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Joseph Arch 


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by Tony Talliss

In 1940 my family moved to a small half timbered cottage in Church Street (still extant) opposite the Memorial Hall. There was well water but we still used oil lamps. I attended Barford Church of England school where we had gas mask drill in the mornings. Teacher held her hand underneath the cylinder to cut off the air supply to check for air tightness – we gasped for air! All boys wore short trousers and both girls and boys wore boots not shoes. I wore short trousers and boots until eleven years. I had two strokes of the cane from Mr Twigger for sniffing in class.

November 1940: From my father's shoulders outside in Church Street I watched Coventry being bombed. Searchlights tracked German bombers across the sky and the ack-ack (anti aircraft gun) fire bursts were red. The bombers shone silver in the searchlights and the sky over Coventry had a pink tinge from the fires. Father bicycled to Coventry to work, rising at 03.30am for breakfast to arrive for 06.00am shift at Humber. He was often refused entry to the city due to broken gas mains or raids still going on.

1942: We moved to an estate cottage near Debden Hollow – a semi called Alderham Cottage. We still had well water and oil lamps. We gave up bacon and egg coupons from two ration books in exchange for coupons for pig meal and layer's meal. We had two pigs – one for us and one that had to be sold when fat to the Ministry of Food. We had several bombs miss us at Alderham cottages. German pilots refused to fly over Coventry to drop one bomb stuck in their bomb bay and kicked it out on the way home. All the water pits in the local fields started life as bomb craters. Many people stopped carrying gas masks after years of no gas attacks. When I went to Barford school without mine Mr Twigger, the Head, sent me home for it.

1943: The Smith-Ryland Estate threatened us with eviction from our tied cottage unless father was released from war work to be their gamekeeper. He was, and was paid three pounds a week and a free house – only half of his wages at Coventry. Father was a scout in the Homeguard. He was given two boxes of 12-bore cartridges, each containing one single lead ball, to shoot German parachutists. Mother exchanged tea for butter with people. Extra sugar was available for jam-making. We picked rosehips for vitamin C at school, also conkers. Filmshows and news were shown in the Memorial Hall. Until the American GIs came in 1942 most people had not seen a Negro although we had the Turpin family in Warwick.

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