Interview with Brian and Jenny Bailey


Interview with Brian and Jenny Bailey


Brian and Jenny Bailey were children during the war and witnessed the bombing of Cleethorpes and Grimsby. Standing on a local bridge, they could also see Hull in flames. Jenny recalled walking with her mother on the day war was declared and seeing a woman crying in the street. When she asked her mother why she was crying she was told it was because of the news of the start of war. Her father worked as a fireman and was also employed in the docks. She recalls seeing Hope Street reduced to rubble. One day she went to call on her friend to go to school together and found her friend's house was destroyed. She describes the superstitions of the fishermen and their families to ward off tragedy. Brian’s house was a mile and a half from RAF Grimsby Waltham, and he could see the airfield clearly. 800 aircrew from this airfield were killed on operations. The air raid shelter for his school was across the square and once, as the air raid siren sounded, they made their way across the square as bombs began to fall a half a mile away. Brian joined the ATC and took great pleasure in the activities of his squadron including time spent on the airfield lighting the paraffin lamps on the runway to guide back returning aircraft.








00:49:33 audio recording


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FCB: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre Digital Archive. The people who are being interviewed are Brian and Jenny Bailey. The interviewer is myself, Cathy Brearley. The date is Tuesday the 5th of June 2018 and the interview is taking place at Brian and Jenny’s home in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. So, Jenny, I’ll start with you then. How old were you when war broke out?
JB: Eight.
CB: And do you remember when war was actually declared?
JB: Yes. On the Sunday. I can remember very clearly. My mum wrote a letter to my grandma who lived at Louth and we took it up to post at the end of the street and I saw this lady crying and I couldn’t understand why. Yeah. And that’s always stuck in my mind. Yeah.
CB: Did you ask your mum why she was crying?
JB: She said it was just because the war had started.
CB: Yeah.
JB: But didn’t say any more. Yeah.
CB: So, at that age it wouldn’t really —
JB: No. No.
CB: And what was your father doing in the way of work when —
JB: He was a joiner. Yeah. And he went to, out to black out the hospital. They did the blackouts.
CB: Yeah.
JB: They did all the whole hospital there. Yes. Yeah. He was, he worked there at, for Wilkinson’s for a long time and then he, they drafted him down the, down the docks because he was too old to be, he was too old to join up, wasn’t he?
BB: Ship repair.
JB: Yeah. He went in to ship repair work. Yeah.
CB: Yes.
JB: He was posted in to that.
CB: Right.
JB: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: And did he do any war service? He did —
JB: He was fire. Fire. In the Fire Brigade. Yes.
CB: Auxiliary Fire Service. Yeah. And how often did he have to go out on duty?
JB: Every time the air raid went.
CB: Yeah.
JB: Yeah. And then of course he was called on if there was any big raids during the day where he was working. He went on there. Yeah.
CB: Did he ever say anything about what he’d seen or his experiences at the time?
JB: Yes. Some. Sorry, some of the, the bombing that had happened and the fires that he went to do sometimes were a little upsetting.
CB: Yeah.
JB: But he didn’t say a lot about it. No.
CB: No. So, at that time your mum was looking after you.
JB: Yeah.
CB: While he was out as a fire fighter.
JB: Yeah. That’s it.
CB: And did you have an Anderson shelter?
JB: Yes. Which we helped to build. Well, the hole to put it in. Yeah. We had to dig it all out. Yes. And we had an air raid shelter and we used to go in there every night when the raids came.
CB: And how often was that? How often were the raids?
JB: Oh, most nights for a long long time. We did have a lot of raids. Yes. And they used to sleep then in the air raid shelter and the next morning had to take the water out the sump because it was all full of water.
CB: So, what kind of comforts did you have in the Anderson shelter for your nights there?
JB: Well, dad had built some bunks and I don’t know, I suppose we had a bit of bedding. I don’t, I can’t remember that. I remember going in there every night and then, then of course when the raids really started out we came and watched all the searchlights from the bombs that were over the bridge which was on the sands. And when they were sort of like in a cross watch the German planes being bombed and brought down. We thought it was great.
CB: So, you could see the searchlights.
JB: Oh yes. They were very good like that. They crossed.
CB: Crossed.
