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  1. Published on: 13/05/2019 11:39 AMReported by: rogerblaxall
    Short story by George Clandon

    Mary Lea, nee Lawson, who lived at 10 Manor Drive, a pretty young woman who hailed originally from 9, Victoria Street Burscough.

    Mary the daughter of Harry and May Lawson, was born in 1923, she was my Aunt and one of four girls in the Lawson family, theother being Vera, Elsie and Lilly.

    There were also three sons, George, Jack, Freddie and to compound the obvious lack of space, the two Grandparents also lived in the same house, George Georgeson and
    his wife Ethel - nee Rigby.

    Some relatives regularly stayed who were related to the family, the odd canal boatman according to my sister Linda, now into her eighties.

    It was a large family for a three bedroomed house with only one outside toilet and a wash house.

    The second world war was declared on the 3rd. September 1939 after Nazi Germany invaded Poland; Mary would be a little to young at that phase of the war to join the women's Army, or the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as it became, and would have to wait at the earliest till she was at least seventeen, that would be at some stage of 1940, seventeen being the earliest a young woman could join the Army at that time, with parental consent.

    When she finally joined the Army, generally, according to records, women who joined the ATS usually trained at the men's barracks in the initiation period - my sister Linda remembers being told that she was posted to Northern Ireland, an area called Banbridge Co. Down, one of several important Army training bases in the Province.

    The training was four weeks, the young rookie girls having to settle into army life at a pace.They were taught how to march, take orders and keep their billets and barracks clean and up to army standards. After their initial training the girls would specialise in what subject they may excel at, from gunnery to wireless operators, women had an important role to play.

    On completion of her training Mary headed for London, the Blitz was still in progress, it would turn out to be a frightening experience for the small Burscough girl.

    It isn't known exactly what roll Mary played, shells are mentioned and it is true that the ATS girls manned the anti aircraft guns; her son saying she passed the shells to the gunnery team.It was conveyed to me via a local war historian that she could have actually placed fuses into the nose of the shells for transportation to the anti aircraft gunners, but was away from the actual firing of the guns.

    The noise from the anti aircraft guns was bad enough, but bombs dropping around you must have scared the wits out of the devil himself, let alone my Aunt. no matter what distance she was from the melee.

    The Blitz was horrendous, it lasted from September 1940 till May 1941, the onslaught indiscriminately killed thousands of Londoners in every part of the capitol, the air raids also extending to other cities in the country.Mary was a witness to this storm and it would have an effect.

    Mary came home on leave and was so upset and frightened, that when she was due back to her barracks she refused to go, fear overwhelming her. It was understandable but it was not a matter of how frightened a person was in wartime you had to go back.

    A few days later number 9 Victoria Street had a visit from two burly military policemen who where under instructions to return Mary to her base. - she had no alternative and returned with the MPs.

    Mary stuck out the war, she stumbled on like everyone else with an unspoken expectation that it would all end soon.

    Unfortunately, the experience left an indelible mark on my Aunt, who was never the same woman after she came back home, as my mother Vera recalled.We lived at 26 Manor Avenue, Mary would confide in my Mother about the events during her time away.

    Mary did her duty, but the lively and jolly young village lass would have had a life changing experience, as with other's in the country.

    People would do their best to remain cheerful irrespective of a war going on, the pictures and lot's of dances to attend.

    I was informed by my sister Linda that whilst Mary was serving in the ATS. she wasn't short of boyfriends, even getting engaged, well a girl has to do what a girl has to do in such precarious times ... she finally settled on a guy from Ormskirk she'd known from before the war called Jimmy Lea, who was a sailor in the Royal Navy, initially meeting at Elkes and Fox the biscuit manufacturer down Red Cat Lane in Burscough, (now DS.Smiths) the war splitting the couple up, but getting back together a few years later.

    They were married in the summer of 1945, in their uniforms, at the registry office in Ormskirk, the reception held at 9 Victoria street in the village.

    It's not known when Mary was demobbed, probably late 1945, Jimmy July 1946 from Portsmouth.

    The couple where glad to get back home and resume civilian life, Mary finding a job at Vitax fertilisers just about the same place as Jack Hilton's carpet shop is now.
    It wouldn't be an easy transition on Mary's part or Jimmy's as I would find out later off my cousin Billy.

    What I wasn't aware of as far as my Uncle was concerned, the ship he was serving on was torpedoed and was sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic. Jimmy had horrendous burns on his back due to swimming through the oil that had ignited on the surface of the sea, after he had jumped over the side to try and save himself.

    He made it to the life boats, just and was pulled on board. Billy my cousin mentioned that many didn't make it because they where so badly injured, they were left to die or drown. After the war Billy also mentioned that his Dad would never take his shirt off in public because his back was so badly scarred.
    Currently the name of Jimmy's ship isn't known ?

    Moving on a few years into the fifties, Mary was a fairly competent piano player in her day, who along with Jimmy, who sang very well, the couple performed a double act in the upstairs rooms of the Packet house pub. on the canal bridge. My Dad Teddy worked in the Packet at the time, my mother served behind the bar occasionally. Jimmy enjoyed singing in the Packet, according to Linda.

    When I was older I also remembered Jimmy going around the pubs selling cockles as a spare time job in the evenings.


    Mary and Jimmy had two children, Billy and Joanna.Billy and me played together over the Blyth those days in the mid. late fiftys along with several friend's. I would meet Uncle Jimmy when calling for Billy to play out. Jimmy was always a decent man as far as i was concerned, we were kids and at that time I didn't appreciate what my Aunt and Uncle had been through in the war years.

    There wasn't a lot of money within the families up the Manor, but we kids were all loved and so happy.

    You get lost in your own lives and sometimes forget the people you grew up with, including the older generation.

    Jimmy died in March 1969, his ashes scattered on the Glades at Southport Crematorium, he was 45. It mentions on his death certificate that he worked at the Brass Foundry in Ormskirk (Hattersleys). Jimmy suffered from lung cancer in the end according to the certificate.

    Mary died in 1985, the little Burscough woman who always wore a beret, is buried at Burscough St. John's parish church in the village.

    I look back and just wonder why these hero's on the Manor just seemed to fade away without more recognition and accolades.No one said much, but like lots of other people who fought in that tragic war, did they just want to forget and move on.

    The Manor had many heroes; two lived at number 10 Manor Drive.

    To Mary and James, you are true heroes on the Manor, thank you for our freedom. RIP.

    I am most appreciative to my cousins Joanna and Billy Lea, my two sister's Linda Mills and Joyce Bowker, the local war historian Mr. Richard Houghton and the reliable Michael Dawson.



       

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