Posts Tagged ‘Wartime Glasgow’

Happy Wartime Christmas Birthday Peggy Jane Skinner

December 20, 2016

 

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Peggy Jane Skinner’s 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Today is a birthday reminder of one of our wartime diarists from our wartime collection, wartime student Peggy Jane Skinner:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/peggy-skinners-wartime-christmas-1940/

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner/

On what would have been her 92nd birthday (Peggy was born 20th December 1924 and died in 2011), we send her  giftwrapped her favourite 1940s film star Tyrone Power.

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1940s heart throb Tyrone Power (Image: Wikepedia source)

 

Happy birthday Peggy!

Scheduled Blog post by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo. 20 December 2016

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Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940

September 15, 2015

Spitfires over Truro: Trafalgar Roundabout, Cornwall. An impressive flight of two floral spitfires with turning propellers over a field of Poppies, planted by Truro's Parks Department. The Pannier market nearby used to be a Spitfire and Hurricane secret aeroplane part repair shop. Image Source: Mark Norris

Spitfires over Truro: Trafalgar Roundabout, Cornwall. An impressive flight of two floral spitfires with turning propellers over a field of Poppies, planted by Truro’s Parks Department. The Pannier market nearby used to be a Spitfire and Hurricane ‘secret’ aeroplane part repair shop. Image Source: Mark Norris

Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940

“It is marvellous the way the RAF are adding to their cricket score. We put on the wireless at every news to hear how many more Jerries they’ve added to their score. Yesterday it was 180 for 34 of ours (from whom many pilots are safe). Since the beginning of the week excluding today they have brought down over 400.” Peggy Jane Skinner’s Schoolgirl diary, Friday 16 August 1940

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC A History of The World.

The Battle Of Britain in miniature for a wartime boy! A beautiful wartime handmade wooden Spitfire toy, our other favourite suggestion for the wartime object collection on the BBC’s  A History of The World, 2009/10. This very popular object is currently on display  in our Tropical House display cabinet, c. 2015

The Battle of Britain now forms part of the New National Curriculum primary history unit, such as this interesting Year 6 unit from Cornwall Learning studied by many Cornish schools  Inspire Curriculum Year 6 unit The Battle of Britain Bombs Battle and Bravery. inspire yr 6 ww2 doc The 75th anniversary year 2015 is being marked by many memorial events, especially around Battle of Britain Day 15 September 1940. Now commemorated as “Battle of Britain Day”, 15th September  was the day people in Kent and London witnessed large battles between Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe. German casualties were heavy, although not nearly as heavy as was claimed at the time.

There is an interesting Wikipedia entry on this other claimant to the “Hardest Day” (18th August is also cited as a very tough day): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain_Day

It’s interesting to see the Royal Mail Battle of Britain commemorative stamps , as we did a whole schools stamp project / blog (blending history and science) with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo on Darwin and the Victorians through stamps 2009.

battle of britain stamps 2015

Royal Mail’s recent Battle of Britain tribute stamps 2015

battle of britain The Battle of Britain and Blitz seen through a teenager’s diary, Summer 1940 My collection of mostly civilian WW2 wartime diaries  is the source for many blogposts and anecdotes for teaching our wartime zoo history workshops.

Amongst my favourite is that of teenager Peggy Skinner (1924-2011). Peggy was a London schoolgirl  who was studying in Glasgow as her engineer father was on war work there, probably in the Hillington Rolls Royce or other Clydeside war-related engineering works). We wrote about her in the past on what would have been her 90th Birthday in 2014: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner

Peggy Jane Skinner's 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Peggy Jane Skinner’s 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Here in a new selection of diary entries from her Letts Schoolgirl Diary 1940, Peggy recalls  the bombing in Glasgow / Clydeside and the air battles down South over Surrey and London, where the rest of her family live. I have included some of my research in the Editor’s Notes on what is happening in the diary and the wider war. I have put these dairy entries online to be available to teachers and students; Copyright remains with the Mark Norris /World War Zoo Gardens collection if you quote from or publish these elsewhere. Please contact me via the comments form if necessary.

