Interview with Beryl Pickwell


Interview with Beryl Pickwell


Beryl Pickwell lived in Lincoln during the war. The youngest in a family with three brothers and two sisters, she remembers the day war was declared. Her father and two brothers worked in war factories, Clarke’s Crank and Ruston and Hornsby. She fractured her thigh when she was five, on the first day of school and spent two years in hospital. Remembers the first time she saw a gas mask, which she had carry along with her to school. Vividly describes the sound of the siren and Anderson air raid shelters at schools. Tells of a schoolgirl being killed during an air raid, when a bomb dropped on her house and hearing the terrible news when he was at school the following day. She explains how the air raids were targeting the railway lines but hit the factories instead. Remembers when a cinema, near St Swithin’s church, was hit by bombs. Tells of clothes bartering and food rationing, although she did never fall too short of food. She enjoyed spending her time at the Drill Hall, unbeknown to her mother, and she ended up dancing with American soldiers and a picture of her was taken and appeared in a magazine. Tells of when her parents used to bring servicemen home from the pub for the Sunday lunch and how she fell madly in love with one of them. Her mother used to work at the canteen of Fisons fertiliser company and gave some food to German and Italian prisoners of war. Tells of a huge, unknown aircraft making a lot of noise and exploding on top of Canwick Hill.








01:19:10 audio recording


IBCC Digital Archive


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HD: This is Helen Durham conducting an interview for the International Bomber Command Digital Archive on Friday, the 17th of March 2017, commencing at 11.25. I’m here to interview Mrs. Beryl Pickwell. Hello Beryl. Thank you ever so much for allowing us to come and interview. What I want to talk about first of all is your childhood and life before the Second World War.
BP: Oh yes. Well, there’s a lot of story with that. Uhm, my mother had, when she, she got married uhm, because she became pregnant by meeting up at Gainsborough with one of the footballers at Gainsborough as she was working on the pub at Gainsborough and that’s how they met. Mum, who knew nothing at that time about sex or anything else, became pregnant so she got knocked away from her own home and had to go and stay with her husband eventually, it was her husband, they got married and uhm she had her first child and when the little life was being born, she was so naïve that she said to her husband’s mother, when do they cut me to get the baby out? And the mother-in-law said, they won’t cut you, it will come out, and my mother said, you can’t possibly do that! And then, when it was, she, the boy was born, she said, oh my Lord, I didn’t think that would happen. And actually my mum had five children in, one after the other, she had three boys first and then two girls and by the time I came on the front, they were all teenagers, yes, the one that was nearest to me was my sister Vera who was fifteen, so mum had had all these other five [laughs] before I came. Now, suddenly out of the blue, mother thinks, oh my God she’s pregnant again, how could that have happened? And it’s been a total joke in our family ever since that mum and dad had been on a friend’s party and it was one of those nights when they got drunk and apparently they stopped in a passage on the way home, had a little bit of the humpy dumpy and that became me. So, I’d got five grown up children living there, three brothers, two sisters, and me as a little baby, running up and down on the settee at night when I was waiting for them to come in from the pub or wherever they’d been and I won’t go to bed without them taking me to bed, so they used to take me to bed and I used to say, I’m not going to bed when I [unclear] and used to shout downstairs at the lads, come and fetch her, she’s waking us up [laughs] and I used to say, I want to listen to the big crossings and the little crossings [laughs], it’s hilarious really and so,
HD: Did you live in Lincoln?
BP: Yes, Clifton Street, in Lincoln, which was very, very near the railway line, the one that is still there and also very, very near the big common, which was there and in fact you could see the big common from out of our bedroom window but as usual they messed it up when they pulled down all the houses around there to make places for a place like Tesco and stuff like that. But, yeah, I was a naughty little girl I think, but spoiled to death by my sisters and brothers. Yeah [laughs].
HD: So, a very happy family.
BP: Yes.
HD: Yes.
BP: Yes.
HD: And then, the war was declared in 1939.
BP: That’s right.
HD: Do you remember that?
BP: I do remember it very well because before we actually got the actual declaration, I realised that my dad and my, two of my brothers who were working within factories building war material, there was something very strange going on and I was only about nine, eight or nine o’clock then, not eight or nine o’clock,
HD: Yes.
BP: That age, and my dad came home from work in all his working clothes cause he wanted to hear what was gonna be announced on the radio, as we had the radio in those days. And he came round and I was sitting on the table with mum washing me legs as I said before, when we got the message over the radio and my dad said, oh my God, what’s gonna happen now? So my Dad and two of my brothers were immediately put on, you’re permanently working on your factory, you were not gonna be in the army, you see, because they needed to make the works, so
HD: Which factory did they work in?
BP: Uhm, Clarke’s Crank works, my mum, my dad rather, and Ruston and Hornsby me brothers. Yeah, and my dad’s was working in, possible [unclear] street actually nearly it was, it was a massive big thing that he was making, it was huge, and it was something to do with, uhm, some ship or something and it used to make a terrible noise and it was huge and I used to take round to my dad, go in there with all the noise rattling to take a little jarful, a tea potful which I still got the teapot of, little plastic teapot, to take me dad a drink and let him have that and he did alternate shifts with Les, my oldest brother, so mum, me dad did the day, and Les did the night and they were at it all the time and then Ron, the other one, he was at Ruston and Hornsby and he was working there and then Vera, the sister who became the next one to me, she got into one of the works there and she was making like little, you would call them to be allowed sandbank things in the past, but they weren’t, they were used to make like a hole in the ground and they used to put sand and then sort of something in, they were making some chemical of some sort,
HD: Right.
BP: And she worked there for a long time. They used to pull her leg, she met her boyfriend there who she eventually married.
HD: Very good.
BP: So,
HD: So, it was a busy household.
BP: It was a busy household, yeah, and my mother was always wanting to work, she liked working, she was very hard working, she would’ve done with all those children, I think I was the bit of a trouble, you know [laughs].
HD: So, you were nine when you were [unclear]
BP: I was nine and Mum knew that there was going to be an announcement made, Dad knew there was, I mean, he came in from work, to listen, put, I was sitting on the table having me legs washed and what not, and listened to it, heard it all, we are at war with Germany, and I didn’t know what was going on but of course they did and they were so upset about it and oh my God, you know, now what’s it gonna be like and off we went from there.
HD: And did any of your brothers, were they ever called up? Or your sisters?
