A Bad Day In The Blackout

13 Aug

Hello Everybody,
What I have written below is not the normal subject I write, but I feel it has to be told

It is well recorded by many historians of how the citizens of Great Britain endured hard times during the Second World War. It was not just the shortages of food etc. The British people had to contend with the blackout. I know older readers will know about the blackout, but for the readers who don’t know. When war was declared, every house and factory in the country had to have black blinds put up against every window that could be seen from the outside. No chink of light had to be seen, also there were no street lights on which we enjoy now. Obviously the German Bombers would have also seen the light and had an idea where to bomb. The ARP Wardens were very strict in implementing this and often a shout in the street by them would be “Put that light out don’t you know there’s a war on”. Okay the Germans still bombed the Cities and Town, but certainly the blackout did help in reducing more carnage. The blackout was implemented for over five years. During that time there were numerous fatalities on the streets and roads throughout the country. During the blackout period, just the same has we have today; there was a criminal element who thieved, burgled, assaulted and even murdered people. Although a very small minority they were the pits of the earth. Many a life was ruined owing to the blackout; Here is a story of one life that was ruined.
My Father had a sister named Catherine, but she was always called Kitty by family and friends, she was my Aunt. Kitty was born in 1907 and brought up on Barrow Island, which is one of the tougher parts of the town. Educated to a high degree she went to a teachers training college in Dundee Scotland where she progressed to become a teacher. She took employment at Vickerstown Junior School on Walney Island a few years before the war and although very attractive woman she was unmarried. When war came in 1939 the blackout was enforced. It was in 1942; Kitty had been in the town of Barrow seeing a friend. On returning home in the darkness, Kitty was walking across the High level bridge which overlooked the dock area. As she approached some steps that led to the Docks. A man attacked her from behind and violently put his hand across her mouth to silence her screams. She struggled in the darkness frightened and bewildered, but to no avail, he was too strong for her. I do not know fully what happened during the attack, because my Dad would not talk about it. One can only use one’s imagination what actually happened. A distressed Kitty and family informed the police next day. She said in a statement that the man was foreign of a dark skin and had a strange odour. There were many ships in the docks during the war and the ship’s crew were mainly cheap labour manned by Indian and African men who were called Coolies. To the family’s dismay, no one was caught for what had happened. The ships at that time, were coming and going into the Barrow Docks every day and the assailant must have departed on one of those ships
The trouble was, my aunt was in a terrible state both physically and mentally as you the reader will most certainly understand. She completely had a nervous breakdown and eventually was put in a secure mental home in Lancaster where she stayed as a patient for about two years. Being released and trying hard to readjust back to normality she was not fit to go back to her profession of teaching until after the war in 1945.
Given a clean bill of health Kitty applied for a job of teaching again in her home town of Barrow-in-Furness. She had to go in front of the local Education Board. The personal and unsympathetic questions they asked her were too much and Kitty broke down in front of them. The heartless board turned down her application to teach in the Barrow- in- Furness Schools even though there were plenty of vacancies due to men still being in the services. There was no counselling in those days it was just a complete tragedy. Words fail me in the way she was shamefully treated by that so called education board
Although very disappointed in not getting a teaching post in Barrow, Kitty wrote many letters to various educational authorities in the country. A reply came from the Birmingham City Education Authorities; she was interviewed and was offered a post to teach there. Kitty taught in the Perry Barr and Great Barr areas of Birmingham for over twenty years, living in lodgings and coming home to Barrow during holiday times. She retired in the Sixties and died still a spinster in 1981
My Aunt Kitty was a lovely and kind person, who was one of the many people in our country whose lives were ruined during the war years. Indeed totally sad.
Alan

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