Gransnet forums


Now closed: Win one of 10 copies of Voices from the Second World War

(84 Posts)
KatGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 11-Apr-16 11:06:59

We've teamed up with Walker Books to give away 10 copies of Voices from the Second World War - a powerful and extremely moving collection of first-hand accounts of the war, published in association with the award-winning children's newspaper First News.

Over 80 survivors share their stories with the children of today so that their memories will live on and the lessons learned will never be forgotten. Contributors include a rear gunner who took part in sixty bombing raids, a Jewish woman who played in the orchestra at Auschwitz, a Japanese man who survived Hiroshima and Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 children by setting up the indertransport program from Czechoslovakia.

Many of the interviews were conducted by children, for many of them the only chance they'll have to hear about the Second World War first hand. A portion of proceeds will go to support The Silver Line, Esther Rantzen's new charity providing support and advice to older people.

To win one of 10 copies of the book, share your family’s stories from the Second World War below on this thread before midday on 11 May 2016.

Voices from the Second World War is published by Walker Books and is available to buy on Amazon. Read the free extract here.

oznan Wed 13-Apr-16 11:00:52

My mom worked in a drapery shop,called The Scotch Wool Shop in Birmingham city centre,although the family lived on the outskirts of Birmingham.One morning,after a night of heavy raids over the city,she arrived for work to find the shop,along with a whole row of buildings,reduced to a pile of rubble.I have photos of the devastation that morning and can imagine the horror of the people finding their workplaces,shops and offices,gone overnight.
My mother then trained as a psychiatric nurse,so the war gave her an unexpected career change.Of course,she had to leave nursing when she married after the war in 1949 as married women did back then from many professions.
My father was in the Polish Resettlement Corps and he and my mother were pen pals who met up and fell in love.
How the war changed the course of life for so many,that is the lucky ones who survived it.

harrigran Wed 13-Apr-16 11:29:35

My father was an ARP warden during the war, he worked in a shipyard during the day but donned his uniform as soon as he finished work. My sister was born in 1940 and my mother was left to care for her newborn baby in the Anderson shelter at the top of our garden. I was an adult before I realised how my father had risked his life crawling into a bombed house to rescue a woman who had hidden in the cupboard under the stairs because she was frightened to go into the shelter. He dragged her to safety on a door that had been blown off.
My father's cousin was the first person to die in an air raid in our town.

Envious Thu 14-Apr-16 12:28:09

My father never discussed the war till his later retirement when he decided to write a book called Remembrances. He self published it and sold copies and gave his profits to his church. He also went back to France and retraced his journey,visited the well kept War cemeteries and met many French people that still appreciated the U.S.'s help during the war. He also went to the D-Day celebrations as he had landed on one of the beaches himself.

durhamjen Fri 15-Apr-16 01:16:57

My father was in the army before the war began.
He was in the RASC, a despatch rider, taking messages on his motorbike.
He was at Dunkirk, then sent up to Hull when it was being bombed.
He had to drive a lorry into Hull and remove all the rubble from bombed buildings after the Luftwaffe had gone back home. Then the same the next day, etc. The British had actually built what looked like a town along the Humber, further out of Hull, hoping the Germans would think it was Hull and bomb there instead of Hull itself. It sort of worked, but Hull was the most bombed city during the war, so heaven knows how much worse it would have been if it wasn't for the decoy near Paull.

He was billeted in the same village where my mother lived in the schoolhouse, which was where they met.

Then he was sent to Nigeria to train West African troops, who were then sent to Burma to fight the Japanese. While he was out there, she trained to be a nurse.
He never talked about what happened in Japan, although later in life he joined the Burma Star Association so he could go along to meetings with others who had been there.
He was lucky, though, never got a scratch, apart from losing his front teeth when he fell off his motorbike, and getting malaria in Africa.

My husband's father trained in Chester to build bailey bridges. Then he went out on DDay and built them across rivers, so the tanks and troops could travel quickly. He wrote his story in a magazine for the miners, as he worked for the NCB after the war. He also had to clear mines, clear and repair roads. His company liberated one of the towns near Arnhem, and build a bridge over the river before a major parachute and glider drop. This was when he met Montgomery. The paratroopers were dropping in the fields behind them as they were building the bridge.

LynnKnowles Fri 15-Apr-16 10:27:04

A friend of mine had a narrow escape as a baby in the war, in Bradford.
He had been left in his pram, overnight, downstairs.
Unfortunately a there was a direct hit on his home.
He, sadly, was the only survivor - his parents and brother died upstairs - he only survived because he was where he was. He was then brought up by his Grandparents.

