Interview with Gladys Hatt

Title

Interview with Gladys Hatt

Description

Gladys Hatt was working in Manchester as a teenager when it was bombed. She recalls her life was a sequence of work, shelter, work and there was no teenage life for her. She worked as a machinist sewing uniforms which was a big change from her original fine needlework she had done before. She then went to work sewing parachutes which hurt her hands. She was the first Rose Queen in the city for forty nine years. As she was preparing for her wedding she collected her items for her bottom drawer but her house was bombed and she lost everything.

Creator

Date

2018-08-07

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:44:02 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.

Contributor

Identifier

AHattG180807

Transcription

DB: My name is, my name is Denise Boneham and I’m talking to Gladys Hatt on the 7th of August nineteen, sorry 2018 and the time is now 13.58. Gladys, would you like to tell me a little bit about your life before you left school in 1942?
GH: My father was a sergeant in the Home Guard and I used to do a lot sewing, stitching stripes on uniforms because he had a section, you know in the Home Guard. I was a machinist at fourteen and I worked in Sparrow Hardwick’s and I worked on delicate underwear. Expensive underwear. And because I was good at that as the war started I was put on uniforms because I worked over where the Army and the RAF were billeted and we’d done the RAF uniforms. I won’t tell you what we put in them. A lot of notes. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then when I was eighteen the war was still on. I lived more or less in air raid shelters from being young to being eighteen, nineteen. And I don’t know. I just worked on uniforms for the Army. Army uniforms. I was a good machinist. The only thing I didn’t like was trying to sew a glengarry because I, that’s what I called them, course they’re not that, I used to get told off. I got told off a lot because I cursed and I liked fancy work not heavy great coats and uniforms. Stars and stripes because we had the Americans over then and they used to come in the factory and ask would we do this and could we do that? Oh yes. ‘Would you like to put these stripes on for us?’ ‘Well, you’ll have to ask my manager.’ ‘Yes. That’ll be alright.’ I was on piecework so they were taking my money away from me. Anyroad, and there was blackouts so we used to finish work at five. Then I had a good hour, nearly an hour’s walk home. Bombs were falling, sirens were going and I had to go through an underground station which is Mayfield Railway Station and I worked above it so I had to go under it to go home. I had to walk home. Sirens would go and I’d have to go in to the nearest air raid shelter regardless. I lived in air raid shelters. I fed in the air raid shelters. I’d probably sleep in the air raid shelter and go to work the next morning in the same clothes I had on. One particular week we got bombed out so I had no clothes. People used to bring you stuff, you know and send stuff and, well it was a hard life then but I was still working. And I worked at, what’s it called? Walmer’s. They were the people that made the uniforms. Walmer’s. I remember that because they were the ones that made the uniforms. And there was not much life after that because you’d go to work, you were either in an air raid shelter during work. You’d go home. You were still in an air raid shelter. You’d go back to work. And that’s how you lived. Well, there was not much life at all really. My dad was in the Home Guard. He was a sergeant because he’d been in the forces and was a regular serviceman. I was born in barracks at Aldershot. But that’s another.
[recording paused]
GH: And I hadn’t got much life really at fourteen, fifteen with the war. And well, I can’t tell you much. Oh, and by the way I was the first Rose Queen in Manchester at St Pauls Church. I was the first Rose Queen in forty nine years to be Rose Queen and I held that for three years. Dowager and then retiring Queen. Yeah.
[recording paused]
GH: We were, we couldn’t tell anybody what you do. I’d done the trousers for the RAF and we’d done the, what do they call them now? I forget. What were the [pause] the battledress. They called them something. Not windjammers. Oh, I forget what they called them. I used, I’d done that. And we used to put letters in. “I’ll be your girlfriend.” “I know who —" You know. A bit of fun. And yeah, it was really nice. I enjoyed myself.
[recording paused]
