Life in Barford in the 1940s

Church Street, Barford, as the best kept village. 1958
IMAGE LOCATION: (Warwickshire County Record Office)
Reference: PH(N), 600/132/9, img: 7591

In 1940 my family moved to a small half timbered cottage in Church Street (still extant) opposite the memorial hall. There was well water but we still used oil lamps.

I attended Barford Church of England school where we had gas mask drill in the mornings. Teacher held her hand underneath the cylinder to cut off the air supply to check for air tightness- we gasped for air! All boys wore short trousers, and both girls and boys wore boots, not shoes.

November 1940 – I watched Coventry being bombed from my father’s shoulders outside in Church Street, searchlights tracked German bombers across the sky and the ack-ack (anti aircraft gun) fire bursts were red. The bombers shone silver in the searchlights and the sky over Coventry had a pink tinge from the fires.

Father bicycled to Coventry to work, rising at 3:30am for breakfast to arrive for a 6:00am shift at Humber. He was often refused entry to the city due to broken gas mains or raids still going on.

A move

In 1942 we moved to an estate cottage near Debden Hollow – Alderham Cottage, which was a semi. We had well water and oil lamps still. We gave up bacon and egg coupons from two ration books in exchange for coupons for pig meal and layer’s meal. We had two pigs- one for us and one that had to sold when fat to the ministry of food.

We had several bombs miss us at Alderham cottages. German pilots refused to fly over Coventry to drop one bomb stuck in their bomb bay and kicked it out on the way home. All the water pits in the local fields started life as bomb craters.

Many people stopped carrying gas masks after years of no gas attacks. When I went to Barford school without mine Mr Twigger, the Head, sent me home for it.

Threatened with eviction

In 1943, the Smith-Ryland estate threatened us with eviction from our tied cottage unless father was released from war work to be their gamekeeper. He was indeed released, and was paid three pounds a week and a free house; only half of his wages at Coventry.

Father was given two boxes of 12 bore cartridges, each containing one single lead ball to shoot German parachutists; he was a scout in the home guard. Mother exchanged tea for butter with people, and extra sugar was available for jam-making. We picked rosehips for vitamin C at school, and also conkers.

Film shows and news were shown in the memorial hall. Until the American GIs came in 1942 most people had not seen a black man. I wore short trousers and boots until 11 years; I had two strokes of the cane from Mr Twigger for sniffing in class.

No power

I remember mother sitting at the fireside hooking strips of fabric from old coats, skirts etc into sacking to make a rug. This was all the rage at the time. With no power in the house our wireless (radio) was powered by an accumulator. This was a square glass containing lead plates in battery acid. It was charged at Bremridge’s garage in the village for 3d [three pence].

Originally published on the BBC’s WW2 People’s War website as the articles Barford Village, Warwickshire and Life in Barford, Warwickshire, 1941. This article has been reproduced with permission of the BBC, and the author’s estate.

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