My Mum Connie, aged 93; her stories and poems – part one

I hate staying in…

The first story mum wrote after stating in writing class…

(Please note it is in two parts, so you will need to watch the short film straight after.)

Radio York paid her for this story…

A poem in darker tone…

Mum explains how amused she was by the poem ‘I Shall Wear Purple’, it inspired her to create her own version. she would always perform them both.

There will be more of her short stories and poems and she has recently been interviewed by The National Railroad Museum here in Green Bay Wisconsin. Once they have those up in the museum archive I will blog a link. For now here are links to other pieces…

Navy Blue Knickers and Things Which Go Bump in the Night – Childhood memories from the 30s

History of Quay Street, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Great Britain.

Pictures of Steam Days (including family photos) – Mainly from dad

The Home Front Ordeal – by Ronald Samuel Spendlow

Ronald’s memories of listening to his brother once he had returned from prisoner of war camp. 



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


Steam Days Poetry modelled on my father’s memoires

Steam Days Poetry modelled on my father’s memoires

dad uniform

Lads on a Transfer

The boys who were James’ and Witty’s class

In the Motive Power Depot

Down at Old Dairycoates

Are signed up as their men

Supernumerary Cleaners

Replacing drafted soldiers

We were designated our seniority

Soon were going through the motions

Paraffin cleaning gears and couplings

Senior Passed Firemen supervised us

Training us up, by learning us ‘Improvements’;

Droppings and Steam Action

Buckeye and Loose Links

All of the couplings

Stephenson’s Link Motion

All about Walschearts

The joys of Joy’s Radial Valve Gear

We were learning the Eccentrics

Between their Side Rod Pins

Hoping at the end of the war

To be sent for None-Returner’s Duties

Through the office of the Shed Master

Down at Botanic Gardens

Motive Power Depot

To step up to an engine cab

But for now doing cleaning

It is back to the twelve seater,

Single flush latrine room


Reporting to Miss Jackson

Her Docket Clerks Diagram men

From their three shift system window

Seniority always organised Link Men

Passenger, Goods and Pilot Links

Sickness, Spare Markings and Specials

Marked Diagram Sheets show Turns of Duty

Here, in clean overalls,

Young Ronnie was learning

The running of the railways