Interview with Muriel Stoves

Title

Interview with Muriel Stoves

Description

Muriel was brought up and went to school in Wolverhampton. From the age of six she had wanted to be a teacher. After high school and training college she became a teacher at Low Hill School, mainly teaching English and religious education. She spoke about rationing and the blackout and remembered a bombing when her friend was killed. Muriel married Bill, a Royal Air Force aircrew, who was the pilot of a B-24. On leaving, Bill did Christian work with the armed forces and they resettled for a period in Hong Kong, living in a home for the blind. Whilst there Muriel taught in a British army school. Muriel said everyone revered Winston Churchill because he was a symbol of safety.

Creator

Date

2018-05-09

Language

Type

Format

00:33:19 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

AStovesM180509

Transcription

MS: Now then!
TO: Can you tell me about your life growing up?
MS: Speak up!
TO: Can you tell me about your early life?
MS: My early background?
TO: Yes.
MS: I was brought up in Wolverhampton. I went to school at an ordinary council school, called Miller’s Road school, and I did pretty well there, then I went on to high school, and then to training college, became a teacher, went down with my husband later, went down to Hong Kong, taught at an Army school. What else did I do?
TO: Put this back.
MS: And then Bill and I came home, I got married to an RAF captain, captain of an aircraft and sadly Bill died some, a year or two back. He had a melanoma from the sun: excessive sunburn. I never thought he’d die before me. And um, I’m here now; I’m happy. Don’t tell them, but these people are very nice, aren’t they.
[Other]: They are. Yes. [Laugh]
MS: Now what have you got to say? Come on now.
TO: So, were you surprised when war -
MS: Speak up!
TO: Were you surprised when the war started?
MS: When the war came? No!
[Other]: Tell them about how you found out about that, how the war had started.
MS: Oh, I knew it was, everybody [emphasis] knew there was going to be a war, and I was walking up the street one day in Wolverhampton, I was doing some shopping, and I met a lady, I didn’t know her from Adam, she stopped me, and the only words she said was: ‘We’re at war with Germany,’ and walked on. Just like that. And I thought, oh golly, all that all my mother and father talked to me about when I was a child is coming back today. I was teaching at the time and I went into school and I was at a school in, where, Wolverhampton. Oh shockers! You’ve no idea. ‘I ain’t going to be bossed around by a kid like you!’ That was me. So I soon had to show them what for: that I wasn’t a kid, and that I wouldn’t be bossed and I expected good work and I praised them when I got it. C’est ca. What does c’est ca mean? Well it means that’s that. Don’t forget it or you’ll have to write it out a hundred times. [Laughter] I’ve done that more than once.
TO: What kind of rations did you have?
MS: Eh?
TO: What rations did you have during the war?
MS: Oh, I can’t remember all that. Sugar, butter, margarine, milk came later, I can’t think. Sugar, tea, and lots of other things, those were in short supply. That was why it was rationed, because you couldn’t get it over here. Any more questions, young man?
TO: What - do you remember when the blackout started?
MS: Of course I did, yeah. It was black. You’ve no idea how black it was.
[Other]: Was it?
MS: I walked down the street once with my eyes shut.
[Other]: Naw.
MS: I taught in a school in Wolverhampton, it’s called Low Hill, the girls were very tough. ‘I ain’t going to be bossed around by a kid like you!’ That was me. But I soon showed them that I was boss and I also showed them that I loved them because they needed love, they didn’t get a lot of it at home some of them, and that I would listen to them. They were senior girls and they come, ‘can I have a word with you?’ ‘Yes.’ I’ve got this boyfriend’, I think, oh no not another one. ‘And me mum says,’ oh golly so I said well look, the first thing you should obey your mother, as she is your mother. Two days later the same girl came in all smiles. ‘I did as you said,’ she said,’ and me mum and I are going out tomorrow, shopping. And me mum says I can go out with him on Wednesday.’ It’s a case of listening, isn’t it.
[Other]: It is, yeah. Definitely.
MS: Yes. Now then, what else?