GH: And no. No. Oh, do you mean from the lads that was billeted underneath. Oh, sometimes you’d get something like, ‘See you tonight doll.’ Or, you know, and that but no. I, we didn’t, you didn’t do like you do today in them days [laughs] My dad would have had my guts for garters. Don’t put that down. He was very strict and, seeing as he was a sergeant. Yeah. But it was, it was the life because there was no pictures or theatres because if you went the sirens would go and you would finish up in air raid shelter so you never got anywhere really and that was it.
[recording paused]
GH: Then after that when I was, I was the Rose Queen in Manchester, I was confirmed at the Manchester Cathedral for the first Rose Queen of Manchester and I stood that for three years. That was just after the main part of the war if you know what I mean. And yeah, and of course everything was coupons so where they had five or six children my mam had to go and borrow coupons to buy the stuff I needs to have for my, all my rigmarole. And that was it. Then I met my boyfriend. Well, we knew one another. We were at school together. We were in the same class. He was the same age as me and he went in the Army. He was in the Royal Corps of Signals at Catterick. And we got engaged. We got married when all the rationing was on. We’d be taking coupons from different, where they had big families for my wedding outfit and that. We got married in, he was in uniform. I think he was. Or he got a suit off his brother, I think. But anyway, that’s so, that was my life. I didn’t have much as a youth if, like they have today. Nothing like that. And I was still on work at the Army. I used to do the parachutes then because that was when they had a big training camp at oh, what was the name of the place? I can’t. The names of the place. Anyway, I was still on parachute so seeing as everything was on coupons and I was getting married so I made my wedding dress out of the off bits of the parachutes. I got permission off my forelady and when the photographs were taken I was [stripped half naked] because they weren’t [laughs]
[recording paused]
GH: That’s how it went and then I, well he was in the Forces, he was billeted out in Germany. I don’t, I do now but I didn’t know then where he was and he was in Glückstadt in Germany. Then I had my girl. Yeah. But that’s more or less my life. I mean during the war you lived from day to day because you couldn’t, I mean we got bombed out. The bombs were dropping all round you. You were going to work while they were dropping. When you were in work the sirens would go you had to go in these shelters. So that was my life really when I should have been out like they are today. No. No make-up. No nothing. Plain Jane.
[recording paused]
GH: We were rationed. You were rationed with clothes if you got any because you lived in a siren suit like the RAF have today. Them zip ups what they fly in. We used to do them and finished up with one of them. But there you are.
[recording paused]
GH: Not really. But we used to, all the bits and all the dead ends we used to make up for ourselves. Yeah. We got permission but wear cut offs and that you know but we used to put notes in. In the pockets. “Hope to meet you.” “Hope you are there.” You know. Being teenagers. But for [pause] yeah. it was a, it was an existence life really but it was an enjoyable one what you made yourself. Not like they have today. Yeah.
[recording paused]
GH: You worked in sections on them because they were big and I used to be on the cords that came from the top. You know, they went like that. Well, them cords had to be fastened in. Well, I’d done that part. It was very tedious. I think [pause] Yeah, but we didn’t know much about that because you were under, you know what did they call it?
[recording paused]
GH: Sort of thing, you know because they used to come in packs and we, we had girls at the end of the row. They’d pack them. Pack them and then there’d be trucks outside taking them because they were, they’d want them straight away sort of thing. But it was very hard work and your fingers were raw because the material was so [pause] I can’t tell, explain it to you. It was soft, the parachute but it was like a waterproof as well. It was. I can’t. It was, it, and we used to have to sew it and put all the rings all on. Oh, your fingers used to be raw but there you are. We got, I think they got six, oh I don’t, old money. You know. You had half crowns. Two half crowns was, four and a half crowns to a pound. That’s what we got. So I was on about three pound a week which was then a lot of money. But security. We hadn’t to tell anybody what we were doing. Where we’d be. What we were doing. How we got it. Nothing. And if a lot of them were torn or anything went wrong they used to, I don’t know who the persons were who used to come with a lorry, say, ‘Can you mend these and do —' And that’s what we done. And that was my life.
[recording paused]
GH: Yes. When you are thinking names my best friend was Una. Una Whitaker and Doris. Oh, what was her sur —
