Interview with Lillian Grundy


Interview with Lillian Grundy


Lillian Grundy was born grew up in Ancoats, Manchester. Upon leaving school, she worked in a local mill winding bobbins, and the Hall Brothers Toffee Works wrapping sweets. Grundy met George in 1939 and they were engaged in Easter 1940, however, he was captured during Dunkirk and taken to a prisoner of war camp, where he remained until 1945. In 1941 she was called up to work at the Avro factory, where she made screws for Manchester and Lancaster aircraft until November 1945. She describes working for twelve-hours, six days a week, rotating night and day shifts monthly, and recalls the uncomfortable conditions of the factory. Despite the long hours, she notes the good wage, receiving a bonus for hard work, and going dancing with her friends and American servicemen on their days off. She also recollects her emotions upon learning of D-Day during a night-shift and joining hands with her colleagues to pray and sing. Grundy also describes her surprise reunion with George in May 1945, their marriage the following month, and his recuperation before moving into their first home in 1946.








00:56:39 audio recording


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BW: This is Brian Wright interviewing Lilian Grundy on Saturday 28th of September 2019 at her home in Salford, Greater Manchester. The time is approximately 11.35. Also with me is her friend Gary Bridson-Daley and World War Two author who’s interviewed Lilian before and [Cherilyn Lauder], her daughter. So, Lilian, if you would just kindly start first off for me would you confirm your date of birth and where you were born?
LG: I was born at Manchester and I was born March the 10th 1923.
BW: And whereabouts in Manchester was it where you, where your home was. Where you grew up?
LG: Ancoats.
BW: And how many family members were there? Mum and dad of course. Did you have any brothers or sisters?
LG: Yes. I had two brothers and two sisters.
BW: And were you the eldest or the youngest?
LG: No. My mother was married and had, before the war she, in the second, the First World War my mother lost her husband and it left her with four children. One of the [pause] William, the eldest one he died in the war. The First World War. So he left her and her husband didn’t come back and she married my dad. He was in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War my dad. At France. And he didn’t, her husband had died and she married my dad years after and me and my brother came after. So there was me and my brother Edward and my dad. My dad came from the Isle of Man.
BW: And what was it like growing up? This would be in the sort of mid-‘20s now and ‘30s. What was, what was your home life like?
LG: Overcrowded. No bath. No hot water. Basic food. Going to the butchers for bones for nothing and my mother used to skim all the bones off and make soup. Corned beef was cheap and we used to have Oxo in a cup with the stale bread. We never had milk. It was skimmed milk in a tin, and mum used to have a special jar for it. We had a spoon in it. Food were very very basic. Then I left school at 1937 and I went to work. I left school on the Friday and went to work on the Monday and because my mum didn’t want to pay any bus fare there was a mill in Prestwich where I lived and I went in there and I went winding bobbins and I was there until I was seventeen and a quarter. Didn’t like it. It was long hours, very noisy and you were just dogsbody to the weavers. So, I went to Halls Toffee Works at Whitefield and I got a job there and it was on a toffee machine and you had to watch your fingers, there were a big knife on it and I used to wrap all the sweets. I loved it. I loved it. It was nice. You had a proper dinner hour. You had a canteen. You had a nurse. It was lovely. Then a lady came from out of nowhere, asked me all questions and about a month after I was called up to go in to the war. A brown envelope came through the door and I had to go to this place. When I went to the place they said, ‘You’re at Avro’s near Manchester. Never heard of it in my life but I’d seen old Mr Roland Hall who owned the sweet place used to come over. He’d park in his private plane from Ringway and that’s all I knew about planes. Anyway, I was called up and we went to an interview and then I was a member of AV Roe’s and they let, it was the Manchester bomber and they were just changing it over for the Lancaster bomber when our setter used to set the machine up. He’d been there years. He’d done seven years apprenticeship, and we went on to the Lancaster bomber. It was long hours. You were a month