Dawley During the Second World War
World War 2 did not have a very big impact on the lives of many people living in Dawley, most people just carried on with their lives as normal.
Children who were evacuated to Dawley probably had the toughest time, away from their family and everything they knew. Life was different for them, some children liked it, as it was better than their home life, and others didn’t and were very home sick.
Keith Stephan was one of many young children living in Dawley at the time of the Second World War. He started school in 1939 and attended the national school which is now known as Dawley Church of England primary School, and he tells us what it was like.
Family life continued as normal, adults still went to work, children still did the same: they were allowed anywhere, there were no restrictions. School was as normal, every child still had to go. There were extra children at school due to evacuations, and everyone had to carry gas masks everywhere they went. Every week there was an air raid practice.
There were two air raid shelters in the school grounds; they both had long seats down the side and were made of concrete. The entrance to a typical air raid shelterwould be covered with a blanket or cloth once everyone was inside. They had curved sides joined in the middle to make the roof and the side walls of the shelter. The steel panels had ridges and grooves and were corrugated, which made the metal stronger. Earth had been put on the roof, so that flowers or vegetables could be grown. Flowers made the ugly shelters look pretty, but growing vegetables was a better idea at a time when everyone was short of food. There was a small box by the side which could contain games, books and maybe some food. It was dangerous to leave the shelter during an air-raid so people made sure they had something to eat, drink and amuse themselves with.
The American camps were based in Dawley. The nearest one was in Chapel Street and the American soldiers used to march every morning, sometimes the local children would join in with them.
There was no bombing of Dawley; however there was one case in Lawley, but no damage was done. The Germans were trying to get the power station but they failed. Probably the most exciting thing that happened in Dawley in the war was the plane crash, which involved two American planes colliding in the sky above the Bull Head in Dawley Bank.
There were times that school attendance dropped by a fair amount, due to evacuation, deep snow and potato picking. Children could volunteer to go potato picking; they received 7 shillings a day and missed school. Many children did it to help out with money income for their families.
Keith Stephan, unlike many other people in Dawley, had no friends or family fighting in the war, so he lost nobody.
Supermarkets didn’t exist during World War 2; you had to go to different shops for the different items you wanted. You couldn’t buy pre- packed foods such as pizzas and frozen chips, as most people didn’t own a freezer anyway. Fruit was also limited as a lot of fruit was grown and shipped in from different countries on boats, and those bringing them were often bombed. The best way to get your fruit and vegetables was to grow it yourself.
After the war, there was a huge street party in Dawley to celebrate the victory. Everyone got the day off, it was classed as a holiday; there were food, drinks and cakes!
From what we have studied we think that World War 2 didn’t really affect people in Dawley. Obviously it would in other parts of the country where many people lost relatives or had their houses bombed, but in Dawley nothing like that happened.
Heidi Donavon & Sarah Roker
Year 10 Phoenix School