JB: Yeah. Yeah. When they’d got the plane in the middle of the cross that was when they got them. Yeah. And then we could always hear all the shrapnel coming down on the roofs making an awful noise and, I don’t know where that’s gone. We haven’t got any now.
CB: You had some shrapnel that you’d saved.
JB: Oh yes. We had a lot. Thought it was lovely but it’s just disappeared now [laughs] Yeah, but it was quite a noise when it rattled on all the roofs you see. When this shrapnel came down.
CB: It must have been terrifying overnight.
JB: Yeah.
CB: In a shelter as a child.
JB: Yes. I think it was. Just seemed to accept it and that. I don’t know. I must have slept in the shelter because I mean I was up in the morning. Then do an ordinary day. So, yeah, but I remember. Oh, I can remember so clearly standing outside and hearing all these bombs. All these guns going off there because it is a lot. There were a lot of guns over there. Yeah.
CB: And there was a lot of bombs on Grimsby and Cleethorpes wasn’t there?
JB: Yes. Yes. We went to have a look at, there was a, called Hope Street and it was just about downed all the way from one end of the street to the other. It was completely bombed. That was very very bad. Yeah. Yeah, I think that was the same time as the Bon Marche was done when my dad, he was on there during the day and he got soaked from the rain. Not from the rain. From the water for the fire. You know, putting the fire out. Yeah. Because it was a full day there. It was a big, that was a big air raid. Yeah. We had quite a few air raids, didn’t we?
CB: Yeah.
JB: Yeah.
CB: And what about rationing? Do you remember?
JB: Yeah. I didn’t have many sweets [laughs] I can remember that. Not many sweets. We had the dried eggs. Mum used to bake with the dried eggs and then after the war the first time I’d seen a banana and didn’t know what it was. And then we had banana sandwiches forever more [laughs]
CB: And people made a lot of their own clothes as well, didn’t they?
JB: Yes. Yes. My mum made all my clothes. Yeah. Of course, you only had so many coupons that you could use so sometimes you could get some second-hand clothes and use that material, you know. Unpick it and use that material. And she did a lot for other children in the street and that with their clothes as well. Yeah.
CB: So, she did that to earn a bit of extra money then.
JB: Yes. Yes, she did. Yeah, because there wasn’t a lot of money during the war. I remember we weren’t very well off at all. Not until my dad went down, down the docks and was working like a shipwright. Well, it was a shipwright, I think, wasn’t it? Shipwright. And he got more money. Never had so much money then as all the time because we weren’t very well off at all.
CB: What kind of ships did he work on?
BB: Damaged warships mainly.
CB: Damaged warships.
JB: Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
JB: He was there all the time, wasn’t he?
CB: Yeah.
JB: Yeah. And during the war, yeah before he was sent down the docks he was still on the money and when they didn’t work they didn’t get any money you see. In the winter, being a joiner, in the winter, bad weather they were laid off and there was no money. There was no, no money for us or for my mum so during the time she had to, in the, what in the summertime she had to save money enough to keep us going during the winter when he was off.
CB: Yeah.
JB: But then when he was sent down docks that finished and so there was plenty of money. Yeah.
CB: And they only had you.
JB: Yeah.
CB: As a daughter.
JB: That’s it, yes.
CB: No other children.
JB: No.
CB: No.
JB: No. They waited six years for me [laughs] Yes. Is that alright?
[recording paused]
CB: So, Jenny, did your mum do any war work at all?
JB: No. She was a teacher before the, before she got married and then when she got married you’re not allowed to teach because they wouldn’t have any married women.
CB: Yeah. And what about the other local people in your area where you, the part of Cleethorpes where you were growing up?
JB: Yes.
CB: What was the main occupation then?
JB: Fishermen.
CB: Fishermen.
JB: Fishermen. Yes. And I was most of their family are grown up and had gone to the war, like in the Wrens and all in the Forces and of course, being the youngest I went amongst the family and I was brought up with them a lot. Yeah.
CB: So, you grew up with the —
JB: Fishermen.
CB: Fishermen’s families.
JB: Yes, yes and I got, you got all the superstitions because they were very superstitious. And of course, I still remember all those superstitions.
CB: Oh, tell me about those.
JB: Oh, one if you did if a husband went out to trawl.
BB: Friday.
JB: No.
BB: Oh dear.
JB: Went out. Went to sea.