on nights. A month on days. I couldn’t manage the days because it was too far to go really. They shouldn’t have sent us that far but they did and I was an hour going, an hour going back. By the time I was coming to go home on nights to get in to bed them who lived near would have been in bed by the time I put my foot on the bus. It was very dark there. No light. I should imagine it had been built before the First World War. To me it looked hundreds and hundreds of years old. Of course, I was young. I went on the Number 8 Machine. It was, I weren’t frightened of the machine because I’d already been on the machine wrapping sweets with the knife, cutting the paper for the toffees. I weren’t frightened. I had two friends who were, who went with me from the toffee works, and they lived at Whitefield so it wasn’t bad. It was long nights. We got a break. I think we had two breaks. You had to clock on but ours were the furthest clock away so I was often a quarter hour because we used to get a train from Manchester to Park Station. That’s at Newton Heath. And we used to run like mad, and still we were a quarter houred. We had no umbrellas in them days and we used to be wringing, wringing wet through by the time we got there. Anyway, there was a trolley and you was to put your coat on it and the man used to wind it up. You never seen your coat then until you came home. There were guards on the door. You had a pass. You knew everybody in the machine shop and the food was good and it was cheap. We, the canteen did serve good food, but I could never have afforded it, only on a Friday. We used to have fish and chips which I looked forward to.
BW: So did you have to take your —
LG: We had sandwiches.
BW: I was just going to say did you have to take your food in? if you weren’t going to —
LG: Yes. You used to take. We had a locker. A tin locker. It was no good but we still had it. Everybody smoked cheap cigarettes and it used to smell of cigarettes all through the factory. And then we used to skim the wings and it was like nail polish remover to me. Nail polish remover, and it used to smell of that, cigarettes and everybody sweating. But them days nobody told you if you had b.o. even if you had. Nobody bothered. You just got on with the war. We had a boiler suit. All you could see from the boiler suit was your hands, feet and face and we had a silly hat and you pulled it right over your head. Of course, I had a lot of hair and she used to come around and poke you on the shoulder very hard and say, ‘Get that hair under that cap.’
BW: Was this your supervisor?
LG: Yes.
BW: What were they like? I mean obviously trying to keep your hair under your hat but —
LG: Yes. Because —
BW: Were they constantly looking at you to make so many parts per hour or something like that?
LG: Well, when I look back now, yes. She was keeping me safe, so me hair wouldn’t get around the, the tools which was on the capstan lathe. Yes.
BW: And how big a machine was it? This lathe you were working on.
LG: Oh, twice as big as me and I’m five foot four.
BW: So it was quite, quite a size.
LG: Heavy.
BW: I believe there was a note on the machine when you first arrived at the factory.
LG: Oh yes. Somebody had gone in the Navy had said, “Keep this machine right. I’ve always looked after it and I’ll be back.” And I used to think I wonder what he looked like.
BW: You never met him.
LG: No.
BW: And you said two friends joined you when you moved from Hall and Brothers. The confectioners at Whitefield. They came over to Avro’s with you. Did you see them when you were in the factory on your breaks or anything like that?
LG: Yes. I went out with them all the time. We went dancing. We went on regular nights to save all the coming and going and we used to get up in the day and go dancing at the Ritz or the Plaza in town and we used to, I got then a very good dancer and they did. Could do all the dances. The jitterbug. And of course the Americans all came into the war then and we danced with them and then I used to say, ‘I have to go. I have to leave you. I have to go back. I’m on nights.’ Yes.
BW: And you left Hall’s in 1940.
LG: No.
BW: Sorry. Did you leave later than that?
LG: Yes. 1940 I’d only be seventeen. I was, when I was eighteen and a quarter so that’s ’41.
BW: Ok. I’m just interested in the period in 1940 because that’s quite significant in history and I wondered although you were working at a different factory before joining Avro’s what it was like in that period of time. Whether you felt the nation was under threat or how did it feel during 1940 when the threat of invasion was pretty imminent. Did you get a sense of that?
