Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The War time Blackout

The farm I was brought up on during the war (WorldWwar II) is situated about five hundred yards from the end and on the north side of the main runway of a war time airfield, and across to our west side was the perimeter track where the aircraft taxied round to take off.
Close by was the petrol dump, where the fuel was delivered by road tankers and collect by refueling vehicles and taken round parked planes. If ever an enemy bomb had made a direct hit, it certainly would have rocked our foundations.

Just along from that was a search light, parked on a large circle of concrete some thirty yards outside the perimeter track. There were a number of woods around the outside of the airfield, and this was where the bomb dumps were built with concrete tracks leading all the way round and back to the perimeter track.
The safest way for an enemy bomber to get this far inland was at night, and if they could not find their allotted target, they would circle round looking for lights, or some evidence of a target to unload their bombs.

As you see this is a picture of a picture, the village church of St. Chads is above the cluster bottom right. Right of centre at the bottom is the village school. Left of centre near the bottom is my farm, the only farm left out of five farms. Top left at the end of the road is where we were brought up as kids, the home farm. Then two fields to the left out of the top left of the picture is the old airfield, so we were all fairly vulnerable to attack.

So you can see it was important not to present them with a target in the first place, that was why around the farm yard, every cowshed window had to have blinds made for the "blackout" . A wooden frame was made to fit each window and black tarred paper was tacked onto it. All the cowshed doors were kept closed during dark nights while milking was in progress. Only the down stairs windows of the house had these blinds as when you went to bed it was often with a candle and that was only to see your way to bed.

Electricity had not long come to the village, and the one place that had a generator for some years before mains electric was our farm. It had been installed by the previous tenant and was a 24 volt system with a pair of wire running to the switches then back up to the light bulb. The insulators consisted of a pair of porcelain blocks with a hole in the centre for the wood screw and each side of that was grove to take the wire. The two were clamped together holding the wires just off the surface they were fastened to.

When the mains 240 volts came, a transformer was installed by the electricity meter. That meant that for years, while the old wiring was reasonably serviceable, father had to go to a warehouse quite a few miles away (up the Potteries) for replacement 24 volt bulbs.

No such thing as an earth wire with that system, the radio had a two pin plug as did the table lamp and standard lamps, so for a while there was a mixture of new mains and the old wire running round the house, as gradually mother had an electric cooker and an electric iron on a three pin socket.
The mains were taken across the yard to an electric motor that was installed to drive all the barn machinery including the milk vacuum pump, and the existing loft shaft system. The old barn engine with two big flywheels was disposed of, only the block of concrete that it once stood on, with four bolts sticking up, gave evidence as to where it once had pride of place.
The electric motor had a pulley each side of it and just occasionally it drove the corn plate mill and the milking vacuum pump at the same time. When the mill finished it was a matter of running the long leather belt off the motor pulley with a bit of wood.
The vacuum pump belt reached from one side of the barn to the other across a doorway into the next shed, and during milking times you had to stride over the flapping belt. The mill belt was longer, and the one onto the loft shafting longer still, where it had belts to a chaff cutter, a root pulper, a cake crusher, and at one time a winnower.

Black Molasses In The Barn
I remember at the Beeches, way back in the barn,
A great big forty gallon drum, on a block away from harm,
It contained black molasses; a good half of it was used,
With hot water mixed, poured on oats when they were bruised.
Take the bung out and wait a bit, for it to slowly flow,
We all liked to have a taste; dad said it'd help us grow,
A finger full and then another, it was lov-ely and sweet,
Left your hands all sticky, you couldn't be discrete.
We had plenty over the time, but still a lot unused,
Mother said it would move us, but father he was amused,
He said a good clean out, every now and then,
Would tone us up, and help us all, to grow to big strong men.

Faith is like electricity. You can't see it, but you can see the light.Author unknown