BP: No, because they were working in the factories, so they,
HD: So they never
BP: No, they were on jobs that they’d got to do so they didn’t get called up, no, and the same with me sister, she chose to go and work in the factory,
HD: Yeah,
BP: And the younger one, she worked in an office somewhere I think but nothing that needed anything and I was just sort of left from that, eight years old, wasn’t I then? Eight years old, you know, sort of wondering what was going on all the time. And the first time I ever saw, for example, the gas masks, I thought, my God, what’s this sort of strange thing that we’ve got? And we all had gas masks. Now, by this time, I realised there was something going on and it was something really important that my dad was always talking about and what was happening but I didn’t really know what was going on but I did know we were at war with Germany but between being eight and ten I sort of grown up a little bit, and I got, I don’t know, a test at St Andrews School in Lincoln and when they picked out people that they thought would be better going up to a better school, I got a place at South Park High School for girls which in those days was very, very posh [laughs] and I was ten when I went up there and of course it was wartime but my mum was so determined to get me the exact school uniform so that I had to look beautiful, you know, and most of them up there came from very rich families cause they paid to go to that one, which is a bit like LST, LSD now, and I loved every minute of that then. Well, of course we had these gas masks given to us which were horrible things and we used to have to carry these to school with us in a bag, you always had to carry your gas mask up to the school cause it was wartime of course and occasionally while we were up there the sirens would go, the war sirens [mimics the sound of the siren] like that sort of thing, and when that happened, we used to have to run like mad into the top field in the school where they’d made some air raid wardens, little air raid wardens, we’d all have to go in there,
HD: Were they the Anderson shelters?
BP: Similar thing to that, yeah, covered in soil though to make them
HD: Camouflaged.
BP: Yeah, that’s right. And we used to have to rush into that and get in that until we could all come out again, you know, and all that sort of thing, so,
HD: What was your experience, when you all had to go in?
BP: Well, we realised it was war, but we were hoping we weren’t gonna be bombs dropping on us and one thing or the other, but one terrible thing did happen, one of the lovely girls who was at school with us, she unfortunately, was actually killed by a bomber, it was on a Sunday afternoon, it was in one of the streets off Skellingthorpe Road, just coming up to the top where it becomes, where the chemist is, that sort of thing, and the bomb dropped right on their house and killed her and the family and we found out about it at school the next day and we had a special prayer at school and everyone was, were in tears that she’d been killed and she was only about my age, at that time, so that was a very near one, you know, for us but it was terrible that one.
HD: Did you have many bombs, dropped on Lincoln?
BP: Not a lot, we had, the one I remember was the, they bombed one of the film places in Lincoln, that was the one that was nearly opposite St, now what is it? Still there, the church that’s still in High Street, oh dear, what’s the name?
HD: St Mary’s?
BP: No, it’s not St Mary’s, uhm, now what’s it called? It’s still there, the church is still there, as you go up Broadgate, it’s on the left-hand side, as you go up Broadgate,
HD: Right, oh, uhm,
BP: Now, what’s it called? St, my husband was a boy singer in it and I can’t remember the name of it.
HD: It’s St Hugh’s, the Catholic church?
BP: No, no,
HD: No,
BP: It’s before you get to the Catholic church, on the other side of the road,
HD: Oh, St Swithin’s.
BP: St Swithin’s, that was it, yeah, that’s the one and yeah, what can I tell you about that?
HD: Yes, there was, was there a bomb there or?
BP: No, what, at St Swithin’s church?
HD: At St Swithin’s.
BP: No, no, there was no bomb there, that they, they had a big boys choir and they had lots of stuff there but it wasn’t bombed there, no, no
HD: No. Can you remember any of the other places in Lincoln [unclear]?
BP: I’m just trying to think, yeah, one of them was, it was a cinema in Lincoln and it was eventually became after the war, it became a place for, uhm, offices and that kind of thing, but this particular show, which I can’t remember the name of, was smashed to bits, yeah, that was bombed to bits, that one, you’d have to find out what the names of
HD: Yes, is that where the ABC used to be?
BP: No,
HD: No, not that one
BP: No, the ABC was near the river, that was the one that was there for donkey’s years.
HD: Yes.
BP: It was further in the land than that one, it was, not that far from where I’ve just told you about
HD: St Swithin’s, yes
BP: The church, it was somewhere near there and that was bombed and destroyed completely, that one was. But we didn’t get a lot of bombs actually dropping on us because they were trying to get onto the factories and particularly they were trying to get on Ruston and Hornsby’s but they never got it because they used to get it up, mixed up with the railway line which was next to it so the bombing was coming over, they were thinking they were hitting the railway line but they weren’t, you know, they weren’t getting into the works and that was the good thing, none of that got, got done at all, it always stood intact but the railway, the railway line they got a few times. In Lincoln itself, the only ones I can remember was when the young girl was killed in just off Skellingthorpe Road and the one that was smashed down, the theatre
HD: Yeah.
BP: [unclear], in this square which I can’t remember
HD: Saltergate.
BP: It might have been Saltergate, yeah
HD: Yes, so
BP: Yeah, definitely, that was that.
HD: Going back to the air raid shelters,
BP: Yeah
HD: That you used to go to,
BP: Yeah
HD: When you were at school
BP: Yeah
HD: When you went in, how long were you there and what did you do whilst you were there?
BP: We used to run up as fast as we could get there, we used to run up with the gas masks with us, not necessarily on unless they told us to put them on, we got the sign you see originally, the noise that was going [mimics air raid siren sound], that was the quite one, that was the one that they coming but they not rise home ahead cause they were two completely different sirens, completely different. If you got the first one, we knew they were about, if you got the second one, they were above you and you’re gonna be in real trouble so we knew that, we rushed up there and got into there, waited in there till the all clear went and then we came back to school again.
HD: And were you in there a long time?
BP: Yeah, well, we used to be in there for about an hour or three quarters of an hour, something like that, until it was all clear, you see, you couldn’t go until you got the all clear sound.
HD: And what did you all do when you were
BP: Well, just talk to each other and hope it wasn’t going to drop on us and you know, and
HD: You didn’t carry on your lessons there?
BP: No, you couldn’t very well do the lessons in an Anderson shelter. No, there were about three or four of them on that top field and we just used to have to run up there as quick as we could and then when it was all clear, we all ran back to our proper classes and what not, you know, all in our nice posh uniform [laughs].
HD: So life changed dramatically then when war started.
BP: Oh yes, yes, yes.
HD: Did it change in your family?
BP: Uhm, well, it did because, I told you that two of my brothers, three, [unclear], yeah, two of my brothers were working in, one working in Ruston and Hornsby, and the other brother working with my dad at Clarke’s Crank works, now they took it in turn, me dad doing the day and me brother at night and they had these massive things going round and round and round and God knows what they were for but they were very, very important and my brother that worked at Ruston and Hornsby’s, he was making stuff as well and then the sister Vera, she went to work at the same place and she was making these model things out to what they heck they were for but she did and the only one sister of mine that didn’t have to do anything during the war cause she was younger, she worked at one of the, film places in High Street and she used to go round with the biscuits and that sort of stuff, you know,
HD: Yes.