LG: I thought we’d win. I never thought we’d lose. I never, and I didn’t miss anybody and I met plenty of the forces. Canadians, Poles, French, you name it. Americans. English. Sailors. All dancing. Just wishing the war was over and they wanted to go home. I never met nobody who said we wouldn’t win. No. We was all determined and one of Winston Churchill’s speeches, ‘We will fight on the beaches, and on the land and never, never will we surrender.’ Well, that was in us. That was in us. Yes. Definitely. We were out to win the war and do our best which I think we did.
BW: And during this time you had met a young man. George.
LG: Oh, I met him in August.
BW: August ’39.
LG: Yes. It was beautiful, beautiful weather. I’d gone with my friend into the park at Prestwich. Her uncle was a gardener and he was putting flowers into this garden and she took me along to see him. He were called Percy. And we sat on this bench and Percy came over, which would be her uncle and he gave us a few sweets and he said, ‘Stay there and I’ll cut a few flowers for you to take home for your mother.’ So we stayed on this bench. Beautiful park. St Mary’s in Prestwich. We stayed there and there was a bandstand behind, it’s not there anymore and two boys came along and we still sat there watching Percy doing the garden. And then they came over and they said, they were well dressed, I’d never seen anybody so fit and upstanding with their shoulders and they said, ‘What time is it, girls?’ Well, we hadn’t got a watch. It wasn’t, well we couldn’t afford a watch and as they said that the clock that’s still there, the clock, it chimed 3 o’clock. We laughed. They laughed. Percy came and said, ‘Are they bothering you?’ And she said, ‘No.’ And they asked to sit down at the side of us. The rest is history. I courted him and he, he, the war started the 3rd of September and he was away at Leyland, Preston guarding with a piece of wood outside, supposed to be a gun outside this gas mask factory. And he was there and then he came home on leave and he said, ‘I am not a territorial any more. I’m regular Army.’ Then he came, he was sent up to Northumberland. Way up Northumberland and he finished up there at Alnwick Castle. And from there he went over to, down south and then he went to France. I’ve got all his mail. He came on leave a few times. My sister got married 1940, April. Easter Saturday. And on the Easter Monday I had all Easter weekend seeing him going on walks and going in the park. We had no money. He had no money so we walked my shoes off. My sister got married then and then on the Monday night he had to go back to Northumberland. I didn’t see him any more then. That was April 1940 and he came home to me 1st of May 1945. I was, been on nights at AV Roe’s. Worked very hard. Tired. And this knocking kept going on and I thought it’s, it was the kids again knocking at the door. I looked through the window and there was George after over five years. I had curlers in my hair, and I always thought when he comes home I’ll meet him at a station and I’d be all dressed up. Of course, I got good money at AV Roe’s so I was able to get myself some nice clothes, nice shoes and nice handbags. So I wanted to meet him in all my finery and there was I at the window with all my curlers in.
BW: Because he’d joined the Lancashire Fusiliers and been sent over with the Expeditionary Force to France as you say.
LG: Yes.
BW: And then was captured during the retreat from Dunkirk which was why you didn’t see him for five years. He was taken to a prisoner of war camp.
LG: Yes. He got wounded in his arm but the bullet went right through. He still had the bullet wound up to him dying. You could put your finger in the hole in his arm. Yes.
BW: And so all, all of that, both the joy of having met him and the sort of, the hope of meeting him again occupied your thoughts no doubt while you were working at Roe’s didn’t it?
LG: Yes. I got married from AV Roe’s. Yes. They brought a present. A duck, a park duck. There weren’t much to buy because there had been six years of war. Nothing.
BW: So just going back to your time in the factory at Roe’s. So you said you started on the Manchester. And then you were making parts for the Lancaster. Do you know what sort of parts they were? Were they specific for say an engine or part of the air frame or were they just bits that you were told to make and given somebody else to make the aircraft?
