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Family stories from WW2



The vegetarian societies had begun to make representations to government during 1937, and in a series of negotiations that continued between 1939 and 1942 certain concessions were gained, chiefly the additional supply of cheese and fats and a special allowance of nuts. Some 50,000 registered as vegetarians during the war, though this number is known to include some from families who took up a vegetarian ration book so as to get extra cheese. Many vegetarians look back on this official recognition and see it as an important stage in the wider acceptance of the diet, They look back also with favour on the war-time diet itself, since with its brown bread and high vegetable content, and with its low levels of meat and sugar, it embodied many of their own ideals.

Our family were vegetarians. Gertrude and Harry Bird started it on health and moral grounds. It was very unusual in the 1930's and 40's. We used to go to meetings of the Vegetarian Society with speakers from Britain and abroad. We took a monthly Vegetarian magazine which had news of events and meetings and reports of scientific papers.
We ate fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, honey, nuts, eggs, butter, kosher margarine, cashew nut butter, peanut butter, marmite, bread, rice, beans, lentils, dried fruit and nut bars made by Mapletons. Our yoghurt was home made in circle octagonal glass pots in a stainless steel frame in the airing cupboard every night using a culture from the previous day. When this became weak we sent for some fresh culture from Paris by post. No one else I knew was eating yoghurt at that time. It was explained to us that it was good for our gut flora. Our rich milk from Devonshire cows was delivered daily to our door in glass bottles.
Twice a week we went to the yeast shop near Castle Circus Torquay. We bought the yeast to make up for the B vitamins which we missed for not eating meat. We used to eat it with a spoon of soft brown sugar and loved it. We had Bircher Benner Swiss Muesli for breakfast, not like the packet stuff today. Grated apple, pears, bananas or other fruit freshly put on top with almonds, peanuts, cashew or coconut with the creamy top of the fresh Devon milk. We had no fridge so cream cheese was made with the sour milk. During the war we got our meat/bacon ration in extra cheese.
We ate whole grain bread and Allinsons Wholemeal bread from the Bakery of my aunt Dorothy in Kingskerswell, or home made by my mother. Thalia Campbell (Childs)

Children had their own ration books which were more generous than those of adults. Pre-school children had allowances of cod-liver oil and orange juice. PC

During the war to ensure the vitamin C in childrens diets the government provided welfare orange, rosehip syrup and blackcurrant puree available at clinics. Welfare orange was a concentrate in a flat sided bottle with a turquoise label, Rosehip was a delicious syrup in a clear bottle . children collected the rose hips from the hedgerows and brought them to school, The blackcurrant puree was like a sharp smoothie I think in a tin. My children loved the welfare orange.. apart from the rose hip they were low in sugar. It was available at chemists too.
They were stopped soon after 1979 by Mrs Thatcher who thought the market should proivide when she also invited junk food machines into schools.... In the 1960s in Southampton when Ian was sailing in the Fastnet, the I.O.Wight round the Island races and doing his yacht masters ticket at evening classes.I used to put the children to bed with a swing, a bed time story and a swig of welfare orange in gin;. seemed very wicked in the true sense of the word at the time Thalia l

My brother and I had a spoonful of Potters Codliver Oil and Malt every day, we also had Virol Janice


Wartime Recipes

Wartime Recipes

Coventry before the bombing - the Campbells lived there and left immeditaely

Coventry before the bombing - the Campbells lived there and left immeditaely
The Blitz
Coventry und Coventrate.