Copperhead23 Sat 16-Apr-16 10:08:31

My father ran away to the navy as a boy aged 14 in WW1 and in WW2 he was in the army in charge of getting the tanks ready at Bovington camp. At home with my grandmother my mother and older brother were joined by evacuees as they lived in rural England. My late father in law worked on the Bombers as a an aircraft technician, my late mother in law used to make hairnets at home for the ladies to wear in the factories to keep their hair safe. All of these people contributed to the war effort in life changing ways.
I met a few years ago a lady and her husband who had been in Auschwitz, they had both lost their families , husband/wife and 7 children in all .This lovely couple both in their eighties met in Scotland at a sanatorium and eventually married. They had no anger in their hearts just forgiveness. My daughter learnt a lot in our weeks holiday listening to their life story.

grands Sat 16-Apr-16 16:54:13

My Mum was a youngster during World War II. She recalls her younger sister, was born during the Blitz.

Worlass Sun 17-Apr-16 18:57:54

My Dad was in Burma during the War. My parents were married in 1941 and he went overseas shortly afterwards. I didn't get to meet him until I was four years old. I remember playing in the street where my Mam and I lived with her grandparents when I was called in and there was this strange bloke, who turned out to be my Dad.

annekiely Mon 18-Apr-16 09:38:59

My paternal grandfather was in a reserved occupation (builder) and was sent to London, where he witnessed the crowded underground platforms where people were sleeping and sheltering from the bombing. His experiences resulted in a nervous breakdown.

Hameringham Mon 18-Apr-16 09:40:22

As the planes flew overhead enroute to Germsny I (aged two years), would lie down face hidden in the grass on the front lawn, as they passed overhead. Even today I can clearly recall the drone of the bombers flying of to battle.

belo Mon 18-Apr-16 09:50:32

I'm afraid I haven't got many to share. Only regrets that I didn't talk to my Grandpa about his scarring his experiences. I know he suffered from nightmares about what happened to him in France / Belgium. He used to talk about it to my brother and myself but our reaction was always "oh no, grandpas going on about the war again". If only I could reply time. These first hand experiences are so important. I wish I had realised that as a child.

gillyknits Mon 18-Apr-16 10:18:28

My mother was newly married but living with her parents as my father was away in the forces. My Grandparents had a table in the kitchen that was their bomb shelter. Every time the air raid siren went off my Granny would take her false teeth out and put them in her pocket.
One night during a raid, Granny realised that her teeth had fallen out of her pocket.She told everyone to search ( in the dark) to find them before someone trod on them and broke them.My Mum said she only searched a tiny bit, with her hands, because she didn't want to touch the false teeth. She was greatly relieved when they were found!

nosnibor3 Mon 18-Apr-16 10:42:41

My father has told me that when the air-raid sirens went off his mother (my Nanna) wouldn't leave the house for the shelter until the washing-up was done!

Persistentdonor Mon 18-Apr-16 10:44:39

My father was born in Berlin and was sent to an English boarding school in 1935 at the age of 10.
He never returned to Germany, however last year I was able to attend a short ceremony in Berlin, where memorial stones were placed for his grandparents who perished during 1943 in concentration camps. flowers
These memorials commemorating the millions destroyed by the holocaust throughout Europe, are called "stumbling stones".
By drawing attention it is hoped they will serve to avert such atrocities in the future.

Lindajoy Mon 18-Apr-16 10:55:38

My Dad was in The Royal Corps of signals and ended up in Egypt with The 8th Army. He and my Mum married in 1940 but he was then away for four years before coming home on leave.
My Mum worked at The Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield and was often on fire watch at night.
After the war ended, Dad was sent back to Germany to assist is re-building their telephone network.
I was born in July 1946, a "bulge baby", and remember the very large classes we had at infant and junior school. We too used to play in the old air raid shelters and did things that health and safety would be horrified at these days!
Although my Dad came through the war physically unscathed, he suffered with post traumatic stress, which I did not understand as a child, and he often woke unable to breathe and gasping for air after having nightmares about his wartime experiences. Like a lot of his generation, he died relatively young, age 62, as a result of what he had been through.
Peter May, the author, says that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history - a very sad truth.

kyalami Mon 18-Apr-16 11:14:21

I live in Jersey, Channel Islands & my mother often recalled how living & being occupied by German forces was very grim & slowly everyone gradually lost all their materialistic items & really struggled to feed their families as food was so very scarce. She however told of stories where once whilst out with an elderly aunt collecting bits of wood to burn a German soldier beckoned them over to speak to them. They thought they were in trouble but the German soldier kindly gave them a loaf of German specialty bread so some of these young soldiers could be decent. My father-in-law also used to recite the story that when the delivery of Red Cross parcels sailed into Jersey they could quite easily have been stolen by the Germans who at that time were also starving but to their credit none were ever tampered with & made it to those for whom they were intended.

scrapgran Mon 18-Apr-16 11:24:43

My dad was in the tank core and away from home for 4 years. He served in Egypt but was pulled back before El Alamein because his battalion had an out break of diptheria. He never realy talked abouthis eperinces though I kow he saw his bets mate blown up in a tank.
Mum lived in Birmingham and often talked about the night the BSA works got hit just up the road. We had an anderson shelter in the garden and as kids loved playing in it.