TO: Why did you want to be a teacher?
MS: I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was six I had a little class of my school mates sitting on the door step, the back door step, and I was the teacher. And I said, when I am a teacher - I can remember saying this - I shall wear blouses, like Miss Chapman, she was the headmistress. And when I did become a teacher, I thought I will go to Marks and Spencers and buy myself a new blouse. Forgotten that. As I was putting it on I thought oh golly, I wonder if Miss Chapman would have bought this one? I’ve had a very interesting life. Then I met Bill. He was a RAF pilot. I thought I bet he’s got a lot of girlfriends; we were married a year later, I hadn’t spoken to him. He was captain of a Liberator, which was one of the, you should know, the American big planes and we married and then he left the RAF and he went and did, to do Christian work with the forces and we went to Hong Kong. That’s me in a nutshell. And then sadly Bill died, I never thought he’d die before me. He was so very healthy and fit, but it was too much sun. And he said, this will kill me, he had a melanoma, he said but I’m not afraid. But I miss him even now, he was very, you would have liked him, full of life, absolutely, and experience. Yes. C’est tout. What does c’est tout mean?
TO: That’s that.
MS: That’s all, that’s that. He knows it.
TO: What do you remember about living in Hong Kong?
MS: Remembrance. We lived in a home called a Chinese home for the blind first. My husband had been a Wing Commander in the RAF and he gave it up to do Christian work with the forces in Hong Kong. Bill was RAF captain, Liberators, you know Liberators, big American aircraft. He was one of the RAF’s best captains but he gave it up to do Christian work with the forces and that’s why we went to Hong Kong. I enjoyed it out there. I taught in a school, British Army School. An Army captain came in one day and tried to tell me [emphasis] what to do. In my [emphasis] classroom. I said, ‘Mr Fairhurst,’ I called him Mr, he was Major, ‘I don’t come telling you what to, how to do your work. I’m a fully qualified teacher, don’t come telling me how to do mine. I’ll see you on Friday.’ He didn’t come. I think he couldn’t face that woman on Friday. [Laughter]
[Other]: What did you miss the most in Hong Kong?
MS: A walk, walks down English country lanes.
[Other]: And the trees, didn’t you.
MS: Yes, the countryside. Yes I missed that. I didn’t mind the food, but I missed the open air. It’s very, very built up. Have you been?
[Other]: I have, yes.
MS: Oh I suppose it’s even worse. Where did you stay?
[Other]: I stayed not far from where you lived because I saw the school where you taught.
MS: Which one?
[Other]: The Army school. Where you lived with the blind, in the blind house.
MS: Oh, Ebenezer.
[Other]: Yes.
MS: I didn’t teach there, we lived there. I taught in a British Army school. Gun Club Hill it was called. Yeah. Full of Army majors who came to tell me what to do. [Laugh] They didn’t get very far!
[Other]: I’m sure they didn’t! [Laugh]
MS: Go on, what next?
TO: What do you remember the most about your classes?
MS: Pardon?
TO: What do you remember the most about the classes?
MS: About my?
TO: Classes. Your pupils.
MS: Classes at school? About teaching them? Well, they were very good, they always wanted to learn. They were mostly children of service personnel, mostly Army captains and some of them their fathers would come and tell me, tell me what to do and I’d tell them back what they should do. Which wasn’t quite as safe.
[Other] No. No. [Laugh]
MS: You’d probably think that it wouldn’t be.
[Other]: It wouldn’t be. No
MS: But I expected good work, and I wouldn’t have anything else but the best, and they knew it. One said when he came, and he said, ‘when we came to see you, we hated you, did you hate us?’ I said I did. And then he said, ‘but we all love you now. Aren’t we nice now we’re being made [emphasis] to do as we’re told.’ I said you’re lovely. Yeah. Children need praise and lots of it. Yeah. I’ll get off my soap box now. Put it under there. You can take it home with you. He’s a very nice young man, isn’t he.
[Other]: He’s a very nice young man.
MS: Yes. Now then what’s the next question?
TO: Were there any air raids?
MS: Sorry. What?
TO: Were there any air raids where you lived?
MS: Were there any?
TO: Air raids, bombing?
MS: Air raids?
TO: Yes.