BP: But me personally, in my case it was a question of getting ready, getting off to school and see what’s happened. The trouble came most to my mother, really, because when I was five years old, on my very first day to school, at the Baby St Andrew’s School, it was a real icy day, real cold, I went out onto the playroom and slipped and fell and fractured me thigh and of course in those days they didn’t know much about doing anything but anyway, they rushed me up to the hospital as fast as they could, stripped me of clothes off me, and my left leg was cut from the top to the bottom there twice because they couldn’t it right and I was in fact in the hospital for getting on for two years. So, it happened when I was five and I didn’t come to school till I was seven.
HD: Really? [unclear]
BP: Yeah, and I, I was in plaster of Paris all the time, my dad used to push me up, [unclear] up, [unclear] up to the hospital in a big thing, they wouldn’t let the children into the children’s wards to look at you at all, they used to bring a [unclear] round at night, and they used to bring warm milk which I can’t stand but I had to tell the nurse that I don’t like that and so then she used to bring me cold milk cause my mum had a go at her. But I had three operations, but they were never allowed to come in to actually see me, they used to sort of wave to you through a window.
HD: So, you didn’t see them for two years?
BP: No. And the only person that used to come up was the headmistress from the infant school and she came up with some little books, you know, a for apple and b for, for me to learn to read myself, which I did, and I had this fascination for little teddy bears as well and so I got tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of these teddy bears and the nurses used to laugh at these teddy bears and when I was actually sent back home again, in plasters and I think starmer legs and I got photographs of that and I was in trouble for ages before I could take these casts off and stuff, but that brings my mum into the war there and uhm, I was at home but then, when I was about seven-ish, I actually started to being able to go, get to school but walking [unclear] things on me for ages. Now, what happened was, where this involved my mother, all the other brothers and sisters were all at work, I was still at home and I was about, seven and a half, eight years old then, when knocking on the door one day, comes the man from the school checking, why isn’t your daughter at school at the moment? She’s old enough to be at school, she should not be here at home. We’re going to, you know, she’s got to go. So my mother, being telling you what she thought, she said, bugger you, she said, lot, she says, are you gonna take all her things down during the day? Are you going to take her knickers down to go for a pickle and put them back up again? She says, bugger you lot! She’s not going till she’s able to do from the hospital, she said, go away, go away! So, they said, well, it’s still not stopping you from going to work, to my mother, so she had to take work. So I got looked after by the younger sister, who was backwards and forwards working to the, one of the office, uhm, film places, yeah, where I told ye, uhm, I can’t remember what they were called cause I forget now but I shall remember eventually.
HD: [unclear]
BP: Yes, that’s it,
HD: Yes.
BG: Going round with the chocolates and stuff, that’s it. So, she used to look after me at home and Mum had to go to work. She got sent to work at Fisons fertilizers, which was right near where the horseracing used to take place in Lincoln and when she was there, she was the manageress of the canteen, so she used to do the food and what not. While she was there, there was a group of foreigners, German and Italian mainly, in the care of two English soldiers that used to be brought into the café, well, canteen it was in those days, into the canteen for them to get a drink and there used to be coming with them, with a slice of bread with a bit of something on it, I don’t know what, a bit of not butter or anything like that on it and these foreigners used to have to sit in a separate part while they got a drink and ate this sandwich and then my mother was so sorry for them, and she said, oh, the poor devils, she says, so the man who was looking after them, the sergeant that was looking after them said, we’re at war with them, so my mum said, we might be, we, no need to starve them and she used to go and give them a bit of meat on the plate. And they all called her Mama, oh Mama, and you should have seen the most wonderful things they made for her, the Italian people made gorgeous things and gave them to her like, you know, ships in a bottle and stuff like that and she had them for ages.
HD: Right.
BP: Yeah.
HD: Do you know anything about these foreigners? Where did they, why were they there and?
BP: Well, I mean, where they’d actually come from I don’t know. They didn’t tell us anything, we weren’t told anything like that, you see. You did, they just were brought in and that was it, and what they were actually doing somewhere was something like, seemed farming, they were doing some farming or something or other under the help of the people that watching them, yeah. They were doing the farming. And Mum was there ages until after the end of the war. Yeah, there we go. I remember going in there when I was at school and it was school holidays and I went down to have my lunch there and all these Italians came in, you know, and [unclear] you’re that bad and [unclear].
HD: Oh, and they went in everyday, did they?
BP: They used to come in, yeah, they used to be brought in during the day, in the morning, just to have the sort of little drink of whatever and then a little bit of hard bread with next to nothing on it which my mother was really sorry for and added bits to it all the time, which they appreciated and gave her all the bits and bobs and called her Mama, yeah.
HD: Oh. Did she ever keep in touch with any [unclear]?
BP: No, because they all went back to where they came from, you see, yeah, so she didn’t keep in touch with any of them, no.
HD: Did your father ever meet any foreigners?
BP: Well, yeah, the foreigners that, well, no, he did, no, he didn’t meet the foreigners, no, because he was working all the time, you see. He was either, he was home in bed, catching up on his sleep or working, so he didn’t meet people, they didn’t take him into the factories cause they didn’t want him to know what was going in the factories, did they?
HD: No.
BP: So,
HD: And did you uhm during the war, did you see the planes going over or hear them?
BP: Oh yes, could you hear the planes going over, that was the thing. When the first alarm used to go off, you know, I can’t remember exactly [unclear], sort of a wailing thing like [mimics a wailing sound] you could actually get it if you [unclear], and then we’d say, oh heck, they’re here again and then if they were right over head it was [mimics a deep droning sound] like that, you know, big noise, really big noise, and of course there used to be people walking round all the time, to make sure that all the windows had been blocked up, we’d have all the windows blocked up with wood, completely, and there was always people walking round the streets, keeping their eye that there were nobody with the light on. And if anybody had got a light on, the, these people that were working that way, [unclear] put that bloody light out! Because of course you could see from above that where we were, so we had every window blocked off with wood, like wood things over the tops of the windows in every room and if you needed to go to the toilet which was outside, we used to have to just creep through till we could actually get there and funnily enough talking about toilets, on one Sunday, there was a daytime attack, and we were really worried cause we were right opposite Clarke’s Crank Works and they were trying to get to these places you see but I was in the toilet which was outside when the alarm went off, and it was the strong alarm and I flung myself down to the toilet floor [laughs],
HD: They were right above you.
BP: Because I couldn’t get in the house to get into the shelter, now all of us outside the houses had the shelters built, we all had shelters built in all the roads you know.
HD: Right, ok.
BP: Yeah.
HD: Was that in the garden or?
BP: No, no,
HD: Just in the road.
BP: In the roads by the council, they were all big brick, uhm, things that we went in where there was room for to sleep or whatever if you needed to,
HD: And so all the families went in, too?
BP: Oh yeah, yeah, they were in, all the streets, they had the big thing, especially when they were near somewhere where they knew there was likely to be danger, but we tried not to use the, them too much because we didn’t like them, yeah.