annsixty Mon 18-Apr-16 11:37:16

I was 2and 2 months when the war started and so remember the closing stages well. We lived in a relatively safe area but still had to take our gas masks and sandwiches to school everyday in case of a raid. Later on we had an evacuee billeted on us, she was a girl slightly younger than me and we got on well. She had an older brother also billeted in our village but he did not like the host family and went home but M was settled and stayed. Her mother came and stayed with us several times. We had a German prisoner of war camp about 5 miles away and it was from that that a prisoner escaped and his story was made into a film starring Hardy Kruger. We also had a lot of Americans stationed nearby to the joy of many a young woman and lots of romances flourished and also withered but at least one girl we knew well married and went to live in America. Bonfires were lit for victory in Europe and victory over Japan and we had street parties. One of my uncles was a PoW and suffered mental health problems and my cousin's husband also a PoW came back with TB and had poor health for the rest of his life.

mischief Mon 18-Apr-16 11:55:08

My father served in WW2 in the Royal Artillery as a Gunner/Driver. He enlisted in 1940 and was released into the Army Reserve in March 1946. During this time he travelled to many countries, joined Monty as part of the 8th Army during his desert campaign, and at one point was pinned down by enemy artillery fire for 6 days and nights. I can't imagine what that did to the boys.

But they had lighter times. It wasn't until he was in his 80s that he started to talk about the war and one story was when they were in Italy and he was driving a water tanker in the mountains. They came across a Vermouth factory that was deserted, so they emptied the water out and took some Vermouth back to camp. That must have been very welcome.

Being a gunner, he came home with deafness in one ear. He did't claim disability benefit because he knew that so many more men had far worse injuries than his, so he decided to live with it.

He was a lovely man and I loved him very much. He died in 2004 and I still miss him.

inishowen Mon 18-Apr-16 15:07:09

My mother was engaged to a man called Kenneth when the war began. He was sent to fight. They wrote letters, but then his letters stopped. It seems he was taken prisoner in Japan. When the war ended my mum would go and meet the ships coming in at Liverpool docks. She was so sure he would come back. Eventually she had to give up hope. She volunteered as a hospital visitor. My father was a patient who had been badly injured fighting in the war. He endured 13 operations on his legs, and remained in hospital for two years. He and mum fell in love and married. Out of the heartache they made a good life for my brother and I. Neither of them really talked about the war. They locked all their sadness away.

Jaxie Mon 18-Apr-16 16:35:46

My mother was struggling to cross Manchester city centre, which was a mass of bomb sites, desperately trying to check her parents were ok after a bombing raid, dragging me, aged 3 along across the rubble. She was accosted by a tall, handsome Canadian soldier, who said," Hey, maam, you look nice, can't you ditch the kid and come for a drink with me?" She didn't know whether to be offended or flattered!

GranAnn42 Mon 18-Apr-16 16:37:21

My father was evacuated with his brother to Bournemouth after coming home from school to find only the front wall of his home standing . He was an avid supporter of Bournemouth for the rest of his life.
Their father was part of a team that kept the water running throughout all the bombing - he retired long after the war ended, I remember a large certificate on the living room wall stating how he had kept the water flowing through Southampton when the bombing was at its height.

Kaiser999 Mon 18-Apr-16 18:50:46

My grandfather served in the First World War and survived the battle of the Somme. he rarely spoke about his experiences and till the day he died refused to travel abroad [as he'd been there once and didn't like it]. he was a sergeant in a Scottish regiment and said wearing a kilt was very nippy in the winter in the trenches. He used to go on raids of French farms to steal hens and eggs and on one such excursion ripped his kilt on barbed wire [and yes he was wearing underwear!]

Sararose Mon 18-Apr-16 19:20:20

My dad was unable to serve in the forces but had an important role as an instrument maker in The Radar Establishment. Although originally from Sussex the department was moved to safety in Malvern, Worcestershire. My elder sister was born in 1941 and I was born in Shoreham in 1943 whilst my dad was already working hard in Malvern. Mum and my sister moved to lodgings close to the beautiful Malvern Hills leaving me behind with my grandmother and aunt for more than six months. Because of this I was always very much their favourite which was quite unfair!. Granny and aunty took in evacuees including Henry and Tommy Cooper. Apparently they thought my aunt was too strict and was not very generous with the jam! ( After all It was probably rationed )
We were so lucky that Dad was moved to Malvern and I am the only one in the family to have moved elsewhere.

nessa38ish Mon 18-Apr-16 22:20:49

my grandad lied about his age to get in the army,he was 15 and said he was 18,he went into the RASC/transport and went to Palestine, suez canal,i don't know where else he went but I do know he came to a camp near where I live now and there he met my gran and the rest is history as they say!