I was there on the 14th of November 1941, a young child old enough to remember but not old enough to be fully aware.Living at 58 Chelveston Road, Coventry
I was in bed and was awoken by the air raid sirens. It was a dark cold nght with a clear sky.
My father and mother took sister Heather and me into the Anderson Shelter outside in the back garden.
The shelter was dug into the earth and covered over by earth.
It was damp and cold with condensation running down the walls so everything felt damp. We had candles and a parafin oil lamp. There were two bunks . We were too excited to sleep and we heard the noise of the Nazi planes faint at first but then overpowering, they seemed to fly very low, the bangs of antiaircraft guns the hiss of schrapnel and the loom of the searchlights.
The first bombs were in the distance then the clunk of incendiaries and much later the explosions of land mines.
To me as a young child it was a massive fire works display . I went to sleep and was woken by tremendous bangs and the earth shaking, several houses in the road behind were hit and fell down opposite in our road two houses were destroyed. All our windows and doors were blown out. The electricity failed. After the all clear we found that the gas was cut off and there was no water.
My father drove the car to the front of the house we piled as much as possible into our BSA coupe and set off to Pembroke in West Wales. A journey of two hundred miles which normaly took at least twelve hours to drive.
On the road just outside Carmarthen we broke down my father knocked up a rural garage and asked if he could use their workshop. Together they mended the car. While they were working we were taken into the kitchen and given bacon and eggs, unheard of in war time food rationing. A roaring fire great excitement to be awake in the middle of the night.
We arrived in Pembroke in the early morning to start a new life with the extended families with no father.He drove back to Coventry to his work as an Admiralty Ordinance Overseer ,West Midlands working all hours driving all over the country.
Life with two extended families was different staying with various relatives but mainly at 39 Main Street, Campbells Garage with all the bustle and coming and going of a thriving business.
He had a hectic war involved in all sorts of government procurement .
Soon after the Oil tanks at Pembroke Dock were bombed and set on fire to burn for several weeks. My uncle Ronald my fathers youngest brother was in the Auxilliary Fire Brigade and became a local hero.
Pembroke was not the rural sanctuary it was a naval dockyard a sea plane base a submarine base and covered in airfiields for the aircraft that covered the Wester Approaches and later the North Atlantic.

Ian Campbell

Coventry Blitz - Watercolour

Coventry Blitz - Watercolour

An old postcard

An old postcard
At that time both Erica and myself have memories even though we were only 2 and 6 years old at the time.

Erica can remember being taken to the bottom of the road and seeing Coventry in flames. She also remembers the devestation of the City and the profusion of Rose Bay Willow Herb that was prolific growing within the ruins,even today she will not tolerate this plant in the garden.

I lived the other side of the city between Rugby and Coventry and being a boy found it all very exciting with the flashes and bangs of the exploding bombs. We also collected loads of shrapnel and spent bullet and shells.

Erica's father noticed that in a lot of the houses that had been bombed the stair cases were still intact so he had a Morrisons Shelter, which was a very heavy metal table surrounded by a mesh,in which they could shelter put under the staircase (bogey hole) for protection.

With regard to safety we had an Anderson Shelter in the garden but it was very dark and miserable. I can also remember my Grandmother putting me into the bottom drawer of a chest to protect me in the case of a bomb landing nearby as they were jettisoned by the German planes to lighten their load on their way home.

Surrounding the village where I lived there was a searchlight station, an anti aircraft base and also several barrage balloons which always reminded me as a child of "elephants"and I can still recall the Pom Pom of the guns and the bright streaks of light from the search lights as they tried to pinpoint the planes for the gunners.

Terry & Erica (Joseph Childs side)