HD: What was it like in there?
BP: Well, it was fusty and it was, there was some room to sit and some room to lie down and some room to go for a wee and that sort of stuff but we tried not to go into it. The place we used to go into when the alarms went off was under the stairs, always under the stairs, in the cupboard under the stairs, that
HD: And you’d all fit in?
BP: We used to get in there, yeah. And the funny thing once, it was coming up to a Christmas and a friend of mums was getting a chicken ready for cooking and Mum and I were there when this alarm went off and they made you [mimics a droning sound] and we all had to dive into her cupboard under the stairs with the poor old chicken sitting on the table while it all cleared up and we could get through to get it sorted out, it was terrible, I remember that [unclear], been hid under that, yeah. And my dad and mum used to go and stand outside the garden and do, well, it was a backyard actually, to see when they could see the planes going over, and my dad always used to know whether they were right over Ruston’s or on the line and they never got there, you know, they never got to Ruston’s, because they got muddled up with the railway line.
HD: Yeah.
BP: But there was lots and lots of bombing, and there was one incident in particular which infuriated me. I was, I say, about elven at the time, cause I was up at South Park High School for girls at that time, and my sister Jess, who’d been at home when she’d got one little girl called Pat, that was my, one of my sisters a little girl, and her husband had gone to Grantham to work on some foundries at Grantham, so she came to stay with us. Well, there used to be an extra-large bum thing, it was an awful thing, there was a name to it and people would remember but I can’t remember the name of it but it used to come over with a terrible noise, really loud noise and it was, frightened people to death because if you could hear that above your head, you knew trouble was happening and what annoys me that particular day, my sister was sleeping in bed with me and her little girl and me dad ran up the stairs and took me sister’s little girl, left me upstairs to come down on me own so I was a bit annoyed about that. But as it went on this damn thing was going [makes a humming noise] over your head and as soon as it stopped, it had blown up and it had blown me dad’s garden up, right at the top of Canwick Hill, where all the thing is, right at the top,
HD: Yes
BP: Blew up there,
HD: And that was a German
BP: A huge, big, special, can’t remember what it was called but somebody will, but it was massive, it wasn’t a plane, it was been sort of brought in by no pilot, if you know what I mean,
HD: Right.
BP: Yeah, it was a bombing thing that I found out about and it used to come in and as long as it as making a noise, we knew we could here it, but if it stopped, oh my God, it’s gonna drop on us, you know, but fortunately it didn’t.
HD: Oh. So, there was a bomber up there at Canwick?
BP: Lots, lots of bombs, yeah. Going that way. They used to go all over the place but mostly they were trying, the ones with pilots in were trying to get the ones down here. The other ones, they didn’t care where they dropped them, they dropped it to frighten us, I think, more than anything.
HD: Yes, yes. How did you feel, as a child, growing up during this time?
BP: Well, uhm, how did I feel? Well, I used to listen to my dad and my mum talking about it a lot, you know, on the paper or on the radio as it was in those days. And they used to talk about places that had been bombed and this, that and I remember them talking about Coventry and when Coventry was completely destroyed and I do remember that and I do remember, I’ve been twice back to Coventry, since then, since I’ve been, you know, grown up, to see the actual alterations they’d done to it, but I said to my grandchildren when we went, don’t go into the actual cathedral, look at the old stuff that was left there originally and the, uhm, cross is there amongst the old stuff and I said, if you go and say a prayer, say it there, not inside, say it there, because it was totally destroyed. So, we knew from the newspapers what was happening and actually we were really very lucky cause we were, you know, having all these things being built but they never actually got to us, you see, they kept missing us and apparently when the airmen were going out and coming in from all the bombers around here, dozens of them, weren’t they and all over the place, uhm, they always used to look for the cathedral, as this is the place where we coming from and that is the place where we coming from. And then the thing that hurt me most of all of course was Bill, when Mum asking them round for the Sunday lunches you see, Mum and Dad used to go into the uhm, the pub on a Saturday night, it was, how the hell was it called? I talked to you a few minutes and I’ve forgotten it now, it was, what the hell the pub was called, it was next to the crossings, across Canwick Road, which then led up to the Broadgate [unclear] and I used to get taken there but shoved in the kitchen with a glass of lemonade, which I detested, sitting there with no television in those days, no radio, rats or cats and stuff running about while my mum and dad were in the actual pub itself sopping and drinking and going to and they fetched me in when the time had stopped for this closing so I used to get to actually see one or two people and this is where Mum and Dad had got to know Bill and the other lad, uhm, he was the other lad who came from, uhm, I told you, didn’t I? Where did I tell you he came from? He was a black lad, he came from, not Trinidad, I can’t remember, it’s in my book anyway.
HD: Jamaica?
BP: Jamaica. Jamaica, that was it, yeah. And Mum used to say, you poor lads, where are you stationed at? Now, they weren’t supposed to tell you where they were stationed at, you know? No, no, you, can’t tell you, and it was very convenient for him to come in on a Saturday night because in those days the bus stop was dead opposite the pub which, if you went further up, you’d get the railway, do you know where I mean, don’t you? And this pub was there and they used to go in there and Mum asked them if they’d like to come for Sunday lunch and twice they came for Sunday lunch. It was Bill, Bill Owen, the one that was the love of my life at that time, and the other lad who came in, was the fellow from Jamaica, Louie I think he was called, and they used to come and have Sunday lunch and they always went out the front door and I, not the back door, the front door, and I always used to go to the door to see them out, and this Bill, William George was his name, I found all that out later, William George Owen and he came from just outside London and I used to go out to the front door to say cheerio to him and I was thirteen by then gazing at him and he was eighteen and he used to say, when I’m back, I’ll come back and marry you, you know that? Which of course he never did and you got the poem, do you? And I can remember vividly the thing that really struck me most I think, anything I can ever think about, I knew about bombs and I knew about planes and I knew about being killed but somebody that I really cared about, you know, as much as that, at thirteen you see this gorgeous young man who we had no idea was at Skellingthorpe aerodrome, that’s where they were, and we didn’t know that they’d be going that night on a bombing thing you see and the Jamaican lad didn’t go because he’d got an kidney infection so he was lucky not to go off on that trip, somebody else went, Bill was the navigator and the one that actually got away, got dropped out, was the bomb aimer, he actually managed to get out, before the whole thing was blown up, and he was kept prisoner of war for the rest of the war. Now, I did have but I searched high and low and can’t find it, but my daughter thinks I took it up there when I went up there the first time, which was a letter from the one who did escape, telling them that he’d been a prisoner of war and where he’d been and what he’d been doing. Now, I thought,
HD: Can you remember his name?
BP: Uhm, no, I can’t.
HD: Because he was the bomb aimer.
