is announced on the front page of the Express & Star on Sunday,
September 3, 1939
declared war on Germany the West Midlands girded its loins along
with the rest of the country in September and put war-emergency
plans into operation.
thousands of the region's children being evacuated to places of
safety in the country and seaside resorts. The mass exodus took
more than one-and-a-half million youngsters to places out of the
& Star ran pictures of the great evacuation, showing local children
on the move with their belongings.
Some had shorter
distances than others to go to find a safe haven. Youngsters from
Smethwick were evacuated to homes in the heart of Shropshire for
towns and cities took their own individual steps to meet the new
wartime conditions. In Dudley ARP wardens reported that the townsfolk
were giving assistance ungrudgingly and the issue of respirators
had virtually reached saturation point.
were put in the market place to direct people in case of impending
air-raids, It was planned to supply special protective helmets for
children and babies and a special Dudley relay station was set-up
with the help of the BBC so the ARP office could contact all parts
of the town.
In Walsall special
first-aid and wardens posts as well as public shelters and cleaning
stations were being set up at a cost of about £21,000.
shelters were also being planned for the Manor Hospital for patients
and staff - and a "food control" committee and a fuel rationing
advisory committee was set up in the town.
ARP officials launched "black-outs" and issued gas masks and steel
helmets to police on patrol. Official advise to local residents
included getting near a brick wall in the event of an air-raid.
Those who couldn't
reach a cellar or shelter were advised they would be safe from splinters
or blasts in their own kitchens - and people were warned not to
congregate in the centre of town and to do their shopping on any
day but Saturday.
off to war:
Geoffrey Bubb of Kingswinford recalls how the whole world changed
on September 3, 1939
The back street
in Blackheath where we lived comprised two rows of "workers' cottages".
They all looked the same. Inside, cooking was done on the black-leaded
grate in which a fire burned summer and winter.
There was no
internal plumbing and all "services" were in the brewhouse across
the "fowd" or at the end of a dirt-track yard. The rooms were gas
lit; an electricity supply was a luxury.
The lives of
the inhabitants appeared to be as dull and empty as the houses in
which they lived. For many, the events of September 3, 1939, changed
the neighbour's humming accumulator-driven wireless we heard many
say, in sombre tones: "This country is now, therefore, at war with
Germany." I was six years old.
The Phoney War
became real to our back house when father, with shaking hands, ripped
open the manilla OHMS envelope and announced that he was a Coldstream
Guardsman. Weeks later I woke to find that he had gone to war. My
tiny world fell apart.
We still did
not have electricity and until we had our own wireless - a relay
extension speaker - mother disappeared nightly to hear the nine
o'clock news on the neighbour's wireless.
and the war progressed. We were never really sure where father was,
for his occasional letters were heavily censored although I recall
that one "accommodation address" was "c/o 2nd. Battalion, Coldstream
Then, one summer
evening in 1946, a stranger in a khaki uniform appeared round the
corner of the street in which I played, to step into the sunlight
which shafted over the tops of the slate roofs. "It's my Dad !!!!!"
I shouted, and raced the 30 yards or so to crash into his long legs.
"Hello, Geoffrey," was all that he seemed able to say .
the better: How
did it feel to be one of the hundreds of thousands of children evacuated
when war broke out in September 1939? Charles Sammonds of Penn,
born in 1926, remembers:
"I was born
in the family's single room in a slum in London, of poor but honest
parents. Life was hard but forgettable, until the War.
September 1, 1939, to a small village in Hampshire, my lifestyle
and morals underwent a dramatic change.
"I ate better
food than I had ever done, had a room to myself, and was provided
with a bicycle to go to school in the next village.
entranced me and I forgot my home life, was never homesick and rarely
wrote to my parents, who never failed to send me sixpence a week,
once my father was in work. I have carried the guilt of disregarding
them ever since.
a scholarship in 1937, I was unable to take it up then because of
my parents' circumstances, but I did transfer to a grammar school
in the nearby town of Petersfield in 1940.
accent had to be lost as I stood out like a sore thumb amid the
cultured accents around me.
soon did well, academically, in sports and the Officer Training
Corps, where I was sufficiently well-trained to obtain a commission
when eventually I was called up in 1944. My life was completely
changed by the evacuation for the better."
IRA bomb hits Wolverhampton
damage at Wolverhampton's Low Level station.
explosion wrecked the parcels office area of Wolverhampton Low
Level Station in July as the town was caught up in a wave of IRA
violence which targeted towns and cities across Britain.
The enemy within
struck while all eyes were on Poland on the eve of the war.
The bomb exploded
at 5.33am as the town slept hurling glass and debris all over two
rooms and onto an adjoining platform. The force of the explosion
was so strong it blew out windows of a train compartment at a nearby
were no passengers on board.
that the bomb had been deposited in a small weekend case at the
parcels office the previous night, Detectives investigating said
there was no doubt it was the work of the IRA.
Alec Huff, the
railway porter on duty at the time of the blast, spoke of his amazing
escape from injury.
who was 15 yards from the scene at the time of the explosion, said
he had just gone through the platform door of the parcels office
when he saw a "vivid flash."
He went on:
"Then followed a terrific explosion. Glass flew about in all directions,
onto the platform, and the room was soon in a wrecked state."
He said he immediately
called in the police after surveying the gutted area.
"A few seconds
more and I would have been in the room - and maybe I wouldn't be
here telling you this," he added.
the parcels office and an adjoining room were extensively damaged
and two railway employees had narrow escapes.