Interview with Heather Hindley


Interview with Heather Hindley


Heather Hindley was a young girl living in Nottingham and attending private school when war was declared. She discusses air raids, sleeping in her grandparents’ shelter and rationing. She talks about the experience of moving to the countryside at the start of the war and how they later came to have a serviceman billeted with the family. Despite being quite young she attended tea dances at the Palais de Dance where she met American servicemen and had her first experience of jiving.








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I’m Cathy Hewitt and I’m interviewing Heather Bindley for the International Bomber Command Centre Archive. We are at xxxxxx Lincoln and it’s 15 March 2017 and the time is 18.40. Also present at the interview is Emma Hindley, Heather’s daughter.
CH: Hello Heather. Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed and perhaps if you could go back to the very beginning and tell me your story from when you were very small.
HH: Yes, well I had a very happy childhood and I went to a private school and my father used to drive me in the morning and a lot of my friends arrived in chauffer-driven cars. Then suddenly when I was seven the war came. The Army took over the school, I had no school to go to. Of course petrol was in short supply and they had to find somewhere for me to go to school which was just a vicarage and there were just a few pupils. My mother said well. my father can’t take me because there’s no petrol, so I had to go on the bus. So I had to find my way on the bus with my gas mask. It was completely different as there were only a few pupils. It was quite scary because my mother said if there’s a raid you will have to find somewhere to go and shelter. I was only about eight then, so it was quite life changing.
CH: Whereabouts were you living at the time? Can you tell us a bit about your parents?
HH: We were living in Nottingham. My grandparents lived across the road. My grandparents had a very big shelter built, below ground with bunk beds and when the siren went we had to run across the road. Of course I went to bed early and the alarm mostly went at nine so we had to get up and put on, we had siren suits and we had to put them over our pyjamas and run across the road and sleep in the shelter until the all clear. Sometimes it was a few hours, but sometimes not so long but it was all very scary. It was all, you know, disruption because you can’t sleep properly and then when the alarm went, the all clear went, you had to run across home and go to bed again and get up again for school. It was all very different
CH: What did your parents, your father work as?
HH: Well my father was in the First World War, but he was young then and my grandfather was in the First World War in France. My father was in the Navy in the First World War
CH: What did he do after the war?
HH: He was a milliner, yes a milliner in Nottingham, wholesale.
CH: Did you have any siblings?
HH: Yes, I had a sister. She was eight years older so when the war came she left school and went to work with my father. My father had to go to his office and sit sometimes you know in case, there was a bomb but yes then we all went down. It was a bit chaotic. Well I mean the rations were very poor. The way we eat today is completely different. It was so, not easy. There was very little meat and we mostly had bread and jam and that sort of thing. People grew their own vegetables but it was a very different diet.
CH: What sort of food did you have? What sort of meals?
HH: I can remember any. There was bread and jam and very little meat. Just a tiny, we didn’t eat very much, you know. We got quite a lot of sugar, that’s the strange thing, [laughing] I eat hardly any sugar now, people don’t. But we had quite a good supply of sugar, I don’t know why that was. A very small portion of butter and cheese. Yes it was a very sparse diet.
CH: Do you remember at all having to go and queue up, maybe with your mother?
HH: Oh yes, queue for food, yes definitely. And not having much meat I got very, what do they call it, I’ve forgotten. Lack of meat, so my grandmother gave me some of her ration, that was kind. It was not pleasant in the winter down in the shelter. It was so cold, it was terrible. I remember we used to go out straight away after the alarm and one night we were a bit late leaving the house and I remember all the planes coming over and I looked up and I thought there’s Germans in those planes [laughing[, I was scared. And I’ve got a photograph of [pause] well actually at the start of the war we were all told to wait outside the house and they marched men down the road and they said ‘you go there and you go there’, and they were Pay Corps and we had to take a man in from Pay Corps for the war and you know he was Army and he got us going and, oh dear, when the siren went he was the one ‘come on, come on’ [laughing]. Oh dear.
CH: How long did he billet with you?
HH: Oh quite a time, yes and he had a son in the forces as well and he came to visit us as well. This man, ‘cos they’re older, he was older so he wasn’t in the war but he was Pay Corps. So we didn’t have a choice, we just had, so that was another mouth to feed for my mother. Yes, not easy.
CH: She didn’t get extra rations for him then?
HH: Well I suppose she did, I don’t remember that. I think she must have done, she couldn’t feed him, I mean he was quite a big man, he’d want plenty of food. [laughing] Not easy.
CH: And what about your father, did he take a role in the war?
HH: No, not really. Just watching to see that everybody had drawn their curtains and all that sort of thing. Well when the war started my father was so worried we’d all be bombed so he said to my mother, ‘I know some people out in the country’, near Nottingham but it was way out in the country, ‘and you can go and stay with them’, so my mother and my sister and myself went, but we only stayed about three weeks because [laughing] it was just all so dreadful. There was no facilities at all and they’d got just this two bedroomed cottage and the three of us had to sleep in this bed and the lady who owned the cottage, she wouldn’t let my mother do a thing. She wouldn’t let her do any dusting or anything [emphasis], no cooking, so we just sat there all day and didn’t do anything. So when we wanted a bath she said ‘oh my daughter lives up the lane, about a mile, she has a bathroom so you can go there’. So we had to walk a mile to the bath [laughing] so we only stayed three weeks. My mother said ‘I think I’d rather be bombed’, [lots of laughing], no not really, but it was quite at time, quite an experience at the time. Oh dear. It was September and there were plums in the gardens and this lady was making plum jam, masses of it so of course for every meal we had plum jam and bread. I never ate any plum jam for years after that [chuckling], oh dear.