LG: No. It was big screws. Very, very big screws and you had to make the screw from [pause] you leaned over and you pushed the metal bar. You leaned over again and you put it in the capstan lathe and then you got all things here that you had like a [ pause ] like a knob on the end. You twirled it and you twirled it. And all the time you were doing this so your waist was very slim. Everybody around you were very slim. All the women had beautiful waists because they were moving. You weren’t still a minute. And then if you wanted to contact your friends, my friend who got called up with me, Muriel. She’s still alive in Southampton. No. Yeah.
Other: Corby.
CL: Corby.
Other: Northampton.
LG: Not Southampton. They made a new estate. She married a Polish man. Made a new estate down there.
BW: It’ll come back to you.
LG: Northampton.
BW: Northampton.
LG: In the mid estate. She went down there. Well, you were never still because if you wanted to talk to her it were noisy. It was very, very noisy so you were never still. You used to tip tap to her, she tip tapped back while this, your machine were going around and if you wanted to go to the toilet I used to put my hand up and she’d do the same and the gov’ put your fingers three minutes. And you had to get your screw off. You couldn’t leave it because you’d ruin it and then when it finished the machine would stop. And then it had a burr on the end. Watch your fingers because you had a big, a big thing and you took the burr off and then you stepped off a duck board and you would go. Oh, it would be a long way. I’d say a six minute walk to the toilet because it was a big place. Hundreds and hundreds of people were working there and nobody said hello to you or nodded when you went to the toilet because they were all busy. All busy bees doing all the work. If you were a long time and you came back of course her machine was on the level with mine. She’d be on number two machine. Well, they’d be empty. Well, he come. The foreman would come. ‘Where the hell have you been?’ You got told off. And you were told off more in one day than they had been for all the years after. Yes. It was hard, heavy, miserable, smelly, cold, damp work. And we were very tried but you couldn’t get tired. I found 3 o’clock, 3 o’clock to 4 o’clock was the worst hours.
BW: Would that be when you were on nights?
LG: Yes. That was the worst period. Yes. And then if you went to the canteen it wasn’t, it was an old place, you were wringing wet through going and it snowed on you. You had to mind you didn’t slip and you couldn’t get your coat because it was hung up inside, so you come back freezing and when you come back there was a door right behind me. My machine was there and the door was here. Muriel my friend was higher up so it were warmer. And they’d open this door to take the wings of the planes out and I used to freeze to death. It was freezing cold but lovely in the winter because the big doors would be open.
BW: In the Summer.
LG: On the railway line. The Park Station.
BW: It would be lovely in the summer though.
LG: Beautiful. But all the breath, you got everybody’s breath and they got yours because there was no interval in between. No. No. If they swept up they swept up while you were there. They had labourers. Men who had been in the First World War came to do labouring. Yeah.
BW: I’m just going to show you a photograph of an assembly line which was taken at Chadderton. Does that look something similar to the environment you worked in?
LG: No. No. They had all these platforms and these ladders yes. Platform and the ladders. And they used to have half, half of the Lancaster riveting up there. Up on them things. The platform.
BW: Yeah.
LG: The platform. They’d have half, yeah. I don’t remember the floor like that. It was uneven. Been there First World War. They never even did it.
BW: Yeah.
LG: Used to, well I used to wear low heels so I was all right. You couldn’t wear high heels on that duck board because it had, it were just knocked together. You used to walk so your heels would go in the wood and you’d be stuck. You’d be doing it with one shoe on and one off. So no. I don’t recognise that at all. No.
BW: I just wondered if it was, if it was similar being sort of a big open space.
LG: Oh yes.
BW: With a load of machines and things.
LG: High up it was but there it looks, it’s looks a modern factory where mine was very old. Very, very old. Everything you touched were old. Even the toilets. They were tin, I would say asbestos. You wouldn’t be able to put it now. I would have said there was asbestos. Yes. And floors. Uneven floor. Yeah. You just had to just watch every way you went. Yeah. And outside when you come out in the yard, it wasn’t cobbled. It was, I don’t know just a trampled piece of land.
BW: Did you ever get to see aircraft like the Lancaster or the Manchester flying at all? You weren’t on an airfield of course but did you ever to get to see them flying during the war at all?
