Interview with Sybil Green


Interview with Sybil Green


Sybil was born in Bracebridge near Lincoln, she went to Bracebridge School then left at fourteen to work first at a Co-op store and then at and electric shop. Sybil talks about civilian life in wartime, her family working at Foster Quinns, fire watches, shelters, and people moving to Lincoln from Sheffield. She recollects meeting her husband, then moving to office work at Hudsons after the end of the war. She married in 1951. Reminisces receiving a telegram about the loss of her brother Alec Henry Peadon, killed after he bailed out over Belgium.







00:34:20 audio recording


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AGreenS160622, PPeadonAH1605


HD: This is Helen Durham on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre on the 22nd of June 2016 and the time is 11.25. I’m here to interview Mrs Sybil Green, who was a child, teenager during the Second World War and lived and grew up in Lincoln. Good morning Sybil. Thank you very much for giving us this interview. First of all could you tell me a bit about Lincoln and what it was like before the war when you were growing up?
SG: Yes, um, nobody had any money much but we did all mix together and I went to an infants school. We lived down Bracebridge. I went to an infants school until I was seven and then went to the older one. But mum used to just put me across the road and I walked on my own and then, as I say, we grew up, and I was about five or six when I was woke up one morning and I ran to into my mum’s bedroom. Mind, and she’d had a baby, a sister, who was Molly and then after that we used to go out to play. We used to go on the common, everywhere, we didn’t have to worry about getting molested or anything and I stayed there, I went to Bracebridge School until I was eleven and then I went up to Central Bank but this was during the war, yes, and we had a shelter at the school and it was under ‒ there was a bridge, we used to call it Bainbridges [?] Bridge and they built a shelter, a brick shelter for us at the school and it was underneath, near a railway. But after that once or twice we had to come out and ‒, but then they started doing school dinners then and we had ‒, ‘cause I still used to walk home, how I did it I don’t know, used to walk, not so much when I had the dinner, before, I used to walk all the way home, which was quite a treck and have my dinner then and I ran all the way back to school again [laughs] and after that I left school when I was fourteen and that’s when I went home one day and they’d had the telegram about Alec and that up-skittled everybody and ‒
HD: Who was Alec?
SG: Alec, that was me brother, yes, he was Alec and he used to tease my mum terrible [laughs]. He used to tie her laces to the back of the chairs. But he was the only one of us [unclear] went to the school, it’s, yes on Monk’s Road, he went to the City School, on Monk’s Road, and he stayed there until he was fifteen or sixteen and he went in an office but he didn’t like being in the office so he used to go and drive the lorry, and then he went in the Air Force. I can’t quite remember how old he was, he might have been nineteen or twenty one, I’m not quite sure what his age was but just before he got killed he’d come home on leave. I went to fetch mum to tell her and that was the last time we saw him. He went back, and he was ‒, I’m not sure where he was stationed, and they went out and this particular navigator, one of them couldn’t go, and he stopped off, and I think they had to bail out over Belgum and they shot him coming down. He ‒, terrible. And that was it, more or less, but mum never never got over it no, no.
HD: What was Alec’s full name?
SG: Alec Henry, yeah, like Henry Peadon, my maiden name, yeah, but no, in them days though, as I says, we had no money but we could go anywhere, not like you know. We used to go on the common and all over the place, yeah. And then later on in the war I think, I can’t remember whether ‒ , ‘cause my dad, we used to live down Lake View then, and he went round to tell a neighbour and as he went round there was some bullets flying about and then they dropped a bomb on Boultham Park, which was ‒, and Westwick Drive. There was quite a few killed and then Highfield Avenue two school girls, they got killed as well.
HD: Can you remember what year?
SG: What was?
HD: What year, these bombs came down?
SG: I didn’t quite hear what you said love.
HD: Can you remember what year the bombs came down?
