Influences of war

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Sue
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Influences of war

Post by Sue » 12 Feb 2014, 08:14

I have just started writing my second Genealogy book called MY WIDDUP FAMILY. at the same time my writing group have selected a topic about war. Here is my contribution, linking the two topics together. As far as possible the content of this essay is based on fact. Since writing it I have discovered a great deal more about where my missing grandfather went to


Influences of War


I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the war. Which you may ask? Both I would say. Let us go back to the year of 1915. My grandmother at that time was plain Nellie Proctor, a spinster living with sisters Emma, Ruth and Clara, brother Ward and father James. Mother Sarah had died in 1912 in March, just before the Titanic disaster, My Dad often said that his mother, Nellie was very young to lose her mother and that she had no one to talk to and ask about life. Others may say she was a worldly woman who knew her own mind and new exactly what she was doing. Clara, poor Clara, a young teacher was madly in love with Albert Spencer from Rawtenstall also a young teacher whose fate was not yet known. He was to marry his love on Christmas Eve of 1915 only to be killed in tragic circumstances on the war front not three months later. He was not meant to be on the front line, he was a translator not a fighter. I know little more except my Great Aunt Clara with whom I shared a birthday and many interests, NEVER married again. Emma too suffered the misfortunes of war as her fiancée was also killed . I never knew the details. So Emma and Clara spent the rest of their lives as victims of war living together as happened to so many female siblings of the time, never remarrying , never having children. Why do I mention these two brave ladies, why because they were influential in the upbringing of Nellie's children and myself, as substitutes for their own lack of offspring as a result of war.

In another part of Burnley father James Proctor was a manager of a mill. It wasn't his first form of employment being amongst other things a provisions merchant, insurance agent, bookkeeper and a secretary to a cotton mill company. In the early 1900s times were hard in the cotton industry in Burnley, there were strikes and worker takeovers resulting in James becoming a mill manager. This brought many advantages to his family including climbing up the social hierarchy. The young Proctor women were often seen dancing at the Mayors ball and other such events. They were young women who all had striking looks, thick dark wavy hair, brown eyes and heavy attractive eyebrows, inherited from their maternal grandfather Jonathon Ward, a well established and financially secure pork butcher and delicatessen with great standing in the community. They were young women who were desirable companions, young women with a future. The mill in James hands went from strength to strength, even attracting trainees and apprentices from as far a field as Italy. One young Italian, we are led to believe became one of the many who sought the company of the Proctor girls and particularly that of young Nellie. Unfortunately for Nellie this romance was to be short lived, as Italy joined the allies in WW1 in April 1915, and the young apprentice had to return home to join the forces.

Elsewhere at this time the young men of Burnley were signing up for the Kings Shilling. A certain Wilfred Marriott joined the Royal Field Artillery in December 1914, but was declared unfit for service in the following January as he fell from a horse which resulted in a hernia. In September of that year he attempted once again to sign up, this time with the Royal Army Medical Corps, but was again rejected for the same reason in November. At some time during this year, if not before, Wilfred and Nellie became very well acquainted. This did not meet with the approval of the Proctor and Ward families of Burnley, who were staunch Liberals. Wilfred's father was the chairman of the Social Democratic Federation in Burnley in the 1890s, and an ardent Marxist. For whatever reason, and we can only speculate, Wilfred and Nellie went to London in October 1915 and married at Clerkenwell registry Office. In January 1916 there first child was born, presumably at full term as he was a healthy bouncing baby with classic Proctor colouring rather than the lighter more blond features of his father. So the reason for the rapid trip to London was apparent, an advanced pregnancy of about 6 months. A classic story of the era, young men going to war who thought they would never see their loved ones again, love could not necessarily be balanced with marriage. Nellie was one of the lucky ones, she got her man. OR did she? As Wilfred junior grew up his dark features became more pronounced, his skin took on a more heavy pigmentation than his two younger brothers, James and Robert who looked like identical twins despite the 4 years difference in their age. People started to talk. Did these three boys have the same father? No one will ever know, and to this day the next generation of Marriott's have often discussed the possibility, carefully examining family photos of the time. The evidence seems irrefutable barring DNA analysis. Wilfred junior was probably the son of a certain Italian apprentice, and there is no doubt in the minds of the present Marriott generation and of James, my Dad, that he was the favourite child. Presumably the Italian was the love of Nellie's life. Whether Wilfred senior was a quick catch following an advancing pregnancy or whether Nellie did not know she was pregnant when she started a relationship with him, we will never know. Wilfred abandoned his family in 1925 and Nellie, long since died has taken her secret with her.