BB: Yeah.
JB: To fish. Yeah. Well, you don’t wash on that day. Never when they go out because if you do you’re washing them out and they’ll never come back any more.
CB: I see.
JB: Yeah. I can’t remember any others. There was so many superstitions that they had. Yeah. And they stuck to all those superstitions. Yeah. And my dad’s best friend he took the trawler down to —
BB: Dunkirk.
JB: Yeah. Dunkirk.
CB: Did he?
JB: Yeah. To rescue them. He went three times. Yeah. So, it was quite a big thing because going up the Humber it’s not very wide and you’re going right the way out there in this little trawler. Yeah, because they’re not as big as, then they weren’t as big as what they are now. Yeah.
CB: How much notice do you think those trawlermen had for Dunkirk? For the evacuation.
JB: Not much.
BB: Not a lot.
JB: Not much time at all.
BB: Not a lot.
JB: No.
BB: I think probably about only a week or ten days. Something like that.
JB: Yeah.
BB: When the cry went out for the help from the small boats to go there so they could get in on the low water where the, on the shallow water where the bigger boats couldn’t go. So, the small boats went in to the, in to the shore, loaded up, back out to the bigger boats, offloaded. Repeat the journey. And so it went on. All the while being bombed and strafed by German aircraft. It must have been horrendous. It really must have been horrible.
CB: Yes. Yeah. So, Grimsby and Cleethorpes were quite badly bombed during the Second World War.
JB: Yes. They were. We got a lot of bombs. And from where this Fuller Street Bridge was at the end of the street we could go at the top of the bridge and you could see Hull where it was all, because very badly bombed and it was just like a, oh just fire all the way up in the sky from all these bombs that you could see from the top of the bridge. Yeah. I always remember that. But yes, we were badly bombed in lots of places.
BB: And the next one.
JB: Yes. I was going to school. I went to school on my bike and when I got to call for Mavis, my friend her house had gone. It was all bombed and I didn’t know. And this air raid man he wanted to know why I could go on there. Nobody had bothered me. I just went. That was it. Yeah. But she fortunately was saved and had got in somewhere else. So —
CB: Where had she gone to?
JB: Still in Cleethorpes. Across the road, a little way away. They had, did have, owned another house so they went in with these people for the time being. Yeah.
CB: So, as you arrived at the house and saw it, well —
JB: Gone.
CB: Flattened.
JB: Yeah. I just didn’t know what to do. I think I must have gone home. I don’t know what happened then but, yeah.
CB: Very frightening.
JB: It was quite a shock that. Yeah. It really was. That stands out in my mind. I can still see the big hole there that it was semi-detached and you know one side was alright and the other one had gone.
CB: Were many children evacuated?
JB: Yes. Quite, quite a lot. And mostly more or less from Grimsby more than Cleethorpes. I don’t know why. Yeah. A lot went to Louth and Spilsby and that area but a lot, mostly went to Louth.
CB: Brian, you’d said that school was suspended when the war broke out.
BB: Oh yes. School premises were taken over by authorities for various reasons and oh, it must have been the best part of nine months before they at long last got something organised and then until I was fourteen years of age school was mornings one week and after, and afternoons the following week. And so it went on. It, it was strange. And one silly thing I remember in particular. Air raid warning. Now, our school was one side of what is known as Town Hall Square in Grimsby. Our nearest shelter was the other side of the square. Air raid warning. Right. Scramble for the shelter. We were halfway across the square when the bombs went off a half a mile away. We were lucky the bombs were half a mile away and not in the square. But, oh yeah, that sort of life went on in those days. And then of course at fourteen I went to a different school and that was full time. But thirteen years of age I joined the Air Training Corps and learned a lot of things. Bits about Morse code and navigation and that sort of thing. We would be taken out to school playgrounds on Sundays to do the marching up and down to get up and down. To learn all that sort of thing. About once a month on Sundays we would be taken out to RAF North Coates which is oh seven or eight miles south of Cleethorpes on the Humber, on the Humber Bank. Coastal Command aircraft. Bristol Beaufighters, torpedo aircraft. We saw those. We were allowed to go and sit in the pilot’s seat would you believe? And we saw all sorts. We saw in the workshops where they were preparing ammunition, preparing the guns and all that sort of thing and on one occasion we even saw the damaged remains of a Mosquito aircraft which had crash landed on the edge of the airfield because it had been damaged in flight. On other occasions in the Air Training Corps, we would go to, for a week’s camp on an RAF station. And one in particular I remember we were taken to the command post at the edge of the runway where the man in charge would give a green light to each bomber in turn to go and take-off. And then when they’d all gone, in bed, in this caravan woken up again to greet them all coming back in the morning. And we were taken on a, on a truck to go down the runway with flame [pause] Yes, a flaming torch to light up the watering cans type of thing which were full of oil to form runway lights.
