We sorted ourselves when the all clear sounded. Then we heard someone shouting in the street. Dad and I went to see what was the shouting was about. Standing in front of the house opposite was the young policeman who lived there. All he had on was his underpants. He was shouting. ‘I’ve come home”.

The landmine I had seen coming down had landed at the corner of Newbridge Road. He was nearby and the blast had blown all his clothes off and left him just in his underpants.

He settled down when his wife came from her shelter and took him in. He went back on duty the following night, life went on.

The following night when my mother woke me, I stayed in. I felt a foreboding something bad was going to happen. The sound of the guns and bombs seemed louder than ever. Our living room was lit with glow of the fires. I found myself counting the sticks of bombs as they came down.

About midnight, I heard what I thought was a train coming down. Suddenly everything went quite. My father said ‘Take cover, this one is ours.’ (I often have thought had his experience in the 1st world war told him it was ours.)

Next I felt I was floating among soot, broken glass, plaster and bits of wood. A strange feeling as if you were in a dream.

Then I heard Mam shouting. ‘Fred, Fred are you there.’

He responded by saying ‘We had better go to next door’s shelter, until the all clear goes.’

We went out the back door across the yard into the rear passageway. Running down the passage, I could see my mother trying to hide under dad’s mackintosh.

I heard him saying, ‘At least I had a gun to shoot at the thundering Germans last time.’

Over the top of the fences, I could see the night sky lit up with the glow of the fires. Barrage balloons were being shot down, falling in flames.

I saw a German bomber coming nose down, its tail on fire. Later I learnt it crashed into the main bus station destroying a large amount of the buses, leaving a trail of death around that area. One of the crew floated down into a large burning shop nearby, and was burnt to death.

We managed to get into our neighbours Anderson shelter, with her and her two daughters. Their father was on night shift at Saltend. Saltend was a large petrel dump.  At the time I used to wonder why they did not bomb it. Later we realised Hitler’ wanted it for when he was going to invade us.

One of the story’s that went around was about a young N.F.S messenger boy. He was given orders to take a message to the fireman at the top of the extension ladder, who was spraying water into a large burning department store. On reaching the top he saw a German airman floating down into the flames, pointing it out to the fireman, who simply said, ‘Let the bastard burn’

He passed on his message to fireman and climbed down the ladder, just as he reached the bottom, there was an explosion at the top of the ladder, which blew the fireman into the burning building. If he had stayed a few seconds longer he too would have been blown into the flames.

(When I moved to York after the war I told this story in our mess room. One of those listening said, ‘I was that lad Ron.’)

The day before these raids, a container arrived from the railway full of china, and copper milk pans. My job was to carry them up four flights of stairs, in a clothes basket, and stack them on shelves.

The morning of May the 8th, when I arrived at the warehouse in Pryme Street, it was just a pile of rubble, and destroyed with it two ford vans and a large delivery van.

I had done all that hard work for nothing.

To get to the shop in West Street, we had to walk down narrow tracks in the middle of the road, passed burning buildings and fallen masonry, there was firemen’s hosepipes everywhere.

Arriving at the shop we found it was also a pile of burning rubble. Later when they managed to dig out the safe, the heat had even burnt the papers inside. We were told to go home and report back in three days time.

When we finally reported in, we were told to go to his son’s house in Princes Street and empty all the rooms.

Then build shelves with wood he supplied us with, were he got it from we never knew.

Within a week he filled it with stock, opened a shop in Princess Avenue and was back in business. For a man eighty four years old it was a marvellous achievement.

His son was a Captain in the Air force; he was in charge of the barrage balloons over Hull. He received the George Cross for keeping them flying during the raids. He had a good team work from his force of men and woman.

So with three days off I could help mam and dad to salvage what we could from the house. We rented a garage for seven shillings and sixpence a week, to store what was worth keeping.

The roof and the bedroom walls of our house had been blown out, destroying most of the furniture. The downstairs was a shambles, the front room curtains had gone we thought. When we moved the heavy oak sideboard, we found them stuffed between it and wall.

The space between the wall and sideboard was only about an inch wide.

Blasts did funny things; the door had a pane of leaded glass, with red roses in it. We found this unbroken embedded in the wall at top of the stairs, hanging there just as if we had put it there.

Lucky for us the parachute on the mine did not open. So the mine buried itself in the ground. If it had floated down on the parachute it would have exploded on top of the ground, the blast would have spread more and most likely I would not be here today.

When the all clear went Dad and I went to see the extent of the damage, there was a crater you could have dropped a bus into.

We heard voices among the rubble, in front of us were two soldiers, when dad spoke to them, they quickly left.

Dad said, ‘They have been looting.’

We found out later there was one man with a broken leg. ‘The shelters had saved them,’  the young policeman was on duty. His wife was safe in the shelter.

Most of the houses were badly damaged.

A neighbour who lived opposite borrowed a spade off us and spent the morning digging among the rubble looking for his dentures. ‘Can’t do without them can I Fred.’ He said to dad.

Another one came down the street carrying a battered enamel bowl. He said, ‘All my worldly goods in here Fred, at least he left us something to get washed in.’

We were a little bit better off we had a few things left.

We were homeless, my aunty Violet took us in till we could find somewhere of our own.

We searched for our ration books, which should have been in mother’s drawer, the blast had ripped it up and the books were in tatters. Like I said, blasts did funny things.

