Brenda Wood’s Memories



Gas Masks.   BlackoutRationingAir-raidsA Canadian heroVE Day.


Gas Masks

All men and women were issued with gas masks. The children’s gas masks were like Mickey Mouse and were red in colour. These had to be carried everywhere with you to be worn when the Germans dropped gas bombs.


The Blackout

Everyone had to have black canvas blinds which had to be pulled down when the lights were on so that the German planes could not see where the populated areas were. Blind-drawing was known as The Black Out.



Each family – everyone in fact – had Ration Books so that they could buy food. Only a certain amount of food was allowed for each person, for example 1 egg per week, 2 oz butter per week. The government introduced powered egg and dried milk. Almost everything was on ration. The Canadians used to send apples and sweets over for the children; 1 apple and 2 boiled sweets per child. But this only happened every so often.

      Nothing was wasted. Old jumpers were pulled out and re-knit to make new clothes. Old skirts, coats, etc., were cut into strips and made into mats; these were known as clippie mats or peggie mats. As well as ration books everyone got clothing coupons to buy clothes and shoes with.

      Because men were at war and only those in occupied trades or ill were at home we had The Land Army. This was mostly women and they worked on the farms. People lucky enough to have an allotment grew their own veg.. Everyone helped each other – you had to, to survive.



When the German planes came over an air raid siren went off. This was to give you chance to get to the underground air raid shelter. These shelters were to protect the people when bombs were dropped.  People used to take blankets and flasks of tea – but this wasn’t always possible as sometimes there was very little warning.

      Search lights used to be lit and these powerful beams of light were criss-crossed across the sky, constantly moving to show up any planes which came over.

      After the raid a 2nd siren went off this was called The All Clear. Just as we found out where the German factories were they tried to find out where our industrial areas were. They also looked for railway lines (especially main lines) for by bombing these they could stop a lot of transportation

      The Germans also tried to find out where our armament factories were. These were factories where bombs and armaments for the war were made. One of these underground factories was at Aycliffe. Another was at Darlington (but not underground). The buildings being underground, from the air the ground looked like normal farmland to the pilots looking for them.


A Canadian hero

At Middleton St George (now Teesside Airport) there was a large RAF station where bomber crews were stationed. These planes were called Lancaster bombers. So it was not unusual to see these planes flying off in squadrons over Darlington heading for their destinations; likewise they could be seen returning home.

      One of these planes returning home was on fire. The pilot guided the plane safely over Darlington. He landed safely, but then he hit a haystack and the plane exploded. The pilot lost his life in saving hundreds of others.

      This man’s name was McMullen; he was a Canadian. Darlington Borough Council re-named the road which runs alongside where he died McMullen road in memory of him. The rest of the crew all baled out and survived. In recent years his daughter was given the freedom of Darlington and Harrogate where his grave is.

      He had been stationed at Middleton St George. Years and years later people still professed to seeing a man in pilot’s uniform in one of the old hangars at the airfield. There are many recorded sightings of him.


VE Day

On VE day, Victory in Europe, planes came over and they dropped hundreds of little parachutes each with either chocolates or cigarettes on them.

      Then came the street parties. Every house was decorated in red, white and blue. Long tables were laden with food and the whole street came out and celebrated. They laughed and danced through the night. To do these parties every adult in the street donated food or drink. This kind of closeness between neighbours is hard to find these days. One thing the war did was bring home to people just how much they needed each other especially in a time of crisis such as war.