CB: That’s FIDO. F I D O. FIDO. Isn’t it?
JB: No. FIDO. It was something. FIDO was done to try and get rid of fog.
CB: Oh, fog dispersal. Yeah.
JB: Yeah. But these on a lot of these RAF stations they had no electricity down the runway and these were paraffin flares they used to use to light up the runway for the incoming aircraft.
CB: So, you had to light them up individually.
JB: Oh yeah.
CB: Yeah.
JB: Yeah. We went, went in a little van and hop out, light that one up, hop back in. Go around [laughs] For a, you know, youngster of sort of fourteen, fifteen years of age that sort of thing was very exciting. But home life it was strange. My home at that stage was about a mile and a half north of the main runway of RAF, what was known as Grimsby/Waltham. So, when they were taking off in that particular direction firstly in the early days they were Wellington bombers. Then they became Lancaster bombers. You’d see them struggling up in, up in to the air [coughs] excuse me. Only perhaps a sort of a quarter of a mile away from the bottom of your garden and to see the way they struggled to go some of those aircraft it was frightening.
CB: With a big bomb load.
JB: Oh yeah. I mean, when you think about it. And then ultimately and of course as, as we found out when we visited your site in Lincoln eight, over eight hundred men flew out from that airfield and never came back.
CB: You’re mentioning the Chadwick Centre and the Memorial Spire with that on it.
JB: That’s right. Yeah. In much later life when I eventually was, after the war finished because I was that much too young to be involved I was called up and I spent three, nearly three years in the RAF. Most of it at Binbrook. And whilst I was there I did manage on one Saturday morning to go flying in a Lancaster.
CB: Wow.
BB: My head was still thumping on Monday morning. How those crews ever managed to stick it for eight or nine hours at a time I would, never could understand and I haven’t, can’t understand to this very day. But, oh dear. Memories like that stick in your mind.
CB: I imagine. Yes. Was that service part of National Service?
BB: No. It was in the interim before National Service. National Service was fixed at two years. I was called up in 1946 when the original conscription rules still applied. So, I went in. I didn’t know, I had no idea when I was coming out. It was what were known as age and length of service. So having been called up early in 1946 I got home a few days before Christmas in 1948. Spent most of it in an office pushing a pen. But even that, I did, hopefully I did my bit. Somebody had to push a pen.
CB: Why was it that you chose that rather than any of the other services? I suppose you’d done your Air Training Corps hadn’t you? So —
BB: Well, Air Training Corps took me on to RAF. And of course, it had all been a bit of brotherly animosity I suppose between my brother and I. He was in, he was in the Navy and came back with gold braids so you had to be very careful if ever you were out, out in the street with him. And I didn’t want any of that. But as I say I had been, I had been RAF. Air Training Corps. So, RAF was the choice.
CB: Yes.
BB: And there we are.
CB: And you said as a thirteen year old in the Air Training Corps you weren’t entitled to have a uniform because they were only given to fourteen year olds.
BB: At fourteen years. Yeah. But we did. We did get one. We managed to get them before we were fourteen but one other thing that sticks in my mind from that time was being down the bottom of the garden one tea time to feed the one or two chickens that we were, we had at that time and the sound of an aircraft coming and I looked up. There was a Heinkel 111 coming across. Not more than about a hundred and fifty feet up and I could see the crew. See the outline of the crew inside it. I went inside that, inside that chicken hut a bit quick. Out of sight. But you know those sort of silly things that stick in your mind.
CB: And do you think the Air Training Corps was good preparation for when you did spend time in the RAF?
BB: Well, yeah. You’d, you’d learned a certain amount of discipline. The routine of marching in, and that sort of thing which helped when you first did your first six weeks of so-called square bashing. But beyond that no because they weren’t looking for people with knowledge of navigation and Morse code and that sort of thing.
