by Gloria Tanner
This is the story Gloria Tanner wrote about her mother, Jane Elizabeth White, after interviewing her for this site.
During World War II in England everyone who was able was required to work to help the war effort. Your choices were to either join one of the forces, work on a farm or in a factory. I didn't want to join any of the forces & leave my mother on her own and I didn't fancy working on a farm so I took a job in a factory in Birmingham, traveling there by train on a daily basis, the hours were long, I remember the moon still being out as I made my way to the train station in the wee morning hours and it would be dark before I arrived back home at night. Many nights we were awakened by sirens and had to run to the air raid shelters, in bare feet as you would not have time to stop and put on your shoes.
My job at the factory was that of a viewer on tracer Igniter bullets that were being manufactured for Aeroplanes. Factory work could be very dangerous as the Germans bombed many of the factories. It was during one of my weekends off while at home in Lichfield that I met my husband. I was standing in a queue at a fish & chip shop, it was a popular place for many folks - this would have been in the late1940 ‘s I recall the queue was quite long and he asked if he could get my order for me, I remember thinking how handsome he looked in his uniform – shortly after that night we started dating on a regular basis and in April 1942 we were married at Christchurch in Lichfield, Staffordshire. My husband was stationed at Fradley Aerodrome in Lichfield at that time. Over the course of the next two years he was stationed at many different locations around England, and Wales, also having been stationed at Lossiemouth in Northern Scotland before I met him.
In July of 1944 our first child was born,( a daughter). I was living in Lichfield at that time as my husband was temporarily stationed in Wolverhampton.
When the war ended we decided we would live in Newfoundland,where my husband assured me he could get work, so I set sail from Southampton, England for Newfoundland one week after May 07th 1945 ; the day it was announced that the War was over.
I crossed the Atlantic on The Duchess Of Bedford, with our 10 month old daughter, whilst my husband remained behind in England to be demobbed. He was serving in the R.A.F. 125th Newfoundland Squadron, during WWII. I recall we were approximately 10 days at sea and I was seasick the whole trip, I was put on complete bed rest by the ships doctor. Some kind passengers looked after my baby daughter.
We finally arrived in Halifax and the following day set out for Corner Brook, Newfoundland. We traveled by train to Corner Brook. When I arrived my first impression was it was quite a pretty place. I was impressed with the mountains as there were none in Lichfield, Staffordshire where I was from, mostly just rolling hills there.
I stayed with my in-laws for awhile, they lived at the top of what I thought must be the highest hill in Corner Brook. I wondered how I was ever going to be able to push the baby's pram up that hill, but somehow I managed. I did think I would break my back one-day. My income at that time, from the RAF was $50.00 a month, I was required to pay $15.00 of that to my In-laws towards my keep. Out of the remainder I bought my baby's milk and sugar (which was rationed at that time) also personal care items and anything else I needed. There was little left for clothing. It took awhile to get used to the currency, but eventually I did. When my husband arrived from England we continued to live with my In-laws. We remained with them for just under a year.
A lot of the men were promised that their jobs would be waiting for them when they returned to Corner Brook after the war, but that was not always the case. My husband was not happy with the job he was able to get at that time, & things didn’t work out as I expected with my In-laws; the less said about that the better, so I decided to returne to England with our daughter whilst my husband remained in Newfoundland to earn enough money for his passage back to England. I returned in early 1946 and my daughter & I lived with my mother in Lichfield, Staffordshire. I found employment once I returned and my husband while still in Newfoundland applied for a position at the Walsall Technical College in Walsall, Staffordshire to further his electrical studies, once he was accepted he worked his way back to England from Newfoundland on the coal boats.
My husband attended the Technical college from 1946 to 1948.In December of 1948 we lost a child, she only lived for 2 weeks, died on Christmas eve & was buried on Christmas day; that was a very hard year.
While working at the Technical College my husband also worked at the local Tea Factory, part time. Once his studies were completed at the college he was able to secure a job at the “ Stamping Alliance Company in Walsall, Staffordshire.
We remained in England for some time and in1948 my husband returned to Corner Brook, Newfoundland with a promise to send for us once he had earned enough money for our passage.
In the summer of 1948 when our daughter was 3 &1/2 years old we once again set sail for Newfoundland, this time we crossed on “ The IL De France” , again I was seasick the whole trip and again a kind passenger took my daughter under her wing. The lady I remember was a Girl Guide leader from Prince Edward Island and she had a daughter Patty who was around the same age as my daughter.
Upon our return my husband acquired a job at Bowater’s Pulp and Paper Mill in Corner Brook as an electrician, after awhile he started building our own home on Humber Heights. We moved into it in August when our second child (a son) was just two weeks old.
When we first moved into our new home we had to haul water from a tap on the street and our plumbing consisted of an outhouse, the children were bathed in a metal tub in front of the kitchen stove and of course there was no such thing as clothes dryers you hung your clothes out to dry on a clothesline .In winter we had a clothesline in the basement. Our main source of heat was coal, which would be delivered by horse & cart, there was a coal shut in the basement with an opening to the outside where the coal would be dumped. My husband was still working at Bowater’s as an Electrician at this time, but eventually decided he would like to go into business for himself, & started an electrical, plumbing and heating shop.
Thankfully, we eventually had inside plumbing and running water. As time went by we had more children, 6 in all 3 girls and 3 boys. All still live in Newfoundland and although I have been in Newfoundland for some 59 years, England will always be my home and in my heart forever.
My husband passed away in October 2004 at age 85yrs. I was 87 in August 2007.