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

WW2 The Homefront

If you want to find out more about the WW2 Homefront please watch the videos presented by Stephen Irwin, Education Officer at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery

You can find out about: The Blackout, Rations in the War, and A Blackburn Wedding

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:

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’.