[recording paused]
GH: We was always together. We worked together and we went out together and I can’t remember the other names. ‘Course you used to have to have a permit in them days to go to the pictures and you used to have to queue up because they’d show a film for two hours and then they would come out and you could go in so I don’t really think of, but you were permit. Yeah. And if the air raids went of course you had to leave and go in the shelter. Well, you’d be in there all night but back at work the next morning regardless of whether they were bombing. You still had to go to work. So, but that, that was the, really it was a, it was a hard life. Not like they’ve got today.
[recording paused]
GH: I don’t. No. My dad would have never had let me go. He was already a sergeant in the Home Guard and he’d been a regular serviceman. No way would he have let me go because I wanted to go when I was eighteen. Oh yeah. I wanted to go in the RAF. Yeah. But no. No. No. We were on permit. We couldn’t tell anybody what you’d done. How you’d done it. Where you’d done it. Nothing. You never told anything like that. No. The only thing you could say I went to church. That’s about the only thing. You didn’t because them days everything was you don’t tell anybody. Everything was rationed. If you got it. Yeah. But I don’t know. But we used to get a lot of Black Market off the Forces because they were issued with chocolates. They weren’t very good chocolates. Very chewy [laughs] You went to the toilet after you’d had it. Yeah. We used to get a lot off the Yanks because they were billeted above us. They used to give us chewing gum and that stuff. Yeah. But I was never allowed to go with them or anything. I had to be a good girl. My dad was very particular. And he was the type who was in the Home Guard because he’d been a regular serviceman long before. I was born in barracks. Aldershot.
[recording paused]
GH: Yeah. Well, that’s another story. My mother and father had this friend and they had a pub and it was built on the canal banking. On the bridge where the canal went under. Of course, they used to transfer the glass, all the stuff from the electric works, the gas works, the gas man all on the canals. Of course, you hadn’t to tell anybody that you see and they used to go under the bridge and under the next one to the station which was in Philips Park where, oh that’s something else. I daren’t go in to all that but yes. It was a hush hush life if you know what I mean. There was no like they have today. I had to be in say 8 o’clock. When I was older I had to be in at eight. Used to kiss him goodnight on my step while my dad was at the back of us. But that’s it. That was my life.
[recording paused]
GH: Air raid shelter and back at work. Them were your three. You were either at work, air raid shelter or [laughs] going to work.
[recording paused]
GH: That was a two up two down and I was, the park, the gas works and the electric works. That’s why we got bombed out. Didn’t know where my mum was, my dad was in the Home Guard and I was in an air raid shelter. Twenty four hours a day.
[recording paused]
GH: Into a prefab. I was married. The first one out of the prefab. Yeah. That was in the paper. I don’t know where that went. Yeah. Well, we got bombed out so they gave us a prefab. Well, you know what they were like. Two bedrooms, a bathroom and a living room, a kitchen. I got married from that. Yeah. I had nothing. Nothing. Because everything, my bottom drawer had all been, well it had gone. Yeah. So, I had to start from scratch from there. Oh God. Well, where they had, we were lucky because in where we lived there was a lot of families had four or five children where my mum only had me. So you were sort of really tight rationed then. And of course, they’d have the blue books for babies and that. They couldn’t afford to buy all that stuff so they used to sell your ten shilling for a coupons. And that’s how I got my wedding cake. Through somebody else having eight or nine children and my mother kept buying the coupons. It wasn’t the money, it was rationing. To get my, for my wedding cake.
[recording paused]
GH: Oh yeah. We had a canteen. Yeah. And ENSA used to come play because you only got a half an hour break so they’d play and in the other part they had a stage. Well, not a stage. It was the canteen, you know and they’d do us a table. Yeah. We had that. ENSA. Yeah. And we, a lot of the Yanks were billeted in Hardwick Green so they used to come because we was above them and they used to come in even then, the Yanks. And of course, they’d got all the stuff. Chocolates. Sweets. You name it they had it. Cigarettes. Bacca. And we used to swap for them to come in. They’d give us whatever, you know. I tell you it was all Black Market in them days. Yeah.