MS: Oh yes, during the war, I was in well, I forget where I lived, down the south of England somewhere, we didn’t get a lot of actual bombing raids where I was, but there were quite a few, yes. I had one in the town where I lived. I had a great friend of mine, she was killed. Had a, her house had a direct hit. But you got used to it. [sigh] Sirens going and run in to the shelters. I was in charge of class of thirty and I enjoyed it. I made them do it; I made them work well. My classes, I always made them do their best, and then I praised them. Some of them didn’t get a lot of praise, especially if they weren’t very clever. So I always found something good to say to them, say, ‘oh that’s better than it was yesterday, or you tried hard, you can do even better tomorrow.’ All the tricks of the trade.
TO: What did you think of Churchill?
MS: Pardon?
TO: What did you think of Churchill?
MS: What did I do to church?
TO: What did you think of Churchill?
MS: Church?
TO: Churchill, the prime minister.
MS: Which church?
TO: Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
MS: Oh Winston? Everybody adored him, because he was a symbol of safety. People looked to him and thought as long as he’s [emphasis] there, we’re all right. He was a very wonderful person. I never met him, wish I had somehow. My husband was a bomber pilot. He said after the war, if there was another war he would be a pacifist, because he realised - do you know what a pacifist is? Because he realised how many people he’d been responsible for their death. And he said no, I’d be a pacifist. He was great. You would have liked him. Full of life. Typical pilot. When I saw him, I thought I bet he’s got a lot of girlfriends; he hadn’t. We were married a year later, yeah. You know my daughter, You’ve met Anne?
[Other]: Anne, yes.
MS: She’s very much like him. Yes, she is, she’s a great girl. C’est tout. What does c’est tout mean?
TO: That’s all.
MS: It means that’s all.
TO: And did, did Bill ever talk about his time?
MS: Pardon?
TO: Did Bill ever talk about his time in the RAF with you?
MS: I can’t hear what you say.
TO: Did Bill ever tell you about his time in the RAF?
MS: Who?
TO: Bill, your husband.
MS: Eh?
TO: Did your husband ever tell you about his time as a pilot?
MS: Ever tell me about what?
TO: His time as a pilot?
MS: His time as a pilot? Well I was married to him for some of his time as a pilot. He didn’t like it. He loved the RAF. He ran away from home and joined. But he said afterwards if there was another war, he would be a pacifist because he felt that he’d been responsible for so many people, possibly dying, with the bombs that he had to drop. Yes, and, I don’t know when Bill died, I’ve forgotten, but he was great fun, full of life. And wonderful with young people, absolutely. So. C’est tout. That’s all. C’est tout. N’est pas. Do you know what n’est pas means? Isn’t it?
[Other]: Isn’t it.
MS: Yes. Je ma parle en francais. I speak to myself in French.
[Other]: I know you do, yeah, I know you do.
MS: Any more questions?
TO: What subjects did you teach to the class?
MS: Speak up!
TO: What subjects did you teach at the schools?
MS: My main subjects were English and RE: both. I did teach other subjects, but they were my main subjects. And funnily enough, about a year ago I was in Wolverhampton, and I saw someone I had taught, and had a word with this lady, she was a lady then, she said, ‘I’ll always remember your RE lessons. You always taught us as if you meant it.’ I said, ‘I did mean it, and I still mean it,’ so, there you are. Now you’ve got me in a nutshell. Yes.
TO: So, when, when was it that you were sent to Hong Kong?
MS: Speak up!
TO: When was it that you were sent to Hong Kong?
MS: Oh golly. I don’t know. I’ve forgotten. I couldn’t tell you an exact date to be quite honest. Bill was in the RAF, I know that. It was just after the war years. Yes. We lived in a, that’s it, we lived in the Chinese home for the blind, Ebenezer Chinese Home for the Blind, that was it. And my husband gave up his job as a pilot and he became sort of a missionary to the forces and we worked with the RAF and the Army, and I still keep in touch with some of the boys, they’re grandparents now, and I met one some weeks, some months ago. He said, ‘I always remember coming to your house every Saturday. We used to have tea with you.’ And then, my husband, who was a wing commander, used to go and give a bible study, he was a wonderful [emphasis] bible teacher, and he got a voice that carried, you know. He used to speak in the open air in Wolverhampton and Christian meetings, one day there was a big crowd round and there were two policemen and I was standing near them. And one policeman said to the other, ‘I come here every Saturday to listen to that chap from the RAF.’ So they didn’t go to church, but they came to listen to him. I felt like turning round saying that’s my husband.
