WWII Memories
Personal Histories of World War Two

Welton in World War II (Memoir 1)

This is a record of an interview with Mrs Doreen Putnam of Welton.

She was interviewed on 27 November 2001, by James Wood, Daniel Doris, Ashley Kennington and Stephen Hutchenson-Pearce.


I lived in the village near the church when the war started.

You didn't go far in those days.

You never went into Hull on your own on a bus.

I was a child, about ten, when the war started and I remember the first air-raid warning.

It was a terrible wailing noise and I didn't realise that it was an air raid warning, so I went and woke my father up.

My Dad said, "Oh, it's all right, go back to bed, it's only the air raid siren."

By then my mother had died, you see, and I was the housekeeper and I had to teach myself to cook, because by the time I was old enough to go to cookery classes at the school the war had started and everything was rationed.

I had to teach myself to do a lot of other things, too.

We didn't know really that there was a war out here in the villages.

Welton seemed a lot further from Hull than it is today, because there were long, lonely roads, this school was not built and there was a wood here which I used to play in when I was a little girl.

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At school

When we were at school the headmaster said we had to do all the windows.

We had to criss-cross them with this white tape, so that if a bomb dropped nearby, glass wouldn't fly all over.

At Welton school in the office, even now, they haven't been cleaned since I left and there's still the marks where the tape was.

That's up in the store room.

Then we had to have the windows in the cloakroom bricked up because that was going to be the air raid shelter and also down in the boiler house.

You were lucky if you got down there, because it was nice and warm in the winter time.

That was also a type of air raid shelter, though if the school had been bombed you would have been buried alive, but people didn't think of that then.

Anyone who lived in the village, if they could get home within 2 minutes of the siren first starting, you were allowed to go home and sometimes you could take a friend with you.

I practised 'til I could get home well within 2 minutes and then I used to get the dinner ready for my 2 brothers and myself, because there was no one looking after us.

So, that suited me when the siren went in the morning, because there was no school canteen there and we used to have to go home every dinner time.

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Home Life

Those that lived at Melton that came to Welton school (and some came from Brough and some came from Elloughton), they had to go into the shelters that were bricked up and built in.

If the siren went in the mid afternoon, by the time the all clear went you never went back to school.

It was like a half day holiday nearly.

So, that suited me as well, because we lived in a cottage where there was no water.

We carried water in buckets from a tap in the village.

We'd no electricity and only had one gas lamp.

We had to use candles if we wanted to work in the kitchen or go upstairs to bed.

So a holiday suited me, because to boil a kettle we had to light a fire first before we could get any hot water.

I was once reading in bed, which I wasn't really allowed to do.

I had the candle at the side of the bed and I pulled the sheet and the candle went out.

I was just going off to sleep, when I suddenly saw flames and I'd set the corner of the sheet on fire.

I grabbed it, smothered it and shouted for my father and the sheet was smoking, so I got a lecture.

It was so easily done.

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Rations and Rabbits

Then rationing came in in 1940 and I'd never even heard of margarine, because I'd been brought up on a farm and we always had best butter, cream, goat's milk, cow's milk, things like that.

Suddenly on the rations you got this margarine, and it was horrible.

You got so much butter and so much margarine and I had to go and ask my neighbour, because I didn't know whether you spread it on bread, whether you cooked with it, whether you fried with it, or what you did, because I'd never ever seen this horrible looking stuff.

So, I had to teach myself to ration these rations out equally between my 2 brothers, my father and myself and it was very hard to have to do that.

But in another way we were lucky, because around here there was the corn fields and then they were harvesting nearly to the middle of the cornfields and we all went rabbiting.

Now, you might think that's terrible, but you killed rabbits with a stick to the back of the head.

At 10 years of age I was taught to kill, skin and cook a rabbit and you could roast it, stew it, put it in a pie and you had a good meal.

It eked out your meat ration, because you didn't get much meat ration and some of that was horse meat anyway.

You didn't kill rabbits for the sake of killing them, you killed them to fill empty stomachs and if you had more rabbits than you needed you gave them to neighbours.

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I mean the old lady next to us, we kept her supplied with rabbits, 'cause they only got 10 shillings a week pension, the old people - which is 50p today - and that had to last a whole week.

They had to pay their rent, buy food, buy their coal, buy everything.

So, if they got a rabbit that was extra and it lasted them for a day or two.

My father was in business and he had a lot of farming friends and my youngest brother and I used to bike to these farms and we'd get eggs, extra eggs, which helped with the cooking and the protein.

During the war you were so hungry you ate everything that was put before you, you didn't waste a thing.

There wasn't much bread and what they did during the war, to make the bread look whiter, was to put chalk in it.

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Bombers over Welton

We had one stick of bombs dropped from the direction of Welton Wold.

It came in a line and the last bomb dropped near Lowfield Lane, in the fish ponds of the big house (Welton House).

It made a big hole in the main road as well as in the field.

I'd gone to see a friend at Gibson Lane in Melton at the time, who lived in one of the wooden bungalows.