War damaged Coventry 1940

War damaged Coventry 1940

Colin Garrett Campbell

Colin Garrett Campbell
CG Campbell was an Admiralty Overseer based at the Ordinance Depot in
Coventry. As a child I was taken around by him on his factory
inspections. I was given a tour of the factory while he carried out his
business. I saw many war time factories ranging from warships to guns
tanks aircraft from the smallest components made in back street
workshops in the Black Country to finished vessels and components for
Mulberry, for the invasion I watched tests of the rocket launchers used
at D Day. Some of his papers were market Tube Alloys, my mother
destroyed his briefcase with a wrist chain and his revolver when he died
she also burnt all his papers, so I only have memories and half
remembered events. At one factory they were transmitting Workers
Playtime, and I was included whether it was in the live transmission I
have doubts.
In those days factories had Directors and Managers Canteens. In the
largest factories dining rooms with a Butler and uniformed waiters. I
remember Mulligatawny Soup , strong curry flavour and roast beef, foods
we did not get at home.
Chance Brothers where they made optics for light houses made lenses for
range finders, the technology was unbelievably crude relying on skilled
crafts men,the glass was cast in sand pits in black dust filled sheds
open to the air. the grinding and shaping was done by the same technique
as used to polish needles, oscillating machines with hessian impregnated
with corundum paste, made of wood driven by overhead belting.
Guns tested under the tank floor at Rubery Owens factory fired into a
bank of sand, the tank factory hideously noisy full of crashing banging
grinding and welding hell on earth.
The isolated ex dairy near Worcester where they grew the Anthrax
culture. Near by on the main road outside Bromyard the poison gas
laboratory. Demolished these last months the building where the research
was carried out to drill very small holes for gaseous diffiusion plants.
Now two executive houses. The Americans sent over a drill bit they had
manufactured, it was returned with a hole drilled through its length, it
was shown on the Trade Stand at the British Industries Fair, it could
only be seen under a microscope. It was shown as an example of British
technology, with no mention of its use. Later solutions were developed,
they carried out many experiments with sintered metals made of various
materials and controlled crystal sizes.
On his death he had documents and drawings labelled Tube Alloys, the
final assembly was underground at Rhydimewyn North Wales.The poison gas
from Germany was stored at what later became the Asbestos Factory making
brake linings on the road to Anglesey North Wales, before it was dumped
at sea in St Georges Channel. The dump sites can be seen in the Notams
and Naveams of the time in the Admiralty Hydrographic Depot near Taunton
unless they have been destroyeed I did write to the Hydrographer of the
Navy in the Eighties who said I could research the archives as he was
concerned that they were to be destroyed by the Thatcher government.
The Etching presses used to print charts were sold off and several ended
up in a large house in rural wales.
I saw them when we were setting up Mid Wales Intaglio, an etching and
printing studio in the seventies.
My father had a series of stamps with the War department broad arrow,
and CGC small for individual components, when a ships gunnery system was
assembled and tested at the Ordinance Depot he had a larger stamp , when
the ship was handed over by the builders after sea trials his stamp much
larger was under the builders plate. When I was in the navy I saw his
stamp on gun breech blocks and barrels.
The guns were proofed at the Birmingham Proof House and large guns under
the Rubery Owen Factory before they were assembled. The whole gunnery
and control systems were shipped by train partly assembled, larger arms
were shipped by train in parts to the shipbuilding yards.
He walked around with a labourer, who stamped each component with his
stamp. We went into laboratories and testing houses. Heanan and Froude
in Worcester made testing machines, for quality control random samples
were sent there for testing.
A machine for testing tensile strength a hydraulic machine which pulled
test samples in a controlled way as they were stretched and fractured.
The broken sutrface was examined under a microscope to see its
crystaline structure. A hydraulic press with a diamond head was used to
test for hardness by examing the indentation made in the sample and
measuring it on the Brinel Scale.
They developed the largest dynamometers to measure power out put .
I saw those developed to measure the output of steam railway engines and
saw them on test at the Rugby Test House, you could stand right next to
an express engine on rollers running at full throttle. Similar machines
we used to measure the output of jet engines being developed at the
dispersal factory at Ryton which ended its life as the Peugot Plant
which closed last year.
As I grew older my father took me around with him in the school
holidays. I was offered jobs at the Rootes Group Racing and Rallying
Department in several drawing Offices and as management trainee in
several companies.
At school we had a Science Club this arranged factory visits every
Wednesday afternoon, I saw very many industries and went into very many
development laboratories.
Ian Campbell

Dulcie's Discs

Phyllis D. Campbell lived in Law Street Pembroke Dock.She was one of Nine Children. Her father, Arthur Clague was a light house keeper. His Family came from the Isle of Man
When she left school she went to work in T.P.Hughes department store in Tenby. She worked in the Record Department. She lodged in the end cottage of Quarry Cottages with Mr and Mrs Pedwell.
She married Colin Garratt Campbell the oldest son of William Horatio Campbell of Campbell's Garage 39, Main Street Pembroke.They were Married in the chapel at Carew.
They moved to Gillingham in Kent and eventually to Coventry.They were bombed out in the Blitz of Coventry and returned to Pembroke with their children Ian and Heather..The children went to Eastgate School.
During the war she served refreshments to the many international servicemen in the Old Schoolroom in Main Street. After the war the family returned to the midlands but spent holidays with the wider family in Pembroke, camping and caravaning at Freshwater east