TO: Do you remember the day the war ended?
MS: Speak up now!
TO: Do you remember the day the war ended?
MS: Did what?
TO: What were you doing the day the war ended?
MS: The day war broke out?
TO: The day the war ended.
MS: The day the war ended? Oh goodness I don’t, I can’t remember. I was teaching in Wolverhampton. Oh yes, and I was going to school, no I was going home from school, and I met a woman, I’d never seen her before, and she stopped me and she said just three words: she said, ‘the war’s ended,’ and walked on. Just like that. [Chuckle] Couldn’t believe it. It was great rejoicing, but the, it’s funny enough I taught in a boys’ school to begin with and all they could write about in their essays and whatnot was the war, and most of them had their fathers away, but there, they were good. I enjoyed my teaching. I went into school not long ago and there was a young man teacher in the classroom somebody took me into. And I looked at the blackboard, and I said to him, I said, ‘Look at your writing on that blackboard.’ I said, ‘it’s shocking! How can you expect the children to write decently, if you write like that?’ You know what he says? ‘You’re right, I must improve it.’ So when I go in next time – sharp eyes. One of them said once to me you don’t miss anything. I said I don’t! I used to be writing on the blackboard and I had my glasses on and I could see reflection and I’d shout, ‘so-and-so, stop what you’re doing!’, and one of them said once you must have eyes in the back of your head. I said I need them with you lot! I enjoyed my teaching. [bleep] Yeah. My daughter, she used to teach as well. You know, have you met Anne?
[Other]: I have, yeah.
MS: Very forcible character.
[Other]: Like her mother.
TO: What’s your best memory from the war?
MS: What?
TO: What’s your best memory from the war?
MS: What of?
TO: Of anything. Anything that happened.
MS: Best memory of all?
TO: Yes.
MS: Oh, I couldn’t tell you that. I’ve got so many. Yes. I think my memories of meeting people that I haven’t met before and also giving help to people. I enjoyed helping folk and I did quite a bit of it. And listening to them, not telling them what to do, but listening. People don’t listen enough, do they.
[Other]: No.
MS: No. No, they just leave other people to, in their misery. Yes. I taught in a big girls’ school and they used to come and talk to me. One came, ‘can I have a word,’ ‘Yes.’ ‘It’s me mum,’ I thought oh no, not another one, and ‘I’ve got this boyfriend,’ it’s always this [emphasis] boyfriend. I said ‘well look, I said, ‘you really should [emphasis] obey your mother.’ He wanted to take her out and the mother said no. I said, ‘its up to you.’ I put the ball in her court. A week later she came back all smiles. She said ‘I’m glad I did what you did, said,’ she said, ‘my mum and I are great friends now. And my mum says I can go out with him on Wednesday.’ Teenagers aren’t bad. It’s folk who treat them is bad, some of them. Get off my soap box now, you can take it home with you.
TO: When you were –
MS: Pardon?
TO: When you married Bill -
MS: Sorry, I can’t hear you.
TO: When you got married were you worried that Bill might not survive?
MS: When I married?
TO: Were you worried that Bill might not survive the war?
MS: I can’t hear you.
TO: Were you worried that Bill might not survive the war?
MS: Was I with Bill when I got married?
TO: Were you worried that Bill might not survive the war as a pilot?
MS: I still don’t get it.
[Other]: Do you want me to say it?
MS: Can you tell me what he said?
[Other]: Yeah. When you married Bill,
MS: Oh yes.
[Other]: Did you think he might not survive the war? Were you worried about it?
MS: No!
[Other]: No?
