Wartime Memories of Joyce Bishop
Joyce Bishop (née Hughes) was born in Hale in 1927 and was 12 years old when War broke out.
She remembers what happened during the War, particularly in the Manchester and Altrincham areas, and was particularly keen on dancing.
This transcript records her memories before and during World War 2 together with other experiences during her life time.
The transcript and the video are about 24 minutes long.
Recorded in Hale Barns, Cheshire on 2 November 2018.
Joyce died peacefully at her home in Altrincham on 25th February 2019 aged 91 years.
[Pauses indicated by ….]
Time codes on film indicated by Hour:Minute:Second for ease of reference between transcript and film on YouTube.
Joyce: Well my grandmother came from Hale and my mother was born in Hale. My father was born in North Manchester, Middleton, through his parents coming from Wales where there was no work and they came into here in the industrial revolution to come and work in locally.
My father met my mother at the local church here at her sister’s wedding, was marrying one of my father’s friends and I was born on August 5th, 1927.
They lived in Middleton through my father working in the cotton mill which he absolutely hated, and he applied to go in the Army at sixteen, fobbing his age. He was in for one year, I have got all his diaries with all this in, and he was …. that year, some government official said they were too young, and they had to come out …. he was a bugle boy in the medics, so he had to come out for a year and as soon as he could he was back in again and he was gassed …. went to France and was gassed.
He was never quite the same I don’t think with that …. Happening. Anyway, he married my mother and I was born on the 5th August 1927 like I say, and they always wanted to have their own business because my mother at the age of fourteen worked in the local newsagents in Hale village and the gentleman that owned the newsagents wanted to retire. He wrote to my parents and said would they be interested in buying the business which they obviously did over the years. …. delighted. I was two. There is a photograph of me in the Hale book of me outside the shop at the age of two.
When the War started, I was just twelve and I went with a bag of newspapers from our shop because we had a thousand troops billeted in all the big houses that were empty in Hale.
They paraded past our shop and they went to the Drill Hall for meals. So, before I went to school at the age of twelve, I took a bag of papers to the Drill Hall, sold them to the troops for which the medics were in charge of me, they had their office behind my trestle table and then I went off to school.
When I was at school, we just had the usual air raid drill …. at the local school here in Hale and as the War went on, of course, I became a teenager and we had got these thousand troops in Hale. So, we were very much in demand for dancing. Very much in demand. Every night we were dancing. We had the Royal Artillery first, then we had a Staffordshire Regiment, then the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. So, every night, there was dancing. We also had Polish people in Dunham Park, so they came to the dances, so we met these Polish lads. Lovely! Used to go into Manchester dancing and I’d be only sixteen/seventeen.
In addition to that, I had a bicycle and we were in the parade of shops …. I don’t know whether you know Hale?
Michael: A little ….
Joyce: …. but the parade of shops is where Barclays Bank is now, and we were the next shop, in fact Barclays Bank have taken over our shop. And I had to take my bicycle round the block of shops to go in the back entrance rather than the front of the shop. And on point duty was a soldier in his cabin with a gun. I was told what to do and what to say because the car park which is now a car park with garages for Bren guns and they were on duty to guard the Bren Guns. So, he would shout to me, “Who goes there friend or foe?” and I would say, “Friend….” Anyway, I think my father got a bit worried about this, like, so he decided that he would let me have a front door key, but I shouldn’t really have it until I was twenty-one, but this was the circumstances.
He was in the Home Guard, my father. My mother was an Air Raid Warden. Under the shops there’s cellars …. a block of eight divisions of shops …. and so, they opened the cellars up and the entrance was at the side of …. do you know Hale at all?
Michael: A little, yes ….
Joyce: Well, you know the bowling green?
Michael: Yes, I do ….
Joyce: Well, they opened a little passage at the bowling green for the public to use the …. as a public air raid shelter. So, we had our own shelter under the shops. Well there were certain nights that, when you got complacent, you could hear the planes coming over and you got fed up with it. So, you didn’t bother to get up, but you did realise that the German plane had a cut out and you knew it was a German, so you thought, “Oh I’d better get up. Get the air raid suit on”, a siren suit we called them …. an all in one with a zip up, quick down into the air raid shelter.
Anyway, as the War went on …. as of course, I was growing up and dancing and what have you and eventually we got Americans …. the Yanks …. We were all a bit afraid of the Yanks with their reputations and stuff, so we were a bit wary. But anyway, they were very good and of course, General Patton was at Knutsford and they used to pick us up in a truck outside tour shop and take us to Knutsford dancing.
Well, the dance hall in Knutsford was at the Town Hall which is now a furniture shop, which I went in not very long ago and I said to the salesman, “Oh, I used to come here dancing! Got a super floor underneath.” He said, “Do you know there is!” And we used to …. and the Yanks provided us with doughnuts! I’d never seen a doughnut before. That was really, really something.
Anyway, also in addition to that, I went to Manchester Airport to dance where the Para troops were stationed.
