3945-1 John Denison.
|A Teenager in Wartime Yeadon
|1939 – 1945
|As a starter let me fill you in with my background. I was born in Yeadon on the 5th November 1926 and lived with my parents Harry and ‘Kitty’ Denison and my sister Kathleen in Rockville Terrace. I attended South View School and at that time was called Malcolm a name I never liked but my mother did, it was the name of the family doctor, Malcolm Bett. When I joined the army I was given a nickname which I wont go into and this stuck for some thirty years after which I began to use my real first name John.
I and another even younger than I, Brian Walsh, were accepted as junior members of the South View ‘gang’ which in no way should be confused with the present connotation of a gang, we were more an association of pals who lived in a certain vicinity.
I was some three years younger than other members who were Jim Slater, George and Norman (Cushie) Cousins, Denison twins Jack and Allen, Willie Berriman, Sam Riley and Harry Driver.
As far as I know Harry was the only wartime casualty being lost at sea in the Repulse/Prince of Wales disaster off the coast of Malaya.
Our ‘rival’ gang were from Rufford, the demarcation line being the then unpaved ‘Stoney Road’ and Wilson’s Field which is now built over.
Some of the Ruffordites were Kenneth Murgatroyd, Gerald Moon, Gerald Long, Michael Long, Dennis Petty and Derek Birdsall.
At the outbreak of war I was just approaching 13 and the gang was breaking up in that the older members would now be working and would soon be in the various military services.
However, prior to that we would generally congregate in the evenings under the gas-lamp post between South View Terrace and Harper Rock.
There we would play games such as ‘Relievo’ and ‘Tin-can Squat’.
Weekends and holidays, in the daytime, football and cricket would be played in Denison’s Field, now buried under Morrisons.
I was never good at outdoor sports and, not only because of my young age but due to being rather puny and under-developed.
Fortunately, service in the army later would, to a great extent, cure this.
For home shelter my Dad converted the ‘middle cellar’ by putting in thick wooden pillars and crossbeams plus a home-made d…ouble bed.
In the early days we would descend here when the warning siren went and often would hear the distinctive drone of German bomber engines.
Later we abandoned taking shelter as many did thinking foolishly, it wouldn’t happen here – we were wrong, Leeds did suffer a minor raid.
I, personally, do not recall being particularly concerned when war was declared but am sure my parents met this with much consternation.
in fact shortly after the announcement, I set off to visit relations in Rawdon and was just approaching Harrogate Road when the very first siren gave warning of a coming air raid.
It was a false alarm but could not have worried me greatly as I continued my journey rather than making a return home.
Before the war it was realised that The Dam or Tarn to ‘posh’ people, would provide an excellent guide for enemy bombers seeking to attack the huge Avro works.
So the decision was taken to drain and I would go along to see it gradually reducing in size.
Once it was low the fish were netted placed in barrels, and transported to Roundhay Park in Leeds.
No such luck for the pike which were left behind and they were enormous having for years avoided being caught by anglers.
Once the water was very low I was greeted by the sight of men wading out to grab these monsters then administering a blow to the head before they were taken off to provide a succulent free meal.
The Home Guard was formed in July 1940 after being the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers)
Early in that year just after the fall of France I went along to a field opposite Naylor Jennings where they were carrying out exercises.
At that time they were more or less unarmed since weapons were more urgently required to re-equip the army which had left the larger part of its ordnance on the beaches of Dunkirk.
The LDV had to make do with what they had and, though I do not wish to offend any surviving members, even as a 13 year old I found their effort somewhat ineffectual
However, to return to the main theme beginning just before the outbreak of war.
My Dad was an Air Raid Warden and I was ta…ken round house to house issuing and fitting gas masks.
My role was to serve as a demonstration model and also to allay the fears of younger persons who would be afraid of having this ‘thing’ stuck over their head and face
Also at this time the authorities were digging trenches which were then covered with earth to become air-raid shelters.
One of these was at the lower end of Denison’s field and another for the school.
Practices would be held in the latter and I recall there was once a disturbance and evacuation caused by a pupil letting off a carbide stink-bomb
When the battle of Britain was under way the News of the World published, each Sunday a scoreboard of the aircraft downed by the RAF.
I cut these out and pasted them in my diary being particularly exhilarated when the highest score of 185 destroyed was announced for the loss of about a third of that number.
I had this diary for many years and when I much later read actual statistics from both sides found that the true downings were I think, 68.
Of course most of the action was down South and we were little effected though I had walked with my Grandad to see the crater at the Chevin very early in the war.
We were told it was made by an ‘oil bomb’ but was there such a thing, I’ve certainly never heard of it.
The attic was my bedroom and it had a clear view to the South and East and, during the time of the Blitz, I would see a red glow in the sky to the east and I knew that Hull was ‘getting it’ once again.
Normally the nights would be quiet and then I could hear the thud-thud of the steam hammers at Kirkstall Forge.”
Hi Malcolm I was pleased to hear from someone almost as old as myself and still active in the literary sense atleast I shall read your updates with great pleasure. Most of the people you mention in your first article are sadly no longer with us although I was speaking to Gerald Long recently and met Peter Escott in Morrison’s Last week, and Brian Teale who you will remember as “cock of the School” still goes to the local bookies on a daily basis.
31 August 2013.
Hope you are still around. I was searching for units ‘to let’ in Yeadon, mainly in the old Naylor’s Works and wondering if I could set up a brewery there when this caught my eye. The name Denison is known to me as I live in the middle of Rockville Terrace… 🙂
11 March 2015.