CB: But you got your badges in the Air Training Corps.
BB: Not now. No.
CB: No.
BB: No. They all, they all went back with the uniform when it was handed in. When you, when you, when you ceased being with the Air Training Corps all your uniforms went back in.
CB: But you said to me earlier that it was because you ‘d got the badges that you got your uniform earlier than you might have done.
JB: That’s right because they had to be sewn on. There was somewhere all the badges were sewn on and we’d nowhere to sew them was our argument and that’s, that’s how we won that one.
CB: And they must have ranks in the Air Training Corps.
JB: Oh yes. The ranks within the Air Training Corps were exactly the same as RAF and you were [pause] quite what the basic, you couldn’t call them an airman. You’d call them a cadet. An Air Cadet. But then of course you could be a corporal cadet, a sergeant cadet and so on but by the time you got to sergeant cadet you were call up age so you vanished into the RAF.
CB: And your brother Peter, he was older than you.
BB: Oh, he’s seven years older than I.
CB: So, he was in the Navy.
BB: He was in the Navy. He started as, in the sick bay as an attendant. Sick bay attendant. And then for whatever reason managed to get transferred to the Fleet Air Arm. Went to Canada for training and came back from Canada with gold braid all over his sleeve and then had an accident playing rugby and was invalided out as unfit. So as far as I’m aware he never fired a shot in anger. He spent some time in civvy street as it was known and then was recalled to the Fleet Air Arm in time for the Korea crisis.
CB: Oh really?
BB: Then of course he eventually returned to civvy street and carried on a civilian life for the rest of his life. But —
CB: It must have seemed strange to you as a teenage boy with your older brother disappearing off to Canada.
BB: Well, it was one, it was the sort of situation in those days where a serviceman would go and he would seem to vanish from the situation. From the day to day life and letters were a rarity coming from overseas like that. And I had very little to do with, oh for what, two, three years or more. Never saw him because he was away in Canada. And then again, the age gap was such that his interests were vastly different to mine and he was away and carrying on his civilian life. He got, he was married and got a child long before I did. I mean, Jenny and I married in 1952. He was married in 1944. You know. So —
CB: And did you have any other brothers and sisters?
BB: Sorry?
CB: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
BB: No. No. There were just the two of us. Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: And then just coming back to Cleethorpes and Grimsby and this area there are two Humber Forts aren’t there? In your area.
JB: Yes.
BJ: Yes.
CB: Can you tell me about them?
BB: The only thing I can really say about those that they were built First World War and a net was stretched between them to prevent submarines access.
CB: Oh.
BB: And of course, they had the usual complement of guns and whatnot. During the, in between the wars the nets were all removed but when the Second World War started those nets were reintroduced and between the forts and the shore there were concrete blocks. Rectangles probably measuring six feet, six foot cube.
CB: Right.
BB: And a row of those from fort to shore on both sides of the river. And there was, I believe a gap somewhere in the middle to allow our trawler fleets and our other, and naval vessels access in and out. And then of course it was all removed at the end of the Second World War but the forts are still there. They’re semi derelict. They’re not put to any practical use at all.
CB: I think one’s for sale, isn’t it?
BB: I think so. There’s been all sorts of bright ideas of having them as sort of holiday lets and recuperation centres for the drug addicts and all sorts of things but nothing has ever really ever happened. Would you agree with that Jenny?
JB: Yeah. I don’t, I’ve not heard anything.
CB: No.
BB: But they’re still there today and occasionally when, if you, if we’re down on the Promenade strangers might ask, ‘What are they?’ But that’s a bit of a rarity anyway.
CB: I imagine they, in the Second World War they would have been a good gun position.
BB: Oh, I imagine. Yes, indeed.
CB: That must have lit the sky up. Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
JB: It would.
BB: But all the way down the coast —
JB: Because of course they, during, during the beginning part of the war they chopped part of the pier off. The end on the pier off because they didn’t want the Germans to go, come up on the pier and if they cut it off it wouldn’t be able to —
CB: They couldn’t land the aircraft on it.
JB: No. No, they were thinking of coming up the Humber and then —
BB: Using it —
JB: Walking up the pier.
CB: Oh, I see. Oh, access by land. Yeah.