Michael: That would have been called Ringway at that time ….
Joyce: Ringway Airport and the Para troop Regiment was there, and really good that, and I thought today, how did I get there? Because there were no lights in the road, they weren’t allowed lights, so I went on my bike. Went to matter …. I mean I was very used to a bike because I was delivering papers all over Hale ….
Michael: Yes ….
Joyce: …. for business. Anyway, that was that and …. Eventually I met …. I used to go dancing in Manchester and the War ended and we celebrated outside Manchester Town Hall. Great celebrations. The War has finished, and I had been out with …. well I’ve got a …. I’ve pinned it onto that page …. that velvet piece there …. Air force …. I went dance with Air Force lads and went out with Air Force Army Navy.
Nothing untoward went on believe me.
Michael: No, no ….
Joyce: Anyway, the War ended, and I was dancing in Manchester Plaza Ballroom when I met my future husband.
Oh, before that I was going with my father who was in a concert party and it was based in Chorlton called ‘The Decoys’ and there was a soprano, my father was the baritone, there was a comedian who actually ended up on the television and I used to accompany my father to the Trafford General Hospital now where there were soldiers who were in Hospital Blue and that’s the concert party entertained the troops and so I went around with my father on that.
[The comedian who ended up on radio and television was Joe Gladwin, better know as Wally Batty in ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.]
One particular night, I do remember as we are talking about the Manchester Blitz. It was the 28th August 1940 because it was my mother’s birthday and that was a particular night that I never forgot. It was very, very, very frightening. Very frightening and the other one of course was the Manchester Blitz in the Christmas. Well, all my …. we always met at my Grandmother’s house and all the men folk went into Manchester and they all came back in pieces at what they had seen of the Manchester Blitz. And those were the two nights that still I remember of being very frightened. We did get bombed in Altringham but not to what some places did. We also only went to school for half a day because the evacuees took the other half the day ….
Michael: That was in Hale?
Joyce: …. in Hale, yes …. I left school at fourteen, of course, and went to work in the shop.
Anyway, back to the …. after the War finishing and I met my husband at the Plaza Ballroom and I’d be eighteen and we got married when I was twenty-one at the local church.
We lived …. I have three daughters and we lived here first [Hale] and then we went to Bury and then from to St Anne’s, St Anne’s to Chester, Chester to The Lakes, The Lakes to Bristol.
Anyway, we got to Bristol and my husband was an insurance manager. We’d lived in The Lakes for five/six years. He had the staff of about thirty, came home at lunchtime and played golf and he got promoted to Bristol and he had the staff of three hundred.
Now, whether this caused it, I presume it did. He had a heart attack one night and died at the age of 54.
Michael: Oh, dear, very young ….
Joyce: And I had got these three daughters. One was married, one was about to get married and the other was only 12. Anyway, I decided I’d come back to my roots …. which I have come back to live in Hale and I lived there for twenty something years when I met my second husband two years to the day after my husband had died and I had twenty-one years with him, so that was great.
Now, he was in the army as well, the Artillery as was my first husband, but my second husband was in charge of Indian troops. And he was a captain and he dealt with horses funnily enough and he nursed his wife for fifteen years with Multiple Sclerosis, so I was really …. we went on cruises and it was a new thing for him. He had one daughter and she was interested in horses through her father and she got killed by a drunk driver at the age of 40.
Anyway, back to my children, as I say, I have got three daughters, I’ve got eight grandchildren and I’ve got ten great grandchildren.
Michael: And you reckon it adds up in total to about thirty-one I think you said?
Joyce: Well if I add their partners and their husbands and or the yes …. And so, we are a very big family and we all get on fine so that’s the main thing.
Michael: Excellent, yes …. Going back to the War itself …. fairly obvious questions I know but things like rationing, how did they affect you? Or didn’t they?
Joyce: I think being so young you don’t really realise the implications of all things. You’re not in charge. It’s your parents who are responsible for you and therefore I don’t think I was terribly worried about that. As I say we weren’t really short of food because my mother entertained every single night with the troops. We got friendly with …. She would do hotpot for them every night for them.
Michael: And they would bring things in return presumably?
Joyce: They did you see, and I don’t think it affected us quite as much as it would …. and then of course, we were in a newsagents. We had rationing with sweets and the sweets …. sweetshop …. when the Army came at first, we knew they were coming and an advance party came and they had not got themselves sorted out with the NAAFI ….
Michael: Yes ….
Joyce: and I can see it to this day that they used our shop as the NAAFI at the very beginning I’m talking about, and our hall was from floor to ceiling in Cadbury’s boxes. I can see it now and these people must have arranged with my father to do that because they had not established a NAAFI. Eventually it was established that we had the NAAFI …. that they had the NAAFI but we just did have a very good time in the War.
Michael: It sounds a bit like a riot actually what with all the dancing and so on.
Joyce: That’s right and then we did the jitterbug when the Yanks came …. it was a totally different set up.
