Genealogists' Forum - We have branches everywhere!



Go Back   Genealogists' Forum - We have branches everywhere! > Research > Family History Stories

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 21-01-13, 11:44
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 32
Default Family transcript 2: wartime diary

Please find below a second posting of a family document I have transcribed. Once again it was written by my maternal grandmother, Mary Cooke (née Dolton), but was written in 1939-40. I imagine that her intention was to chronicle WW2, but she stopped at the great Blitz of Coventry on November 14th 1940, presumably as the actual events were too painful to record.

I have added a few notes, corrected two spellings and redacted the full names of three people who are living.

Wartime Diary (1939-1940)
of Mary Cooke (née Dolton) (1896-1984)




War Diary. 1939 onwards.

August 25th 1939, left Hoylake1 as result of telegram from Employment Exchange. War about to start. Heard on telephone from Rhoda2 that bomb had exploded in Broadgate by the I.R.A. killing one person and injuring many others. (Shades of things to come). Owing to fog the journey from Hoylake took six hours instead of about four. Met heavy convoys going towards Liverpool. Arrived home 1-30 a.m. G (her son, still living) and J (her daughter, still living) slept most of the way.

September 1st. At 5-o’-clock, Peter3 came home to say that we had to travel that night. He was to go to Kington4 to take charge of evacuated mothers and children in need of allowances from the Ministry of Labour. The children and I stayed at Malvern with Frank and Mary5 for a fort-night.

September 3rd. 1939. At 11-o-clock listened to Mr Chamberlain on the wireless telling the world that the war has started. Very emotional time. Helped Mary to fix black-out to all the windows. Stayed in Malvern for a fort-night then went to Leamington to stay, as we thought until the War would be over. The children went to school there.
In October Peter came home for good, so we decided to come back to Coventry as the war is quiet, and so far as we can see there does not appear to be much danger. Things went along quietly for us all and the children went to school as usual, until the Summer of 1940, when things began to happen. Battle of Britain. First bombs dropped in Coventry in August. Great excitement when we had the first alert.

During October J and I went to Bromsgrove to look after Elaine6 as she had had an operation. Peter and G stayed at Leamington. During that time air-raids started on Coventry and people left the city in hundreds. We came home at the end of October . Six days after we came back the great Blitz happened.




Night of November 14th-15th. 1940.

At 7.5 p.m. J getting out of the bath as G jumped in. Daddy came in to kiss them good-night as he was on duty all night7. Next minute G plunged his head under the water (as usual), and Peter could only have been a short distance from home, when the sirens went. Being so used to them we did not worry much, but immediately the guns started up, and before we could do anything the bombs started to come down. I hurried J down to the cupboard under the stairs, our usual place of shelter. Dashed back to help G to get dry and down. The bombs were coming down thick and fast now, so we did not stay to do anything. I finished drying G’s head with the hot-water bottle. The bombs made a screaming noise before they exploded. It frightened the children a little, and so I told them that it was the noise our shells made going up. I tried to believe this myself too, knowing only too well that it was not so. In my inmost heart I kept wishing that Peter could get home, but did not think that he could possibly get through with so much noise and things falling. A lot of bangs had happened on the house, which we found afterwards was shrapnel.
One particularly heavy crash made me think an incendiary bomb had fallen so I started to go upstairs to see. Had one foot on the bottom step when such a terrific noise made me rush back to the children. It was not an incendiary. Time passes. J wants her teddy bear. I can hear the kettle boiling on the fire in the dining room. Want to get my knitting. Made one dash to the dining room, grabbed the kettle off the fire, picked up Teddy and the knitting, and got back to the cup-board to my great relief. I hear Peter coming in. He had been out all the time, and had an exciting time getting home. A plate glass window was blown out only a few feet from him. He stepped into a street shelter while the next bomb came, and had another shock. It was only a small shelter, and the people were worried because their daughter had that day been taken away with diphtheria. Peter got out quickly deciding that he preferred bombs to germs. I was very glad to see him.

Very soon after this the “mine” dropped. The house seemed to rise and settle again. I leant right over the children. We thought that the end had come. Glass falling everywhere, doors blown in, and a horrible sound of bricks falling not far away. Well, it turned out to be not as bad as we thought. Peter had to keep propping up the front door to try and keep out the draught. It was very cold. At last after eleven hours in continuous bombing, the raid was over. The silence seemed difficult to realise after so much noise.

Two fellow wardens of Peter’s came in at 6.30.a.m. I gave them all a large Guinness, being the first time they had ever had one at that hour of the day. It cheered them up considerably. The children were dropping with sleep so I put them to bed, where they stayed until mid-day.
At one time during the night I went to see if the budgerigars were alright. It was bitterly cold and brilliantly moon-light. The sight over the city was terrible. It just looked as though the whole of Coventry was blazing. The balloons were hanging limp in the red glare, and I could hear the roaring of the fires burning and crackling.

