January 1, 1970

Crowle at War Part 1. A schoolboys memories. – submitted by Bill Goldthorp

By Bill Goldthorp

Crowle at War.
A Schoolboy’s Memories – Part 1
Bill (once known as Billy) Goldthorp.


My mother’s forebears, Tills, Everetts, Oates, etc. had been farmers in the Isle of Axholme for generations. For ten years prior to marriage Doris had been the primary school teacher at Eastoft. Boltgate my grandfather’s farm was a mile north of Eastoft. At that time when a woman teacher got married she had to leave the profession.

My father, Fred, was a foreigner from Glossop in Derbyshire. His father General Manager of Glossop Co-operative Society had got to know my other grandfather when he was buying potatoes. Moses Oates Senior was a farmer and potato merchant. This resulted in my father spending his school holidays at the Oates’s farm.

At 18 he emigrated and went to Manitoba Agricultural College and started farming in Canada. He returned in the late twenties when his father became ill. He intended to start an agricultural haulage business but the depression started. He managed to get himself employed at Lysaghts steel works, shift work as a pump attendant and maintainer. He also started an agency selling oil, grease and paint to local farmers and businessmen.

They married in 1st. August 1932 and bought Avondale, a large semi, one of the first two houses to be built on Wharf Road. There 7th. July 1933, at what is now 46 Wharf Road I was born. I was an only child but it was not by design. My mother’s up bringing had been very Victorian. No one ever taught her “The facts of life”. When she first menstruated it was a total shock, she had never been warned and thought she would bleed to death. The day before I got married I remember explaining to her what family planning meant and what a contraceptive was.

They were an obviously healthy couple. Mother conceived within two months, I was born in July and breastfed for a year. I should have a sibling two years younger. only a Gynaecologist would know. My father made the mistake of employing our GP to deliver her. Dr ——– whom he had gone to school with in Glossop. He should have employed a properly trained midwife. Dr. ——— or the unqualified mother’s help that most GP’s employed infected my mother and made her sterile. You may think that this is an extreme claim but I have listened to many horror stories the senior consultants told during my training. The advantage of the health service they thought would be that the GP would be forced out of obstetrics. If you think I am exaggerating just look at the Maternal Mortality for the twenties and thirties. It is higher in Social Class 1 & 2 than in 4 & 5. That is among those who could afford to employ doctors.

At the outbreak of war I was six years old and so I remember very little of that stage. At 8 in 1941 I became more aware of what was going on. I had a map of Europe and North Africa in my bedroom in which I stuck various coloured flags showing what had been lost and won. Later I had one of the Pacific as well. At this stage I regarded the war as a kind of football game not realising that the movement of the flags meant the death of people on both sides in large numbers.

My first memory is being taught to knit in the infant’s section of Crowle County School. Mothers supplied any odd ball of wool, which we then had to knit to make squares of around six inches. The whole class had to stitch the squares together to make a blanket, which was then sent off to keep a soldier warm at night.

The second is of being too late to receive an evacuee. I was told that we would be having another boy living with us and was looking forward to meeting him. We had spent the day at Boltgate farm when my father was asked to help with some problem. This took longer than expected and when we got back to Crowle all the evacuees had been given homes.

The next is of my father’s air-raid shelter. He strengthened the roof of the pantry, piled sandbags, inside and outside the house on the outer walls of the pantry. We spent an uncomfortable night in it when someone accidentally set the air raid siren off. Within a year it was dismantled. The possibility of the Germans’ bombing Crowle was remote. You would have expected them to make a greater effort against Scunthorpe than they did. They did have a good go at Hull during the blitz and it was possible to see a glow on the horizon at night as Hull burnt.

There was one subsequent advantage to the blitz on Hull. Very few had central heating, we all used coal, coke and wood. Naturally the first two were rationed, but we suddenly had a useful addition to our fuel supplies. The base of the streets in Hull were made of blocks of wood that had been soaked in tar. The bombs had blown up no end of streets and the authorities allowed the tarry blocks to be collected and used for heating.

The chances of Crowle being bombed were virtually nil. But one morning in 1942, all the lads were very proud, Crowle had been bombed. Two fields behind my house about 750 yards ran the Isle of Axholme Light Railway. In a field on the far side of the railway were three small bomb craters. Single raiders would come over looking for opportune targets. A Dornier had been spotted by one of our night beaufighters. The Dornier dived, jettisoned its bombs to get up speed and headed for home.