JB: But I mean, I don’t think they would have waited to have got on the pier. Because they chopped quite a bit of the pier off.
CB: I think that happened in other places. I’m aware that happened to some on the south coast as well.
JB: Which to me was a bit of a stupid idea because they wouldn’t be waiting to come up. They’d come up the other way wouldn’t they?
CB: I know the ones on the south coast they were deliberately destroyed.
JB: Oh yeah.
CB: By the locals there and Home Guard so that they couldn’t be landed on by, by the aircraft coming over the Channel.
JB: I think this was when they were thinking that we would be invaded.
CB: Yes.
JB: I think it was that way they thought.
CB: Yes.
JB: That’s why cut the end off.
CB: Yeah. So, there wouldn’t be a landing.
BB: But here it was done in case they wanted to bring landing craft up and off load the men on to the pier. Well, which was a daft idea. You don’t do that. You offload them straight out and on to the sands and up. But one of the strange things about Cleethorpes Pier during the war having removed a section to avoid, to obviate walking access if you like there was a café at the far seaward end and one night that got on fire and nobody knew how that got on fire because there was no way of getting down to it. Strange. That was a strange one that one.
CB: And there were Americans, Air Force based in the area as well, weren’t there?
JB: Yes.
BJ: Yes.
JB: Well, we had German, German prisoners of war in the woods, didn’t we?
BB: Yeah. Oh yeah. We were, we were thickly populated by American troops. I mean they were all over the town.
CB: Whereabouts were they based? Which was their base?
BB: Well, some were based just off the, now then. Yeah. The A46 as it comes through Grimsby and heads for Cleethorpes. There’s a wooded area there and the Americans were there for a while. Their Air Force bases were north of Grimsby and Immingham. Further up the, up towards Hull on the south side of the Humber Estuary and we used to see them around but one of the sights we used to see if we ever went down the main street, the main shopping street in Grimsby were the crowds of these American forces people at one of the little shops. What’s the word I’m looking for? A laundry. A laundromat. And they would go there and they would, they’d take turns to go in, take their trousers off, have their trousers pressed, put the trousers on, come back out again. And they used to queue up in that little shop there in Freeman Street. Oh dear.
CB: And how were the Americans on the streets in Grimsby and Cleethorpes viewed?
BB: Well, again I mean we I suppose we just tolerated them you know. We put up with them.
JB: Well, the elder people, the elder people were busy going out with them.
BB: Oh yeah.
JB: They had a lovely time.
CB: There was a lot of romances were there?
JB: Oh yes. Yes.
CB: Oh yeah. I remember.
JB: They had a really good time. Yeah.
CB: The silk stockings.
JB: Oh yes. Yes. The nylons for the first time.
BB: Chewing gum.
JB: Yeah.
BB: That was another favourite.
JB: That’s it.
BB: But one thing that happened in here in in Grimsby there were clubs for the American boys. The whites went in the one up there, the blacks went in the one over there.
CB: Really?
BB: Socially they were not allowed to mix. Just as it was in, way back in America at that time.
CB: And that would have been unusual here.
BB: Oh, it was. I mean it was a thing unheard of here. But then again until the coloured Americans came over here during the war coloured people were a rarity.
CB: In this area. Yes.
BB: Yes. In this part of the world.
CB: Yeah.
JB: Yeah.
BB: There really —
CB: Was there a sense that the British were pleased that the Americans were joining forces with us?
BB: I suppose looking back in hindsight over all these years we couldn’t have done it without them.
CB: No. We —
JB: Well, we didn’t know a lot about the Americans. We weren’t old enough to go out with them. No.
BB: Well as children of course. As children and early teenagers.
JB: We couldn’t.
CB: No.
BB: These sort of things —
JB: No.
BB: Didn’t occur to us. But you know all these years later and you think about, think back about them. Yes. They were a necessity. I mean we could, we could never ever have built enough aircraft, tanks, and other aircraft and ships to be able to carry on on our own. We needed the help that came not only from America but from all the Commonwealth countries, Australia, South Africa, Canada, you know. We couldn’t have done without those. No way. If it hadn’t been for those people coming in and help I think jolly old Adolf would have had his way. But thankfully he didn’t.
CB: Indeed. What about conscientious objectors? I know there was a lot in the First World War and people were given badges to wear if they were on home leave or if they were exempt or injured out so that they wouldn’t be given the white feather.
