Palterton during World War 2

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During the second world war, the life and style of the village changed once more.  Every house had to have light free curtains fitted.  Most houses had black roll up blinds behind the curtains.  Cars had to have shields over their headlights, but I cannot remember anybody in Palterton having a car, though the first person in Palterton to have a car was Mr. Cornelius Turner, a farmer.  This was pre-war!

A poster image displayed during WW2 showing the responsibilities of car owners.

Food became scarce and was rationed, not just bread and milk but pretty well everything. Although there was some fresh fruit such as apples and pears available in the orchards in the autumn and wild blackberries in the hedgerows, most families in the village relied on dried fruits.

An image of Clothing coupons issued during WW2.

Even clothes were rationed and girls coloured their legs, with a mixture of sand and water, instead of wearing stockings. New clothes could only be obtained with coupons, hence existing clothes had to last.

An image of a drinking glass that is believed to have been in use during World War 2 for a bedtime drink. To make the drink, you followed the instructions on the glass. Missing from this object is a plunger with holes in the bottom. One placed the plunger at the mouth of the jar and pushed it down into the glass, the Horlicks drink rising up through the holes in the plunger. You mixed the Horlicks Powder, with a little water and then pumped the plunger up and down when you added the hot water otherwise it would go into a hard lump.

Men were called up to serve in the Army, Navy and even the Royal Air Force.  Men who had certain skills, including colliers, remained at home to "keep the home fires burning".  Coal was an important mineral in the munitions factories.

Gas masks were issued to the populace early in the war because of fears of a gas attack.  The children's mask, which had to be taken daily to school was often referred to as a "Mickey Mouse" due to its similarity in appearance to the cartoon character.  These rubber masks made a rather rude noise against the cheeks when you breathed out hard.

During this war, Harry Jones being in an exempted occupation, as a miner, was in the ARP (Air Raid Patrol).  He was second in command to John 'Willie' Thacker, the local shoppkeeper and builder, who was the head of the ARP group.  He (Harry Jones) used to go round delivering and fitting gas masks.  He had to replace several childrens masks, as they grew from infants with Mickey Mouse masks to a larger one.  The babies were issued with large egg shaped gas masks.  Harrys wife used to say that she was the chief warden since it was she who used to wake up Harry when the sirens started.  Then he used to call out others after he set out on his duties wearing his tin hat.

During the early part of the war, an air raid shelter was built in the Palterton school yard but I cannot remember it ever having been used, except on a couple of occasions as a drill exercise.  Throughout its existence, the inside of this shelter has been a dark, damp, cold inhospitable place.  There has never been any lighting installed therein.  This shelter was for the pupils and teachers at the school.

During the time when an air raid warning was in force, families made arrangements for their own safety.  These arrangements varied from Ten Row and Thirteen Row where most families took shelter in the space beneath the stairs that was the pantry to the Thacker family on Back Lane who had their own private underground shelter.

There was no actual air raid siren in Palterton.  Instead the nearby Glapwell pit "hooters" sounded air raid warnings, the sound being heard for miles around and across the valley.  The sirens, of course, meant air raid imminent.

In several areas of the village there were buckets of sand (including the school) and a few households were provided with a 'stirrup pump' with the intention of both being used to put out fires.  During 1943, there was a house fire in the house next door to Thackers shop.  The male occupier, a Mr. Shepherd died.  Other members of the Shepherd family living at number 5 Ten Row, used a stirrup pump to try and put out the fire prior to the arrival of the fire brigade.

An image of a pair of black curtains that were used during WW2. Acknowledgement to Alan Radford of Rotherham who has carefully preserved these curtains that were given to him by his late grandmother.
Evacuees came to Palterton from the Lowestoft area.  With the exception of one adult, (Mrs. Free) all were children.  Residents who were able and suitable both personally and accommodation wise were allocated these children.  These residents were paid 5 shillings for the first child and eight shillings for each additional child.

These evacuees were excused schooling for four weeks to allow them to settle down in their new surroundings.  No doubt all would have been homesick and not used to the quiet pace of country life.

Six evacuees were allocated to the Turner family at Hall Farm.  Mrs Ellen Spray formerly Turner recalls these children playing on the lawn in front of the Hall.  They used to "run wild" and would be so excited to "run free".  Like most other children in the village, they would have a bath once a week.  The four boys bathed at Hall Farm whilst the two girls went next door to Highfield Farm to bathe.  There were two bathrooms at Highfield FarmCaptain Houldsworth was away at the time and in his absence, his housekeeper used to allow this facility.