LG: Oh no. Oh no. No. No. No.
BW: You mentioned that you had a number of friends and that you got to meet a number of servicemen from different countries. You mentioned also earlier that you’d spoken to a Canadian. Is that right?
LG: American.
BW: American. I beg your pardon.
LG: That’s his place.
BW: Is that him?
LG: Yes. He were called Johnny.
BW: How did you get to meet him? Was it just at, was it through the dancing and —
LG: Yes. Dancing. And we went to concerts. And then people at work would say, ‘Are you doing anything tomorrow? Would you like to come on a blind date?’ I’d been on a few of them and they’d been alright. Yeah. Nice people. Yeah. Yeah.
BW: And at this stage you were working alternate shifts. One month on nights, one month on days and six days a week, twelve hours a day, I think you said.
LG: Yes.
BW: And that continued for pretty much four years solid.
LG: All the time. Yes. Yeah.
BW: And you didn’t get any other days off apart from the Sunday. You didn’t have things like holiday time or anything like that, did you?
LG: No. When we did days you got first when I went there you had a Monday and the next week it went to Tuesday. And that’s how it went. Very rare you got a Sunday at home because you would have to go say seven. Seven weeks for Sunday and it used to alter. Well, on nights we used to finish Friday, Saturday dinner. Saturday dinner ‘til Monday night. So you had all the weekend. And that’s how you met people. I was never in. Never in.
BW: And you said earlier the money [coughs] the money was good.
LG: Yes. It weren’t bad because you could — what do call that? [pause] You made your own [pause] you had a basic wage. Everybody had that and then you would work hard and you’d go to the checkout and they would say you’ve earned well perhaps a sixpence or a shilling on working hard. The sooner you did it you got a bonus. That was it. So I always got a bonus. Always. I used to keep my head down and think I’m making money. I’m making money.
BW: And was the bonus paid on the number of screws that you made?
LG: Yes. Yes. And a man used to come around and say if they weren’t right. He was Scotch. Came from Scotland. He didn’t like working there, and he would grumble all the time. But why he wasn’t in the war was because he had duodenal tummy. He used to say, ‘I want to go back to Scotland to my wife and children.’ We got that the whole of the time. And I used to say, ‘Shut up. I’m miserable too.’
BW: And did you manage to keep in touch with what was happening in the war in general?
LG: Oh, yes.
BW: Did you used to keep abreast of certain information?
LG: Oh yes. Used to go to Manchester and there was a News Theatre. Used to take you to the news, most of the Americans loved the News Theatre. They’d take you there and then would take you to the big picture and buy you a meal after and a drink. But they’d more money. Lots more money than ours. Yes. And a nicer uniform. Softer and nicer. Ours was woolly, and if it got wet and they kissed you, you could smell wool on us [laughs] Yes.
BW: Yeah.
LG: A different world.
BW: Heavy and scratchy.
LG: A different world altogether. And they used to talk of fridges and washing machines and I used to think what are they talking about? [laughs] Yeah. Cadillacs and cars like that. Show you, they’d show you. They had this big car in America and I used to think oh, you know they were kidding. It was their father’s or their uncle’s which now I know it would be theirs.
BW: Yeah. What do you recall of June 6th 1944 when you were in the factory and you got news of D-Day?