Peggy Skinner’s diary , Renfrew, Glasgow 1940 Tuesday 11th June 1940 –             Nice early on today but very cloudy and dull later on. The news is very black now with I [Italy] against us, but we’ll win.

Saturday 13th July 1940 –            Lovely afternoon but raining this morning. I went to tennis this afternoon, had one game a singles with Bunty. An air raid warning last night which I slept through, this is the second we’d had.

Sunday 14th July 1940–             Went to church this morning, a terrible lot of people came in late. I went for a walk this afternoon right round the factories.[2] Editor’s Note: ‘factories’ – Hillington, to the southeast of Peggy’s house, was home to an industrial estate built in the late 1930s, including the Rolls Royce aero engine factories, protected by Anti-Aircraft (AA) batteries on Renfrew golf course. This area was bombed again on 24th July 1940.

Friday 19th July 1940–                A bomb was dropped in Yoker which hit a tenement and killed five people (three of them children) and injured a lot of others, and one was dropped in Hillington this morning. No warning was given but the aeroplane and bombs were heard. Editor’s note: The Yoker bombing is widely covered on various Glasgow blitz websites.

Saturday 20th July 1940–            Went to Ninotchka this afternoon with Bunty. It was very funny in parts but it was inclined to be sloppy. We had an air raid last night I slept during [it], time bombs were dropped,  but woke up later on.

Tuesday 23rd July 1940–             Had a raid warning just after dinner time, lasted about an hour. Nothing happened, very disappointing.

Wednesday 24th  July 1940 –       I was woken this morning about 6 o’clock because bombs were being dropped and there was a lot of noise from A-A guns. Factories at Hillington hit. No warning.

Thursday 25th July 1940         Went with Bunty to see damage done at Industrial Estate. Not much at all, one factory or block of factories pretty badly damaged, nothing else except broken windows.

Saturday 10th August 1940 –            Rotten day, very windy tonight. Finished giving book-case first coat of paint, barely enough. Played table tennis at Bunty in afternoon. Editor’s Note:  What was to become known as ‘The Battle of Britain’ was beginning far to the south above the skies of Peggy’s family and old home area of Surrey on this date.

Friday 16th August 1940 –                We listened to Haw-Haw, just as he said Britain never attacked he suddenly closed down, just as though the RAF had decided to pay him a visit.

[Additional note in Memoranda section:] It is marvellous the way the RAF are adding to their cricket score. We put on the wireless at every news to hear how many more Jerries they’ve added to their score. Yesterday it was 180 for 34 of ours (from whom many pilots are safe). Since the beginning of the week excluding today they have brought down over 400.

Editor’s note:  German propaganda radio such as William Joyce (‘Lord Haw Haw’) was broadcast from major cities like Berlin or Hamburg and often shut down when an RAF air raid was in progress in order to avoid the planes homing in radio signals to find the cities – a form of radio blackout – see Roger Moorhouse, Berlin at War 1939-1945. It’s interesting too how Peggy picks up what seems today slightly callous but then popular, media approach of sporting ‘scores’ of planes and lives lost, still  represented in the modern infographic (below).

Sunday 18th August 1940 –             Went to church, saw all the soldiers marching down both from Renfrew and from Moor Park afterwards. Lot more raids along the South Coast.

Editor’s note:  These south coast raids and next day’s German losses are during what is often called the ‘Hardest Da’y of the ‘Battle of Britain’ 18th August 1940 – see inforgraphic below for 18th August 1940.

Monday 19th August 1940 –            Quite a nice day, though chilly towards evening. 140 Jerries brought down yesterday. Walk in evening.

Friday 6th  September 1940 –                  Air Raid Practice yesterday, fire drill today. Played table tennis at Bunty’s tonight. Latin was terribly boring. Made an awful lot of smells in Chem.

