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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

SECOND WORLD WAR KNOTTINGLEY
- THE WAR YEARS


MAURICE HAIGH

Many residents who lived in Knottingley during the war years will remember Dr. Kiehley and Dr. Murphy, who together set up a medical partnership on Cow Lane before the outbreak of the Second World War. You may possibly agree that it was a fortunate day for us all when they did.

Who can forget their school visits armed with their Vaccine needles for your diphtheria jabs or their clinic's held in a building on Cow Lane to which many patients will recall attending. Or to endure as I am sure many others will have done, the painful drawing out of the core from a carbuncle, or the lancing of boils on your neck.

Visits to your home when required, were always pleasantly carried out and a kind word spoken on their way out. I also recall taking my own spoon with a name tag attached to it for the receipt of your daily dose of caster oil, and to my memory, the most unpleasant evil stuff you could ever hope to partake of.

Impetigo was yet another condition suffered by many and it was a common sight to see many cases walking about covered in a violet ointment applied at the doctors clinic. Despite these none too pleasant events taking place, the doctors were held in high regard by both young and old alike, and are to my mind an integral part of Knottingley’s history.

Aire Street dwellers will remember our local Home Guard members who could be regularly seen on parade and marching on the Flatts under the shouted commands of Sergeant Clegg, a very fine platoon of men. They were based I think in the building that used to be the Aire Street Club. It was also an exciting occasion when they marched up to Womersley Road quarries to be trained how to fire anti-tank weapons using old cars as substitute targets for tanks. They were also trained to throw hand grenades and on one occasion, after watching a display, I found lying in the burnt grass, a grenade which had not exploded. I was about to pick it up as you would expect a youngster to do, when one of the Home Guard’s men shouted at me to leave it alone and clear the area. My moment of glory had passed and I was not to become the proud owner of the ‘bomb’.

Sometimes they would visit the three corner field up the ‘Ganner’ near Gander Haven Farm and they could be seen crawling about in the grass wearing camouflage clothing.

Knottingley folk did on some occasions witness the passing through of Regular Army convoys who were on movement orders to some other parts of the region. Usually they parked their lorries and other military vehicles on the Flatts, and in most instances stayed overnight before moving on. I remember one morning when a convoy was there and one of the soldiers asked me if I could obtain some hot water for him to wash and shave in. He gave me an enamel bowl which I took to my mother and she filled it with hot water. The soldier was very grateful for the trouble and asked me to thank my mother.

The Mount near the Greenhouse housed a local contingent of A.T.S. who could be seen quite often out and about in the area. Other uniformed forces seen around the streets would be servicemen enjoying a bit of home leave. The Army, Navy and Air Force were all represented.

Wartime concerts and dances were always a welcome change to the daily slog of keeping a home warm and the family supplied with food. I would think that many a romantic liaison began at one of these events. The audiences would be made up of assorted services and civilians enjoying the evenings entertainment. My mother would often take me to the concerts and to a young boy it was quite exciting to see the local amateur entertainers ‘strutt their stuff’ on stage. These included the ‘K’ Sisters who were the Celebrity Stars at most of the concerts performed and who in later life had a very successful professional career in showbiz.

We were of course more accustomed to listening to the wireless and one of the favourite programmes at the time was Tommy Handley’s comedy show, ITMA (It’s That Man Again) and another Valentine Dyall (The Man In Black) reciting plays. There were not too many options for radio listeners during wartime, usually the BBC Home Service and BBC Light programmes. I remember with great clarity sitting in our living/kitchen at our house down Anchor Yard, Aire Street, with my two older brothers and my mother, listening avidly to the wireless, and without thinking, all looking at the wireless much like we do today with television. Tommy Handley could always raise a laugh and you needed to now and then, but I am sure many readers will know more about this than I do, me being a mere youngster!

I remember with great fondness my visits to the Palace Cinema with my older brother Raymond to see the latest war film or cowboy adventure. We would walk back home along Aire Street to Anchor Yard in the blackout shining our torch to the ground in front. It was very strange to see the street in the flickering light of torch bearers, the familiar shop fronts standing quiet and still in the night air, so different to the hustle and bustle of daytime shoppers hurrying about to see what choice of food the shops had to offer that day.

Knottingley wartime residents, like the rest of the countries population, had to deal with food, clothing, and fuel rationing, and our mothers had a difficult job coping with these problems, but they did their very best for us in difficult circumstances. Knottingley was fortunate indeed to have some very good family shops such as Randolph Backhouse and Frank Firbank's for your bread, McDonald's and Clay's for grocery, Smith's and Taylor's for meat, and Doubtfire's and Wray's for greengrocery. Dickinson's and Lyon's supplied the sweets when they had them which I seem to remember wasn’t very often. These names survive to the present day and will always crop up if you have a few Knottingley people enjoying a reminiscent gathering.

Sometime parcels of Egyptian sweets from my uncle who was serving in Egypt arrived at our house. They also contained tinned fruit, normally pineapple chunks which I was totally unfamiliar with. The sweets were similar to boiled sweets but tasted a bit chalky, though they were polished off nonetheless and did not go to waste.

Although many salvage initiatives were initiated, the only one I can personally recollect is the call for households to save jam-jars, which we, like many of our neighbours, supported. And although my wartime schools at this time was firstly Chapel Street and then to Weeland Road School, my mother would give them to me and I would take them to Ropewalk School which was a collection point.  canI remember seeing hundreds of jam jars stacked under the bike shed which was built on the side of the school.

'Dig For Victory' was another wartime campaign, launched to promote and encourage folk to grow vegetables. My mother bought some cabbage seeds and gave them to me to sow. We had a front garden some 20 feet square which I dug over and then planted the seeds but I must say it was a complete disaster. I could never overcome the constant attacks of butterflies which always laid countless eggs beneath the leaves. It was a weekly battle to try to scrape the eggs off before they turned into caterpillars. Suggestions to throw soapy water on the vegetables, which I did attempt, proved to be a useless one as the butterfly eggs continued to flourish. My mother then had the idea to keep half-a-dozen hens like so many other folk did at the time. We proceeded to build a small shed in the backyard and bought the hens. This proved to be a more successful venture than the gardening project in so much that we had, within a few months, a steady supply of eggs to supplement our diet.

Wartime Christmas, and I can only speak for our family, was a very enjoyable occasion. My mother always bought a cockerel, which today is virtually unheard of. We had the usual traditional vegetables to accompany the bird, and then my mother would sieve the flour  and make good old Yorkshire puddings in the hot oven. This was followed by mince pies.

Our stocking which we pegged to the mantlepiece, usually held (if avaialable) one orange and one apple, a few nuts, and we might have a couple of toys such as a dartboard and darts, snakes and ladders, or a Dandy annual. To this day, and to be honest I did not give much thought to it then (children never do) I wonder how my mother managed all this in such difficult times, but she did.

Finally a word about the demise of the wonderful ‘Jack Frost’ patterns which partly due to clean air acts and central heating are now a thing of the past. I can recall the most wonderful patterns on our pantry window at our Anchor Yard house, and icicles hanging from the gutters. It is quite amazing the memories you can store in your subconscious mind don’t you think?

Maurice Haigh

[Memories Index]


Also by Maurice Haigh

Memories of Knottingley
More Memories of Knottingley
Final Thoughts About Knottinlgey
Conclusions of Knottingley



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