Michael: You mentioned the night of the 28th August, the first night of the blitz in Manchester in 1940, where were you at that time?
Joyce: With my parents …. In the shelter ….
Michael: So, you were in Hale when it was going on?
Joyce: Oh yes but we knew that it was bad because of all the activity of the bombing and you could hear it all going on and that was a very bad ….
Michael: I mean Hale it was not one of the places where people would have been evacuated from.
Joyce: Oh no not from. We had evacuees, but we didn’t get evacuated ourselves and there were bombings local. Byron Street was bombed and the corner by …. well do you know Altringham?
Michael: A little, yes.
Joyce: A little. Well, near Tesco that was about a whole family wiped out there. They have got a seat there in memory of that family on that corner by Tesco in Altringham. So, we weren’t terribly badly affected but we were hearing all of it going it, but you just got complacent and being young ….
Michael: That’s right, I mean for you it was a way of life although you had known the world a bit before as you were growing up, you had to accept it for what it was.
Joyce: That’s right and I’ve still got ration books and clothing coupons and petrol coupons. I’ve got them there. Which I have kept sillily enough.
Michael: You know that is …. because there are not that many ration books still around if you like from going …. because I suppose when they were used, they were thrown away?
Joyce: Going back though, when I got married, there was still, it was 1948, there were still shortages in everything and I remember queuing up for carpet.
By Hale station there was a carpet shop but the …. we got wind that there was some carpets and I got a …. when we first got married in 1948, most of our friends were living with their parents because they couldn’t get houses. My aunt got me a flat in Bowden, Stamford Road, posh and the fellow that owned it had bought it for £250 in the War. He was letting the top attic out for 25 shillings a week for which he’d been sent to the rent tribunal and they had been reduced to 18 shillings a week. We could have it if we paid the 25 …. the rent book said 18 but we paid 25.
Well, we lived there for two years and anyway, and then my father got me a rented house by the football ground in Hale. That house had just been up for sale, so I went and got the brochure on it, bearing in mind it paid £250 in the War …. 1 million plus.
Michael: Yes …. Frightening ….
Joyce: Now but we were happy because it was two rooms and he’d made the …. where the tank is, he’d put a sink in for us to wash up. We just had a living room where we’d cooked and a bedroom, but we were just happy that we had got somewhere where …. all our friends were still living with their parents at that time.
Michael: Are there any other things/aspects of your life which might relate to legacy from the War? Things that might have affected you or people around you?
Joyce: In the War?
Michael: Well, after the War yes.
Joyce: After the War, well, I think those were the two main things, the two husbands. I got married for the second time …. I was called Kirk when I was first married and that is Church of course in Scotland. I then married my second husband which I met in Stretford at a dance with friends and a chap said to me, “I believe you have got married again?” and I said, “Yes that’s right” and he said, “You have married a vicar or a minister?”. “I’ve married a Bishop!”, I said. So, he was lovely.
Michael: [Laughing] Yes indeed. I am going to ask you the question about if you were giving advice to youngsters today what would you say to help them along?
Joyce: When we were young, we heard all these complaints about parents and your grandparents, “Oh when we were young”. It adjusts to that generation and things will adjust to that generation, in my opinion, that grumbling about this, that and the other, but we did but it will level itself out. Today is a different world to what we’ve known.
Michael: And you can never go back, can you?
Joyce: And you can’t go back, no. It’s so, so different. I mean there’s far more …. Well, I mean my father was very, very, very, very strict but the dads are not today. My son in law treats his lads like best pals you know, even when they were little I didn’t agree with that.
Michael: Can’t say a lot can you?
Joyce: Oh no! Not at all. Keep your mouth shut.
Michael: Oh yes, you can’t interfere!
Joyce: But as Dorothy [Dorothy Firth, interviewed on the same day] said …. I am very proud of my family. My daughter is an interpreter for sign language. She’s a signer for sign language and she is a social worker. Very, very busy but she’s set up her own business now because she could see an opening for people wanting help with signing and she’s got an agency going and she is doing very well.
Michael: And one of the, not a legacy, but one of the things I think there is going to be is increased deafness amongst people because of all the noisy …. I mean, you went through the noise of dance bands and so on in your youth but I things are much noisier today, so I think there is a legacy there …. There will be a lot of people needing assistance with their deafness in the years to come.
Joyce: Yes …. could be but whether they’d do sign language, I don’t know but she is very, very, very, very involved in it and she is well known in the area and then my other children are good as well, so I can’t grumble at all and my grandchildren.
Michael: Well with 31 descendants essentially including those that are married in ….
Joyce: And when we have a get together there is too many now, we can’t ….
Michael: You would probably have to hire M.E.N or somewhere for ….
Joyce: I used to take them away every, once a year as a family but I couldn’t do it now there is too much just too much.
Michael: Joyce, thank you very much indeed for being prepared to be interviewed by WarGen.
Interview recorded by Michael Thompson, Hardy Productions UK, Manchester, for WarGen. Transcription by Zoe Booton.