LG: Oh, that. Oh, that was [pause] I was on nights on the machine and you used to do, you couldn’t hear so we did lights. They used to do lights. And they used to do this. I think it was a coloured light and they used to, if that was break and they used to do this coloured light. And you couldn’t hear, so it’s no good saying go to your meal because you couldn’t hear. They did this light. We used to then stop the machine [pause] get our lunches and go down to the canteen. It was a long walk and we used to get outside. It was no rain. It was a beautiful dawn and we’d go to, in the canteen like we did all the time. Paying no attention. Just to get your food. We all sat down and by then we’d been there years so the men used to sit with us then at the other side and we were eating our meal and this tannoy came on, and it said something like [pause] I can’t describe it. It was something like, ‘Ladies and gentleman of England. This is our day. The men have gone. It is D-Day.’ Well, we all looked at one another and the man said again, I think he was called Alvar Liddell, because Lord Haw Haw used to do his voice and he used to say it was him. Not Lord Haw Haw because he used to come on. He was over in Germany. And we all looked at one another and the men said, ‘Oh it’s D-Day.’ And it dawned. Absolutely hit you in the face because we’d been expecting it for twelve month. So he went off the air and he said, ‘We wish our boys luck.’ Something like that. And there was a lot of ladies with us who was older and they said, ‘Stop your lunch.’ Breakfast. It was a breakfast. ‘Stop your breakfast. We’ll all held hands and we’ll pray for England and the boys.’ And there was people crying. Well, we were young. We knew we’d lose a lot. And the man across said, ‘You know when you go and fight?’ And we said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Well, all Germany will be ready for our boys and they’ll be ready for our Navy.’ Which I thought was the finest in the world then. We all did. ‘And they will be defending it,’ and he said, ‘While you was eating your other meal the other night and I came and pushed you would you have gone back?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course I would.’ He said, ‘Well, that’s what we’re going to have. They’re waiting and they’ve got everything ready and they’ve been arming for years and years and they’re going to throw everything at us because they want Germany to win and we’ll lose a lot of people.’ So I said, ‘Well, let’s all say the Lord’s Prayer,’ which we did. Everybody knew it. And there was two singers. They came from outside Manchester they came and they were in the church choir and they got on the stage and they sung, “There’ll Always Be an England,” and, “Jerusalem,” and the mills, the satanic mills. The real Jerusalem. And everybody, we had tin plates, tin mugs, but you all had your own in your locker with your name painted on. I painted mine on with nail polish and we banged them and I think we chipped off all the white stuff off them [laughs] The enamel. And we all went back singing, to our machine, and separately and the foreman came walking down and the other foreman come walking down and we had about ten bosses, they came walking down. There were more bosses than workers. People who were ill I suppose, and couldn’t go in the war. And they said, ‘Get on with your work.’ And we did. And it finished. We got, buses came, 25 bus used to bring us into Albert Square. A long walk along the Fish Market and the Flower Market to the Victoria Station and everybody I met and even the bus scouts and that I said, ‘It’s D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.’ I came home and my mother was getting up to give me a bit of, no, I had no breakfast. No cup of tea. I used to just roll in bed, and I said, ‘Mother, get up. It’s D-Day.’ She said, ‘Oh, those poor boys.’ And that was D-Day. It was wonderful. And the pictures were showing you all of them going over and everything. And then I went to work the next day and there were some ladies we used to sit near for lunch. Older than us. And they said, ‘Haven’t you got a boyfriend over in Germany? ‘So I said, ‘Yes. I’m engaged to him.’ And they said, ‘He’ll be coming home soon.’ And I thought oh, of course he will, because. They’ll be advancing into Germany now and they’re going to get his prisoner of war camp. Anyway, they sent them on a long march and he ended up at Dresden where they made beautiful, beautiful pots. Even after the war and before the war and he got to Dresden and it had been a long march and it had been, he set off before D-Day, and they used to get the snow off the German side and they had an old kettle that they used to put snow in the kettle and make cups of tea. They used a tea bag about fifteen times until it was like just water. And as they got into Dresden all the people had no houses. We’d bombed them. And they were on the roadside sat, well on piles of timber and bricks, the houses begging for food. They said, ‘I’m very sorry. We’re hungry too.’ And he said, then after being a prisoner five years we just all stopped and looked and he said to them, some had been very cruel to them and they wanted to be kind to these people and he said, ‘I really, really thought oh look at the world. It’s absolutely destroyed and these people are as hungry as I am.’ His stomach was hurting and theirs was hurting more. ‘And they looked us in our eyes and we looked back.’ He said, ‘I’ll never forget that.’ But he said, ‘Oh, what you’ve done to us,’ and he said, and I do go to church, he felt he couldn’t tell you how he felt, and they were all the same. They were all quiet. Very, very quiet. And they heard tanks and they said, ‘Them are ours. They’re too noisy them tanks.’ And it was the Americans. Throwing chewing gum. And he’d never chewed, he didn’t even like chewing gum. And he said they were throwing chewing gum and they said, ‘Food,’ and they said, ‘Back at camp.’ And they gave them that much food they were sick as a dog. Their stomach couldn’t take it. And then ours came and took them in big trucks and they had a bath. Every three minutes they were throwing them in a bath. Yeah. Yeah. These Americans couldn’t believe them. They were saying, ‘We’re British. We’re British.’ And they said, ‘You look terrible.’ They said, ‘Wouldn’t you after five years?’