[recording paused]
GH: If they didn’t come in to the, where we were they’d probably be with management if you know what I mean. We’d be in the machines you know. It used to make your fingers raw that parachute stuff. Oh, it was horrible stuff because it was waterproofed and it was, how can I explain it? It was hard to work with. The cords you know. And then somebody else had done the rip cord, somebody else done something else but I done the stitching. The sewing of the pieces. It was all piecework. Yeah. But when they’d finished I made my wedding gown out of all the bits and of course I was stripped jack naked wasn’t I?
[recording paused]
GH: No. Not to my knowledge. We didn’t know where they went. I mean no idea. I couldn’t tell you ‘cause I know underneath where I worked there was a lot of Italian servicemen and across the way, across the Green was the American. Yeah. They used, you know in Manchester that was Hardwick Green when, you know, they used to come in to the canteen entertaining the troops. But you didn’t go home, you stayed and if the sirens went you had to go in the shelter. Then you had to make it up when you come back. Yeah. It was a hard life at fourteen to be. It really was because it wasn’t all sit about, you know. No. You always had to be one ahead all the time. Yeah. And of course, when you were I started my period. Not that often. My periods, well it weren’t things that you could just go like you can today and we used to have a machine in the factory and our head forelady used to get them to come and put packs in. We used to have to pay tuppence. That’s another story.
[recording paused]
GH: Streets all lit. Oh yeah. And everybody had electric which wasn’t a lot had electric in them days. Everything was lit up. Christmas trees. Anything. Yeah. Banners everything. Yeah. They danced in the street. I danced from where I lived through Manchester. Piccadilly. That’s where it was all. Everybody. Thousands of people. We walked and marched playing drums, banjo, everything. Yeah. Of course, my, well my family when I got married they were all musical so they were all the big entertainers. Danced all the way from where I lived in Bradford Manchester all the way to Piccadilly, Manchester. Hundreds and hundreds. Banners, fireworks, you name it. Yeah. I even had clogs on then. We had to wear clogs because you couldn’t have shoes. Couldn’t have coupons for shoes. You had clogs. Do you know what clogs are? Yeah. Mine were blue. They were my best ones [laughs] with pink ribbon. Yeah. So that was my life then.
[recording paused]
GH: I was the first Rose Queen in Manchester. Yeah. Manchester Cathedral. Yeah. And at my church, the parish church, that got bombed. Yeah. Because I, my thing was from that church, you know. They used to have the board. Your name was on that. That all went. Yeah. The cathedral got bombed. Yeah. Because I was confirmed at Manchester Cathedral when I was first Rose Queen in Manchester. Them were days.
[recording paused]
GH: Oh, the story. But my husband then was my, well we weren’t girlfriend and boyfriend. We went to school together. We lived near one another and he, I was in the Girl’s Brigade. He was in the boy’s but his father made him go in the NFS. Well, that, that’s another story because he was such a man that he’d never sit still and he said, ‘You don’t go from there ‘til I tell you.’ And this night he said, ‘I’m going with my mates,’ because we were always together. Families. In the air raid shelter. ‘I’m going with my mates.’ And he went and he got the worst leathering he, and he come back and he leathered him. I mean hit him with the belt. He’d joined the NFS because his other mates. Well, of course, do you know what that is. The Fire Service. Of course, he was out in all the Blitz. And his dad worked down the pits. At the pits. They still carried on work and this particular time he didn’t go to work. He waited for him. He got the big, I always remember. I weren’t married then. We were just schoolmates. He give him the biggest good hiding and he pinned him to the chair, ‘You don’t move from there ‘til I let you out.’ Yeah. This was during the war, you know. Yeah. And then as I say he joined with all the other lads and he was in the NFS and of course then he was a very clever man. Very clever. He joined the Army and he went in the Royal Corps of Signals during the war and he was billeted at the somewhere in the Pennines. Under the Pennine thing. I didn’t know where he was then and he was on the Morse Code. He was very very clever her dad. Very. Always top of class. Of course, he was on the thing and of course he was censored all the time. He hadn’t to speak and do anything tell anybody what he’d done. It was only since. We knew what he was doing. He was in the underground on the whatsit. Yeah.
