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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories



On looking back to a 'wartime' childhood in Ferrybridge and being too young, then, to realise the implications of war, all I have are very happy memories of that time.

Starting Ferrybridge Infants School at almost 5 years old and sitting in classrooms heated with open fires, how cheerful it used to be. My favourite teacher used to be a Mrs. Alker, who used to cycle down from Townville wearing a flowing black mackintosh and black hat. She was always full of new ideas and made schoolwork so exciting. Many of my contemporaries in Ferrybridge will remember her.

Another teacher, Miss Josie Burns, left the school and went to be an actress and did very well. I also remember being given a gas mask and going into the underground school shelters for practice ‘air raids’. To us children this was a great adventure and we enjoyed it! We also had our own Anderson shelter in our own garden, built by my Father, the late Sowler Burton. When the warning siren sounded we used to get up in the night and go into that dark damp den till the all clear sounded. I remember planting marigolds all over the outside soil which covered the shelter.

My Father was also in Ferrybridge Home Guard and I used to polish the buttons on his uniform. I think either Mr. Eckles (Mens Hairdressers in Ferrybridge) or Mr. Blower were in charge. If anyone has any information about Ferrybridge Home Guard, I would love to hear from them.

We kept hens in our garden for eggs and a few cockerels for Christmas fare. People used to ‘swap’ different products with each other. One snowy winter's night a fox got in and killed all four cockerels - about two weeks before Christmas, but could not get them out of the pen to take with him. Christmas was early that year!

Another treat at school was Christmas parties. We used to have Father Christmas, looking suspiciously like the Caretaker, Mr. Wright. We were served sandwiches and cakes and huge dishes of pink ‘junket’. I have not heard of anyone eating junket these days; it was a little like blancmange.

During those war years we nearly all attended Sunday School in the Mission Room. My teacher was Joannie Hansom and she used to give us a lovely stamp each week to stick in our attendance book, depicting a beautiful picture of some bible story. These used to fascinate me, as did the large pictures on the Mission Room walls, in particular the one ‘The Light of the World’ and ‘Suffer Little Children to come unto Me’. Whatever happened to these pictures .... ?

I also remember huge convoys of army lorries going by my house which was right next to the ‘Great North Road’. Sometimes American soldiers went by in convoy and threw us packets of chewing gum. Sweets were rarely seen in those days.

One day I saw one of our neighbours running up to our house shouting,

"Tell your Mother the war is over!"

Everyone was very excited and we all went into the Square that night and there was lots of dancing and celebrating. It has been said that wartime children were ‘deprived’... Deprived of what? I have no memory of being deprived of anything that mattered. Having no holiday, no sweets and very little fruit and only having one doll and teddy (I still have the teddybear). I sometimes wonder whether today's children do not have far too much and are still not as happy and carefree as we wartime children were....

Memories of Wartime in Ferrybridge
Shirley Bedford
June 2004

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