CH: You said you saw the planes coming over?
HH: Oh yes they went over when they bombed Coventry. We were in the shelter all night while they were doing it.
CH: But you saw them going over?
HH: Yes scary. The only good thing about war is that my mother’s friend was married to a dance band leader and we used to go to the Palais de Dance on Saturday ‘cos they had tea dances they called them and I went. I was only young but it was the afternoon and there were all the Americans there and they were jiving, oh it was good fun [laughing]. Yes, that was the best part of the war [laughter] because they were all so jolly, the Americans, yeah. Chewing gum, jiving. I’d never seen that before. It was great.
CH: How old were you then?
HH: I would only be nine or ten or something. Most of the school went out into the country, to, I don’t know where it was but I didn’t want to be a boarder. I wanted to be at home, I don’t know why, so I was just at this vicarage, with just a few children. It was terrible, the education was almost nil for all the war. So I didn’t get much education. It was a shame that the Army took over the school in the first place really. It went on the same, ‘til the end of the war.
CH: What did you do after the war ended?
HH: Well there was school. We got the school together again but it wasn’t the same. It was difficult. And they I left quite young so I didn’t have much education really compared with children today and people didn’t go to university the same as they do today.
CH: What did you do when you finished school?
HH: Well my father wanted me to go to work for him, you know in his business, millinery business but I didn’t want to so I suddenly went down into Nottingham to Jessops which was John Lewis and got a job for myself [laughing] in the coats. It was good.
CH: How long did you work there for?
HH: Ooh, quite a while, until I was married, after I was married, yes. And yes it was good, I liked John Lewis. They had fashion parades and they used to model. It was all very good, exciting.
CH: How old were you when you got married and where did you meet your husband?
HH: I met my husband in Torquay. I was about eighteen and I was with my sister on holiday. I hardly spoke to him, I can’t remember him very well but it was about three years later, I went to the same hotel and he was there and he said ‘oh I saw you’ and we got friendly and that was it. He lived in Cheshire, in Macclesfield and he said ‘I’ll come and see you’, because I was in Nottingham still and he said ‘oh I’ll come and see you’ and I told my mother and she said ‘he won’t come’. So he did, he came because he’d got, funnily enough, his uncle lived not far from us in West Bridgford. So he did come and that was it. I got married in ’56, he worked in the bank Nat West. He was in the next bedroom and he’d got four friends and they were so noisy and my sister said ‘oh dear’. I didn’t know that he was my future husband. [laughter] Oh dear, it was funny.
CH: So when you were younger it sounds as though your father was quite well-off compared with a lot of other people.
HH: Well yes he was really, he and my grandparents were, but you know I lived in that circle, I thought everyone was like that, I didn’t realise that there were poor people. It’s terrible to say that, but I didn’t. Because in those days you just lived in your own area and neighbours, you know, they’re all the same. I feel awful about it now when I think there must have been such poor people. Once I did, before the war, notice there was somebody poor and that was when my father called for me from school in the car and he opened the door for me and there was a boy there with rags, rag clothes and no shoes and I went ‘eugh’ like that because I’d never seen anybody like that. My father said ‘it’s alright you can get in, I’m taking him home to his mother because he ran in front of the car and I knocked him over but I don’t think he’s hurt. Anyway, we went to this house, and it was, well it was just a slum and his mother came out and my father explained and she hit him on the head and said ‘get in’. I’d never seen anything like that before.
CH: It sounds like your father was a very caring man.
HH: Yes. But I couldn’t believe there were people like that, but you see now, you see things like that on television. It’s so different, completely different.
CH: When you were younger did you listen to the radio?
HH: Not a lot no. No, I suppose I lived in my own little world with my own friends and, no, odd. Completely different to what it is today.
Emma Hindley: I think the experience that my father had, he lived in Macclesfield, was quite different to the experience my mother had and I don’t think he experienced any air raids in all the time of the war.
HH: No
EH: And when everyone had got their Anderson shelters I think they tried to build the Anderson shelter in the garden and they dug out for it to go in and it filled up with water and so they didn’t bother. But it didn’t matter because they didn’t need to use it. Which was really surprising because the silk factories were all round Macclesfield and they were making parachutes for the war so you would have thought bombing could have come their way. And I think the other big difference was because it was quite countrified in Macclesfield my father used to walk over the hills and go to some of the local farms and get eggs and fresh produce. So the difference between my mother saying that, you know, they were very hungry and had a limited amount of food and my father, I think it was a different thing. I don’t think they had that kind of same hunger. Yes they were rationed but they did have access to other food. It was quite a different experience I think.
HH: Hmm.



Cathie Hewitt, “Interview with Heather Hindley,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 27, 2024,

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