Archive for the ‘Air raid’ Category

The East Leeds Memories of Gerry Thrussell

February 1, 2011

The East Leeds Memories of Gerry Thrussell

Gerry remembers fun nights at the Easy Road Picture House in the 1940s, a time when the German prisoners of war were still incarcerated in the POW camp down Black Road, exchanging derogatory salutes with the POWs and an amazing coincidence when he later met up with one such ex-prisoner on his own ground while Gerry was carrying out his National Service in West Germany. Gerry remembers too ‘Yanks’ in the Leeds City Centre and finally local ‘duffs and dares’ in East Leeds.

The Easy Road Picture House.

One night at the Easy Road Pictures, Alan Ellis, Terry Croll, Picko and me, were making a lot of noise on the forms and Abe White, the proprietor, came down to put a stop to it. In a fit of bravado I said, ’Can we have this form for the bonfire?   Abe got me by the arm and escorted me off the premises and clotched me from the Picture House for good.  As fate would have it however, poor Abe died a few weeks later and his sisters (in the pay-box) didn’t know anything about the ban, so I was lucky and I was back in there like a shot.

Air Raids and the POW Camps

Of course we all remember the air raids and the guns firing. Richmond Hill School was bombed on Friday night: on Monday morning we all marched down to Ellerby Lane School. Of course many East Leeds children were evacuated to Lincolnshire. Later in the war we remember the POW camps in ‘Lover’s Lane’, off Black Road. And how amazed we were to see German and Italian prisoners walking about in Cross Green Lane, Easy Road and East End Park. We even invited two Italian prisoners to play football with us one day on East End Park. One September Evening in 1944 as we kicked the ball around on Snakey Lane about 200 plus Lancaster Bombers flew over, quite low, heading south east to join a 1,000 bomber raid.


During 1944, I often went into Leeds with Billy Sowery (whatever Happened to him?) During those days Leeds was full of American soldiers. It was a case of Yanks chasing girls and girls chasing Yanks. Meanwhile Billy and I would chip in with, ‘Got any gum chum?’

 ‘V’ For Victory

In late 1945, after the wear was over I used to cycle home from work for my lunch. I was cycling up East Street one day at the same time as two British Army trucks packed with German prisoners (POWs) slowly passed me heading for the POW camp on Black Road by way of Cross Green Lane. As they drove by some of the Germans gave me the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute, so as we reached the coal staithe where I turned left up Easy Road I stopped and gave the Germans the ‘V’ sign. It was the least I could do! The Germans just shook their fists and I peddled like mad up Easy Road hoping that the trucks would not follow. This was repeated for several weeks running but then the trucks stopped. Perhaps the camp was full? Of course the ‘V’ was ‘V’ for VICTORY. Four years later while doing National Service with the 11th Hussars in Osnabruck West Germany I got into conversation with a new German interpreter working in the camp, a chap called Fritz, he was a huge guy who it was said had been a champion wrestler in the WAFFEN S.S.  When he heard I was from Leeds he was very interested and said he had been a prisoner of war at the Black Road camp in East Leeds during late 1945. Although we had just met, Fritz thought he knew me from somewhere and he would have talked all day but I was on duty and left him with a puzzled look on his face and scratching his head. As it happened two days later a detachment of Hussars, including me left for manoeuvres in Lunenburg Heath followed by a move to Brunswick on the East German border.  So, unfortunately, I never saw Fritz again – I wonder if he ever worked out that I was the boy on the bike in East Street back in 1945?  



One of the favourite pastimes of the East Leeds lads of the 1940s was doing ‘duffs’

One good spot for this was the field down Red Road, just behind the East Leeds Cricket Ground where there was a wide stream. We would pick spots to jump across and many a time ended up with wet feet. Poor old Leslie Hall broke his arm there and Terry Brayshaw got a black eye and a grazed nose – both these old friends of mine have now sadly passed way.

