Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Grandma I Never Knew. Part 2 1938-1944

[Let me first start by addressing a mistake I made in my first post about Iris Griffiths. I mentioned that due to her older sister Annie being partially blind and deaf Iris may have done most of the house hold chores. I have been informed by one of their sisters that Iris did not take over from Annie's duties. This makes Annie quite a remarkable person, but that is another story;)]

Contributors to this post are: Merthyn Davies, Glyn Davies, Wendy Thomas and Ruth Salmon. Thank you, I could never have done this without you.

[Above: Iris Davies with her 2 eldest children Wendy and Glyndwr, in Birmingham abt1947]

After the death of William Sergeant, Iris was single for a while. By this time most of her family had moved to Birmingham and Iris went with them. No one is completely sure how Iris met Idris Davies, but it seems fair to say they may have met at Church. Both were devout believers and both had a Pentecostal upbringing with fathers who were preachers. The story of their meeting however is one that I have not yet discovered.

On Dec 24th 1938 Iris was married to Idris and became Mrs. Iris Davies. The wedding took place at Bethel Gospel Temple, Wardend Road, Birmingham, England. Iris' father Harold Griffiths was a traveling preacher and he was due to be speaking and planting churches in Ireland both before the 24th and after Boxing Day. (1) So the 24th it was!

Their first child was soon born; Grace Wendy Davies! The lives of everyone around the world were to be horribly interrupted shortly after. On September 1st 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Britain, France and most Commonwealth (2) countries declared war on Hitlers' Germany. World War 2 had begun.

The Davies' were affected in a similar way to most of those in Britain at the time. Some family members went to war while others were involved in the Home Guard.(3) Below is a picture of Idris with his brothers DavidJohn, and Glyn. Glyn went to war, the others were in the Home Guard.

During World War 2 Iris' husband Idris became a munitions inspector but Iris worked at the local Woolworths. Woolworths was a chain of shops in England. Iris would operate the elevators. Their son Glyndwr recalls visiting Iris with his Grandpa Harold Griffiths. They watched as she operated machines to move the Elevator. In those days it did not move at the push of a button!

During the war Iris and Idris lived at 54 or 45 Heather Road in Birmingham and that house is still standing today. The same can't be said of every house of that street. Birmingham was bombed often during World War 2 and the Blitz. The Blitz was a series of bombing raids organized by Germany and night after night would see the bombs come down on all the major cities of Britain. Birmingham was the second most bombed city of Britain during this time period. Over 2,000 people were killed in Birmingham with many more injured.(4)

Like others, Iris and the family were given Anderson Bomb shelters, sturdy Air Raid Table shelters, and drills in what to do when the Air Raid sirens sounded.(5) Iris' sister Ruth recalls that Iris, Ruth, Wendy and one of their neighbors would all run to the shelter.

"We used to go down in the shelter that Idris had made in the garden, he made it very comfortable so we could play games while the bombs were dropping all around us. Idris was out & about in the Home Guard helping to dig people out that had been hit." - Ruth Griffiths

Iris father Harold was also not with them as he was "out there praying with people who were dying."

In the shelter they would sometimes sing to try and drown out the noise of the bombs falling and the guns firing. Sometimes they would play games like Ludo, Tiddlywinks and Drafts.(6

Wendy remembers that the Air Raid Table was used for those times that they couldn't make it to the Anderson shelter or if the shelter was flooded. There was only one time she can ever remember using it and none of them thought it was safe. On another occasion a bomb had a direct hit on a house just four lots away, It was demolished and the windows of Iris' house came breaking inwards. As the family ran down the hallway to reach the Anderson shelter they discovered a piece of burning shrapnel had flown in with the glass and landed on an Eider Down (7) on the sofa, setting fire to it. Fortunately they saw  it and were able to put it out or the whole house may have burnt down.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though. Wendy observes that Iris would often take her to the clinic where they would have to do all kinds of tests. Then they would have to do silly exercises like picking up matchsticks with your toes to stop your feet from becoming flat. [There's more to this story but it is related to another blog of the future.]

Then towards the end of the war their second eldest, Glyndwr was born. It was often joked among the family that "Wendy began the war and Glyn finished it". 


(1) Boxing day is December 26th In England.
(2) The Common Wealth, formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is made up of a collection of countries that used to be part of the British Empire.
(3) The Home Guard is a term used during WW2 in the United Kingdom, for those people who volunteered to serve with the military at 'home'. They were usually ineligible for military service due to age etc. and were employed in many tasks from cleaning up wreckage, last line of defence, and putting bodies back together.
(4) This website can give many more details about the affect of the Blitz and bombing on Birmingham during WW2
(5) Anderson Shelters were given free to many British house holds during and in the lead up to WW2. They provided excellent protection from ground shocks but had a tendency to flood during cold weather. An Air Raid Table was just what it sounds like. A table that was perhaps sturdier than your average table but a table never the less.
(6) Ludo is a game similar to the American board game "Trouble." Opponents race their counters around the board from start to finish by throwing the dice and moving accordingly. Drafts is known in America as "Checkers".
(7) An Eider Down is like a quilt but made out of Eider Duck feathers.

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