[recording paused]
GH: Do it because you only had outside toilets them days and if you had them they were bombed [laughs] They don’t know they’re born today.
[recording paused]
GH: My mam, oh she was in Ferranti’s. She was doing the shells. All the things there what they’d done with the shells and bullets and what have you. Yeah. And the other gran, my mother in law she was on the same. Yeah. She, she was the wire. Wire work. All her fingers, the barricades and all that were red raw and they’d get gloves two or three times in the day and they were raw, her fingers with the barbed wire and the wire. Yeah. If got caught with someone else oh she had terrible fights. Yeah. This was all going on during the war.
[recording paused]
GH: I’d got, they had, we had a wardrobe with a drawer at the bottom and my dad said, ‘You can have that drawer.’ Well, I thought I was anybody getting my own drawer you know. And of course, being, going with my husband I used to put a couple of pillow cases. Different things for when we got married and of course that all got, that went because we got hit and all I could say were, ‘They took all our bottom drawer.’ It was only like that but it had all my things in and being a machinist any cut offs I used to make things. If it was only an ironing glove or something I’d make it for my bottom drawer. Tea towels and pot towels. Yeah. So, I wasn’t very happy about that when we got bombed because then I went, ‘Oh, my bottom drawer’s gone.’
[recording paused]
GH: Now, that isn’t a sixty four dollar question because the rooms were big. I’m not talking of, I’m talking of a big area. You could set a bomb off. A bomber could go up. And underneath we went in the shelter. Jewsburys and Brown had that floor and they had to give these other floors up because when you were on parachute you had a high stool and you used to have to put your hand up if you wanted to go to the toilet. Somebody behind you would come in. Never stop. And you know they were big tables and all the rip cords and you were stitching. You couldn’t stop, take you out, because you were on a conveyor and you’d go on to the next one and then you put your hand up to go to the toilet and somebody behind steps in and it were oh, they didn’t know you were born these days. Brought them in because what was that place called? Not the [unclear] Oh.
Other: What —
[recording paused]
GH: You had to do it. God. Choose? I was, I made my clothes out of pieces of parachutes, you know. When we done them you got bits off. I made it, and I was stripped jack naked because I didn’t know it was, what did they call it? On you. Yeah. You’d go. You’d go. You’d go. I, I had two friends. Eunice and Joan. They were, oh I think they were the, they were a bit older than me and I I relied on them if you know what I meant. But they didn’t have to follow. Of course, my dad didn’t like that because they were older and I was following in their footsteps and I went and bought some high heeled shoes. What he did? [makes noise] Put me in my [unclear] shoes again with the button in the middle.
[recording paused]
GH: With thirteen other people and two mothers. Your parents didn’t know. They just put you in a van and off you went. My husband. Well, we lived together. We worked together. Parents were friends. Everything. He was put on a, with an elderly couple and they had a little farm holding. Well, he was in seventh heaven wasn’t he? Here’s me in this big mansion with about thirteen in one bedroom and fourteen in another and you had to put your hand up to go and have a shower or, not shower, a bath and three had to use the same bath water. First in. God I was always last in [laughs].
[recording paused]
GH: But it was just, I can see it as fun now because you didn’t really know at like today at fourteen they’re grown up. We weren’t. It was fun but when you think about it it wasn’t. Now, it was a hard life. Because, I mean even soap, you know how you go, ‘That’s it. Turn the water off. Don’t use all the soap.’ Because you got one tablet for a family. Is that going on there?
[recording paused]
GH: Well, my dad’s brother he was a tailor. He said she’d be a, thing and he used to have me doing little bits you know because them days families worked together and it was my dad’s youngest brother and he was magical with the sewing machine. That’s how I got started. Yeah. He used to run a pair of trousers up and a coat for me in a half an hour. Yeah. Hard times them were.
[recording paused]
GH: Called them windsweeps, you know. And at work they used to say, ‘Come on. We’ll do your hair for you,’ because I was younger than them and we’d go in toilets at dinnertime. Have our dinner and then go in and I had long blonde hair and they’d done it all up. My dad, he used to come to work and wait for me, take me home and he took one look and he got psst right across my ear hole, ‘Who done that?’ Well, it were at work. They’d done it all in wind, you know sweeps and oh that was the end of my life.
