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Jim Casey

from:Ivy Street, Gorton, England

I was born in Sydney Street, Bradford, Manchester on 10th June 1928. In 1939 I was living in Ivy Street, Gorton and I attended St Francis Catholic School on Gorton Lane. My father had passed away in April of that year, before the outbreak of the war.

The local council built brick air-raid shelters in the backyards of our houses, and long brick community air-raid shelters in the streets. Our backyard air-raid shelter was only just big enough to take a double bed, and my mother, my two younger sisters and myself slept there every night for two years. We had air raids every night without fail, when our area was hit many times with high explosive bombs, incendiary bombs and land mines that were dropped by parachute on selected targets.

Near to our home was Mellands Playing Fields, where a military camp had been built and was occupied by an anti-aircraft unit of the Royal Artillery. They would blast away at the German planes caught in their searchlights every night. In addition, we had mobile anti-aircraft guns mounted on Army vehicles driving around the steets, all blasting away at the planes.

Our air-raid shelters had no doors, so to blot out the light from the searchlights and the flashes from the guns and bombs, I hammered two six-inch nails into the mortar between the bricks on the inside of the doorway, and hung a blanket over the doorway.

People of my age will remember Lord Haw Haw (that was the nickname of an Englishman who had defected to the Germans), and he would broadcast every day from Germany, telling us where the Germans were going to concentrate their bombing raid that night. He was right every time.

My school was right next door to Crossley Motors, a very large factory engaged - as were all other factories at that time - in what was called `war work', but covered everything required for the war effort, whether it was planes, tanks, bombs, ammunition etc. A very large percentage of the workers employed by them were women.

One morning when I went to school after a heavy night of bombing, which included Crossley Motors as one of the targets, I found that an incendiary bomb had come through the roof of my classroom (Standard Seven), through my desk and into the wooden floorboards. My desk had been turned into a large piece of charred wood, the classroom was a virtual write-off, but the rest of the school had been saved by the fire brigade. We could smell the smoke for days after.

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