When mother went to the town hall, she found out we were not on our own. She queued for hours, with hundreds of others in the same boat. The official number was 7350.

We had to rely on relatives and the black market for food, till they were renewed.

We rented a bungalow in Chantlands Avenue for three or four weeks, till the young man wanted it back. His wife had decided to come back to him.

Then we rented a house off a young woman whose husband was in the navy. Each Friday when she came for the rent, she cried, when mam asked, ‘How her husband was.’

After about four to five weeks, she asked for the house back. She said, ‘Her husband had been drowned at sea and she had married again’. No tears just a smile on her face. Mother said, ‘Strange things happened in war’.

Mam and Dad went to see Bridlington Town Council, to ask if we could stay in our holiday bungalow on Charity Farm at Sewerby. The Town Clerk did not know what charity was, he sat having a cup of tea and biscuits, never offered my mother one.

The Town Clerk said, ‘They had to go back to Hull, they had enough troubles of their own’. You could not live in holiday bungalows within ten miles of the coast, in case of invasion,

A police officer stopped Dad as he walked out in disgust. He said, ‘Mr. Spendlow I listened to you in there, will you come with me to see my Chief Officer and explain your situation to him, he may be able to help you’.

To Dad’s surprise the Chief Officer gave us permission to live there. Only we would have to report every day to the police station. He also said’ The local bobby would check that we were still there to save us reporting in.’

I now had to travel 36 miles to Hull each day to work and back. Travelling home one evening I heard a conversation between some soldiers. One said, ‘Did you have a good time back home in London.’

You must be joking he replied, ‘I spent my full two weeks in the underground, dodging bombs.’

Living in bungalow at Sewerby we thought we would be safer from the bombing. What we did not realise was that the Germans used Flamborough Head as a marker for bombing Hull.

On the return flight if they had any bombs left, they dropped them on the coastal villages and towns.

Bridlington got its fair share.

One Saturday night three mine sweepers anchored near South Landing. When the bombers returned later in the early morning the three of them opened up with all their guns, the sky was lit up with bursting shells and the return fire of the bombers.

Falling bombs exploding as they hit the water, suddenly there was a larger one that was louder than the rest, it echoed all around. Next morning we learned one of the ships had been sunk.

Just after this happened we heard the screech of a bomb coming down, next thing we knew the bungalow appeared to lift up in the air and, come down with a loud thump. I landed on the floor banging my head.

Then I heard Mam calling, ‘Ron, Ron come and help me.’ I went into her room and found the bed tipped up with her underneath it. I sorted out mother and the bed. The all clear went not long after.

Dad could not travel like me, so he stayed with my sister and, if he could, he would get home to us on a weekend. He could by riding from Hull on his bike.

The blast had broken three windows. Dad asked who had been throwing stones. Then when he saw the crater in the field on the other side of the hedge I think he believed us about the bomb.

At night time you could see the glow of the fires at Hull.

The oil mill in Stoneferry was a prime target for the German bombers. In 1938 they had a new refinery built; all the parts came from Krupps in Germany.

They knew where to find it, first they dropped high explosives, then followed with fire bombs.

The primitive equipment was useless and, when a large bomb dropped near them they went back in the mill.

The summer of 1941 my father told me to apply for a post of engine cleaner. I started at Dairycoates depot on the 20th, October that year.

One of the cleaners I worked with was a member of the army cadets. He came to work one morning looking like death warmed up. He had been called out during the night to help at a street on Hessle Road, to help the people who had been bombed there.

One of the worst that night, Something like 40 houses were affected. He helped carry out the dead and injured, which he said ‘Was not a pretty sight’. He was in a state of shock for a long while.

One of the docket clerks turned grey over night, when he received a telegram to say that his son who was a Spitfire pilot was missing believed killed.

October 1942 I transferred from Dairycoates Depot to Bridlington Depot. We had moved into a cottage in Sewerby village by this time, so I had only to ride to Bridlington on my bike for work.

Out of 192,660 habitable houses in Hull at the beginning of the war, only 5,938 escaped damage, with some 152,000 people rendered homeless at one time or another


A Poem for the Viking Heart

In Isolation

We are alone
As we march evenly
Warrior heart
Is individual
All alone in an army
There is the slice of the sword
The waft of the weave
We are united
In this Viking heart
Because we believe
In one thing, one being
Count on him
Be acknowledged by him
Again and again and again
For he is our chieftain
Known across impossible boundaries
There is faith there
They are his
We stretch over,
Reach out, yes
We are isolated as of now
No longer the essence of the word
Forward nor backward
We are searching
The word is Viking
I heard the word said
That as Skald I was
In a dark nightmare
That we all were
No longer loved
This is the darkness
The madness, the end
Of all time I guess
Nothing to go to
Nothing to belong to
To reach out to
Sail to
We have inspiration
I heard the village had
Said to my chieftain
There is only one
Times that
By ten thousand
He is the one
The very concept of
Modern world Viking
The sense of being
He is not a village
Or a chair upon a wooden carriage
He is your heart
In a marriage between
A wish of being
And a timeless understanding
Of belonging
We are in union
The Viking empire is sliced by a sword
We are united by one thing
Our chieftain’s word
He calls us
We hear him
Our hearts fight through airways
Our lungs breathe the same air
We are aware
The fjords call onward to us
Become us
We are Viking
Hear the call of the chieftain
It is simple and plain
We are Viking
We are together again.