The siren went and I hadn't told my father or anybody where I'd gone, I'd just gone to Melton with my friend.

Her Mum and Dad were fire watchers, so they went out when the siren started and my friend was putting all these cushions on the table and everything.

I watched and said, "Why are you doing that?" and she said , "Oh, this is our air raid shelter."

That's how the Morrison shelter was built.

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I said, "I don't think that would do much good.

I'll have to go home". She said, "The siren's gone," and I said, "I can't help that."

Well, I opened her front door and the light shone out.

You could get into terrible trouble if any light shone out.

The air raid warden would come round and knock on your door and say the light must be put out.

I'd opened this front door and the light was blazing out and I said, "Oh, come and look at all these!" and there were fire bombs dropping.

And they dropped into the garden near the wooden bungalows.

Fortunately one wasn't set on fire.

She said , "Oh quick, shut the door!" So I shut the door and I said, "I'll have to go home."

So I was walking up Gibson Lane pushing my bike and I met my father and my eldest brother.

They'd come looking for me, they'd walked all the way and as we walked back along the main road, we saw where this bomb had dropped and it was a massive hole and there was a crowd of people out of Welton village all stood around looking at it.

We'd never seen anything so deep, which you didn't in those days.

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Casualties of War

We didn't hear about local people being killed out this way.

We knew it was bad in Hull.

In May 1941 out this way we could see the flames and the fire, the sky was red and it was still burning next morning and that's how we knew that Hull had been badly bombed.

The searchlights every night criss-crossed the sky and we could see the barrage balloons at Hull.

But we were lucky.

I didn't know any locals who were killed, but I knew the ones in the army.

My neighbour was killed, Robert Hyde.

Everard Baker, and that is Mrs Baker in the village's father, she was only five when her father was killed.

Her uncle Len Key, he got killed.

He was nice, he was one of the big boys in the village, and when we were little girls they had bikes and we would beg for rides.

They used to sit us on the cross bar and ride us round the village.

I knew all the names that are on the church wall.

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Saving Metal

Pans weren't taken away, because they were only tin.

You had to go to the shop and buy a pan mender, because you couldn't buy a new pan.

It was little and round and it was made of a metal disc, then there was a ring of cork and another metal disk on top and you screwed it on the inside of the pan and bent it so it didn't leak, because you had to make pans last.

We cooked on the fire and on the side oven.

But the railings were cut down at the Memorial Hall and they took the chains from round the village green to melt them down.

The sad thing was, they were all taken to a dump at North Cave and I'm afraid some of them were still there at the end of the War.

They hadn't used them.

The railings from the Memorial Hall was still there, which was a bit sad really.

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No one was evacuated from the village, but we had some evacuees from Hull.

Mrs Davy's step sister, they came out of Hull and they first stayed with our headmaster and his wife, whose house was attached to the school.

They then moved to Mrs Baker's mother in the village, who looked after them and she married their father.

We had some other evacuees who stayed at a farm too.

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Radio Broadcasts

We didn't hear Churchill's speeches as we didn't even have a wireless.

We had to get an accumulator and take it to a house in the village.

We thought they were rather rich because they had electricity and we only had gas.

Some houses in the village only had oil lamps and we used to have to take the accumulator to this man in the village because he had electricity and he would charge these accumulators up and charged us 2d and this is what we paid if you had a wireless.

Well, we had one, but it broke just before the war started and you couldn't get it mended, so we went right through the war without the wireless, but we did have the newspapers.

Now, with the newspapers they used to put a map of the war and we took it in turns to cut these maps out, take them to school and put them in our books.

I still have all these books with my maps in.

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Aeroplanes Overhead

We used to see enemy planes, especially on light nights.

We used to sit outside and watch our planes going over, the Lancasters.

We used to count them as they went droning over and over and sometimes we'd hear them coming back and we'd count them and there may be one or two missing, probably shot down or landed somewhere else.

The Blackburn aircraft went from Brough.

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Soldiers and Prisoners

We had soldiers staying at the big house and the old vicarage.

We'd never seen strangers and we couldn't understand half of them because they were from down South and we couldn't understand their language.

There was all these soldiers with these Cockney and Southern accents.

You gradually got to know them.

Then they stopped the Chapel and made it into a YMCA.

The soldiers used to go there for tea and coffee and they used to hold dances in there.

We used to climb on the wall and look through the window.

Sometimes they let youngsters in, which was most unusual for us.

Once the soldiers had moved out, I think the German prisoners of war were first.

They used to have a coloured patch on their back, a square on their battle dress.

Now, the Italian prisoners of war came in after the Germans had gone and they had a diamond patch on their back, which was a sort of yellowy/fawn.

They stayed in the squire's big house and they were guarded by British soldiers.

There was a bomb dropped at Brough and I think it was meant for the Blackburn aircraft factory or the railway.

It fell near the railway on two houses and no one was killed, because people were in the shelter.

One of the boys was at our school.

They only had a day off school - they were back at school the next day.

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