SG: Um, I’m just trying to think. It would be, let me see, 1929, about ’33, or something like that, yes, the war started in ’39 didn’t it? Yeah, yeah, so I’d be about twelve I should think, about twelve, and then there was quite a few bombs dropped at that time and, as I say, um, bullets and all sorts of things you know, but I think, I told your colleague, one time, the only time I got a clout we went into the park and we lit a bonfire there, [unclear] was doing some potatoes, and that was the only time I got a good hiding ‘cause it was in the war you know and as I say, I can’t remember a great deal, as I say, I know there was restrictions and there again we had no lights or anything on, not like now ,they’re out and all that palaver, there was no lights, where we lived we used to go down Bracebridge, Russell Street, we used to walk down there but we never used to give it a thought.
HD: So how did you feel as a twelve year old and there was all this destruction going on?
SG: Well, I think we didn’t take a lot of notice really, just got on with it, when the sirens went you went into the shelter and just got on with it you know, and all the rationing came in and we couldn’t get certain things and ‒, but I can’t remember a great deal really. I can remember us going out and about but there was a lot of bombing around Lincoln, of course we had a lot of aerodromes around here as well, yeah, not a lot of army. My husband, he went in at the end of the war and there weren’t a lot of ‒ , and there was restricted and when the lights did come on, it was absolutely smashing.
HD: So how did Lincoln change during the war?
SG: Um, well I think people was more ‒, looked after each other, yes, I think, you know, ‘cause my dad had an allotment and if he had spare it was spread about you know, things like that, you know, he just shared everything. There was more of a community than there is now. People used to talk to one another and it was, you know, more friendly, yes, I think now people don’t, are not as open are they?
HD: And did you go to school?
SG: Oh yes, yes, I went to school and I left school when I was fourteen and started work on the Monday [laughs] at the Co-op, selling wallpaper [unclear].
Other: What did you do on your first day? At work?
SG: Well I just ‒, well actually it was when rationing was on and so there wasn’t a lot of wallpaper but they used to, what they called stippling. They used to use distemper or something and then do it with a sponge to make it look pretty.
HD: Right.
SG: And then I worked in the ‒, there was an electric shop across the road and I worked there and we used to ‒, the old wirelesses, we used to have to take the batteries out and have them wound up or something to get the electric to go, no not electric ‒, I can’t remember having electric, later on in the war, I think, I can’t quite remember now when we had electric, but we did move to Lake View Road, we lived on Newark Road and then we went to another one but mum didn’t like it, it wasn’t ‒, so we moved into Lake View and we was there up ‘til me getting married, yeah.
HD: And did you meet any of the RAF personnel?
SG: Oh yes, oh yes, I was getting older like, yes.
HD: Can you describe what it was like in Lincoln?
SG: Oh yes, in the barracks, of course, because after the war me and my husband used to go to these meetings yeah, at the barracks they had all the army on Burton Road there, that was when the soldiers were all over. In fact one of my neighbours next door but one, he’s Polish and he was telling my gardener yesterday he was brought up in a concentration camp and he was telling my gardener, you know, how bad it was, and he come to Lincoln, he stayed in Lincoln, yeah, but we didn’t go without food but we just had the basics, you know. I think we wasn’t used to anything really fancy but there was a little bit of black market [laughs] that went on. We used to get it from various ‘cause my sister probably went out with soldier or two and she came back with some bits and pieces, yes, [laughs] we did. We never went hungry but we only had the basics, yeah.
Other: When you got a clout for the bonfire was that for wasting the potatoes or for the blackout?
SG: It was for lighting the fire, yeah, I did get a clout.
Other: Who chided you for doing that?
SG: Um, my dad did it, dad, mum very rare, occasionally. Even dad didn’t normally. I mean that was an exception. We was a family, a quiet family, there was eight, nine of us, five sisters and three brothers, eight of us, mum lost one between me and the other one, me sister, yeah.
HD: So, going back to the war years, and Lincoln, is there anything special that stands out for you? Any experiences that you can really remember? And how you felt?