Editor’s Note: Air Raid practice for Peggy and her classmates was timely as down South on September 7th 1940, the London Blitz bombing began. From September 1940 to May 1941 40,000 civilians were killed out of the overall 65,000 civilian casualties.

By 27th September, Mrs Skinner is thinking of asking Peggy’s cousins or young relatives up to the relative safety of Glasgow. The bombing of Glasgow continued but the devastating Clydebank Blitz was not to take place until March 1941; sadly we don’t have another of Peggy’s  Diaries until 1943.

Sunday 15th  September 1940  –   Communion, Bible class, evensong. Was round [church] hall this evening when sirens went so I just had to trot home. Warning didn’t last long.

Thursday 19th   September 1940      –   There have been two short raid warnings so far this evening. There was a lot of gun-fire and we think some bombs dropped as we had to get up last night although there was no warning. Four warnings night before last.

Editor’s Note:  The 18th September marked, according to some, the first serious night raid on Glasgow, destroying a building in Royal Exchange Square and setting fire to a cruiser in Yorkhill docks. The nearby Yorkhill hospital had to be evacuated. http://yoker.eveningtimes.co.uk/area/the-dark-days-of-world-war-two.html

Friday 27th   September 1940    –            An awful lot of planes have been brought down today, over 120 so far, I hope it goes past the 200 mark by tomorrow. Mum is thinking of asking Peter and Madge up. Peggy’s diary (which I am currentlyediting) gives a  little glimpse of the civilian experience of the air raids. Peggy went on to work after graduation from Glasgow University in 1944 at RAE Farnborough aircraft research on radio and electronics.

A WW2 fundraising Spitfire clip or pin badge made of metal, possibly the smallest item in our World War Zoo Gardens collection (Image source: Mark Norris)

A WW2 fundraising Spitfire clip or pin badge for your lapel. Made of metal, this is possibly the smallest item in our World War Zoo Gardens collection (Image source: Mark Norris)

Somebody mentioned to me that similar fundraising Spitfire lapel pins are still made from real Spitfire metal “crafted of Duralumin originating from Spitfire X4276” http://www.poppyshop.org.uk/spitfire-x4276-lapel-pin.html

Flying over the skies of London by day and night, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz affected the life of many in the South. London Zoo, Chessington Zoo, Kew Gardens and the London museums were amongst some of the venues affected by the 1940/41 Blitz.

In future blogposts this autumn we will update what happened to these venues in the Blitz and WW2. https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/remembering-the-start-of-the-blitz-7-september-1940-and-a-happy-new-school-term/

Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940

battle of britain infographic

Modern 2015 infographic of 18th August dubbed the “Hardest Day” Source: RAF Benevolent Fund. Compare to Peggy Skinner’s cricketing scores dairy entry for Friday 16 August 1940.

Further Battle of Britain sources:

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Happy 90th birthday Peggy Jane Skinner!

December 20, 2014

Back in 2012 I published a few excerpts from wartime diaries from my collection; amongst them my favourite is a selection belonging to Peggy Jane Skinner, born 90 years ago on 20 December 1924 in Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond, Surrey.

Several years of research eventually tracked down a death certificate stating that Peggy died in 2011, aged 86.

Peggy Jane Skinner's 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Peggy Jane Skinner’s 1943 diary and a photo believed to be her. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

In 1940 Peggy was a 15 year old Kingston / Richmond schoolgirl living in Glendee Road, Renfrew on the edge of Glasgow and Clydeside, Scotland. She spends her summer with relatives back in Kingston-upon-Thames and Richmond, London. Her father William Ernest Skinner appears to have been working as an “co-ordinating engineer” in wartime Glasgow factories and became a sergeant in the local Home Guard battery (probably anti aircraft guns or rocket batteries protecting Glasgow factories and shipyards).  Originally from a Hartlepool maritime family, her father is described on Peggy’s birth certificate as a cycle agent, a year earlier as a draughtsman. These were skilled jobs and maybe where Peggy got her scientific side from.

