What did you do in the War, Charlie?
by Charlie Shaw
In l938 there was a war scare and a number of we Parish Church Scouts
(the 16th Doncaster) called at the Police Station to enlist as cycle
messengers in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions).
The war scare did
In l939 war was imminent so we signed on again
at the Police Station.
We then had a meeting and lectures over
duties as cycle and foot messengers.
We were given a meeting
room in a house on Adwick Road, which had been the manager house
adjacent to the Co-op Stores and Co-op Butcher (which is now a
Newsagent & food store).
We held weekly meetings and lectures
on air raids – gas precautions and the effects of gas (mustard and
phosgene – these are the ones I remember).
We were allocated to
warden posts, which were located in various places of Mexborough,
plus gas decontaminant units, ambulance depots, report centres.
We had to learn where all these places were to be able to take
messages in case the telephones were out of order.
We had to go
on standby duty one evening a week to learn the way they operated.
At intervals we had mock air raids to practice our skills in taking
messages and finding the destination in the dark, as there was a
No lights to be shown from any building, no
You could only use torches with 1” diameter glass
and you had only to shine them forwards.
Cars and motorcycles
had to have headlights covered with masks, a metal cylinder about 5”
in diameter and 3” deep with slits about ˝” wide, there was
approximately 4 to each cylinder with louvers to direct the light
When the air raid siren sounded we all had to go to
our allocated places.
My place was Castle Hills House, a shed
in the garden.
It had: chairs; tables; a stove in the middle
with a chimney up through the roof; a kettle; a teapot; mugs and
biscuits; which we were only allowed after about two hours on duty.
(1 biscuit and 1 cup of tea).
About l942 we had one Dispatch
Rider and one Sunbeam Motorcycle model 90 stationed, with the young
ladies, at the Ambulance Centre within the old Cosy Cinema on Garden
At that time it still had its stage which I found out
later was fitted with a full size snooker table.
to be a Dispatch Rider.
We had our headquarters in Netherhall,
Doncaster and held meetings and lectures every Wednesday night and
practice exercises every Sunday morning.
motorcycle riding in formation, doing convoy duties and riding over
rough ground to gain experience for bomb sites.
I remember one
major exercise, which started at midnight on Saturday from
Goldthorpe with a large number of vehicles (ambulances,
decontaminant unit, mobile canteens, fire crews etc).
We had to
take the convoy by the back roads to Askern.
There were six
Despatch Riders. We rode behind the convoy commander’s car.
was reading the map for directions and when we were approaching a
road junction he would signal for a Despatch Rider to go forward and
instruct the rider to direct the convoy in the direction he had
He did this at every junction. Later, when we were out
in the country lanes, I was sent forward to take the next right hand
turn. (My motorcycle had a faulty dynamo and the lights had gone
As I went forward to take my picket point I could not see
the road but I could see the telegraph poles in the skyline so I
Soon afterwards I fell into a ditch.
telegraph poles went across a field and the road went around the
Anyway I managed to pull the motorcycle out of the
ditch and carry on to my picket point.
We arrived safely at
Askern and the mobile canteen served a lovely meal.
It was a
very interesting night out.
In the early forties our Scout
Group, the 16th Doncaster, and the Girl Guide Group formed a concert
party and gave a concert at the Royal Cinema on Sunday nights and at
various church halls in the district.
We were joined by local
dance schools and one Sunday night at the Royal we also had The Shaw
Twins, Doreen and Betty (no relation) playing and singing.
played the drums and piano accordion.
The first night at the
Royal I looked through the curtains before the start and all I could
see was a mass of faces.
Every seat was full and there were
people standing in the aisles.
They had all come to see us.
The night was a success and all the profits went to the local war
weapons week Spitfire fund and the local mobile canteen fund.
As the Royal Cinema was once the local jail the stage was over that
part with stairs from the stage to the dressing rooms, which were
the old cells.
I worked with my father and uncles in the family
My father was a Blacksmith and Farrier.
the jobs I was given to do was to go to the Parish Church and
measure up to make two iron ladders which were to be used to deal
with incendiary bombs if any were dropped.
I made and fitted
them and they were taken down after the war.
A few years ago I
walked around the churchyard and leaning up on the wall next to what
used to be Sutton’s farm was one of the ladders I had made.
After sixty years it was still there.
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