BW: Yeah. Five years in a camp and bad food. And you’d got letters from George through that time. While you’re on the home front and in the factory George was in the prison camp. You corresponded with him.
LG: Oh yes.
BW: Through that time.
LG: Oh, I got lots of letters. He used to give. The Red Cross used to come. He would never, never, when he came home pass a Red Cross box and the Salvation Army. He would always, always if we’d not got a penny he’d put it in. He said, ‘Only for them I’m living.’
BW: And come the end of the war even before the formal end of the war on May 8th he’d come back to you. You said earlier he came back in early May. Is that right, he was —
LG: 1st of May.
BW: Yeah. How soon was it after that you got married?
LG: June the 2nd
BW: So that’s pretty quick.
LG: Quick. Very quick.
BW: And did, because you had, you perhaps wouldn’t have known this at the time because you had another five or six months to run with Avro’s because you finished in November 1945.
LG: Yes.
BW: Did you get time off to get married?
LG: Yes. Yes. I didn’t get paid. I got the time off. Yeah.
BW: And were you able to afford a reception and a honeymoon or was it —
LG: Yeah. We went to Southport on our honeymoon because all the beaches was barricaded up with guns and the people on them to safeguard our island when they felt France and Holland and all over there, yeah.
BW: And George had some time for recuperation.
LG: Oh yes.
BW: When he went off to hospital and so on in Cheshire.
LG: Yes. Looked after him. He got double rations. He had a double ration book for food. Yes. He got double rationed.
BW: And then come post-war period how soon were you sort of able to get your own house and place together and what happened after the war for you?
LG: Oh. His mother lived up Unsworth. A little village up Bury. Bury took, Bury was the council. This cottage became empty and it had been a sergeant major in it with the Suffolk Regiment up Unsworth. There was a mill there. A cotton mill. And they put all these Army of the Suffolk Regiment in and this sergeant major had got this little cottage. No hot water. No. No, no bath, no hot water, and no water toilet. Bury used to come and empty it. Anyway, my brother then was in the REME. He came back and he was taking the other bedroom out in the cottage so we’d nowhere to sleep because I used to sleep with my mum in the bedroom, in the front. My brother had the back one, and we’d nowhere to sleep. So when he went up to his mum’s with him and she said, ‘There’s a cottage empty but it’s in a terrible disgrace.’ So his sister said, ‘I know the landlady. I go to church with.’ So she took me to see the landlady and the landlady said, ‘I’ve got twenty people after it.’ I thought well, it can’t be that bad. So she said, ‘You can have it because George’s people go to church with me.’ She was a churchgoer. She was not married. She were an old lady. Not married. No nothing. No kids. Nothing. And we got the key to go and see it. Anyway, I thought well it’s not too bad. George was away then. He didn’t see it. And I scrubbed it, and a man I knew who was a decorator and he’d been in the First World War so he stayed here with us. So he decorated it for us, for not too much money and he had a van and he moved. I went and got different things while George was in. He came home April the following year. So twelve months to get stuff and my mum kept it down her cellar. So he moved me in the van up to the cottage, but George was demobbed then and the cottage was all lovely. We stayed there. The only thing I didn’t like was it hadn’t got a water closet and I don’t, I know we’d had no bath and no hot water in our cottage but our cottage was twenty times better than that. It weren’t good but it was twenty times better. Anyway, we went in it and we were in it quite a while. It was only 25p a week rent so I used to pay it at a pound a month because the landlady was a lonely lady and she used to talk me to death. Of course, I’m only twenty odd, and I didn’t want to talk that long and I didn’t drink cups of tea in them days. So I never wanted to go and have a cup of tea [laughs]
BW: And you continued —
LG: I put my name down and I got this house.