During the second World war Ian's Mother with the NAAFI served the armed forces food in the Old School Room in Pembroke Main Street. When they were bombed out in Coventry and came here they saw the oil reserves go up in flames... We have a photo of the Chapel at Carew where Ian's Mother Married Thalia

William Horatio Campbell

William Horatio Campbell
William Horatio Campbell (Ian's grandfather) was the oldest Home Guard in Pembroke Borough and District during the War.
He shot down a German plane that flew low over Pembroke after bombing the docks. He had a gun taken from a fishing trawler in a field along side St Daniels Church on the hill on the south side of Pembroke...The army had their properly built gun emplacements past the graveyard further west.
They are still there. Many from the town rushed up to see the plane. The German pilots were too scared to get out but were eventually taken away probably to do farm work with other prisoners of war. Ian remembers climbing and sitting in the cockpit.There was another plane crash nearby of a Polish crew who ran out of fuel. They were injured and taken into the nearby farm on the day the farmer's son was born.

Ian was born in Gillingham. His grandfather was in Pembroke. The family had a garage in the main Street, taxis,petrol sold with a pump over the pavement. They used to charge up all the batteries for the locals beforemains electric came to Pembroke.


Watercolour of the German plane - Ian Campbell

Watercolour of the German plane - Ian Campbell
Ian's grandfather and friends took their gun off a trawler abandoned on Penner Flats on the Cleddau Estuary. This was the gun they used to shoot down the german plane
on St Daniels Hill.

Churchill inspecting the House of Commons Home Guard

Churchill inspecting the House of Commons Home Guard


Harry Bird's three sons fought in the second world war. One remained a strict vegetarian and must have had the best diet in the whole of the armed forces. Special food parcels were flown in and dropped at his camps when he was serving in Africa. The other two had to live on the scraps and stale bread rations like the rest of the battalion. When they were demobbed Harry rented a house for them in Daison Heights with wonderful wooden panelling, it wasn't in the family long as Maidencombe House was soon purchased.

A daughter was posted to Bristol to work in a factory they were working in a cave underground and the water used to drip down her neck from the roof. She contracted rheumatic fever and was sent home to Adyar to convalesce, she just lay in a darkened attic room and was at home for six moths, then they called for her again, Harry didn't think she should be called up but they were so desparate for workers. He insisted she went somewhere more healthy and they arranged for her to go to Bath, just under the cliffs where they had a factory making valves the size of light bulbs, she stayed there until the end of the war, then went for a while to live with Norman in Daison Heights as she was homeless after Harry had sold Adyar without telling her.


John Healey served in the Royal Navy he came from a long line of Naval personnel.
Sadly the Healey family do not wish to paticipate in the site so we have no details.
See Healey history page for background naval to view


Newton Bird would have been the third Joseph Newton. He was killed in action in WW2 over Holland when the bomber he was in was shot down by a German night fighter.

Harley Bird was in the Royal Navy during WW2. He saw action initially in the naval battles against the Germans in the South Atlantic off Argentina and Uruguay. See Graf Spee German pocket battleship on the internet 1939. After that he was promoted and sent to officer training school in England. During that time, he spent some time with a relative who had a farm in the Somerset area. There are some photos somewhere. I assume that this could have been a sibling of Nettie's. Apparently they were very good to him.

Newton Bird Grave

Newton Bird Grave
The Protestant Cemetery at Oudewater contains the graves of seven British & Commonwealth Graves.

On the night of 9-10 April 1943, a Lancaster III Bomber, ED502 WS-V (nicknamed Barbara Mary) of No 9 Squadron, took off at 2048 hrs from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, England. It was shot down on the way home by Hptm Hans-Dieter Frank of 2./NJG 1 (his 21st victory) based at Venlo. It crashed at 2345 hrs at Snelrewaard (Utrecht) 3 km north east of Oudewater, Holland.

These men were taking part in the Duisburg raid of 9/10 April 1943, on which 5 Mosquitos and 104 Lancasters were dispatched, but thick cloud again caused a scattered attack. 8 Lancasters were lost in total during this operation.