Mrs Ellen Spray recalls that on one occasion, soon after the arrival of the evacuees, a meal was placed on the dinner table consisting of a large dish of meat pie and a similar sized dish of rice pudding.  One of the children asked "What's this, we want thruppence o' fish and tuppence o' chips"?  Most of these children could not use a knife and fork correctly.

At week-ends, mostly Sundays, some of these evacuees would be taken for a long walk down Poulterwells and into Scarcliffe Woods.  Although the children loved these walks, their visiting parents would complain when they had reached Poulterwells and would want to turn back.

Everyone was encouraged to grow their own food.  There was a "Dig for Victory" campaign and everyone was encouraged to do more.  Lawns and flower beds were dug over and vegetables planted instead, though it has to be said not many houses had either lawns or flower beds.  Instead many families had an allotment, the area being at the rear of the village school.

Life was easier in the rural areas.  Several villagers kept chickens and pigs but food was strictly controlled.  Eggs had to be accounted for and sent to packing stations for redistribution on ration:  however it was impossible to guarantee daily numbers and pullets eggs didn't count anyway.  Chickens which had ceased to lay, boilers and those involved in encounters with "the fox" found a ready market.  Rabbits were often available, especially at harvest time and found their way onto certain tables, cooked in various ways, though the farmers in Palterton were not known for their generosity.

The womenfolk soon learned to improvise with their meagre rations of meat, fats and sugar.  Diets included lots of vegetables, potatoes and dripping.  As various produce came into season, as much as could be put aside was preserved by bottling and salting.  Extra sugar was allowed at fruit harvest for pie making and preserving.  A few women were able to devote time to the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) or Red Cross, but I cannot recall their names, younger women were already in essential war work (Pleasley Mills) or became "Land Girls".

The womenfolk used to sieve flour through fine mesh to remove the rough bits.  Dried egg powder (American) was common in most households.

Coal was strictly rationed for home heating, though I reckon most families in Palterton managed to obtain a supply.  I remember it was difficult to get a chimney sweep and with soot collecting in the chimneys, it could be quite serious to have a chimney fire.

The chimney sweep used to cover the fireplace with his sacking and then push his brush up the chimney, one rod at a time until the brush emerged out of the chimney pot.  Mrs. Ruth Audis recalls the "sweep" being called Mr. Barton and he lived at Bolsover.

Although statutory conscription for able bodied men was introduced early in the war, few men from Palterton were called to "Active Service".  It would seem that most were employed in the mines, agriculture and skilled trades essential to the war effort.  Others, of course, were either too old or not quite fit enough for normal service duties.  Early in the war such men were expected to enrol for civil duties such as the National Fire Service, Special Constabulary and Air Raid Precautions Wardens (ARP), the men who called out "Put that light out".

An image of a rattle that is believed to have been used by A.R.P. Wardens during World War 2 to warn people of an impending gas attack, so they could put on their gas masks.

Those individuals who were appointed as Special Constables were supplied with a police type uniform and allocated a number SC**.  They were also provided with a large pedal cycle which they used to patrol the village during their shift rota.  I cannot recall their names other than Charlie Spray and Robin Crawshaw at Scarcliffe.  The latter person also used to patrol Palterton.

The rattle was warning of a gas attack (in fact it was often referred to as a gas rattle) and, I am fairly sure that it was used in the trenches during WW1 for the same purpose.  It was also known as a Bird Scarer and was used to scare the pigeons and crows from the crops - probably adapted as use in air raids.

After the war there were shops in every town that sold 'War Surplus Equipment'.  It was very cheap, and I suspect that is how gas rattles were obtained and used to make lots of noise in support of ones favourite football team.

The village has for many years produced it's share of the military, despite the fact that it was a mining community from about 1890.

In the 1939-1945 war, it would be remiss of me if I did not mention the fact that my uncle Stanley Richards and his friend "Bob" Hand served in the army.  Also the husbands of the two ladies who have given me help with this research, namely Frank Audis and George Tuckwood.  Happily both survived the war, as did "Bob".  Unfortunately, my uncle Stanley Richards perished.  Joe Pemberton also spent time in the navy.  The first man in Palterton to be conscripted was Denis Parkes but sadly he was an early victim.

Cornelius Turner also served in the 1939-1945 war and had quite an eventful war.  He wrote his unpublished autobiography prior to his death and I am indebted to his son Chris for allowing me access to the story.

He first joined the Sherwood Foresters but later transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment as he wanted to see some action and the Sherwood Foresters were based in Hull at the time!  He flew gliders for the rest of the war and afterwards in the troubles in Palestine 1946/47.

