A Wartime Childhood in Blackburn: An Interview with Barbara Riding (nee Brett)

4th August, 2020

Barbara Riding grew up in Blackburn during the Second World War and here she shares her memories and stories of being a child during World War Two. Barbara talks about what life was like in the family home, at school and playing in the local area. We hope you enjoy listening to Barbara’s memories and stories as much as we have done. Barbara has also provided us with some photographs that capture memories of her wartime childhood.

A selection of Barbara’s photographs and memories:

George VI letter –  A copy of the letter sent by King George VI to children after the war.

Barbara – This a photo of Barbara Riding (nee Brett)   at 88  and  Barbara Brett
in her Brownie uniform as it was in those  days aged 9.

Air raid sheltersTop left:   Underground shelter preserved in Stockport Museum.
Underground shelter dug for children of St Silas’s School in 1939. 
Arched roof like a tunnel with benches to sit on and latrines in the
corner.  Thank goodness we never had to use them.

Top right:  A cartoon concerning a Morrison shelter.  We had a budgie
which we taught to say ” Hitler’s a bad man!” We were lucky not to have
any air raids, but when the siren went off we sat under the stairs and put
the budgie under the shelter.

Bottom two:  Photos of two Morrison shelters I took off the TV. My
father got one as he was unable to go to a brick shelter in the school
yard if there was an air raid.  We used it as a dining room table for
several years.

Charity poster – We collected money for charities during the war such as  Aid for
Warships,  Aid for Russia, Aid for rubber dinghies for shot down
airmen.  This is a poster I designed  and won a prize for in a
competition for school children in Blackburn in 1942  during Aid for
China week.

Ministry of Food Cook Book –  Lord Woolton was the Minister of Food during the war.  This was the Ministry of Food cook book which my mother used to use. We used to
listen to a five minute broadcast every morning called “The Kitchen Front” which gave hints and ideas on how to cope with your rations.

Music – These are some of the songs I used to play and we used to sing on
different occasions.

Identity Card – We all had to have an Identity Card with name and details inside.    I also had a silver Identity disc  with my name and address on it which I wore on a
chain on my wrist.

Evacuee Letter – Families were all issued with a letter about taking in evacuees.  We
were not asked to have any.   I only remember one girl evacuee coming to
my school from somewhere.

Parks and Churches – Parks and churches and all private houses had to have their gates and railings removed  so that the metal could be used for war purposes. It
was over 50 years before the Corporation Park replaced its railings and
gates.  My church, Leamington Road Baptist Church built a small wall instead.

When the Lights Came Back On in Blackburn: Richard Croasdale Responds to Questions About His Wartime Childhood

June 11th 2020

After watching the video of Richard Croasdale talking about growing up during the war in Blackburn, children from Blackburn Children’s University plus a few other children from the local area, wanted to ask him a few questions.  We arranged for Stephen Irwin, Education Officer at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, to put their questions to Richard in a phone interview and we have a wonderful recording of their conversation to share with you.

We suggest that you listen to the recording in a quiet room with no distractions to give you the idea of what it was like listening to a wireless broadcast.

Richard was asked the following questions during the interview:

  1. How old were you at the start of the war?
  2. Were you frightened?
  3. Did you think you were going to die?
  4. Where were your parents?
  5. What games did you play?
  6. What did you eat on VE day?
  7. How did you celebrate VE Day?
  8. How did you feel when the lights came back on in Blackburn?
  9. What happened to your gas masks at the end of the war? Did everyone have to hand them in or could you keep them?
  10. Do you feel as though rationing helped prepare you for budgeting in later life?
  11. Did you feel that during the war everyone became closer in the community?
  12. Did adults also have to carry gas masks with them all the time?
  13. What music did you listen to during the war?
  14. What was it like reuniting with family members who had been away during the war?
  15. What would you say to children today who are living in war zones?

“To see all the trams again, all lit up at night, oh what a fantastic sight that was”.

– Richard Croasdale, June 2020

VE Day 2020 Showreel

On May the 8th staff, students, alumni, friends and families from the University Centre at Blackburn College, together with children from Blackburn Children’s University and members of the 5th Rishton Brownies commemorated VE Day 2020 by taking part in a variety of activities at home.  Everyone was asked to send us photos and videos of their activities and we have made a showreel to capture everything.  People were invited to make bunting, sing a song, do a dance, bake cakes, write a poem and we had a great response.  Thanks to everyone involved and we hope you enjoy our showreel and photographs from the event.

The event was held remotely in accordance with government guidelines on social distancing.

We are disappointed that due to the pandemic residents at EACHSTEP Care Home were unable to join us in our original plans for a VE Day party at UCBC or take part in the activities but we hope they enjoy watching the showreel and reading the letters sent to them from The Children’s University.

A special “thank you” to:

Letters to Eachstep Care Home from Blackburn Children’s University

Children’s University members were asked to write a letter to the residents at Eachstep Care Home.  Here are a couple of letters: one from Humaira in year 1 at St Silas Primary School and another from Jemima and Alisha, two sisters at Wensley Fold Primary School. 

All activities took place remotely and in accordance with government guidelines on COVID 19.  

College and Children’s University to Commemorate VE Day at Home

Blackburn College University Centre is teaming up with Blackburn Children’s University to take part in a Stay at Home VE Day Party.

The stay at home party will take place on Friday 8th May 2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded WWII East Lancashire Childhoods: Sharing Stories, Making Memories project.

The event will see staff and students from the University Centre at Blackburn College and children from Blackburn Children’s University have picnics or afternoon tea in their homes or gardens, make bunting and flags, bake buns and write poetry.

Participants will be asked to share their VE Day moments by sending in photographs and short videos.

Project Leads Sandra Nichol, Lecturer in BA (Joint Honours) Pathways, and Dr Valerie Jessop, Programme Leader BA (Joint Honours), Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics, said: “We are looking forward to seeing all the photographs and videos of people commemorating the event in their own homes. These will be used to create a digital record of people’s activities and will be posted on our project website.”

Sara Burton, Blackburn Children’s University Manager, said: “This is a little bit different than what we had planned, but we still wanted to commemorate this momentous event. Children from Blackburn Children’s University have already been completing various challenges like painting pebbles red, white and blue, writing letters and making poppies.

“For VE Day we will be encouraging our members to make bunting, party hats and even have a picnic at home. I can’t wait to see the pictures and videos of how they are all commemorating this event.”

The Sharing Stories, Making Memories project is an inter-generational community arts project which commemorates the events of WWII. For more information visit smallstories.blackburn.ac.uk.

The project’s original VE Day 75th anniversary commemoration was initially set to take place at the College’s University Centre but was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

A wartime childhood in Blackburn: Interview with Richard Croasdale

Richard Croasdale, 16th January, 2020

Richard Croasdale grew up in Blackburn during the Second World War and here he shares his memories and stories of being a child during World War Two. Richard talks about what life was like in the family home, at school and playing outdoors in the local area. He remembers the end of the war, when the lights came back on, as the ‘most fantastic night of my life’.

Wartime Childhood

02nd November 2019, University Centre at Blackburn College

Children from local schools belonging to Blackburn Children’s University participated in an event to learn about childhood experiences during World War II. Staff and students from the School of Art and Society led events including a dig for victory, writing evacuee letters, singing wartime songs, making poppies, learning about rationing, experiencing an air raid shelter, and playing games.