SG: Well I think when we ‒, on Boultham Park, we used to go and look at all the craters, and we used to say how lucky we were, because we only lived a few yards from where, you know, they dropped and they did onto Westwick Drive, one or two got killed from Westwick Drive, the bombs dropped. We didn’t get a lot of ‒, not that really, in Lincoln. We did have a lot of Air Force round about, they was all stationed round here. You see Alec, I try to think, Alec was seven years, yeah, seven years older than me, yeah, so as I say when I was fourteen, he was just twenty one, that’s when he went in, yeah, thats when he went in, yeah, Air Force, yeah.
HD: And so did they, can you tell me a little bit about the RAF personnel coming into Lincoln, what happened and where did you meet?
SG: We didn’t used to see many RAF, more soldiers, didn’t see many RAF at all, no, very few really. We had one or two around Lincoln but it was more the barracks and round there we had soldiers, we didn’t have many ‒, there was one or two aerodromes, Skellingthorpe Road, and one or two up Crosscliff Hill, there was one or two up there, yeah, but the Air Force, yeah.
HD: But did you ever see the bombs, bullets or planes?
SG; Oh yes.
HD: Can you tell me about the planes when they used to leave the RAF stations?
SG: No, not really, no, no, I can’t remember much about that no, ‘cause most of the aerodromes was just outside Lincoln but you could hear them when they was coming over ‘cause then the sirens used to go and also we had a lot of people come from Sheffield to Lincoln because it was safer and we had two, two people staying with us and they stayed with me brother across the road. He had one or two and a lot of them, and one of them ‒ , I go to the club, they stayed in Lincoln, they stopped here. They came from Sheffield ‘cause it was a bit safer and they’re still here, one or two of them stayed here.
Other: Do they know the war’s over now?
SG: Mmm?
Other: Do they know the war’s over? [laughs]
HD: So, can you tell me a little bit about when the alarms went off, how did you feel?
SG: Oh yes, well we had one of these what we called Andersen shelters in the living room, you were supposed to go under there and I think we did but not for long, but mum and dad, they’d just started going out when the war started but after that they stopped going out, you know, we was growing up and they just used to go out Saturday night but then of course when the war started we were supposed to under there but if you was at school or anywhere out you used to look for the nearest shelter.
HD: And whereabouts was that nearest shelter? Can you remember?
SG: Well, apart from when I went to school I can’t remember any other, ‘cause I mean, them days at fourteen I didn’t go out anywhere much. It’s, as I say, the nearest one ‒ I think there was one or two round about and there was a lot of ‒, put up specially made, made so you could go under ground and they had some ‒ ‘cause on the common I think they had like ‒, they built under ground on the common, but I can’t remember going there myself, no.
HD: You don’t remember going underneath into the shelter?
SG: No, no, no, really no.
HD: So the one you went into ‒
SG: When I was at the school, yes.
HD: What was it like when you went under, when the siren went off and went ‒ ?
SG: Well, we all had to walk out, we had girls in one section, and the lads in the other, but we used to walk, as I say, we used to laugh about it ‘cause it was next door to the railway line and it was just a brick shelter and we went in there when the war started, yeah, yeah. Then you waited when the sirens went and then you came out again.
HD: Did you do anything while you were waiting? Did you play cards?
SG: I can’t remember, I can’t really, ‘cause ‒, I do [emphasis] remember, yeah, I think we used to carry on with the lessons, the teachers came with us, I’m sure they did, and we had to just carry on with what lessons we was doing.
HD: So at the end of the war what was it like in Lincoln then?
SG: OK. I was about sixteen I think, and went up near Broadgate. There was a lot of NAAFIs and things and everybody was around the [uncear] round there and yeah everyone was quiet but we still didn’t have a lot of money them days and just had to carry on with what we’d got.
Other: When you started work at the Co-op when you was fourteen did the Co-op tell you where the shelter was? Where you worked?
SG: I can’t remember that, Malcolm no, I was, I’m just tryng to think, they probably did. There was one or two when I worked at the Co-op, do you know? I can’t think that far back. I know we did have a lot of shelters but I can’t remember being at work when they went off, I think we just used to ‒, well I can’t remember.