The names of the seven airmen are:-

Warrant Officer Arthur White, 23 years old from Wiakato in New Zealand. Pilot.
Sergeant William Barker, 32 years old from Cromer, Norfolk. Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.
Flying Officer Hector Robertson, 25 years old from Aberdeen, Scotland. Navigator.
Sergeant William Jakeway, 19 years old from Barnet in Hents. Air Gunner.
Sergeant Norman Tutt, 22 years old from Ashford in Kent. Flight Engineer.
Flying Officer Graham Gibbins, 20 years old from Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia. Bomb Aimer.
Flying Officer Newton Bird, age unknown from Camps Bay in South Africa. Tail Gunner.

The names of the airmen buried here are also engraved on a small Dutch memorial erected on the opposite side of the road.

Hans-Dieter Frank (8 July 1919 – 28 September 1943) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during World War II. Frank claimed 55 aerial victories. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Frank was killed in a mid-air collision with another night fighter northwest of Celle in the night of 28/29 September 1943 This collision was likely caused by an attack made on his fighter by RAF night fighter ace Bob Braham.

Ronald ( Ronnie ) Childs

Ronald ( Ronnie ) Childs

Harry Childs ( Robert Henry John ) - bottom left front row

Harry Childs ( Robert Henry John ) - bottom left front row

James Lewis Hope - husband of Doris Lilian Childs

James Lewis Hope - husband of Doris Lilian Childs

Ruth Woodward (Goldsmith daughter)

Ruth Woodward (Goldsmith daughter)

Emma & George Bryenton ( Goldsmith descent )

Emma & George Bryenton ( Goldsmith descent )

Cadbury factory camouflaged

Cadbury factory camouflaged


Maurice was always appalled at the local corruption and knew a lot about it as
it was often planned in his changing rooms at the shop with the local councillors/ criminals sharing it all with him thinking he would approve of the land deals the backhanders, the town silver stored by an alderman and sold off during the war for personal gain.
Wish I could remember in detail the struggles he had with corrupt bosses in the aircraft industry during the war.he said he was prosecuted during the war as a Communist trouble maker. There must be court records in Bristol and Trowbridge.
Dudley took us round Plymouth to see all the new council houses built by the city after the war. He was full of civic pride as the city treasurer. Gertrude was quite ungracious saying they could have been less regimented and more imaginative.
Whilst Maurice was in the Hospice for six weeks he shared things with us how he resented being put in the shop by his father and was glad to take a reserved occupation doing his own thing making aircraft for seven years. He did this to get into a reserved occupation so as not to go to war. he was quite dismissive of Norman and the others who did not manage to escape the war.He described how Mr Butler his manager ripped him off but he did not mind....
He described his digs in Bristol in a small terraced house with a woman who cooked a stew/soup with water, bones and over cooked vegetables and how Ted rescued him and later living in a small manor house in Trowbridge with grounds and a small chapel full of hens, stained glass window, the coloured light falling on the freshly laid eggs in the straw.There was the base of a gasometer which was full of water, frogs, newts etc a magic place where we had a wonderful time with Ted's three girls Sue, Jenny and Alice . I remember the big old kitchen.and some big old trees. They were very close friends the two families....


The war started when I was two and finished when I was seven. I remember walking to Tor Abbey Sands from our first small house 'Little Ideen' at the start of Teignmouth Road with the big green and cream coach built pram with everything in it, either under the rexine mattress base or in the tray between the large wheels. Later with baby Susan in the pram and me a toddler sitting in the edge on a central rexine board. I remember walking up the hill under trees past small gardens after going past the gates with swan statues. We had no car during the war. Then all the beaches were covered with rolls of barbed wire.
As a toddler in arms at Little Ideen I remember the building of the air raid shelter in the front garden and pushing box trimmings in the soft soil to make a hedge ..the box hedge is still there. I remember going down the shelter with candles and matches and the victorian flowered candle stick which I still have. We had two uncomfortable wood framed wire based bunks and a couple of chairs and a tin trunk with Siren suits ,matches,candles and woollen blankets in...
The two tones of the siren the warning and the all clear are a vivid memory as are the different sounds of the engines of German and Britsh planes...
One bombing raid I remember clearly was when a German plane flew around the tall chimneys of Belmont House which was below little Ideen. I remember the young pilots face and his leather helmet. Later I found out he went off low over the beach and the barbed wire defences and shot a man ,a local education officer who lay on top of his son on the sands.
Later still I learned the pilot was shot down.
When I was a student in London in the 1950s I went out with that boy who
was training as a graphic designer, he was very caring having been brought up with his two brothers by his widowed mother.
I remember the grey barrage balloons over the harbour which we could see from our front garden. Another time a hotel was bombed and the feathers from all the pillows looked like snow in the sky. Thalia