MS: We were so glad we that were getting through it. I never worried about anything, not badly. Well, for one thing, [cough] I’m not going to be pious saying this, but I am a Christian, and if I do feel I might be worried, I think well God knows about it and about it he’ll see me through it. And it happens. Yes. And I also think well, my, one of the things I’ve put on this earth to do is to help other people, and that’s what I try to do. That’s what we’re here for. Yeah, that’s it. I’ve got a nice husband, did have and, he was a flight commander, pilot. When I saw him first, I thought I bet he’s got a lot of girlfriends. We were married a year later. Yes. God knows about us. Yes. Get off my soap box now. Put it under there.
TO: Were any of your pupils -
MS: Speak up!
TO: Were any of your pupils worried about their fathers during the war?
MS: Yes. Were they?
TO: Were they worried about their fathers?
MS: About their?
TO: Their fathers during the war.
MS: Some of them were. In the war you mean? But on the whole, people took it that it had to be, and that was it. It wasn’t noticeable and we had a lot of work done. I taught in a, two big secondary schools, secondary boys’ school and a mixed. I taught English as a subject and RE, and I made them do it properly and I praised them. Some of them did, some teachers don’t praise them enough.
[Other] No.
MS: Especially the ones who aren’t so very clever, you know. And I, if I had a pupil who wasn’t very clever, I really made them feel that they could be. I went into school the other week, and a young man teacher, I said, ‘look at your handwriting on that blackboard.’ I said, ‘It’s shocking! How can you expect the children to write decently if you write like that.’ He looked at it, said, ‘you’re right. I’ll have to improve it.’ So when I go in next time – sharp eyes. He’ll probably think that sharp-eyed woman is coming again.
TO: During the war was there ever a shortage of books?
MS: Speak up!
TO: During the war was there ever a shortage of books in schools?
MS: Again.
TO: Was there a shortage of books at the schools?
MS: Books?
TO: Yes.
MS: I don’t get that.
[Other]: When the war was on. Was there a shortage of books?
MS: Oh the war!
[Other]: Was there a shortage of books?
MS: Yes, but we made do, and we did very well. I taught in a big [emphasis], in Wolverhampton, a big boys’ school, all boys and then I taught in a mixed school. Yes. And the sprit was very, very good. Very good indeed. It was wonderful, the way people managed.
[Other]: During the war.
MS: Yes, yes. They did, and no grumbles like you get today. People had to be contented, and they were. Because even if they weren’t they didn’t get what they wanted. And there you are. Now you have it in a nutshell. And you have.
TO: Did you have any?
MS: Eh?
TO: Did you have any favourite -
MS: Speak up!
TO: Did you have any favourite entertainers during the war?
MS: Did I?
TO: Did you have any favourite entertainers through the war?
MS: Entertainers? I don’t think I had favourites. I couldn’t answer that question truthfully.
[Other]: You used to like singing. Didn’t you.
MS: Eh?
[Other]: You used to like singing didn’t you, and then Anne told you one day you were out of tune. Do you remember?
MS: Anne told me what?
[Other]: You were out of tune.
MS: Oh yes.
[Other]: Do you remember?
MS: I’m always out of tune when I sing. ’Shut up mummy,’ from the next room, ‘you’re not singing in tune.’ So I stopped. ‘Mummy, you never sing nowadays.’ ‘No I don’t, you told me to shut up!’ ‘Oh go on, start again.’ [Laughter] I am very contented in my life and I thank God for every minute. That sums me up. Thank you.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
MS: Pardon?
TO: Is there anything else?
MS: Anything else?
TO: Anything else you’d like to talk about?
MS: Shout up!
TO: Anything else you’d like to talk about?
MS: What do you do, apart from talking to people like me?
TO: I’m currently searching for jobs in the North West.
MS: Have you got a family?
TO: Yes.
MS: Children?
TO: No.
MS: No children. But you’ve got a wife.
TO: No
MS: No wife, no family then.
[Other]: He’s got his own family. Parents.
MS: Oh yes. Oh good. Where do you live?
TO: Macclesfield.
MS: Macclesfield. Oh not too far. And what’s your name?
TO: Thomas.
MS: Eh?
TO: Thomas.
MS: Thomas! Does your mum call you Tom?
TO: No.
MS: Thomas.
TO: Thank you very much for talking to me.
MS: Thank you very much. Oh!

Citation

Tom Ozel, “Interview with Muriel Stoves,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 3, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11706.

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