We Dodged Bullets and Dived for Cover; LETTERS YOUR WAR STORIES

Article excerpt

IT WAS as a direct result of the wounds suffered by my father in World War One that money was tight for our family of nine and we found ourselves glad of a little help from folks with a heart.

Dad was in the First Eighth Warwickshire Regiment when he was blown up by enemy shelling at the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916, when there were more than 20,000 Allied casualties on the first day of a battle that lasted five months!

He waited more than 30 years for a measly pittance of a war pension with no compensation nor back pay since it was too long ago and he was a volunteer!

Had he been conscripted, things might have been different!

And he came home to a "land fit for heroes", only to find the same unemployment as before.

I recall starkly queuing for Daily Mail boots and socks. The queue started on High Street at the top of the Bullring and, standing usually in the bittercold of winter, went all the way down to the police station in Digbeth and just past St Martin's church, with coke-burning drums placed strategically along the way.

Sadly, the view is marred now by Selfridges store and surrounding shops and cafs.

In order to get a pair of grey socks and heavy hobnailed boots off the benevolent benefactors, you needed a white ticket similar to ones for free dinners at school where we had to stand in a separate queue amidst the cat-calls of "workhouse" and other non complimentary remarks from those of whom had never suffered hardships, nor had fathers who had ever had to stare down a hostile rifle barrel or been blown up on the field of battle!

If one was lucky enough to receive a means-tested blue ticket, then the fortunate holder received a blue pin-striped suit. Another "delightful" wartime pastime was watching the Spit-fires coming from Fort Dunlop and being delivered to the various aerodromes, as well as listening to "Big Bertha", the gun emplacement near to Castle Bromwich airfield firing at the Jerry planes, and dodging the bullets and tracer shells as the German planes attacked. …