[recording paused]
GH: Well, they used to get cigarettes as you know and being with the servicemen below, oh they’d throw you twenty Piccadillies. You know. Of course, they were all smoking. I had to. He made me chew it. ‘Don’t ever let me cop you smoking.’ ‘I said, ‘Well, they all do it.’ ‘You don’t do what they do.’
Other: But I think, I think you did that because you were very young weren’t you? I mean you were the youngest in a factory. I used to go. When I was younger I remember going to the factory where mum still worked and you were still the youngest then weren’t you?
GH: Yeah.
Other: So, oh, I think there were some younger ones in there. Do you remember the [unclear] —
GH: It’s a well-known factory now. You’ve probably heard of it. Sparrow Hardwick. They do all the high-class underclothes. Night clothes.
Other: Used to. I don’t think they do now.
GH: I don’t know whether they do now but they used to do. We had these turbans. You know. Yeah. On account of the machinery when we were on parachutes, because they used to hang and you’d sew and they used to go along your thing, you know. We used to have to wear, oh God yeah turbans they was called. Yeah. It was, oh and we wore you couldn’t wear shoes. You had to wear these pump things. Something similar to a slipper today. Pump. We used to call them pumps.
[recording paused]
GH: They were in the middle of something and then the management the man he’d switch the mains off because you had to turn the electrics off. Then we went to the thing and bombs would be dropping and we were still going down in to the shelter.
[recording paused]
GH: This was my mother in law now, or then, she adopted Walter, this man and he went in the RAF. Of course, it was [pause] what was he? A warrant officer. He used to come home on leave and all this and that but he was actually a Canadian.
GH: And it was through my brother in law he knew him and that. Anyroad, that was another story and he was a warrant officer in the RAF. I’m trying to think. DFC. Now, I should have had that but my mother in law got robbed and they took it and we’ve never been able to find that. We had the police. We had everybody. Because the names, you know what they are don’t you? And the names are on when he was warranted and all that but we never ever got it, did we? His DFC. That’s a shame because I could have passed that on to my children. But there you are. We never know. Somebody’s got it somewhere. But how do you find them? I mean his rank. Everything’s on it. I mean my mother in law adopted him. Yeah. His parents went out to Canada, I think. They got killed or something. He had, but I don’t know, I don’t know all the story to that. But anyroad where that DFC went I don’t know.
[recording paused]
GH: I did too.
DB: What was he? What did he fly?
GH: The Hurricane. No. Bomber.
DB: The Lancaster.
GH: The Lancaster. Yeah, oh I can’t. Yeah. Lancaster. Yeah. Yeah, but he was on Bomber Command and all wasn’t he?
Other: Yeah. He was.
GH: Yeah. I’ve got nothing because we got bombed out, you see. I lost a lost a lot of stuff when we got bombed out. Because you know we used to work with siren suits. Yeah. And they were a horrible stuff. They were imitation nylon and it was, oh God. But you had to wear them. And the hood up. When you went out you had to have the hood up like a lot of monks. It’s not funny.
[recording paused]
GH: Because if my dad had seen me putting lipstick on he’d have painted my face and a kick up the bot. So we used to hide it in us pocket and then go out. Go outside. Yeah. Them were the days.
Other: [unclear] was. Yeah.
[recording paused]
GH: Yeah. Well, I don’t know where they were stationed. Did you?
Other: It was an airbase.
GH: I mean they could go from Ringway and get bombed and they would be somewhere else. You’d never know where they were, did you? When he came home, yeah wasn’t often then in them days like they do today. Yeah. When he come home he was all full of the joys of spring because my mother in law adopted him and I wasn’t married then to my, but I knew him because we all lived next door but one to one another. Yeah, he was oh he was a lovely lad. He really was. Yeah. He was adopted. Yeah. Yeah. He got, he joined the, Eric went in the Army, Bill went in the Army and he went in the RAF as a, and he was a warrant officer. I don’t know what that covers. I’ve never found out. Do you?

Collection

Citation

Denise Boneham, “Interview with Gladys Hatt,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 4, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/28737.

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