JB: Yeah. That’s it. Yeah.
CB: Did that happen a great deal during the Second World War?
JB: I don’t remember.
BB: I’ve no idea.
JB: I don’t think we were old enough to understand sort of thing.
CB: No. No.
BB: It’s something we, we couldn’t comment on because we just didn’t, we didn’t meet up with it did we?
JB: No.
BB: No.
JB: Well, we weren’t old enough were we? When you think.
BB: Well, no. I mean —
CB: I suppose it also depends on people’s ages in the sense of whether they were too old to be conscripted or too young.
JB: Yes.
CB: And therefore, people either were exempt for age.
JB: That’s it. Yes.
CB: Or they served.
JB: Yeah.
BB: Yeah.
CB: As opposed to anybody objecting. Being a conscientious objector.
JB: Yeah.
BB: Yeah. In many respects amongst all the other memories we have I’m thinking about, I’m talking of my own experiences. Jenny can probably come up with something very similar from the area that she lived in in those days. Next door but one there were two brothers. Again, they were older. They were my brother’s age. One was, they both went in the RAF. One was a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain. The other one became a navigator. The fighter pilot survived the war and became a school teacher. The navigator stayed in the RAF and several years post-war was killed in a flying accident. Next door but one beyond them again there was two boys. Similar of age group to my brother and I. The elder boy, paratrooper was sent to Arnhem and didn’t come back. I mean that was in the space of what half a dozen houses. Go around the corner and there was the eldest boy in the house and another family down there. He went and didn’t come back. Those are the sort of things that this interview with you are dragging up from the back of the grey cells you know. Whether these sort of recollections will mean a great deal to the younger generation.
JB: I think they’re more for the what happened to us. How we felt things during the war.
BB: Yeah.
JB: Aren’t they?
BB: But —
CB: I think it’s an important part of our history and there’s a lot of these sort of stories that are listened to by young people and in schools and part of education programmes. Visits to the Chadwick Centre.
BB: Yeah.
CB: And other memorials and it is being kept alive which is important.
BB: Yeah.
CB: So what would happen, obviously mourning the loss of a family member or family members would be very different because so many people died overseas. Obviously, somebody dies here today you know there’s a funeral.
JB: Yeah.
CB: And there’s a mourning isn’t there? But I guess in wartimes and when people died overseas there wouldn’t have been any sort of memorial event.
JB: No.
CB: At the time.
JB: No. That’s quite true.
BB: No. The only thing that I can comment on and this is because I’ve been reading about it recently would be an aircrew didn’t come back and within a couple of hours of knowing they weren’t coming back ground staff at their base station would go to wherever their bed space was, clear all their gear out, swap the bedding and probably the next night a different, different set, different crew of men would be sleeping in those beds. Their personal effects parcelled up and sent back to their families. That’s, you know, that’s the only thing I can really say about what you, the question you just asked.
CB: And I imagine there are memorials in Grimsby and Cleethorpes obviously to honour those—
JB: Yeah.
CB: Who served and died.
BB: Oh yes. Yeah. In several churchyards there are groups of graves. I mentioned North Coates earlier on. There‘s a, the church there is on a corner in the village and just over there they are. Men that died or came back wounded and died or were dead when the dead, they were buried there in that village. And another village halfway between here and Louth just off the village square there’s a grassed area and on that grassed area there is a circle of paving and inset in to that paving are the names and ranks of seven members of a crew of a bomber which was flying around near that village, giving aircraft a tech practice to a fighter which was the case. You know, the fighter comes in and the bomber does his evasive. The bomber took the evasive and a wing snapped off.
CB: Oh.
BB: There were probably only five, you know probably weren’t above a thousand feet. They hadn’t a, hadn’t a chance to get out. And it crashed a few, you know very, only a few hundred yards from the village and the Memorial is there in the village square. That village now has an annual Forties day or weekend and we always go, don’t we to that and have a look at it and it brings back a few memories.
CB: I imagine. I was going to ask you about that. Yes.
BB: Because of the people who have the memories of, you know the Forties Association and all these various things and they will come along with the jeep and the lorry that we managed to keep in working order all through the years. But when, when we go Jenny and I, we always sort of walk around and just pay our respects at that particular little memorial.