By 1941/2 she had made it on a Carnegie Trust Grant and Renfrew Education Authority grant to the University of Glasgow as a wartime science student in botany, radio, astronomy and ‘Natural Philosophy’ (science), again working though her summer in wartime London as a council clerk.

Over the next year or two, we’ll feature a little more about Peggy Skinner’s diaries for 1940, 1943 and 46-49 in later blogposts; eventually part of the 1943 diary section will be added to the Glasgow University Story website and  blog  http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/ww2-background/

The 1943 diary is full of interesting detail about being a female student at a wartime university, of her friends attending Daft Friday dances, complaints about catering and problems with wartime transport (by tram or trolleybus) making it to lectures on time.

Together with the 1940 diary, we get many glimpses of the highs and lows, stresses and strains of her school and student life as a civilian on the Home Front in Scotland and London. There is much about clothes rationing, Paisley War Weapons Week 1940, balloon barrages behind her house at Glendee Road in Renfrew,  fundraising for wartime charities, firewatch, canteen work for the war effort as a university  student  after completing her chaotic wartime schooling with schools requisitioned by the military and school windows meshed against bomb blasts, for example:

Friday 6th September 1940: Air Raid Practice yesterday, fire drill today …

Thursday 12th … half day from school as net was being put on windows …

Thursday 24th October … Air raid last night lasted for two hours. It’s the first time that anything’s happened when the siren’s gone. Several bombs dropped in Joyhnstone and round about. An awful lot of noise last night. 

We don’t have a diary for 1941 and the period of the Clydeside Blitz, but she survived and passed her matriculation exams to attend university.

In our 2012 blog post we quoted from her 1943 diaries. Like Churchill with his view that the end of 1942 was the ‘end of the beginning’, Peggy’s  1943 wartime student  diary entries start on a more optimistic note than her (missing) 1942 diary would have done:

Tuesday 2nd     February 1943:                I’m going to bed very late again as I had a bath and once I get in I can never be bothered getting out. The war news has been good now for a month or two, it is the best spell we have had since war began, the only trouble seems to be in Tunisia and it’s not too serious there – yet. It must do the occupied countries a lot of good to hear good news for a change.

Saturday 9th  January 1943:      Very uninteresting day for my last Saturday of holiday.  I would have liked to have gone with mum and dad to see Noel Coward In Which We Serve but I did not like to ask and anyway I’d made up my mind that next term I must work harder (what a hope but I must try) and must try also to enjoy myself more, but how I could do that without going to dances which is impossible, I don’t know.”

When she saw it later, she liked the film, more so than Mrs Miniver:

Wednesday 7th  April 1943  –  I went to pictures by myself this evening to Paisley to see “Mrs Miniver” with Greer Garson  and Walter Pidgeon. As I rather expected I would be I was rather disappointed with it. I’d heard such a lot about it  that I’m doubtful if any picture could come up to standards which were to be expected of a film  of which I’d heard such glowing stories. The little boy in it was awfully good, also the clergyman and Walter Pidgeon and the Young Mrs Miniver but Greer Garson seemed to have an awful fixed grin on her face.

Postwar life

9 November 1943 – Joint Recruiting Board … Had interview this morning, after first two girls had asked for the forces, we were all called in and told that the only option we have is Research or Industry. I did not know for sure which to sy, so said Research. Air Force bloke spent so much time talking to each person that I did not get away till 10.30 and so missed Geography again.”

Graduating in 1944, the  next diary in my collection  picks up Peggy’s story in 1946 working at RAE Farnborough aircraft development factory on Radio and Mica Condensers. As RAE Farnborough was scaled down after the war, she moved to TCC Condensers in Acton (which later became part of Plessey). The TCC  building and firm closed mid 1960s, becoming later a BBC building used for Doctor Who 1970s filming.

Peggy kept regular diaries but we only have a few, covering the next 3 years to 1949. She worked on electronics, condensers and batteries, radio and early television, including visits to Alexandra Palace in its early BBC TV days.