Other: What did your brothers do during the war? Alan and ‒
SG: Oh, Ted, he went abroad. He worked for Foster Quinns and went abroad but Alan, he had what they called flat feet so he had to go ‒ , he was just in the NAAFI and things like that distributing army things yeah, but Ted, he worked for Foster Quinns and he went all over the place, but this was after the war, he went to Italy and one or two places.
HD: Was he in the RAF?
SG: No, he didn’t go in any, no, he just worked for Foster Quinns that made the tanks, he wasn’t in any of the Forces, no, as I say, apart from Alan, he did, Ted didn’t, no. But I think he did war work, that sort of thing, for Foster Quinns that did all the tanks and he did go away to different places.
Other: And it was Alex that joined the RAF?
SG: Yeah, Alec joined the RAF, yeah, yeah.
HD: When your brother was working on the tanks do you know what sort of work he did?
SG: Oh yes, helped to build them I think, yes, he helped to build Foster Quinns. In fact, they put one down somewhere in Rookery Lane, they got a tank, a model of a tank or something, yeah, yeah, Foster Quinns, yeah, he did work there. Well, we all had decent jobs really.
Other: What about your sisters, what did they do in the war, can you remember?
SG: Norah worked for ‒, oh that’s another thing, why we never went out, Norah worked for somebody who had a storehouse for meats and things and she got some things like that, there was a little bit of black market going I think [laughs], at that time yes [laughs], if you could get anything you got it.
Other: What about Joan, what did Joan do in the war?
SG: I think Joan was married I think. Her husband was in the war I think, no, I can’t quite remember Malc what Joan did, yeah, I think she just went to work like all of us did.
Other: Did you listen to the news much during the war?
SG: Oh yes, yes, we had a little wireless just on the side and we used to listen to that and I can remember the day it was declared, as I say, I wasn’t very old when it came over, and I can’t quite remember the man’s name who declared it on the radio.
HD: Winston Churchill?
SG: It might have been. It was II o’clock the war was started, yeah, as I say it seems a long, long time ago now.
HD: So what happened after the war then, when it finished, what did you do then?
SG: Well, I think people just carried on what they were doing really but there was still a lot of poverty about. Well, there wasn’t a lot of money going about. My dad, he worked for Austins and ‒, but until, I say, even mum used to go out to work, ‘cause when I was eleven a lot of women went potato picking but I couldn’t go because I had to stop at home to look after Molly. Mum worked for Smith’s Crisps. I couldn’t go potato picking, so she said I was terribe with [unclear], blame her [laughs]. Molly as I say, Molly was a lot younger than me, yeah. We had really a decent home really, ups and downs, but I mean we justed mucked in together. We didn’t have much money. ‘Cause mum bought a pram for Molly. She had to send it back ‘cause she hadn’t made the payments and she wouldn’t let them take it back while it was dark [laughs], yeah. Really it was hard days I think but yeah, you just got on with life really. As I say I stayed ‒, I changed my job when I was about nineteen I think. I was fed up working on a Saturday so I went to Hudsons [?]. I’d never done any office work in me life. I just went and filled a form in and I was in the foreman’s office and no experience. I was just there until I got married.
HD: And when did you get married?
SG: 19 ‒, I can’t remember, I can’t remember. When was you born Malc?
Other: 1952.
SG: Well yes, so we’d been married eleven months before I had Malcolm because the men I worked with said ‘I’ll give you nine months’ but it was eleven months with Malcolm. ’51, yeah.
HD: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experiences as a teenager?
SG: Yeah, well there used to be army cadets and we used to like going there ‘cause they had one at South Park and then there was one on ‒, oh, I belonged to the Girls’ Brigade. I got a photograph somewhere. We used to wear all the things and we used to go up and that was on [unclear] Mill. It was the old high school and I was in the Girls’ Brigade, I got a photograph somewhere.
HD: Being in the Girls’ Brigade can you tell me if you helped in any way during the war?
SG: Well no,it wouldn’t be during the war. It would be after I think. I would have been about seventeen before I went in there, yeah. No, I never went out much before then, not really. I think I went to the Girl Guides and we were brought up by a Methodist chap. Mum used to clean the chapel next door and Methodists went there and ‒
Other: Your mother was quite into politics.