BP: He was, he was the bomb aimer and he got out the front of it, yeah. But I can’t remember his name, no, you’d have to go back to find the Owens and that sort of thing to find who they were but they were at Skellingthorpe aerodrome and when I found out that what had happened and what not and as I grew older, and I got a boyfriend, and I always remember Bill to this day, I went and had a little plaque made for him which is in, still in Skellingthorpe, just inside Skellingthorpe, a little plaque in memory of him and I used to go and take flowers down there, uhm, even after I was married, you know, my husband realised that, you know, it was just what I was teenage [unclear] and so, that was, that was very, very sad, very sad. And there used to be a lot of famous songs in those days like Vera Lynn, you know, I’ll be seeing you, but you know I [unclear] this famous song that I used to love, it was, now let me think, I’m gonna tell you the name of it [unclear] because I’ve asked some friends of mine who live opposite who have got all the wartimes music cause he used to do it. I said, just lend me them sometimes, I can listen to them all again but I do listen to them now I get the opportunity and there was this particular song, I’ll be seeing you, it was called, I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places [singing] and that sort, I’ll be looking at the moon and I’ll be seeing you [singing], you know, one of those sort of things, and I used to be singing that all the time, you know, I mean, you know, the small café, park across the way, and I was virtually singing to Bill, you know, all the time. I went out to be fortune told, when I was much older, much older, and married and we went to see some old lady I can’t remember where it was and she was doing my reading, [unclear] laughing, thinking it was a joke, and she says to the, out of the blue, she said, by the way, I’m telling you, she said, I don’t know whether you know anything about this but, she said, there’s a young man in Air Force blue standing at the side of you. I said, oh my God! And I would be twenty odd then, I thought, my God, who’s that? She says, he’s there, he’s at the side of you. I found strange. Yeah,
HD: Yes.
BP: Very, very strange. So, anyway, that was that, so then, what happened then? We went on, oh, the day the war was over, that was a fantastic day.
HD: Yes, tell me about that.
BP: A fantastic day that was. When we realised the war was over, you know I told you we had all the shelters, the brick shelters, well, the young lads were teenage boys by now and me a teenage girl by then, I was fourteen by then, and that would be right, would it? What was the year the finished?
HD: 1945.
BP: 1945.
HD: Yes.
BP: I was born in ’31, yeah, I was thirteen,
HD: Yes, yeah.
BP: Yeah, so I was fourteen and I used to go round there and the lads used to grab the girls and take them in the shelters and kiss the girls and all that sort of thing and in Cooling Street, which was there but is no longer there, there used to be a place at the bottom where a fellow did a potato business and we often during the war, used to go into his potato sheds if the thing was going as well and I can’t remember the name of the man, I know he was a well-known bloke, but when they found out about it, everybody went mad, and all the windows in Cooling Street had got the windows right open and music coming out and people were dancing and all this you know and it was really exciting that was that we realised that it was over,
HD: [unclear]
BP: Yeah, it really was, you know, it was one of those really interesting times there, yeah
HD: So,
BP: My husband by the way, the war was still on while he was in the army, he was, uhm, part, no, he was not called up until quite late because he worked as a post office engineer and he was doing piles, you know, big things, and
HD: [unclear]
BP: [unclear] there and digging, so he got time, not called up straight away, but towards the end of the war, they did call him up then, and he had to go up and he was taken up to, because he was doing that kind of work, they wanted that kind of work, and he was taken to one of the most famous places where [laughs] they were all, they were all the soldiers, which I can’t remember the bloody name of, but there’s loads of them but he went to one, up North Yorkshire, and he was there a long time and he was in the Royal Signals, he became a member of the Royal Signals, and he was very lucky because they were deciding on this particular day that got rows of them out and the group next to him was sent abroad but my husband’s group were kept here and they were doing all sorts of stuff with listening to things coming in and messages and all sorts of stuff, and he was actually taken ill while he was there with some infection or other he’d got and he was taken down to the hospital down south, somewhere right down towards or really near the coast and he was in a hospital there for about five weeks. I’ve got a box full of letters that he’d sent to me all the time he was in the army.
HD: Really?
BP: Yeah.
HD: So, where did you meet your husband?
BP: I met him at the Drill Hall.
HD: Oh, the Drill Hall.
BP: Yeah, oh, this was interest as well, the Drill Hall in those days was the place where everybody went to and it was absolutely packed out and we had a fantastic band and it used to be full people that were, the soldiers if there were, it was the night off, and then off course the Americans came. So, of course all things changed when the Americans came and I do wish I could find this, I’ve been looking for this all over but I think my daughter’s got it, which I’m really mad about cause I’ve looked [unclear] churned it out but anyway I’ll tell you about it instead, so the Americans arrived and all the young girls decided they’d put Max Factor on and big lipsticks and all that kind of stuff, but I didn’t, I wasn’t that sort of person, I just didn’t bother, and I couldn’t mum let me wear earrings evening, no, if she knew I had any earrings I had to get a clout, no, you’re not having that, you can’t do that and don’t let me find you coming out of that Drill Hall with any of those Yanks and all this that, she used to play hell she did. So, anyway, we were at the Drill Hall, and that’s where I met my husband, I’ll tell you about [unclear] first, then I’ll tell you about the Americans. So, was up at the Drill Hall, with a crowd of friends, and there was a crowd of lads that I knew and they were a bit rough and tumble lads, they were too young to be called up, sixteen, seventeen ages, and we stopped, I stopped talking to him, I’m wearing a green dress I can remember that vividly, and I was talking to him a bit and he said, oh, hi, you got to talk to us for a bit, this four or five lads, I said, I’m not talking to you, rough lot, I said, I have come here to dance not talk to you lot. So this young lad called Benny, who now lives in Canada, and wanted my husband to go with him, that, now that’s another thing I’ll tell you in a minute about that, [unclear] tell you about the Drill Hall first, and I said, I’m not stopping with you lot, you can’t dance, I’m [unclear], so, this lad said, Benny said, [unclear] can dance, so, I looked at this young lad, seventeen year old lad, in a lovely black suit, dressed up, lovely black hair, that sort of lot to do and I said, what, can you dance? He said, well, do you want to go round then? Those were his words [laughs] excited, wasn’t it, charming. Do you want to go round though? [laughs], oh well, come on then. So, that’s when I started dancing, that’s when I first met him, you see, at the Drill Hall. And then, it was Christmas Eve, and I was fifteen, so, whichever year it was, you work that out, he was seventeen and we arranged to meet up the next day and which was Christmas Day and I lied to me mother and told me mother that the war was [unclear] of course that I was just gonna meet a friend from school, but I meant to meet him in the Arboretum in Lincoln for about an hour chatting at the Arboretum [laughs] and my mum never knew but anyway that was that and he didn’t say I’ll meet you again so therefore I thought, well, I’m not very interested in him and he’s not very interested in me but funnily enough the following night which was the night after we’d been on the Christmas now, we were at this group of lads house again, because the lady that used to come round delivering the milk, was a black lady, I don’t know where she was from but my mum really loved her, she was called Doris, and my mum used to ask her to come in every morning for a cup of tea when she was delivering the milk and she said to my mum, why don’t you let your Beryl come and see our lads? She wanted to get me with one of her boys you see. [unclear] I said, I’m not going there, and she says, oh, we are having a party on, she said, at Christmas, why don’t you come? I said, I’m not going, I’m [unclear] a bit too shy, I’m not going to be there, so she said, this was the night after I’ve met Set for the first time, so I went down to her house and she was the milkwoman and I knocked at the door, really shy, [unclear] and she says, oh, I’m ever so pleased you’ve come, Beryl, anyway I walked in and who’s sitting in there? There is these group of lads and this bloke that I’d met the night before and been in the Arboretum with and he was kissing a girl when I walked in so I was a bit, I’m not very happy about this [laughs], but that was where it sort of all started from, you know, from that. So, anyway, that was that and so, let me think of what else what we did. Course food was,
HD: I was going to say, the rations.
