Thelma Hall’s Memories



My War Starts.   SchoolShortages and RationingGas MasksClothesAir Raids and Shelters.   Other memories.



The War Starts

I started my life on 19th June, 1937 at 8.40 am (the time is shown on my birth certificate, as is for all multiple births), at Whitton Three Gates Farm, Stillington, Stockton on Tees. My twin brother Wheldon Lowther, only lived a few days and is buried in Stillington Churchyard near a wall in unconsecrated ground, as he was not baptised. I was baptised at St. Peter's Church, Bishopton, Stockton on Tees on 8th August, 1937 by the Rev. J. Wilson.


I lived with my parents at Church Cottage, Bishopton, from the age of 4 until the age of 6.   I started school at Bishopton.   My father unfortunately went to war.   He was sent to Italy and there he was a Despatch Rider in the R.A.S.C.   He was George Lowther T/236025, D. Platoon, 425 Company, Tipper, R.A.S.C., C.M.F.   He came home in 1945.


School (and Food Parcels)

With my father being away, my mother thought is best we all stay with my Grandparents so I moved to Thornaby on Tees.   The travelling from Thornaby to Bishopton school each day became too much for me, so I was transferred to the Arthur Head School, Thornaby.   At the age of 8, I was transferred to Westbury Street School, Thornaby.   Here we used to receive parcels of fruit from Canada during the war years.   This mainly consisted of apples and oranges but these were very acceptable.   I did not see a banana until I was 11 years old as these were unavailable in the shops.   Until then, I had only seen pictures of bananas.


Shortages and Rationing

The Fish Shops were never rationed and we regularly had Fish and Chips (the chips in a triangular shaped bag to make them look like a larger portion) from Elizabeth Street Fish Shop, Thornaby.   Quite near to the Fish Shop but in Cobden Street was a large shop which sold Horse Meat about twice per week.   I remember seeing very large queues when there was meat for sale, although we never ate horse meat.


I also remember large queues forming outside the Co-operative Stores in Cobden Street when new bread supplies were received.   I have stood which seemed for hours, for bread for the family.   Of course, bread was rationed in those days, as was nearly all food.   I remember my Grandmother baking bread on many occasions, but it was eaten too quickly.   The ration covered either flour or bread so when the bought bread seemed to last longer - we had bought bread.   I used to nibble the corners of the bread loaves before I got home - and was told off for it every time.   I still enjoyed the nibbles.


We each had a Ration Book and we also had our own Identity Cards - my own number was YFHE 143835 and my mother's was YFHE 143936.   I also have a Ration Book and still have these in my memorabilia.


Gas Masks

Everyone had his/her own gas mask during the war.   Mine was a blue one with a red triangular piece on the nose.   I used to call it my `Mickey Mouse'.  I used to take this to school with me.   My sister, who was newly born, was given one which you could put her inside.   This had a foot pump which must be manned permanently to give the baby air.   Very hard to keep up, I would imagine - thank goodness it never had to be used.



Clothes were also rationed.   I remember getting an extra supply of clothing coupons from school as, when my feet were measured, it was discovered I needed a size 5 ( large for a child) so the extra coupons were given to me.   The larger the clothing item (including shoes) the more coupons they cost.   After this episode, my Grandfather (affectionately known as `Da') called me Betty Big Feet.   He jokingly said I would never be blown over in a strong wind as I had too much turned up - a reference to my big feet.


Air Raids and Shelters

There were a few Air Raid Shelters on the way to school, the nearest one to home being in Short Street.   We never used these - we always stayed in the house when there was an air raid.


A Land Mine was dropped in Thornaby during the war.   My Grandmother had a `near miss' as windows were blown in and the glass narrowly missed her.   Plaster Board was put in the windows instead of glass for at that time there was no glass available.   The Plaster Board came from I.C.I where my Aunty Sylvia worked at that time.   All healthy women were expected to work in factories, on munitions, etc. whilst the men were in the Forces fighting in the war.


Other memories

Another thing I used to be intrigued by was when I passed by Ringtons Tea premises in Short Street, again on the way to school each day, I would have a `sneaky' look into the stables which they kept beautifully, the horses always had shiny coats, as they were brushed down every day.   The Delivery Boys would muck out the horses and swill down the Stables.   The stables were always immaculate.   As were the small one horse carriages with very large wheels in which the Tea was delivered around the Thornaby area.   The Carriages too were washed and polished daily.   I have a small model of one of the carriages…


A further memory was again on the way to school.   I think it was No. 8 Short Street where they used to hang a very large Cage at the Front Door, which contained a Parrot.   Every time you walked past the Parrot would either squawk or shout rude words at us.