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The Wartime Memories of
Ethel Taylor

At the start of the war Ethel was eighteen and lived at Airton with her parents who ran a butcher’s shop on Back Row in Airton.  Her brother Harry had gone to Leeds University at the start of the war, being only the second boy to go to university from the Dale.  This left Ethel, her three sisters and a brother living at home, the youngest sister being only a young baby.

Originally the shop was only a butchers, but at the start of rationing, the people who ran a grocery business at one of the houses on the Croft, decided they did not want to get involved with the extra work and retired.   Ethel’s parents took over the grocery business extending their premises by converting the garage to accommodate the additional stock.

Ethel had just started to drive so her chief task, along with her sister May, was to drive around the villages selling from the van.  They went to Malham, Kirkby Malham, Hetton, Otterburn and Bell Busk, doing different rounds on particular days.  For these rounds they were allowed only three and a half gallons of petrol per week.  Because of the shortage of petrol they were not able to go to Langcliffe and Stainforth as they had before the restrictions, so they took the van to Settle on market day and parked at the side of the Royal Oak, so that their customers could meet them there.  The van had to be fitted with the regulation shaded headlights for use in the blackout.

Food rationing involved shopkeepers in an enormous amount of work.  Customers had to register with a particular shop and exchange the coupons for their meagre rations.  Ethel then had to count all the coupons on a Sunday, and on Tuesday they had to be taken to the Food Office in Settle when she would be given the tokens for them to get the allocated food from the wholesalers.  The meat was also allocated from Settle, then Bob Taylor had the job of trying to make it go round his customers.  Butter came in big slabs and had to be cut up and weighed, sugar also had to be weighed out as nothing came pre-packed as it does today.  Ethel also remembers the family having three allotments, two quite near the house and one further up Hellifield Road which was a long way to carry water when the vegetables wanted watering!  These plots kept the family supplied and Ethel seems to remember that bags of peas were collected and presumably sold.

Both Ethel and her father were in the ARP.  Robert Taylor had seen active service in the First World War and had been injured and taken as a P-O-W.  He became the senior ARP Warden in the Dale in WWII, and Ethel was a messenger.  Any messages concerning air raids were phoned through to the Taylor’s house and it was their job to notify all the other villages.  Ethel had the job of contacting all the ARP members in Airton and they would then meet in the Chapel schoolroom.  If it was night time, as it usually was, this was quite an unpleasant job in the blackout.  She remembers that they had first aid training and early in the war, she was at a meeting in Settle in the old cinema, now the Co-op store, when she caused quite a stir as she was the first girl in the area to wear ARP uniform.  The ARP Headquarters was down Station Road in Settle, and she remembers having to collect things from there, such as gas masks, and take them for distribution in the Dale.  Babies had a gas mask incorporated into a small cot arrangement.  They were given a small petrol allowance for these extra journeys.  She found out after the war that her father had a sealed envelope which had only to be opened in the event of invasion and she thinks he would have had the responsibility of organising food distribution if that had occurred.  She wishes she had asked more about it but these things were not discussed. Ethel remembers that there was the searchlight battery up Settle Road and her father sometimes used to invite the members of the Forces who were manning it, down to their house for a bath and a meal.  She thinks that there were three or four personnel billeted there in a nissen hut.

Ethel was also in the WVS along with the School mistress, Miss Collins.  She remembers one of the jobs she did in that capacity was to distribute ration books which came to Scosthrop schoolroom.  Her sister May was in the fire service.

For entertainment and to raise money for the war effort, there were dances held in the Scosthrop schoolroom or in Kirkby Malham Village Hall, which Ethel and her sister May attended.

Ethel was in Settle with the van when the news came of the end of the war.  There was a tea in Airton when she and May went in fancy dress,  dressed up as a couple, May as a gent sporting a painted moustache, and wearing a frock coat and top hat, and Ethel in a beautiful dress.  She remembers walking through Airton dressed like that.

Her brother Harry, who had graduated from university before the end of the war, completed his war service working as a manager in explosives for ICI.  Her younger brother Robert left school at 14, during the war, and went to Slaidburn to work on a farm there, and settled in Slaidburn for good.


Read the Wartime memories of other Malhamdale residents:
Edith Carr
Veronica Fletcher (Fell)
Rob Foster
John Geldard
Norman Heaton
Barbara Purcell (Hoare)
Frank Sharp
Margaret Thompson (Carr)
Dora Varley (Watson)
Marion Wellock


 

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