BP: Ah, now that, I can tell you a lot about rations,
HD: Yes, rationing.
BP: Now, clothes rationing, now, that was, if you got clothes, wanted to get some clothes, you were to sell your clothes rations, give it to those people who couldn’t afford to buy clothes, so my Mum, was a devil, she was, and she, Vera, my sister was married by then and the people who lived next door to her, they were really hard up, and my Mum used to go round there and buy from them all their clothes coupons and so we could get clothes because I was wanting clothes and South Park uniform and all that so mum did that, she used to do that regularly, and it used to go into the shops in those days, when you went in with your thing, they used to say to you, [unclear] to the counter [whispering] so they did that a lot as well, you see, they’d have a bit of [unclear] if you went there regularly and I remember when the first bananas came in, at the end of the war there, and we went round the market and I used to go on a Saturday morning, I was working for the civil service at that time, and it was a Saturday morning for me to go and get the shopping for me mum, and we went down to the market and the butchers and they used to say, do you want a banana [whispering], these was people behind the counter, you see, and if you’d been a [unclear], you got some bananas, which was, [unclear] used to give you some, you see, so we got bananas before most people did.
HD: Yeah. Did you ever go hungry? Did you ever feel hungry?
BP: No, we didn’t, because a) because my Dad had his garden, and he kept chickens, he, every type of vegetal that he could find, potatoes, the whole lot, you know, all that sort of stuff, meat I suppose was the thing which we were short of, it was always the thing that we were short of, and eggs used to be quite short of as well, and we had limited amount for, tickets for it but when my mum [unclear] working at the canteen, she used to be very naughty and come home at night with a plate full of stuff, you see, that hadn’t been eaten up during the day, so we, we didn’t go hungry at all.
HD: No.
BP: We were very lucky. Neither would we, did we go unclothed because she got, she got coupons, she used to buy the coupons and the woman that she bought the coupons from, because my mum was working, that particular woman, come and cleaned the house for me mum while I was at school and she was at the [unclear] at work and when me dad was at work fulltime which he was, it was daytime, cause he did shifts with me brother and I was off school if it’s a school holidays, and stuff like that, I used to do me dad’s dinner for him and that sort of stuff [laughs],
HD: Oh.
BP: You know, we used to have such fun and laugh about that, I loved my dad. And I remember that, you know, we all went to this big [unclear] as I’ve said to you at the end of the war, you know, I left, [unclear] much to talk about it, me dad to talk about it, I went to talk about it with all the girls and boys, you know, we were fifteen then and those were the days sort of thing. Fourteen and fifteen anyway, coming August, wasn’t it? When it was
HD: Oh yes
BP: When it came up so it was, not quite fifteen, I was fourteen, fifteen in October, yeah,
HD: Yeah, yeah.
BP: So, that was all interesting.
HD: Yeah.
BP: Yeah, was all interesting. Lovely music in those days like Vera Lynn and really sad music. Now, this is an idea for you, when they actually get this thing all organised, I think a real essential thing, this has come to my mind, while the people are looking round there and there’s gonna be a café and God knows what up there, for Heaven’s sake, we want wartime war Two, World War Two music, not anything of todays, we want World War Two, I think that’s essential, because if people didn’t know it, they’ll soon learn it and the songs were so wonderful in those days, I mean, I’ve got a great list as long as my arm, probably on the table there and on a bit of paper, but that’s what needs to be there, definitely, I think that’s absolutely essential, to be there.
HD: You were telling me about the Drill Hall and then you were telling me about the Americans.
BP: Oh God, yes, don’t cut cut, I forgot to tell you this.
HD: Yeah.
BP: This was, you don’t [unclear], not have anything to do with the Americans, I do wish I got this, I’ve looked all over for it, now I realise that [unclear] at my daughter’s house, I’m really peed off with that, so anyway, we were there, I was with Ses but I’ve fallen out with him, we used to fall out like hell actually but we did get back together, at the time we weren’t going out together and then we were going out together and then we weren’t. And his friend actually, Benny, wanted him to move to Canada with him, to go to Canada and Ses said, I don’t think I want to, and he stayed at home in England and Benny went to Canada and apparently they did a decision between them and this must have been just about coming up to the end of the war or whatever, it was a decision, was it gonna be Beryl or Canada and to my husband Ses it was Beryl, so I stayed here and he went to Canada and he still rings me from there, from Canada, when my husband died, he rang up, nearly [unclear] did die, and he got to know already from people in Lincoln. Anyway, talking about the Drill Hall, so the girls were all done up and done up and they came, all the Americans came in in their fantastic uniforms, and there were a few Polish people, soldiers there as well and we liked the Polish soldiers very much for staying on our side, weren’t they? And they were there and they had fairly rough uniforms but the Americans, [unclear], and big, big band and all that kind of thing and the jiving and of course before they came, the Americans, we were all doing swaltzes and what not, as soon as they came, it was the jiving you see, and the people who were sort of going round and seeing if everything was alright, stop that you two, you’re here to be dancing, not here to be jiving, stop that, but we all did and we took no notice of them. And there was an old chap who came every single week to the Drill Hall in his wheelchair just to watch us dancing and he really enjoyed it, he was a wonderful chap that chap, and anyway, on this particular night, I’d had a fall out with Ses for some reason, although that was quite regular, all our life I think [laughs], but anyway, uhm, this chap came up to talk to me, and he was just an ordinary chap in ordinary clothes, and he said, I don’t know why you picked me, to tell you the truth, but I still don’t know, but I know what I wore, I was in a red, bright red and white striped dress which was a very full one at the bottom and really posh at the top which suited me a lot because it fitted me, you know, my face and that, was quite good looking actually, and still am actually, I tell you [laughs], you wouldn’t think I said that would you? So, no, that’s what I keep telling them, but I am, anyway so, anyway, this chap came up and said, I’m doing [unclear] a bit of interest but [unclear] sending back to the States, I said, oh yeah? I said, what’s all that then? He said, well, he said, I want to let the people in the States know what’s happening with the Americans over here, you know, and he said, do you know much about them? I said, no, I don’t know much about them at all, I said, my mother won’t let me have anything