My first memory about the war when I was four and a half years old, is about air
raids. My father Edward Harris built a very strong corrugated air raid shelter at the
bottom of our garden in Greencroft. He dug big sods of earth, placed them round the
shelter, found some wood (orange boxes) and nailed them together and then he
finished off with more earth. My Mother Ada, made the inside very comfortable with
sleeping bags and pictures on the walls. She used to make sandwiches and soup,
just in case. I remember quite often being woken up and carried down the long
garden (now planted with potatoes and other vegetables) down to the shelter.
Looking upwards, I remember seeing the searchlights and planes caught in the
beams. I was always disappointed when I found out the next day that I had been so
deeply asleep, that I had been taken to the shelter, brought back and tucked into bed
when the ‘ALL CLEAR’ had sounded. We often gave shelter to a neighbour, a widow
who lived nearby.
I also remember my father taping large strips of strong tape over the windows and
also the horrible taste and smell of my first gas mask. We were very well protected
during the war and fortunate to live in rural countryside. At school, when the air siren
went, we all trooped down to an underground shelter and given Horlicks tablets. We
were told these were sent by the Canadians, they also sent apples.
My brother, who was thirteen years older, joined the RAF. He was a pilot on
mosquito planes. Towards the end of the war he had a crash, he crashed and
because of an eye injury after a raid on Germany, he was sent to the Azores. He
was in the same building as Charlie Mitten the famous Newcastle United footballer.
Before boarding the ship home he picked a pineapple from a tree, brought it home
and was offered £5 for it in London. I remember running down our street so very,
very excited to see him safely home. We had the pineapple for tea and no one
During the war food was rationed and we had to share fruit in the family. My clothing
also was rationed and my Mother was a very good seamstress and used to make all
my clothes. I remember vividly two over dresses she made, one dark blue and one
light blue and they were finished off with yellow and light blue bias binding. I don't
know if you buy bias binding today. A lady, a very large lady, called the Pot Woman
used to come regularly and she used to come waddling down the yard with her large
basket over her arm. She came from Shields and exchanged pottery and china for
second hand clothing. I still have one or two pieces of china from those nostalgic