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About the speakersVera Welsh (b. 1920/12/25; female, housewife & retired bus conductor)
Stan Welsh (b.1917/04/08; male, retired bricklayer)
Q: Tell me about leaving school and starting work.
A: Yeah, I left school in 1931. And there must have been about two million people unemployed then.
A1: There was three.
A: So, you had to grab a lot of work. You see, some of the boys when they left school they went working for these provision merchants, going round passing buses and things like that. And when they come of age at sixteen, you had to put a stamp on, they used to sack them and fetch a fellow in – or a boy of fourteen in to fill your place. Yeah. And some of these factories, if you were a big fellow, they’d keep you there while you was a big youth – they’d keep you there while you was eighteen. Then when they had to put the other stamp on, they’d see you off and fetch somebody else in.
A1: The adult stamp.
A: Yeah, you’re very near become an adult, you see. But you wasn’t an adult, actually, well, you were twenty-one, then, no.
Q: So what about you? What did you do?
A: I was an apprentice brick layer, moving around, you know. I was with a firm pretty well a few years, you know, and on various building sites, yeah. You know, you get – it wasn’t all – it wasn’t easy, let’s put it that way, it was hard. And the weather, the elements. I regret it [inaudible 0:01:01] time I went into it, when I was a kid, you know. Freezing and cold and [laughs]. Because it was, wasn’t it. Can you imagine it? Fingers and that all cracked. Anyway, I stuck it, that. Well, I couldn’t – there was nothing else to do, no. It’s the only thing I knew.
A1: There was nothing else.
A: No. I was like thousands, a million more, maybe under the same bracket. But, like I say, a lot went there, and then what happened then, if they couldn’t get a job after they were eighteen, they’d go and join the forces. Or in the Navy, they’d go about – fifteen or sixteen year when you could join the Navy, you see. You could go and join that, yeah. Or emigrate. A big sign on Regent Road there, emigrate to Canada. And it was a lot easier to go there and rough it out there, yeah. [Inaudible 0:01:47] what we had.
A1: [Inaudible 0:01:50] come in 1926.
Q: So did you complete your apprenticeship okay, then?
A: Oh, yeah, oh aye. Up to 1938, that would be, wouldn’t it, then, yeah, that’s right, yeah. And then the war broke out ‘39, you know, yeah. But there were pretty fair work in about 1934-5, I think, the building site boosted up. Like all this property that’s going on now [inaudible 0:02:14] 1934, you see. I think they got subsidies off the Government for each house they built, something like that, I believe. And the building site boost and houses and commercial work, so, yeah. And then later on when the war was pretty imminent, they started to build these shadow factories and then moving around then, there was a pretty fair work, yeah, for the building industry.
Q: Shadow factories?
A: Well, there was these factories outside, in the areas where – away from the city centre sort of thing, you know. And people were working there, like these arms factories, in Euxton, near Preston and one at Risley. All round there, they was, yeah.
A1: So, for the bombing.
Q: So they were away from the cities?
A: Oh, yeah, yeah.
A1: They called shadow factories.
A: Shadow factories. And also, they were building these airfields, you see, and all over. Well, where the land was pretty flat they built these airfields then, so, yeah.
A1: And air raid shelters, didn’t they, [inaudible 0:03:06].
A: Well, then again, with the outbreak of war, air raid shelters, surface shelters in brickwork. It was all on that, you see.
Q: So, when war came out you were a reserved occupation, were you?
A: Well, not reserved, actually. But – how can I put it?
A1: You was deferred, weren’t you.
A: I was deferred. I went for my medical in – I registered with the 22s. I can remember that, yeah. I was twenty-three year old when the war broke out. I went for my medical at [inaudible 0:03:31]. And then I didn’t get called up for a while. And then I got a letter to the effect, had I suffered any illness or accidents since the last medical? That was in 1940. But it said if I hadn’t, forget this letter, you know. If you had, refer to you nearest medical centre. Anyway, evacuation of France in 1940, went to a [inaudible 0:03:51]. Shelters were flying up all over the place, well, you know, on defensive, on the south coast. So I was deferred again till 1941, that’s when I got called up, yeah. But it was only through – well, it was only through everything in the war that everything changed round, didn’t it, yeah.
Q: So in the forces did you go in the Engineers, in the army?
A: No, I went in the army. I applied for the Engineers but finished with the Artillery, Field Artillery. Twenty-five pounders, yeah.
Q: Because I interviewed one man who had found himself with hundreds of other builders in the Engineers, building emergency hospitals in France and so on.
A: Oh, probably would do. Yeah, the Engineers and All Souls, they went down the south coast and – them were the pioneers. What they did is, they put [inaudible 0:04:37] out to sea in case of an invasion. You know your piers you see on the south coast [inaudible 0:04:42] they used to dismantle part of it on account of the invasion. Well, the Engineers did all that too, as well as the construction work, yeah. Did a lot of work, the Engineers. And the Engineers was for unexploded bombs. The Engineers did that, that section. And then there was a [inaudible 0:05:01]. And what else were the Engineers? They did all sorts, the Engineers, yeah. It’s just not one specified thing then. Like in the First World War they used to put all the barbed wire round and dig trenches. But this last war, yeah, they do a lot of things. They were mine detectors and unexploded bombs, that was Engineers’ job, yeah. Artillery was either ack-ack or field artillery or long distance artillery, yeah.
Q: What were you in, then, you were in the artillery?
A: Field Artillery, the twenty-five pounders, but, yeah. Like I say, I didn’t press it, I just – when I got my [inaudible 0:05:35], “What branch would you like to…? Or would you like to volunteer?” [Inaudible 0:05:39] I said, “No, I’ll wait while I’m called up.” So he said, “Okay, well, what branch would you like to go in, then, if you go in the army?” I said, “Royal Engineers.” Anyway, I didn’t go in the Royal Engineers. When I got my cards – my letter to be called up I was in the RAs, Royal Artillery [laughs]. So I’ll say it again, not the army one [laughs].
Q: I’ve heard that story so many times.
- Manchester accent: Stan and Vera recall working life just before World War Two
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