During an air raid in Torquay in January 1943 Lilian Childs gave birth to Julia under the bed!!
The candlestick that Gertie took into the bomb shelter and some shells and a grenade that Ian was given when he went round the factories with his father towards the end of the war.He said they were so heavy in his pockets that he had a job to keep his trousers up!

Photo Walter Carrera

Women working in aircraft factories

Women working in aircraft factories

Japan invaded China on July 7, 1937. This invasion began the second Sino- Japanese War.

At the time when Japan invaded China.There was a resurgence in orientalism which involved Madame Blatvatsky, some one my grandmother Gertrude Goldsmith used to talk
about. It brought about an interest in Comparative Religion and reincarnation in UK...
When I had The Exhibition 100 years of Womens Banners in Bristol Council
chamber we had an 84 year old pensioner talk to us who told us how she
marched in protest through Bristol against the invasion of China by JAPAN, she said she lived in a house that was on the bomb site where the City Hall now stands...All these bits and pieces of memories... Thalia


Julius Rothermel (John Watson) was posted to Grantham for the duration of the war to run the Chemists shop in the High Street.

My father told me that Thalia, my mother's sister, was posted up to Lincolnshire, Irving Slome used to come up and stay at our house for the weekend. Irving was a Medical Practitioner in Harley Street London. Somehow he used to be able to get oranges from South Africa and because my father had a sugar allocation being a pharmacist, to make the syrups for medicines, mother used to make marmalade, we were the only people in Grantham it seemed who had such a luxury! Janice

The family at Mansands 1943

The family at Mansands 1943
Even during the war years Ellen John and Janice managed to travel to Devon to see the family.
Likewise Harry and Dorothy went to Lincolnshire, either to Grantham or Butlins Holiday Camps to spend time with their daughter and family. Also Norman visited in 1939.
Other members of the family also visited - Derek Butler, John's half brother who was in the RAF and the Rothermels - all sadly to loose touch over the years....
After sixty years we are gradually finding each other through this website !!!

Harry Bird at Grantham

Harry Bird at Grantham

The Rothermels

The Rothermels
Cousin Olga and her family, Grantham 1941
We are trying to trace this branch of the family
Aunt Olga married Arthur Gardner in 1918 - cousin Olga married Richard Clark in 1949
Both in Wellingborough Northants
Does anyone have any leads?
Stories in the family were told that Barbara Lena Rothermel/Butler came to Devon in the late 30's. She was penniless and homeless, Harry Bird put her up in one of the rooms in Esdaile during the war years where most of the family stayed on and off and some grandchildren were born there.

Barbara Lena on Esdaile steps

Barbara Lena on Esdaile steps


I was only very small when the war broke out but I recall bombs dropping and the sirens and I do remember a time before shelters were given out.
This particular day the sirens went off around tea time, so it was still daylight. My granma Lizzie and Grandy lived accross the road from our house and when the sirens sounded, it was their practice to open their front door and we all ran across the road (neighbours included) the men were in the Forces of course.
Ir was a sight to behold this particular day, everyone went straight into the front bedroom and dived under the bed ) It was a special one made for Grandy because of the shrapnel in his legs as he couldn't bend his knees) It was also reinforced. So under everyone went but on this day the neighbours had visitors so there were more of us than usual. So only head and shoulders were under the bed and all the bottoms were up in the air. A photo of that scene would have made Hitler smile !

At Grandy's House

At Grandy's House

Birmingham Burns

Birmingham Burns