CB: It’s a very big annual event, isn’t it?
BB: It is.
CB: And quite rightly so.
JB: Yes. I think so. Yes. I do.
CB: And they put on an air display as well, don’t they?
JB: They do. Yes. Yes.
BB: Yes. There’s one scheduled.
JB: I think there’s got to be something like this though for the young ones because when we’ve gone there will be nobody else to say anything will there?
CB: That’s right. That why it’s so important to capture —
JB: Yeah.
CB: Your memories now and they are listened to.
JB: Because they won’t, well there can’t be that many more years for any of us can there?
CB: No. But there is a lot of interest.
JB: Yeah.
CB: A lot of interest. And a lot of students, historians, researchers, academics. But there’s also a lot of young people.
JB: That’s good. Yes. Good. Yeah.
CB: And Grimsby and Cleethorpes was the first towns to be bombed by the butterfly bombs. The anti-personnel bombs.
JB: Yes. We were.
BB: Yes. Southampton was the other one.
CB: Right.
BB: They were the only two places.
CB: Yeah.
BB: One other thing we experienced too was the V-1. There was just one, maybe two nights. The V-1s, a load of V-1s were brought and dropped from aircraft out, out beyond the Humber, coming in off the North Sea. And we remember them coming over here and going inland. None of them fell locally here that I, I can recall. But the, the butterfly bombs. Oh, they were finding them tucked away in gutters on top of premises for years after the end of the war. And that particular night it caused quite a lot of havoc around Grimsby. We had trolley buses in that, in those days. The trolley, the power lines were down and a friend of mine and I on that following morning we were on our bikes and off going to have a look round to see what had happened in town and I can remember cycling in in the centre of town and coming across a number of little sandbag enclosures. Only probably three feet square. A couple of, two and a half three feet high and as you cycled past you looked down and there was a butterfly bomb in the bottom. And you know, again we’re talking very early teenage and the implication of, you know what they, what they were and what they could do just didn’t register.
CB: So those bombs were different in that they didn’t explode on impact.
JB: No. They were very different.
BB: No. They didn’t explode on impact. It was when you moved them. Somebody moved them off they went.
JB: Or walked into them.
BB: Oh yeah, I mean people would sort of walk along and they would —
JB: And this is why, going down the [unclear] that’s why so many were killed, I think. Because you see you didn’t, we didn’t know anything about them at all. We were the first ones so of course when it happened it was too late to tell anybody then wasn’t it?
CB: And I suppose if there’s a lot of rubble that’s being cleared.
JB: Yeah.
CB: You came across them in that way.
JB: Yeah. This is it.
BB: Oh, and then —
JB: And they got into some peculiar places, you know.
CB: Yeah.
JB: They really did. Because they weren’t very big.
CB: No.
JB: So —
BB: Oh no. It’s not very big but oh there were tales —
JB: It seems a long time ago now though, doesn’t it?
BB: Oh, it is. It’s an awful long time ago but no it’s [pause] this discussion today has stirred up a lot of memories for both of us.
CB: It tends to do that.
JB: Yeah [laughs] yeah.
BB: Some things which you’ve, you’ve forgotten. Almost totally forgotten, you know.
JB: You must have seen an awful lot over the years.
CB: I’ve heard lots of stories.
JB: I bet you have.
CB: And my mum being a child.
JB: Yeah.
CB: In London.
JB: Yeah.
BB: Is that still, is that —?
CB: Yes. She [pause] it was part of my mum’s stories and my grandparent’s stories.
JB: Yeah
CB: Were a part of my childhood.
JB: Yeah.
CB: But obviously for future generation it‘s different.
JB: Yes. That’s it.
CB: But thank you ever so much both of you.
JB: That’s alright.
CB: For giving us this interview. Really, really fascinating and very interesting to hear how it was for you as children growing up.
JB: Yeah. It was different.
CB: And young people.
JB: Yeah. Very different. Yeah.
CB: And in this particular area as well it shows that —
JB: Yeah.
CB: You know, it was literally everywhere that was affected. So, thank you ever so much.
JB: That’s alright.
BB: And thank you to you for your patience in listening to us.
JB: Yeah [laughs]
CB: You’re very welcome.


Cathy Brearley, “Interview with Brian and Jenny Bailey,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,

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