Malhamdale Local History Group    


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The Wartime Memories of
"A Malhamdale Resident"

During the war some evacuees arrived in Airton. They were from Leeds and came at the time when the north of England was particularly under threat. Eventually the Germans turned their attention to London mainly and it was thought safe for the children to return home. The children had come alone but their mothers were able to visit them as Airton was not too far away. Some stayed with Mrs. Waterfall and some with Mrs. Wolfenden and others.

They attended the local school which did not change much as it had female teachers who remained there.

Reckitt and Colman used the mill in Airton for filling bottles with Dettol although we are not sure if this was during the war. There were no more than ten people working there and they came from Skipton where the firm moved after experiencing transport problems getting to Airton. A leak from the mill killed all the fish in the Aire.

A First Aid class was held in Airton and led by Mrs. York. The idea was to learn what to do after an air raid so rolling bandages, understanding what treatment to give or what medicine was important. Unfortunately no one was very sure what to do until a policeman came and gave instruction.

Soldiers with a search light were stationed for some time along Settle Road near to the quarry but on the opposite side of the road. One soldier who returned to visit after the war said he was going back to the field as they had been told to bury all their tinned food before they left. He wondered if it was still there!

Older men and teenagers in the village were recruited into the Home Guard. Some went over to Settle. A siren could be heard in the village but it was not local – probably Gargrave or Skipton. It was also possible to hear the one at Rolls Royce, particularly when they were trying it out at the weekend.

There was a general feeling of working together towards the war effort as women knitted socks and scarves. Also helping to raise money for soldiers were the whist drives held in different houses and farms and also the local dances (hops) held at Kirkby Malham village hall or the old Scosthrop school. This had no amenities such as indoor toilets but that did not spoil the fun.

There was no air raid shelter but blackout was strictly enforced. This particular family felt that as their window looked over the fields they didn’t need a blackout but a knock on the door soon reminded them that everyone needed one.

The only son of the family went into the services and came home again but suffered from malaria and pneumonia after serving in the middle east and died whilst only in his thirties.

Public transport was much better during the war than now. It was possible to go to the cinema in Skipton and catch a bus to come home afterwards. The buses were originally a private company but then bought by Pennine buses which ran during the war. If there was a party of six or more you could go by train to the theatre in Leeds and the train would stop at Bell Busk so it meant a walk there and back.

Rationing was in force  but families had their gardens and this family had a pig and poultry to supplement the rationing. The butcher was also kind to long standing customers.

All women who did not have young children or were not married had to do war work. In this case our speaker was rung up and told to report to Johnson and Johnsons in Gargrave. On asking how she was going to get there for 7 in the morning the reply was ‘Do you have a bicycle? If so you can go on that’. She was there until the end of the war. At this time Johnsons were involved in war work making bandages and other medical equipment urgently needed.

Both land girls and prisoners of war came to the dale to work on the land but we are not sure just which farms they were on.

The end of the war did not come as a big surprise and apart from people coming out to discuss it with others there were no celebrations on the day itself. But the celebrations came later with parades and general rejoicing.

Read the Wartime memories of other Malhamdale residents:
Edith Carr
Veronica Fletcher (Fell)
Rob Foster
John Geldard
Norman Heaton
Barbara Purcell (Hoare)
Frank Sharp
Ethel Taylor
Margaret Thompson (Carr)
Dora Varley (Watson)
Marion Wellock


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