SG: Oh, mum was, very much into politics, Labour Party, and one of my daughters, my sisters, had a baby before she was married so mum won’t put up [unclear], she would still go to the Labour Party but wouldn’t put up with any of the [unclear] or anything ‘cause [unclear] had this baby before she was married. Little bit different now.
Other: Were you able to put the wireless on yourself when you got in from work?
SG: Oh yes, yes, that’s all we used to listen to and I used to read a lot but the wireless yeah, we used to listen to Joseph Locke and all the real ‒, radio was all we had. We did get a telly when I got married. My brother bought a little black and white one but there was no adverts, they used to play music between, between the stations yeah. We got our first one when we got married. We won five pound so we ‒, it was a Radio Rental, we had a little black and white one and then we got colour.
HD: Well, thank you very much for giving some of your reminiscinces here. It has been most interesting.
SG: Well, when I look back it [unclear] but it was more content than nowadays, definitely, definitely, not only that we could walk about and not worry but you can’t let children walk about now, which is sad.
Other: Your dad carried on working throughout the war.
SG: Oh until he was seventy.
Other: And what did he do?
SG: Oh he was on the ‒, with the oil. ‘Cause he used to be as clean as anything. And my brother used to work there and he used to get oil all over [unclear] yeah. He couldn’t see very well, he’d had rheumatic fever when he was a boy and he wouldn’t give me away ‘cause he had no hair so my brother gave me away when I got married, but he had an allotment and he used to get all [unclear] and if we did go away for a week ‘cause later on it used to be on the Friday night he used to bring all the beans and things and we used to get them ready and we used to stay in some little room at Mablethorpe and had one of them chalets on the top. We just started when [unclear] but mum died, when she was about sixty four I think, she died when she was about sixty four, she was just getting that she could go out and about and had a little money to go on holiday, and go into Mablethorpe in her house or something and then have a chalet on the top. She just got going.
Other: Did grandad, your dad did he ever, I can’t remember if he said he joined the Home Guard or go out fire watching?
SG: No, no. Oh, he might have gone firewatching and Alan did as well ‘cause Alan didn’t go in the army. Yeah, dad went firewatching. His eyes were very bad, my dad had rheumatic fever when he was a boy.
Other: But he did see you lighting the fire though.
SG: Yes, yes, [laughs]. That was the only time I got a good hiding. Mum used to, now and again, and she wouldn’t swear, she used to say ‘darn it’, she never used to swear, it was ‘darn it’, no nothing. That was when we lived in Ledbury[?] before we got married. But there was looking back, a lot of bombs did drop round Lincoln because we had a lot of Air Force and, as I say, the army. I think a lot of army were around but not a lot of Air Force, I don’t think there was a great deal, they was just outside Lincoln, most of them.
Other: Did you go to church very much during the war?
SG: Pardon?
Other: Did you go to church?
SG: Oh we went to chapel, chapel. That’s where I want to go when anything happens to me. I want to be buried Methodist. I do go to er ‒, we have luncheon clubs in the church hall but no, I’ve just told you that ‒.
Other: Did you go to chapel every week then?
SG: What love?
Other: Did you go to chapel?
SG: Church? Sunday school, oh yes, well we only lived next door so we couldn’t get away from it, mum used to clean it so we used to go there. I can remember sitting there on these little chairs but I don’t think kids go to Sunday School much now do they? And then we used to have the ‒, in the arboretum we used to have a special service there. We used to walk up in the arboretum and they had all the Sunday Schools used to walk up there.
Other: I remember your dad, our dad, your husband, telling me about the Robin Hood march.
SG: Oh that was the pub. It was the drill hall. They used to do a special dinner but we weren’t allowed to go. Mother was so ‒, ‘No, you’re not going’ ‒
Other: So proud.
SG: She was proud
Other: But dad, he had a different upbringing of course, he went didn’t he, to the dinners?



Helen Durham, “Interview with Sybil Green,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 19, 2024,

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