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33. Experiences of the Coventry Blitz, by Joan Powell
34. War-time memories of Brian Richards
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36. Coventry Remembered, by Andrew Ross
37. The Coventry outings of Brian Rowstron & family
38. Time Gentlemen Please! - Jo Shepherd's Family
39. The life experiences of Mike Spellacy
40. Humber Works photographs of Peter Thacker
41. Early Coventry memories of Lizzie Tomlinson
42. Post-war decades remembered, by Mike Tyzack
43. Fireman Frank Walduck, remembered by Peter Walduck
44. Early memories of Coventry, by Muriel Wells
45. Family memories of Burt West
46. A Childhood in Stoke, by Graham Whitehead
 

War and Workplace memories of Mike Fitzpatrick

My earliest memory was in Sept '39, when sitting on our front step with my dad, and him telling me that mum was coming home with a baby sister 19th September. However, we were now at war with Germany and he did not know then if he would have to serve. It was pretty uneventful from then until the 14th Nov when it all happened. My dad's other sister lived two doors up the road and they had built the Anderson shelter in her back garden When the bombing started in England we slept in the shelter every night and that's where we were on the night of the blitz.

A German bomber brought down by our gunners. A German bomber brought down by our gunners.

While my dad was away on fire picket duty, there was a report of a German parachuting from a hit plane. My uncle did not sleep in the shelter - too proud, "this is my house" attitude! My dad was sent home early to see how we were doing and as he came in the back gate, my uncle came rushing out of the house wielding a carving knife thinking it was the German pilot. One of the many barrage balloons must have been damaged and came bouncing down on the roof tops and caused a lot of excitement for a while. Our house was hit pretty badly in the roof area, so we could only live inside through the day, I remember sitting in the dining room with buckets on the table catching rainwater. I remember the bomb disposal squad taking away an unexploded bomb from the doorway of the pub just down the road and collecting shrapnel in the street.

We were taken overnight to a rest centre in Kenilworth to sleep for about a week. No beds, just blankets on the floor. We were told then to go to Tile Hill Station to be taken to a new place. I remember walking there with my mum and sister and getting on Birmingham buses - blue and cream sticks in my mind, the bus colours. We were taken to a little village called Hurley just outside of Kingsbury, and we lived over a newsagent's shop for a week. Then to a set of small farm cottages attached to Bodimoor Farm just down the road, where we lived for about six months. School was pretty sporadic for me there, it was a three mile walk to Kingsbury, the closest one-room school, so I missed quite a lot. My dad was called up from there, and after about six weeks he came home on leave. Little did we know it was embarkation leave, and we did not see him for over four years.
From there to Birmingham and out of immediate danger, we lived with a family whose husband was also in the army. Ironically they had a German name and we took a lot of teasing about that. Back to Coventry in 1945 and we lived with my dad's sister close to the GEC where my uncle worked. One night my mum, sister and I were all sleeping in the same room when my mum heard footsteps coming down the road. She sat up in bed and said "That's your dad". Sure enough, she was right, my sister hid under the covers - she did not know him. He had been flown home from Italy and had no way of getting in touch with us. A happy reunion. On through the street parties for VE and VJ days, and the war was over. Not the struggles, however, but that's another story.

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Working Life.

When my dad was demobbed he managed to get us a small home in Lodge Rd, off Bulls Head lane in Stoke. I was now attending Stoke Secondary school. I missed out on the eleven plus exam, as it was then, but managed to pass an exam at thirteen and attended Coventry Technical College for three years.

The Coventry Technical College at the Butts. The Coventry Technical College at the Butts, where Mike spent three years.

During the period from ages twelve to sixteen I had a paper route for Scarles the newsagents on the corner of Biggin Hall Crescent and Harris Road. This was a seven morning, six night, fifty weeks a year route for the grand sum of thirteen shillings a week. Giving ten of those shillings to my mum to help with the living costs. I also used to go to work with my dad on a Saturday morning, he worked for Harvey's, a food wholesaler on the London Road, later at Harnell Lane close to the Coventry Transport Garage.

Helen Street, former GEC works, just before closure in 2006.
The 'Helen Street' former GEC works, just before closure in 2006. Mike spent a short time working at this plant, although was mainly based at the GEC's larger 'Telephone Works' at Stoke.
See more great pictures of this and other GEC sites at www.telephoneworks.co.uk

Upon leaving school I started an Electricians Apprenticeship with the GEC Telephone Works. As apprentices we used to organise outings to London for a day's football and shows. I can still see the 8.04 train for London coming steaming into the old station. Steam trains were a thrill to me then and they still are. Got lots of videos of them. The GEC had a great social club and I spent many a happy hour playing darts and snooker there, and also spent at least two or three nights a week dancing in its great ballroom. I enjoyed doing all the lighting and special effects for their annual pantomime. Played for the works cricket team on a Saturday and played for Coventry Transport on a Sunday. They too were great outings visiting other cities' teams.

Upon completing my apprenticeship now it was National Service time. Called up and spent two good years in the RAF and was trained up to be a ground radar fitter. Spent most of my time in Somerset and Berwickshire. After discharge back to the GEC for a year, I then joined Humber-Hillman, Rootes group as it was known then, at the Stoke works, where I would have probably stayed for the duration if it was not for one incident. It was a great job. The incident that was the impetus for me to emigrate started there. There was a strike at the supplier of parts in Oxford, and Rootes finished up making everyone redundant for the length of the strike. I could not afford to be out of work and managed to get a job at Alfred Herbert's. I couldn't go back to Rootes, as I made a promise to Alfred Herbert's that I would not when the strike was over. I did not like working there, had two small boys who would need work down the road, could not see any future for them at this time, so decided to try Canada, where I've been since.


 
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War and Workplace memories of Mike Fitzpatrick
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1940s & 50s remembered, by Ken Giles
 
 
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