An excerpt from his autobiography appears on the BBC People's War website.  It is about a special mission he commanded called Operation Bunghole when he had to deliver a group of Russian Observers behind the German lines to Tito's partisan forces in Yugoslavia.  It is in two parts i.e. and

In May 1940 the "Local Defence Volunteers" (LDV) force was established.  This was the original band of volunteers, many of them old regular soldiers who, ill equipped with few weapons and no proper uniforms were later dubbed "Dads Army".  This was fairly quickly renamed "Home Guard" in which enrolment was compulsory.

In April 1942 all able bodied men up to the age of 65, except those excused for other valid reasons, were enlisted.

In April 1943 Women became eligible to serve in the "Home Guard" but there is no record of any women from Palterton serving.

A WW2 image of women volunteers. The two women extreme left are Palterton women namely Mrs Alice Walker and Mrs West.
So the men of Palterton, working full time, six long days a week, sometimes on night shift, had compulsory turns of "fire watching" in case of incendiary bombs.  They trained at Home Guard two evenings at Pleasley, where they would don a uniform and practice Home Defence drills.  No doubt that on such occasions there would be much cursing and merriment.  Also they would be 'On Guard' around the village.  On such occasions they paraded with 'wooden guns', real weapons were for the war.

On Sunday mornings, they tendered their gardens / allotments and saw to household repairs.

Most people relied on bicycles to go to work and get about but these required frequent attention.  All road signs were removed in the belief that should the German enemy invade the country, they would be confused as to their whereabouts.

There was a morning and afternoon Sunday school in the little Primitive Methodist chapel and an evening service for adults.  All were well attended.  A few villagers went to the Parish Church at Scarcliffe to worship.  However, overall the villagers in Palterton were not really religious folk.  The menfolk tended to visit one of the two pubs in the village.  The Miners Welfare was closed on Sunday evenings.

The church bells at Scarcliffe were silent.  Church bells ringing meant an invasion.  There were severe penalties for anyone using 'official' signals without just cause; though that doesn't mean it never happened.  The vicar of Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire, was prosecuted for ringing his church bells in violation of the ban during WW2.  Apparently he had alarmed the community.

In the latter part of the war, aeroplanes were seen most evenings, crossing the valley over Sutton Scarsdale, droning engines, loaded ready for bombing.  At least this is what we believed.

On one occasion, the military placed a 'dummy' bomb on the recreation ground, near where the swings were located, which at that time was close to the Miners Welfare.  Many villagers bought stamps and stuck them on the bomb to provide money for the 'war effort'.

Some older villagers recall an enemy bomb being dropped near to the metal Water Tower at Hillstown, (it was located about 25 metres south of what is now Pleasant Avenue but on the east side of the main road) but I have forgotten the incident.  It sounded so close they thought it had landed in Harrison's farm yard (Bastin Park Farm - next to the Hare and Hounds pub).  At that time one particular household (Carter's on Hare and Hounds Yard) was full of people, drinking, laughing and joking, yet they could still hear the distinctive 'Junkers' sound overhead.  There was an air raid warning in force at the time, which meant no lights had to be displayed.

With hindsight, the bomb must have been one that became stuck in the 'bomb rack' and had to be disposed of anywhere over England, so that the German crew could land safely when and if they returned to their base.

During the blitz, one could stand 'on the front' the local name for Main Street and West View in the evenings and see the red sky over Sheffield, a city on fire and being subjected to heavy bombing by the Germans. Their target was the steelworks.

During the war, there was an army camp based in the grounds of nearby Hardwick Hall.  Some week-ends during the light summer months, some of these soldiers would leave camp and visit local public houses, including Palterton.  At the end of licensing hours, having consumed alcohol, some would engage in a contest of running across Main Street from the direction of the Nags Head and try to scale the high wall surrounding Middle farm.  At that point there was an outcrop of red rock on which this high wall was built, so they had some step up help.  Sometimes cycles left lying around would go missing and it is known that many cycles were later found around Hardwick Park.

I am indebted to the late Mrs Jean Offen formerly Walker for reminding me of another big impact the war had on Palterton and that was the new names it introduced.  Before the war most people married within the village or the adjoining parishes, but during the war as a few went off to fight and the forces came to the district.  Some women married "strangers".  A few spring to mind.  Eileen Whale and Mary Wholey married American soldiers and removed to the USA after the war.  Amy "Betty" Claxton married Sam. Henry, whom I believe had been stationed at nearby Hardwick.  They moved around with his army career before returning to Palterton, where he became involved in village activities.  "Letty" Morrell married Mel Roberts who was in the parachute regiment.  Mrs Jean Offen remembers a whole silk parachute arriving to be made into wedding attire.  Alan West married a WAAF Margaret Burgess from Glynde in Sussex.  Margaret Cotteril married Richard KeilbasinskiAvis Eaton married George Barnicoat, father of Paul Barnicoat and Jo King formerly Barnicoat.  George came from Cornwall, but he's still in Palterton. (2005).