 Old Houses:

These were houses left empty when the families were re-housed on council sites. We’d spend many happy hours playing in them before they were finally pulled down. One of our games was throwing stones from across the street trying to get the stones through the upstairs windows of the houses opposite where the workmen had removed the glass. This practice came in handy when we were throwing hand grenades in the army on our National Service. But it wasn’t as exciting!


We all had sledges in those far off days and we prayed for snow in winter. My favourite spot for sledging was the Cavalier Hill between the pub and St Saviour’s church. It was quite steep and a long walk back alongside the church,  I always remember there was an echo there and we used to shout, ‘Hello’ across East Street from the top and a couple of seconds later your voice would come back to you – it was great fun. Perhaps that echo is still there and if you’re passing give it a try – but don’t get arrested! My wife says that ‘Bricky Hill’ was the best hill for sledging, so I’d better mention it!



Footnote: It seems the massive new residential blocks being constructed at the bottom of the Cavalier Hill are to be called ‘Echo Court’   Just a coincidence?


Bernie’s Tale

September 1, 2010

Bernie’s Tale
Bernie Finn has recently returned to Yorkshire having spent thirty three years in Australia. Bernie tells us great tales of life in the Glensdales and at Victoria School, York Road, Leeds, in the 1940s.

The Air Raid
During the war when air raids were in progress my family, along with lots of others, took refuge in ‘The Slip Inn’ cellar. At the time our family consisted of: baby me, my mother, two aunts, and my grandmother (my father was killed in France two weeks before I was born). I had a carry bag crib thing which also had gas protection. So when the sirens sounded, I along with whatever necessities I needed was placed in the carrier bag. On this particular night off goes the sirens and on comes the usual ensuing panic and the fifty yard flight to the Slip. Apparently it was very much shoulder to shoulder in there and the warden, when there was one, would shut the door when it was full. Well they had been in there for a while when someone says, ‘Bernard’s quiet tonight’ (me). A glance in the bag showed that everything was in there for me but no me. So my mother is off like a shot fighting her way to the steps leaving the girls to argue who was to blame. When she gets through she then had to fight the warden who said he was not allowed to open the special door until the all clear. Anyway she got out of there with the help of the others with him shouting after her, ‘I can’t let you back in’. I’m told he ended up with a bloody nose but nobody knows from whom.

So to put this into perspective, there was little me at the tender age of about one year old left alone to defend the area from attack until reinforcements arrived (my mother). I did a good job too not a single bomb got dropped anywhere near the area that night. I will never understand how come I wasn’t decorated or got a commendation or something. I was just one of the many unsung heroes of the war I guess.

The Slip Inn
The Slip was always part of my life for different reasons I saw it grow as I grew. The only time it upset me was when they extended it and built a concert room. The original (New Regent) was quite small and the local kids were quite mad because we used to have our bonfires on the vacant land they used for the extension. Later on in life I became a patron and loved it for the entertainment, it provided a second home for me in the1960s. It was one of the first places I visited when I returned after 33 years in Oz. I didn’t find it a nice place at all, it was very run down and the concert room was closed off. I took a nostalgic walk around the area few days before my 70th birthday and it was all boarded up but at least I got to see it again unlike my old school (Victoria) which was already demolished.

[At the time of writing I believe The Slip is open again for business]

The Dreaded White Line
In the Victoria School playground there was a white boundary line which ran from the toilet block to a recess in the corner of the main building; this was to stop us fraternising with the girls. There was a set of cricket stumps painted on the wall in the recess and hitting the ball against the wall meant it would go into the girl’s playground and so a good chance for interaction. It also formed a convenient meeting spot out of the vision of the teacher on playground duty. Anyway crossing the line during playtime carried very serious consequences. I had the dubious honour at one time of having most punishments for playground infringements. The toilet block was one building but divided in two for boys and girls. I got caught once climbing over just for the devilment of it. I got caught by a teacher who shouted, ‘What’s the weather like up there Finn?’ I also recall a grave injustice of one punishment. I was doing a ‘Johnny Cash’ … walking the line, sort of showing off I suppose. A group of girls pulled me in… for using that as an excuse I got a double whack. Happy days but gosh we hated that line.