At 7-30.a.m. I went to see how the Raine’s8 had faired as L (daughter of family: still living) was ill in bed. Never shall I forget the sight of devastation on the corner, and all up the road. A double-decker bus twisted to scrap, houses, trees and telegraph poles down, and a strong smell of escaping gas. Mrs Raine was injured, but the children were safe. Poor little boy Haine’s (sic) was killed. He was four.
Back home to cook breakfast on the oil stove as there was no gas or electricity. Peter went to the office9 as usual. His experiences during that morning would fill another page. He counted seven dead bodies on his way down. At home I was endeavouring to clear up the mess as well as I could, and went along to Mr Pollard’s to get some tarpaulin to cover the windows. Practically all the glass was blown out. Went with Phyllis Holland10 to try to get a taxi to take us all to Leamington11. We were very lucky and got one for the afternoon. Packed up what I could left the rest. It was at 2.o.clock when we left, and the driver had a job to keep a steady course with so much glass about and rubble.



Written by Mary Cooke (née Dolton) 1896-1984 and transcribed by her grandson Andrew Holdcroft in 2011.


1 They were there on holiday. G was 10 at the time and J 7.
2 Rhoda Walters was an old friend of Mary’s from their days during World War One working together in a munitions factory. Married to a police officer who became Chief Constable, she was at this time living in Worcester (later Lincoln).
3 i.e. Ernest Walter Cooke (1895-1949), Mary’s husband.
4 On the River Arrow near Kington, Herefordshire. Requisitioned by War Office at outbreak of World War 2. Initially used to house evacuated families. After Dunkirk, evacuated troops were accommodated there. Later used for billeting troops and, after the entry of the United States into the War, as a US Forces Hospital (107th & 122nd General Hospitals) site, treating injured from D-Day landings among others.
5 Younger brother & sister-in-law of Ernest’s. Frank Cooke 1899-1972, Mary Cooke (née Lenton) 1905-1980.
6 Elsie Davis (née Dolton). Elder sister of Mary’s. (1892-1975)
7 Ernest was an Air Raid Precautions (“ARP”) Warden.
8 Neighbours. L was a contemporary of J’s and so around 8 years old at the time of this entry. The Haines were also neighbours. Mary & family were living in Hartington Crescent, Earlsdon, Coventry.
9 At the Ministry of Labour.
10 Another neighbour.
11 To seek shelter with Ernest’s father (Walter Benjamin Cooke 1870-1945) and youngest sister Nora (1900-1980),at 5, Hyde Place.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 23-01-13, 19:54
maggie_4_7 maggie_4_7 is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: London
Posts: 2,624
Default

Thank you for posting this. Its very interesting to read.

My mother was working in a munitions factory at Coventry at the time of the Coventry Blitz she was billeting in Rugby though and wasn't on shift that night but saw Coventry ablaze from the attic window of the house she was billeting in. She was a Londoner called up for war work.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 24-01-13, 06:21
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 32
Default

Thank you Maggie: glad it touched upon your family history: would have been awful had your mum been on shift as munitions factories were the targets & so unsafe due to their nature.... Have you got any accounts from her you are able to share?
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 25-01-13, 19:05
Jill Jill is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,159
Default

Fascinating to read this first hand account Andy, thank you for sharing it.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 25-01-13, 21:18
maggie_4_7 maggie_4_7 is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: London
Posts: 2,624
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyHoldcroft View Post
Thank you Maggie: glad it touched upon your family history: would have been awful had your mum been on shift as munitions factories were the targets & so unsafe due to their nature.... Have you got any accounts from her you are able to share?
Not much to share she never spoke much about it other than that episode of the bombing of Coventry and she said all she could see (Mrs Chapman woke them all up those that were there) from the attic window was a red glow across Coventry and occasionally boooooms and bangs and also when she first arrived in Rugby was so pleased that she had her own bed (it was fairyland to her) and her landlady did her washing her name was 'Mrs Chapman' well to be precise Mrs Chapman's housekeeper did the washing and it was laid out on her bed

Mrs Chapman had a son in the RAF (I think from memory he got killed from what my mum told me and he was Mrs Chapman's only child and son) and it was a big house in Rugby and a few girls had a billet there including her, she made a couple of friends called Belle and Mary from Gateshead and remained in contact with them until the 1970s - my mum came from a very very poor family in Bethnal Green and even at 19 years of age was still sharing a bed and believe you me no one did her washing.

I must admit I always wondered what happened to Mrs Chapman my mother spoke about her often in later life she like her a lot - there were about 10 girls that had a billet in Mrs Chapman's house and she was the matriach and seemed to look after the girls very well - emotionally and physically and they came from all walks of life and found themselves there.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 26-01-13, 08:55
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 32
Default

That is fascinating Maggie: thanks for this. I find this sort of detail & texture is what I most enjoy about history: it so seldom gets covered in books yet it is what (in this case) WW2 was "like" for actual people who lived through it... Glad you enjoyed it Jill!
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 11-02-13, 14:19
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 32
Default

Attached is a photo of Mary Cooke (dressed in WRVS uniform) with her husband Ernest ("Peter") Cooke dressed in his ARP uniform, around the time the events in her diary took place
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Wartime pic.jpg (8.0 KB, 3 views)
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 06:36.


Hosted by Photon IT

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 PL3
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.