So where do I fit in? I would not be here if the Italians had not joined the war, if the apprentice had stayed in Burnley. With him gone there was a new love, a new relationship and a father to my own father, my genes were beginning to be set in WW1.

What of WW2? Well this brings me over the Pennines to the steel making capital of Sheffield, By this time the Marriott family had moved to this city, and settled with a new father, away from the rumours of Burnley. They had a happy upbringing apart from the normal ups and downs of family life. In 1939 when the boys were 23, 22 and 18 WW2 broke out. Wilfred junior was not called up as he worked in a protected occupation i.e. the manufacture of aeroplanes, James, my Dad received his call up papers in March 1940, the day his paternal grandmother died. Robert was called up a little later but a tragic training accident on an airfield in Morecambe saw his life whipped from him due to fluke weather conditions. Roberts body was brought home arriving on the 25th birthday of James, Valentines Day 1942. It was a loss the family never got over.

Before the war James, lets call him Jim, often frequented the centre of Sheffield where he worked and his father worked. After his initial RAF training he was based near his home in Rotherham as a barrage balloon operator, being chosen due to his grammar school education. So his regular visits to the city continued. Now Jim was rather partial to sherbet lemon sweets, (so much so that a jar of the said sweets accompanied him on his last journey when he died on his 95th birthday). Therefore he often called into a sweet shop in the city centre where he indulged in a little mild flirting with the pretty young 16 year old shop assistant, called Sallie. In December 1940 Sheffield endured its famous Blitz, The city centre was seriously damaged, including the sweet shop. For some time Jim assumed Sallie had perished with the shop, that is until a couple of years later when he came to his family home for tea to find her sitting there with his elder brother's girlfriend, Marna. Sallie and Jim were reunited and remained friend for years, double dating as friends with Wilfred junior and Marna.

After the Sheffield Blitz, little is known about Sallie until this time. She developed a relationship with a young song writer called John, who lived next door to her parents in the Woodhouse region of Sheffield. John joined the Green Howard's where he fought in the Western Europe Campaign, and on her 19th birthday in 1942 Sallie joined the Land army where she was located in Derby. John, Jim and Sallie were good friends, whilst John and Sallies romance blossomed. In April 1944, on Sallies 21st birthday they became engaged. It was this same year, in September, that tragedy struck. John was killed on the Western Europe Campaign, blown up by a hand grenade as he tried to throw it away from where it had landed near his comrades. Sallie turned to her friend Jim, his and her own family for consolation and support. Over the next 18 months support blossomed into romance. Marriage followed in December 1945. Sallie never forgot her first love, and I have kept all the letters that she had and Johns belongings that were on him when he died. Jim always knew about and understood this lost love but continued to support and love Sallie though out her life. In the 1990s he even arranged a trip to the cemetery in France where John is buried. I have the photographs, which are kept with the letters and other personal effects. Sallie was my Mum. Her first love was part of her but never detracted from her second love, Jim, my Dad.

War influences relationships, how they begin and how they develop. War influences who survives and lives to love again. War influences the children born into future generations. War influenced who I am, indeed the fact that I exist at all. Without war my grandmother would probably have married her Italian and my Dad would not have existed and neither would I. Without war my Mum would probably have married John and I would not have existed. So my genes are complete. WW1 brought me the genes from my Dad, WW2 the genes from my Mum. I am glad to be alive but I will not rejoice in the tragedy of others.