to do with them at all, I said, I don’t like. So he said, uhm, oh, he says, well friends, I said, yeah, but I don’t know anything about them but I said, I can tell you one thing, he said, what? I said, five of my girlfriends have all got dates with them. These were the girls who were made up to the and five of them did marry them, did actually marry, moved off and married to them. And one of them, called Yvonne, who was really quiet, she got married and had five children in America, when she got over there, yes. We didn’t see any black Americans though at the Drill Hall, they were all white or probably a little bit but not much, I thought they were really good looking if they were black. As I was uptown once with me mother, going into a shop and this tall, handsome black bloke, I used to look at [unclear], good looking man, I thought, oh, he’s a real good looking man, sharp, he’s black and he’s American [unclear] so I had a look at him, shut up. Anyway, carrying back to the Drill Hall, so this chap was asking me about the Drill Hall and what we knew about the Americans and our with the Americans sitting in and this, that and the other and bits of information about the girls and that, I said, where’s this for, this for? I said, cause I’m not supposed to be here, I said, my mother don’t let me to the Americans, where the Americans are, so I said, I’m not supposed to be here, so he said, well, he’s not going to be here if they put this into the States, so I said, are you sure? He said, yeah, so he says, I wonder if you should do something for me, I said, what? He said, I want you to dance with that American young lad in that pretty frock you’ve got on, that red bright strap frock, so I said, are you sure he’s not going to America? I’m absolutely sure. So, anyway, this sergeant, American sergeant came, and there we are, dancing like hell, you know, going to and all the girls [unclear] had to pick her to do it, anyway [laughs], so that was that, so I thought, me mum won’t know anything about that, [unclear] I shan’t be in any trouble. So, the following weekend, after having been said it will not be published in England, I’ve got this, [unclear] trying to find it to show you cause it would be fantastic and anyway I thought nobody will know, so Mum went into the paper shop on a Saturday the following week, to pick up the papers, and [unclear] and I knew, someone had told me, oh my god, your picture’s in! I said, oh no, no, no, surely not, oh I’ll be killed, I’ll be killed, don’t, there it is, it is, I said, you’re telling it now, so it goes, my mum goes in the shop, not with me, thank God, he opens his mouth, he said, by God it’s a good picture your Beryl dancing with that Yank, in’t it? And my mother said, what the hell are you talking about? And [laughs], and there on the double page in this magazine is Beryl dancing [laughs].
HD: Were you in trouble?
BP: Yes [laughs], except I told her that they just asked me to do it for America, to send to America. So I said, oh, I nearly dropped dead when that chap told me it was in the, oh, I thought, my God, I’m gonna get kicked in the backside forevermore, but then she quite laughed at it, really, cause it was such a good photograph of me.
HD: So, forgave you.
BP: Yeah, she forgave me but she said, shouldn’t be doing that! You shouldn’t be, I told you not to, to keep away from them! And then one night the young man once, one of the Americans once asked if he could walk me home, so I thought, oh, this is going to be trouble as well, cause, you know, that’s no good, so I said, oh, I don’t think so really, cause I was always a bit worried, you know, about people, other than I got that feeling that the Americans were a bit forward sort of thing, but this lad was a nice lad, and I can’t remember his name, he was an American from Texas, I remember that, very well, from Texas, in fact that place where the fellow got shot, the American
HD: President,
BP: What was his name?
HD: John Kennedy.
BP: That’s it, yes, he was from the same town. Texas, somewhere there. Anyway, he said, can I walk you home? I said, yes but not all the way, don’t go right down in case my mother sees you [unclear]. So, I said, oh dear, don’t she like us? I said, not really. So, I said, he said, can I meet you tomorrow night then? Tomorrow during the day, to go to the cinema, I said, yes, alright, that’s alright. Anyway, when the day came, I must tell you about the bomb as well, I’m telling you forever, you will be here forever. Anyway when the day came, the, now what was she, my sister’s daughter, my niece, she used to be there all the time, I told you [unclear] her husband was working at Grantham, and I saw this American standing where he was supposed to meet me and I chickened out after that, I’m not going, [unclear] me mother knew that, so I said to Pat, this was the daughter, I said, can you go and tell that American that I’m not too well and I can’t come today? [laughs] So she did. Poor lad. And then, so that was another one with the Americans when I was, I daren’t have anything to do with the [unclear], anyway, I thought, I was stuck up, and cocks up, and you know, better uniform and who the hell are you kind of thing. And most of the girls that were done up to the eyebrows couldn’t get there quick enough, you know. but I’m telling you about, have you heard about those things that came and they just buzzed and as long as it was buzzing, it was alright and if it stopped buzzing, you were in real trouble. You know about that?
HD: Oh, right, ok then.
BP. There was this huge big thing and I don’t remember what it was called, somebody will know, and it was awful sound, it was [mimics and intermittent humming] and it made this terrible noise and it was a real killer that one was, and this is where me sister Jes and Pat, the one I’ve just been talking about, were sleeping in my bed cause her husband was working at Grantham doing thing and this was going over their head, our head and dad said, oh my God, it’s one of those, get, let’s get downstairs quick. So, he runs to get us downstairs quick but he did, he got me last, he picked me granddaughter and he left me last, I’ve told him that hundred of times when he was, you didn’t damn well take me. Anyway, when it cut off, it cut off exactly where that bomber place gonna be now, right at the top of Canwick Hill, that’s where it exploded, right on me Dad’s garden, and what not, right at the top, and he could hear it coming over. So it just missed us because we lived not very far from there, near Coltham Street, Cooling Street was only at the bottom of the hill really,
HD: Yes.
BP: So we had a bit of a lucky escape there.
HD: Yeah.
BP: But.
HD: So, we talked about when the war finished.
BP: Yeah.
HD: What happened after the war then? Did you all just get back to normal routine, as it was before or,
BP: Well,
HD: Were there many changes?
BP: I think it [coughs] depended. Depended whether they were injured or not, of course, that was one of the things, but they came, if they came back in one piece, most of them easily got jobs because women had bene doing all the work. You see, the women were working in all the factories and come back absolutely filthy, that sister of mine who met her husband in the factory there and so most of them got jobs but now, what year was it when the war ended?
HD: It was ’45.
