Marsden's Home Front
Air raid precautions (ARP)
In April 1937 the government created an Air Raid Wardens' Service (ARP) and within a year 200,000 volunteers were recruited. ARP Wardens were made responsible for the sounding of local air raid sirens. They also had to deal with any unexploded bombs. In this event the ARP Wardens had to contact the bomb disposal unit, evacuate all premises and close roads within a 600 yard radius of the unexploded bomb The government believed that the enemy might drop poison gas on the civilian population and as a precaution, in 1940 it issued 38 million gas masks. The ARP were required to carry out monthly inspections of gas masks and if any were found to be damaged the owner would have to pay for a new one. Marsden, like all towns and cities in Britain had their own locally recruited ARP Wardens, both male and female.
We were all issued with identity cards and gas masks. If you forgot to take them to school with you was in deep trouble and I mean deep trouble. Our baby sister's gas mask was a box-like container with a glass lid. Baby was laid inside with the lid closed over the top and a hand pump was used to pump air inside. Our four-year-old sister's was brightly coloured with a Mickey Mouse face.
I can remember the gas mask. You had to take it to school with you and have it with you at all times. It wa' in a small cardboard box with a string to put over your shoulder. It smelled terrible, it wa' rubbery and it was very tight and you felt smothered by it. We also had an identity bracelet with our names and addresses on and all the boys thought bracelets were for girls. We thought we were cissies but we had to wear 'em.
The first thing we were issued with was gas masks, and after a while, they brought a van into Peel Street. We'd to put the gas mask on and walk into this van, which was filled with gas, and then you had to take the gas mask off while you were still in. Your eyes used to sting and you had tears in them, 'coz it was tear gas that was in it, just to make sure make sure they were working.
If sirens used to go at school, they had built an air raid shelter but we used to go under the school, what's Junior School now. We used to go under the school and have to parade in our gas masks and everything, all under school in the cellars. We all used to have to go down there when air raids [sirens] were on.
At different areas in the village Anderson air raid shelters were built. There was one in the park just below the swings. Our air raid shelter at the Council School, which is now the Junior School, was right underneath the school where the boilers were.
We did have an air raid shelter up Gatehead during the war. There was one built across the street from us. So there must have been fears that we would need to use it otherwise why build them? But I have no recollection of ever having to go in it. Therefore we must have felt safe, not under any kind of threat from the enemy aircraft or such like. I think we probably felt just as safe in the house. I don't remember being frightened by any wartime events in Marsden.
It was really dark. There were no lights in shop windows or owt like that.
Fire at the Mill
I remember during in the war when the Belgi Firm [Baille Ancions] set a fire. We were all on Reddisher Road watching it. Everybody were worried to death in case the sirens went, because of this big blaze - it was a huge fire - because of the light, because of any aircraft coming over. There were hundreds of folk round it. You were a sitting target if the enemy came over.
Sylvia and Frank
Bombs over Manchester
During the blitz in Manchester, we lived at Berry Greave, we could stand at 't window 'an you could see all the light from it. Searchlights. I know one night there was such a blast. I were near the window and me grandma were a big woman 'an it lifted her up out of the chair and it threw me across the room, it was so loud and that was from Manchester. Sylvia
In Marsden, we used to actually see the glow from the fires in Manchester as it was bombed.