At that time, there was only one Bevan Boy in Palterton and he lodged with a Mrs Parkes in Thirteen Row.  These were young men who chose to work in the pits rather than be in the military.  Mrs Parkes son had been the first youth in the village to be conscripted to the army and he was killed soon thereafter at (believed) Swansea.

Prisoners of war were sometimes used to work on the village farms but I cannot remember there being any in Palterton, though there was at least one working at Glapwell Lanes Farm.  Some 23 years earlier, during World War 1, Italian prisoners of war worked at Carr Farm.

During the late evening of 21 March 1944, a Halifax Bomber LK930, took off from an airfield in North Yorkshire.

The crew on board, who had almost completed their training, were Sergeant Ray Collver number R.157490, the pilot, Ralph Pilkington navigator, Russ Pym flight engineer, Russell Peel bomb aimer, Wally Loucks wireless operator, William Arthur Roland "Bill" Andrew, mid upper gunner, number R.201503 and Arley Carlisle "Carl" Starnes rear gunner, number R.198952.

A few hours later, shortly after midnight, this plane crash landed straddling the main road between Palterton and Scarcliffe.  I do not intend to recount the story surrounding this crash in this chapter because I have written it elsewhere.  It was a tragic accident even though it did produce two village heroes.

May 1945.  The great build up for "D" Day affected the whole of the country and the task of the military was to confuse the enemy as to where the assault was to take place.  When the landings finally took place, newspapers issued coloured maps of Europe with little flags so that we could all keep track of our advancing troops.  News was restricted in war time, but we were able to listen to the wireless (radio), provided of course, the accumulator (battery) was charged.  I remember the "wireless man" came once per week to change the accumulators, but I digress!

June 1945.  The war against Germany finally came to an end in with Victory in Europe day and against Japan with Victory in Japan day in August.  To everyone's relief this was much quicker than expected as it had been anticipated the war with Japan would carry on for a few years.

Nevertheless, food rationing continued and it was a few years before normality resumed.

Thoughts of the ending of sweet rationing immediately sets many mouths watering.  Such thoughts take me back to when Palterton children begged their parents for a few coppers to buy two ounces of khali.

First there was the ordinary sherbet, then there was khali - the most wonderful invention known to children.  It came in big jars labeled "Rainbow Crystals" and the colours ranged from bright yellow to purple, green and orange.  You could buy a ha'penny piece of Spanish (liquorice) to dip in, or you could take the direct route, which most children did and stick your tongue deep into the bag.  In earlier times the farthing was as far as some children could afford and they were the luckier ones!

The sensation created by a mouthful of khali was sheer ecstasy and your tongue would be stained for hours afterwards.

If kids today knew what khali was like, they might never want to try drugs!  I don't remember it being banned, but you certainly never see it these days.  More than likely some official spoilsport decided it was bad for childrens teeth or it was full of 'E-numbers' or other such nonsense.

Something that came close to rivalling the khali sensation was acid-drop-flavoured Spangles.  They really set teeth on edge.  Pear drops were another favourite as were rhubarb and custard sweets, but nothing could beat khali!

July 1942.  Sweets were rationed and continued to be so until February 1953.
Sep. 1939  National Register set up.  Identity cards issued. 29th.
Jan. 1940  Food rationing begins, starting with bacon, ham, sugar, butter.
Mar. 1940  Meat rationed.
July 1940   Tea, margarine, cooking fats & cheese rationed.
Mar. 1941  Jam, marmalade, treacle & syrup rationed.
June 1941  Distribution of eggs controlled.
Aug. 1941  Extra cheese rations for manual workers.
Nov. 1941  Distribution of milk controlled.
Dec. 1941  National Dried Milk introduced.  Points scheme for food.
                   Vitamin Welfare Scheme introduced.
June 1942  American dried egg powder on sale.
July 1942  Sweets rationed.
Dec. 1944  Extra tea allowance for 70 year olds and over.
Jan. 1945  Whale meat and snoek (fish like barracuda) available for sale.
July 1946  Bread rationed.

"Off the ration":
Jul. 1948 - Bread.  Dec. 1948 - Jam.  Oct. 1952 - Tea.  Feb. 1953 - Sweets.  Apr. 1953 - Cream.  Mar. 1953 - Eggs.  Sept. 1953 - Sugar.  May 1954 - Butter, cheese, margarine & cooking fats.  Jun. 1954 - Meat.

No more rationing!

Palterton during World War 2


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Created 2 December 2001
Last updated: 15 January 2016