um Lilian (nee Ellis) and Dad William (Bill) Birch were married on 5th August 1939 in Liverpool where my Mum lived with her family. They had met when my Dad's friend Eddie Smith had taken my Dad to visit his older sister, my Nanny, for a weekend from Coventry. After they were married they lived with my Dad's parents in Castle Street, Coventry, for a little while, and then in a flat in Springfield Terrace (near Primrose Hill park) until they purchased 83 Nicholls Street. They had only been married for just over a year when they heard war declared on the radio.
My Dad was called up into the Royal Army Service Corps on 6th September 1940. Mum was given an Anderson shelter because my Dad was in the services, and her sister Frances came to stay with her for company. On the night of the Blitz they went into the shelter with their knitting, flask, etc., and were in there for eleven hours, during which time the house was bomb damaged. (It was not too far from the shelter at all and became the garden shed after the war.) Mum and Frances didn't hear the 'all clear' siren the next morning, so Mum came out of the shelter and asked a passing Military Policeman if the all clear had gone. He was so surprised to see anyone there because everyone else had gone to the big municipal shelters and his reply was,
"B----y Hell Missus, what are you doing here everyone has else has gone!"
I once asked Mum how she had managed with the bombing raids, etc., as my Dad was away from the 5th September 1940 to December 31st 1945 - except for short leaves and one compassionate leave when my sister was born in 1942. Mum had also been quite nearby in the city centre when the IRA bomb had gone off in a bicycle in Broadgate previously (25th August 1939) and she just replied,
"Well Wendy we just had to get on with it." What resilient people they all were.
The following is copied from my Dad's notebook in his wartime section:
"Our house (83 Nicholls Street) was bombed in the Blitz on Coventry (14th November 1940). On November 19th, not having been able to contact Coventry at all, I walked from Lutterworth to Pailton, left to Brinklow, and all around Coventry city centre. I finally found my parents safe in a municipal shelter, then Lily and Frances safe in Alderman's Green (Aunty Flo and Uncle Jo's house). I then returned to Lutterworth by cycle and rejoined my convoy at 6am." My grandparent's home in Castle Street was completely destroyed and all documents and family photographs lost in the Blitz.
I can remember my Dad telling us that he had been challenged whilst walking through the city centre, but when the policeman saw my Dad's uniform he let him through.
Our home in Nicholls Street was repaired and I lived there with Mum and Dad and my eldest sister Barbara (born 1942) and Patricia (Pat) born after the war in 1946. I was born in 1948. The adjoining house on the left, looking from the road, was completely demolished and there was always a gap there.
The following are memories of Holy Trinity church, as well as the new cathedral being built and one of the consecration services, which was attended by some of the pupils from Coundon Court in May 1962.
was born at home in Nicholls Street on 18th February 1948, and Christened at Holy Trinity on 4th April 1948 by W. Barber (a well know clergyman, I think). My Mum had attended the old cathedral before the bombing. When I was twenty I left Jesmond Road Baptist church and took confirmation classes at Holy Trinity which were run by Canon Lawrence Jackson. Canon Jackson had a wonderful sense of humour and gave after dinner speeches entitled "Fire Away Canon". He was very well known indeed. I was then confirmed on 6th June 1968 - a wonderful service conducted by Cuthbert Bardsley, the Bishop of Coventry - another very famous person. On 28th October 1972 Barry and I were married at Holy Trinity by Canon Jackson. Just as my Dad used to joke, Barry will say that he really only went into Holy Trinity that day to shelter from the rain!!!
When I was young my Mum and I used to walk to the city centre from Nicholls Street on a Saturday morning to go shopping, and we used to watch the builders working on the new cathedral building. They often used to wave to us. It was lovely to have seen the building stages going on and it remains a very vivid memory.
On the left is a photo of the original programme for a special school service held on Friday 1st June 1962, attended by Wendy.
I can remember the consecration service so well. I think that there must have been several services to include lots of schools, however, a close school friend, also from Coundon Court, cannot remember going. Whilst we were waiting to go into the new cathedral we all assembled in the grounds of the old cathedral. We stood on grass, whereas now it is paved. (I did read that this was because it was easier to maintain than grass with so many visitors as the years went on.) I do also remember very clearly our teacher saying to us;
"Today girls you are part of history in the making".
I have never forgotten that. I do also remember being in the new cathedral and bits of the service as well. I have always loved the new cathedral and do feel very "at home" there. I really love the tapestry which to me probably was just how Jesus looked. The lovely big, brown eyes seem to follow wherever one stands in the cathedral. We have lived in South Devon since 1988 when Barry got a teaching post down here. We had wanted to live here where his grandparents retired to and where we used to come on holiday for many years with our children. I do still love Coventry and hold it in great affection. It is my favourite English city. I find its history fascinating and so important and would also like to thank Rob again for this fabulous website keeping the history of this wonderful city alive for future generations.
Wendy Frances Lloyd (nee Birch), 2021.
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