Broseley in Wartime




The Wilkinson Society.


5. 09. 2001.



JR Interested to hear about Broseley's war - blackout, air raids, rationing.

DL Mr Les Pugh has given the Society a fine collection of Air Raid Precaution and other wartime memorabilia. There is a gasmask, warden’s helmet, beret and hat, whistle, handbell and rattle, and the logbook of Broseley ARP Post. There are food and clothing ration books, identity cards, National Savings cards, instruction sheets on how the children were to be evacuated, how to mask your windows for blackout, how to deal with poison gas, how to dig out your own Air Raid Shelter, and the final Order of the Day telling Civil Defence that at last they could stand down, the war was won.

NM Where was the nearest bomb ?

RM 300 incendiary bombs were dropped at Gitchfield. George Gough won a Certificate, signed by Winston Churchill, for an Act of Gallantry at Exley's Tileries. There were ladders on the roof of a building used as a explosives store. George Gough ran onto the roof and threw off the bombs. He went by train to Birmingham to get his Certificate. Then on the 7th December 1944, a Saturday at a quarter to twelve a German bomber dropped a stick of three bombs over the Bedlam furnace. The plane was flying high and shot off towards Benthall. One bomb fell near the Swan, and there was dynamite at The Swan; one fell at Bower's Yard where the oldest house dates from 1624; one fell in the waterfall at the bottom of The Spout, made a big crater; it stole the waterfall ! RM has a piece of shrapnel from the bomb. A Broseley man, a Mr Finch, was getting timber and was injured by a piece of limestone, and his horse also.

MS Some girls were just coming out of the door of their house when they saw the bombs coming down. They rushed back inside and lay down.

RM In Milburgh Tileries, which were preserved into the 1980's, with barbed wire and double lightning conductors, there was the store of aluminium foil called "window", which used to be dropped from aircraft to confuse the German radar. A Mr Frankel bought it all for remelting back into ingots. He had it stored in the Malthouse on Madeley Bank, but in April 1950 it all blew up. He was killed, along with his assistant Mrs Healey.

JO First contacted Mr Frankel when he had a building at Dale End, parallel to the brook, where JO repaired a motor and did electrical work for him. From there he moved to Madeley Bank.

JM Some factories were used for war work.

VF Morris's made ammunition boxes at Coalport; the lids were made at Jackfield.

RM The Dale works made shell cases.

JO On the day of the explosion at the Malthouse JO and his wife had were just bringing their bikes out from their Ironbridge shop when there was the terrific explosion. JO cycled up to the fire, dropped his bike and went into the works, climbing over sacks of aluminium foil to the furnace. The oil tank had been blown off' the wall and was all on fire. JO wanted to help anyone inside, went behind church and onto roof and lifted tiles but flames shot out. The firemen were buried under the debris.

RM A Broseley connection is that one of the injured firemen lived in Broseley, and so did Mrs Healey.

JO They got out Mr Frankel, with his clothes smouldering. He was put on a stretcher, which also started to smoulder. We kept digging and brought out another one with clothes smouldering.

JR Vera mentioned about work at Morris's at Coalport. What about firewatching ? Was this supposed to be watching for bombs ?

BL Firewatching was voluntary; the staff at our library took turns to stay overnight. In the event of a fire their duty was to save the books.

NM Did the children go to school as normal ?

EP We had the evacuees from Liverpool, who had some lessons at the Rectory and some at Broseley School, and some games days, but not a full timetable. They were taught by the nuns. They were billeted with you according to how many bedrooms you'd got. One young girl evacuee kept in touch after the war with a family in Astley Abbotts. The Coles and the Perks came from Liverpool and stayed on and worked here after the war. And Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia stayed at Willey Park.

JR How did we find the evacuees' manners ?

EP My uncle in Queen Street had three boys staying with him, they came to our house for their meals. Dad caught one of them stabbing the sofa with a scout knife and knocked him out, and the priest appeared.

JR Did Broseley resent these Liverpool boys ?

EP I don't think so. They said that there were tears when the Heinz factory in Liverpool was bombed, so we took it that they all lived on baked beans.

BL The evacuees had to go on parade to be picked by the host families.

JR It must have been terrible to be the last to be picked

EP There was an outbreak of scabies, the victims being sent to The Beeches. And of course there were nits, head lice.

RM It was a voluntary job to try to allocate the children to families. The industrialists' wives picked the best. Ordinary folk got the ones with holes in their trousers. There were humorous aspects to it. As the bombing of London and Liverpool subsided a lady with a young baby came looking for her little lad. Her name was Mrs White, and the baby was Cilla Black.

MT My mother knew Cilla Black's mother.

RM Jackfield had the Bootle children.

MS I worked for Mr Davies, who was the billeting officer. One lady went into labour and needed a lift to Broseley Hospital. We had no petrol so he pushed her there in a bath chair. He was so exhausted he had to spend the next day in bed.

JR Didn't the Liverpool girls scandalise Broseley by breast-feeding their babies in public ?

DS Sitting round the Pritchard Memorial!