Sue Hayter
February 2014
If you keep searching you will find it

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Cathy
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Re: Influences of war

Post by Cathy » 12 Feb 2014, 08:44

Lovely read Sue, thank you. Go Nellie!! and what a lovely man Sallie found in Jim. :smile:
I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK... they know me here. :)

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Re: Influences of war

Post by David Whipp » 12 Feb 2014, 09:20

Thank you, Sue.

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Re: Influences of war

Post by Sue » 12 Feb 2014, 20:53

I have out this in two places as it seems relevant to both




Sheffield Blitz

During the Sheffield Blitz, Dad was on duty at a Barrage Balloon centre which was part of No 16 Balloon centre based at Norton. There were several sites through out the city that were linked to this centre .There were 300 men from each of 939, 940 and 941 squadrons of the RAF making up the unit. I think Dad was stationed in 939 Squadron which was based on Attercliffe Road , Sheffield. The blitz took place over the nights of the 12thh and 15th of December 1940. On the night of the 12th December almost 50 balloons were hit and damaged by shrapnel from our anti aircraft defences. The day after Dad wrote a letter to his mother, Nellie, dated 14th December 1940. She copied it out I presume to send copies to members of her family such as other sons and sisters living in Burnley. I have a copy of this letter and this is what it says.

Dear All
Just a line thats all. As you can see I am OK up to press. I was on duty through it all last Thursday night. We got the red warning at 7.3 and they were over immediately, At the beginning of the raid we were the first to be hit. They dropped several incendiaries on our building but our lads had them out in double quick time. The guard put five out straight away on the road by putting dust bin lids over them. But it was all to no purpose. Ours being a residential district, there were soon four fires burning all around us. One of the St Marks Church was burning like fury. Of course when Jerry came later he made straight for our end of the city where the fires were. Soon all the shops on the Moor were blazing so he made them his target. About . O clock I got a phone message,
“ Big waves of bombers approaching” “ Take all cover” .Of course I was on duty-it would be my night. Soon after that we heard the planes and shortly there was a terrific crash outside. The first of many and in came the windows and part of the frame. It blew my colleague off his chair (he was nearest) and he bumped into me and we both went on the floor. Luckily we had a cloth blackout over our side or we might have got cut. We put the blackout up again straight away as we were showing a light and found we were still on the phone. After that it was one long succession of thuds which shook the building. Then in a lull we went outside and Ye Gods all the city was burning the length of the Moor. Our H.Q. is ringed by craters and we were lucky not to have a direct hit. The phone went dead about 1.00a.m but we still had a private wire to our control room. The C.O up there kept in touch with me all the time. By this time we were in the passage outside my office because there was a danger of glass, and I was blown out once more when I went to answer the phone. Then things went fairly quiet until about 4,00 a.m., a delayed action bomb went off next door. I thought it was all over and got under the staircase and held my tin helmet on and hoped. The building sprayed us with bricks and clods of earth (it was mainly in the garden). It blew up two of our motor transports and badly injured three of our men. At 4.30 the All Clear went and so I went down to the hospital with the injured and got a lift part way home. My! !hat a journey but I walked home the rest of the way. It was terrible . Fires burning everywhere, but the worse place was the casualty ward in the hospital. The injured I mean. Anyway I got home, safely ( after walking past umpteen delayed action bombs) about 7.00 o'clock and found everyone O.K.
That's about all I know. I've seen the damage but the others can describe that. But what shocked me most of all was that hospital. I'll not go into details but I hope I never have to go in again.
I am now going back on duty. Three of our lines are now working so I will say Cheerio!
Jim
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Re: Influences of war

Post by Stanley » 13 Feb 2014, 04:46

Good stuff Sue and well written. You may remember that if my Dad hadn't got the biggest dose of clap ever from a lady of the night in Glasgow he wouldn't have been in hospital for almost the whole of the Great War and so would not perhaps have survived the Western Front and lived to marry and have kids here. Funny old world.....
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