BW: Working. Then you continued working for Hall’s I think at first and then you had various cleaning jobs around and about didn’t you and raised a family.
LG: I went to, yeah I went to Smith’s, the cleaners at Prestwich. Yeah. I stayed there until I was sixty two and they made me a party for sixty but I told them a lie so I could stay longer. So when I was having my sixtieth party I said I’ve gone sixty two. I told a white lie. That was a cheap one but I was, I could have done another five years easy, but I got my pension. Full pension.
BW: And so when, now after all this time you see the, the sort of tributes being paid to Bomber Command and Lancasters flying on display.
LG: Oh, when I see that.
BW: Does it evoke all those emotions again for you? How do you feel seeing that?
LG: Oh, I could cry. I think we used to say at the Works that, the setter used to say, ‘Come on, you little belter.’ So when they fly over I say, ‘Come on you little belter.’ Yeah. I think of how marvellous it was and the men who designed it and everything. Very clever. And to do that bouncing bomb and open those big doors because they altered it for the big door to come on. Ah, what a wonderful thing. They must have been. Mind you they had a very good education. They were in another world to you. You were down here and they were up there. Another world. And it opened my eyes going to AV Roe’s. Another world. You’re not the same person. You’ve just, in a week you’ve grown up so much. And they’re talking different. So different than Radcliffe and Bury twang. You know, there’s all different, different ones. And then you’ve got people coming if they married and had no children they were on the machines with you and their husbands would be in oh, Egypt or Italy. Way out Palestine. And yeah. You heard all them talking whereas I’d only heard girly talk because the men didn’t bother with you. They was too busy working. Yeah. It was different.
BW: But it, it was a good experience for you.
LG: Very.
BW: Even though it was —
LG: Because you grew up. Yes. And then you see you couldn’t put a foot dancing then. Well, in your dinner hour they used to get you up and they’d say, ‘This is the quick step.’ ‘This is the waltz.’ I never knew any of that. And then you’d get them singers coming on stage. And I’d never heard of Jerusalem and the satanic mills. It was a big [pause] I don’t know. It was just opened new things. And then the Americans used to talk on things I never knew, and then the airmen coming in Heaton Park and they were all with the white on, on the front of their hat and that meant they was going to be on the aeroplanes. And they used to go and study and I used to say, ‘Why are you studying?’ They used to say, ‘Because I want to be a pilot.’ But most of them written to me afterwards and some of them had been an air gunner and some had been a, mapping out the maps.
BW: Navigator.
LG: Yeah. And there were very few pilots but most who had written they all passed for the aircraft and they went to South Africa and Canada. And I’ve got the letters now to this day.
BW: Right.
LG: Yeah.
BW: So it opened up a whole new world for you, didn’t it?
LG: A new world. Yeah. They talked on different things and then we’d been to, them who lived down south used to talk about fields, and the lambs and things and I used to think what are they talking about? And they used to use big words. Well, me dad had bought me a dictionary. I used to come home and look it up. And they used to call me petite, and I didn’t know what it was and it meant you’re a small slim person which I was [laughs] It was different. And then I used to, then I went. I lost my other friends then. They got sent. One went in the Navy. The Army and the Navy. The Land Army. Well, they went away and all the lads I went to school went in the forces so you had to make a world for yourself and George was taken away off me. So, it was different. So different. And you just grew up all at once.
BW: Fine. Well, thank you very much for, for your time, Lilian. It’s great to hear the recollections. So I’ll end the interview now if that’s alright.



Brian Wright, “Interview with Lillian Grundy,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 23, 2024,

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