JR Did rationing mean privation, and were you allocated to just one shop ?

EP's friend. One or two shops.

JR Could you have a decent diet ?

EP We got through, with poultry in the yard, and dried egg.

FS Eggs were preserved in isinglass.

PW Isinglass is made from fishscales. It stops the air getting to the eggs.

EP Have still got the big galvanised bucket in which we preserved eggs.

JR What about Digging for Victory ?

EP The school garden was where the car park is now, and the whole of the right hand side of the Bridgnorth Road was allotments.

NW Used to help dad on the allotments. We loved gardening; we grew everything - celery, beans, everything.

DS And then there was the Black Market.

NW Where you could get anything.

EP You needed ration coupons for clothes, and for meat.

NW And for bread, and for cheese.

EP But we didn't starve by any means.

NW Under the Land Settlement Association if a father was on the dole with 14 shillings a week to keep his family he could have part of the field by the cricket pitch, so the field was full of triangular fowl pens. I had to kill the cockerel and it wouldn't die. We had to walk up to the Maypole to get water from a tap. I remember a Junkers 88 coming up behind the pit mounds and dropping 3 bombs. It was said to have been after Ironbridge power station, but the pilot had been to school in Shropshire, so he dropped the bombs where they would do the least damage. He was shot down and lived subsequently in Shropshire.

NM How did you get the news - from the radio ?

NW Yes, a little box with radio stations like Daventry and Hilversum.

JR What entertainment did you have ?

EP Better than today - concerts and dances in the Town Hall, cricket and football, with a better atmosphere than now.

RM We were digging for victory and preserving eggs with isinglass sugar. Where the council houses are at Calcutts, opposite the bus shelter, was Jackfield School allotment where I dug for victory until I was 11 when I went on to Madeley Modern School to dig for victory there. At Jackfield we had an unusual air raid shelter - we went into the Doughty Tileries drying oven. Shelters

were marked with a big S sign. There was one on Doug Traylor s shop until it was stolen about 4 years ago. At Coalport the Tar Tunnel was used, and so were the pub cellars.

DS And then there was our pig keeping.

EP Mr Wallbank was the pig killer.

FS We have memories of spending air raids in the cellar.

RM You could listen to the bombers going over. But black market was a dirty word.

EP There were air raid shelters at the front and back of the school. You had to take your gas mask everywhere.

EP's friend. We had to walk to Coalbrookdale School.

RM You took your gas mask to the toilet, and to bed.

EP There were special Mickey Mouse gasmasks for children.

RM At the Museum of Packaging at Gloucester Docks there is an exhibition of ration books etc, until October 6th.

? At Priorslee there are books by Fred Archer about the billeting of prisoners of war and so on.

EP There were landgirls working on the Willey Estate. They were not local girls.

RM President Roosevelt had asked the USA to send us food parcels. These were all dried foods, like lentils, that we had never heard of. My mother worked at Coalbrookdale for Fisher & Ludlow, making aircraft wings. A Mr Moore was in charge of 12 women. Mother used to walk there from Jackfield for the nightshift which began at lam. Her neighbour at work was a spiritualist and told fortunes by reading the tea leaves. Mr Moore said it was a silly business. Mr Cleobury read his fortune and said he was going on a journey. He was caught blackmarketeering and went to Shrewsbury Gaol.

VF We could see the bombers over Birmingham.

EP There was a searchlight stationed up by Floyer Hall.

VF A bomb landed there.

EP Atcham was an American Air Force base.

NW Yes; they flew Buffaloes.

EP One of their Thunderbolts crashed by the New House. I saw it crash, between 1943 and 1945. The pilot was killed.

EC The rumour was that he had stayed with his plane.

NM Were there American soldiers ?

EP Yes, billeted at Stanley Hall, and coming to Broseley for the Avocaat that we made.

PP How did the bombers get through our radar defences ?

RM More recently there has been the recovery of a crashed plane at Benthall by the Wartime Recovery Group. I showed them what I thought was the spot and they found nothing. Then ? Roberts showed them the right place. The pilot's body had been taken out and laid in a barn. I have a bullet from the plane.

NM Why had the Americans come here ?

RM To defend us, or for the women here, according to your point of view. Charles Clarke Brough, the founder of the Coalport China Works, had lived at Coalport House. The Richard Klinger Co had been evacuated from Sidcup in Kent to Coalport and Coalport House had been requisitioned for their accommodation. They made gaskets for Rolls-Royce aero engines, using asbestos which resulted in some pollution. The ghost of Mr Brough haunted them

NW Ray Ellington and his Band were at Stanley. They came to Broseley and played for a dance.

JR Janet Robinson

DL David Lake

NM Neda Meyrick

RM Ron Miles

MS Mary Smith

JO Jack Owen

JM John Mepham

VF Vera Francis

BL Betty Lake

EP Elsie Philpott

DS Dave Shinton

NW Noel Ward

PW Paul Welsh

FS Frank Selkirk

PP Peter Platt

EC Eric Cox

Many thanks to all contributors. I anticipate quite a few corrections and additions to this one, please: let me have them ! - David Lake.