BP: ’45, so I would have been sixteen then. I was working at that time at the post office, I was working for the telephone manager’s office [unclear] actually, that’s what I was doing, and I worked there a long time at the telephone manager’s office, and then I went into the office, the civil service I was doing, had to do an exam for that, which I did, and the school exams as well and I did the civil service exam and got into the civil service and as I worked in the telephone numbers, how much it cost people at Ruston’s and so to and then I had got moved into one that was for wages and stuff like that, which was much more interesting, and my husband who’d been in the army and had always been with the post office, he came back to the post office, but he worked with the, putting up new lamps and all that sort of stuff, and trying to get telephones in, there was desperately need for telephones in those days, and you couldn’t get one for love of the money and you had to put your name down for can you get me a phone or all that, I was dealing with a lot of that as well. We, and my husband at the same time was working for the post office, and this bit’s really funny actually, he was digging down somewhere near one of the poles and by per chance and by the fact that Ses has been able to do it for it, my mother had got a telephone and nobody anywhere near us had a telephone but she got one and a crafty you see, from somebody who worked there, and everybody used to come to our house to see if they could make use of the phone but Ses was working this particular night and doing something down there and he picked her phone call up on the line,
HD: [unclear]
BP: Part by accident, but then he was dafted off, the silly devil, to tell my mum that he’d heard her talking to a chap on the phone cause my dad was dead by then and I was furious she was going to report it or God knows what [laughs].
HD: So when did your father die?
BP: My dad, oh, my dad died, oh, let me think, he was only young actually, he was sixty two, so if I was born, if I was born in 1931, and he was, he was knocking on, won’t he? He was when my mother had me I would be thirty odd, so he must have been sixty, about sixty two I think, and what happened there was, it was very sad actually that I knew there was something wrong with me dad and the people at work in the foundries knew it was, something was wrong, he didn’t seem to look well and he was all sitting down and he was always, you know, wanting a drink and stuff. And I used to go up to the garden with him and he came in from work [unclear], he looked awful and I was married by then but I was and I had a house near me mum and I’d come up to see her and no children by then, we didn’t have any children for a long time after we’d got married but I came what’s wrong with me Dad? So she, I said, he’s got to go to the doctors, so he went to the doctors, for the first time, he should’ve been going for donkeys years, and he’d been diagnosed with sugar diabetes, and he looked awful that night, when he came back on the Friday in the chair and he was sitting there and my mum said, I’m gonna give you a couple of scones with a bit of sugar, I said, you’re not, Mum, no, no, you’re not. Where have you been? I said, he’s got sugar diabetes. You are not giving him that, I said, that’s no good to him. Anyway, the next day, they fetched him up, took him up to the hospital, no, on a Sunday they took him up to the hospital, on a Saturday, as I lived in the same street, I went up to look after him and he was in bed, oh God, he was ill. He couldn’t even get out of bed to pee, so my mother won’t have anything to do with it. She was a bully woman, my mother, bloody awkward woman really but knew what she was doing when she was awkward, and my dad wanted to pee and she won’t, oh I’m not, I said, keep out of the way, so I went in, I said to me dad, stay where you are Dad, I’ll get the pot, get your bits in here, I said, I’ll look after you. And I said, to me mum when I came down, and I said, this is serious, me dad needs to be at the hospital. So we got him up to the hospital on the Saturday. The next morning, we got a message from the hospital, can you come up, he is very ill. And I was still living in the same street as them, with me husband, and I rushed up to tell me mum told me with her phone, the only one we’ve got that somebody had sent a message that can you come down, you’re needed up to go up to the hospital. So I went down to me mother’s and I said, just going to have a quick look in the Bible, Mum, and she said, look in there, look in there, and this is Goodness truth, and I opened it and the first things that went between the eye, it said, and they buried him. And I said to me mother, there’s no point in going, me dad’s dying and she said, don’t be ridiculous, she made me go up there with him but by the time we got there he was dead. Just like that. And the Bible told me. Yeah, we have buried him. I can remember that to this day that was awful, yeah, terrible. I could shed a tear there, surprised I don’t shed a lot more actually, me poor old dad, yeah. My mother, she was a funny old bugger, she would, she liked all the fellows and she had lots of fellows after me dad died but I didn’t, I didn’t want anything more to do with them. But, yeah. So,
HD: You’ve had a lot of experiences
BP: Oh my God, I could [unclear], yeah. Was at hospital from being first at five at school, and not coming out till I was seven, with callipers on all the time and I’ve got loads of photographs of those upstairs and tonnes of photographs of the whole family I’ve got, that I found the family history actually, yeah, on that table there and my book are [unclear] there as well and lot of interesting stuff in that as well as a matter of fact but some of it has been sort of cut back a little bit but a lot of it is interesting and you know, it was, yeah, it was very hard going really and before when I was a child, as I grew old, as I got caught in and me mother used to be standing at the end of the passageway, come on, who are you with [unclear], it was always the same bloke, it was always the same that I came home with, and he played table tennis, he was a table tennis fanatic, and so I used to, during the week nights, he was always playing table tennis at this club and I used to meet him afterwards, when he left there, and funnily enough, when he died, which was about eighteen months ago now, when we had him in his coffin, I said, I want him to look good, cause he had cancer and we knew he’s got cancer and we knew it was coming and we got him in for the last four days, had his life here, but on a ward bed and all that, and I was singing songs to him, I can remember that as well, [unclear] bit of another tear now, anyway this particular night, I was on the stairs, this has nothing to do with the war really but it’s life, isn’t it? But I was at the stairs and the Marie Curie people were here and she shouted, I think you’d better come down. Anyway, I came downstairs and as I came down on the last breath, that [unclear] it up but I was telling about putting him in his clothes in his coffin, they said, do you want to [unclear] him? I said, yes. What’s he gonna wear? I said, I’ll sort that out. And my daughter wouldn’t have anything to do with it, she was terrified and she was terrible when her dad died, I think it always is when your dad goes. Anyway, so I said, he’s wearing his table tennis shirt, his table tennis jacket, his shorts, his plimsoles, I said and here he’s having his bat and ball so she said to me, at the [unclear], shall I remove that bat and ball before he goes? I said, no, he’s gonna play up there when he gets up there cause my young son [unclear], he was in that road accident when he was sixteen and died when he was eighteen, so he was up there, I said, Matthew was up there waiting for, to come for a game of tennis [laughs]. Yeah, oh dear. What a life.
HD: Oh. Well, thank you so much for sharing all these memories.
BP: Oh, I can tell you hundreds.
HD: Very, very kind of you and it’s fascinating.
BP: I’ve got loads more poems, you know.
HD: Oh, have you?
BP: Yeah, I could show you one or two? Do you want a look?
HD: That would be lovely. I’m just going to terminate the interview now.
BP: Yes, no problem.
HD: At 12.45. Thank you Beryl, thank you very, very much.
BP: That’s ok.
HD: Thank you.
BP: I, don’t forget I want the music of the war
HD: Yes.
BP: If anyone puts the other on, I’ll play it [unclear].
HD: Yeah [laughs].



Helen Durham, “Interview with Beryl Pickwell,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2022,

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