Her diaries are full of technical information on condensers, capacitors, Schering Bridges and Q-Meters. FAST, the RAE Farnborough collection have expressed their interest in the early 1946 sections about life at the Ambarrow hostel and RAE Farnborough as it was changing over into peacetime. Her job at RAE from 1944 onwards on Radio was obviously of support for the war effort; there are wartime TCC Condensers for radio equipment in the Imperial War Museum.

Her late 1940s diaries evoke a London of post-war Austerity, power cuts, strikes, heatwaves, wet Victory Parades and continued rationing shortages, including of clothing. Peggy spends a lot of time ‘mending stockings’ and buying  ‘remnants’ of cloth to make clothes.

Peggy Skinner's patent on batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

Peggy Skinner’s patent on batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

And after that no more diaries, just a few traces that I’ve found through family history websites. She took out a co-patent on battery developments for Yardney Corp USA /UK in the 1950s /60s. No doubt that Peggy who had a wartime Astronomy and Science BSc Degree from Glasgow would have been delighted to learn 60 years later that modern Yardney Lithion batteries were in use with the Mars Rovers in her lifetime and are still going strong on Mars in 2014.

Peggy Skinner's patent on Lithion batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

Peggy Skinner’s patent on Lithion batteries, Yardney Corps 1956/60 USA

Peggy Skinner comes across in her diaries as an inquisitive, spirited but  quite a shy young woman with many friends and  large London family of aunts, uncles and cousins. She never married for some reason; maybe the missing diaries cover lost romances.

Throughout life she was involved with the church, teaching Sunday school (quite reluctantly at times) and as part of the postwar Christian revival crusades of the late 1940s such as the Norbiton Fellowship. She seems to have worshipped at local Anglican churches including St. Peter’s Norbiton for many years. She also appears to have spent much of her later adult life living with or caring for her mother Minnie Letitia Skinner who died in the mid 1970s, sharing a house in Woodfield Gardens, New Malden.

The diaries came into my collection via an online auction  from a house clearance in that area.

So far we have found no surviving relatives either from the Field or Skinner families, including her younger brother Mick / Michael (who died late 1990s?) or cousins Peter and Madge.

In the early raids of 1940, her father considers having her and Mick evacuated overseas (before the SS City of Benares disaster). As the Battle of Britain raged over her home London skies and merged into the Blitz, her family consider asking her cousins Peter and Young Madge up to the apparent safety of Glasgow, only to have bombing raids visit thir area too in 1940 and 1941. By the end of her 1948/9 diaries her brother Mick is doing his National Service.

If Peggy Jane Skinner were still alive, she would be celebrating her 90th Birthday on 20 December 2014. We would love to hear from anyone who knew Peggy Skinner via our comments page.

Wartime Christmas and Birthdays
On her 16th birthday 1940 she records: “Black velvet for frock, jumper, ring and money to buy books were my presents. Half Day for 3rd Years Dance [at School] … Short Air-Raid warning this evening.”

There is little recorded in the way of gifts for Christmas 1940, although being in Scotland there is first footing by neighbours: “Saw New Year in. Mr Buchanan was first foot” (Glasgow, 1 January 1940) and “Mr Read (neighbour) saw the New Year In so this should actually be here” (Glasgow, 1st January 1941).

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

 

The book Christmas on the Home Front by Mike Brown gives a good idea of how tight things were trying to obtain Christmas presents as the war went on. Peggy was hand making bead doll brooch presents for a ‘sale of works’ by the AYPA (Anglican Young People’s Association) at Christmas in 1940. Peggy’s  1946-49 diaries show that things didn’t ease rapidly as she tries to track down suitable gifts for family.

On her 19th birthday like many wartime celebrations gifts were sparse: “a pot of cream from Mrs. Baine … a pixie hood and very cute bookmark from Aunt Madge” and for Christmas equally sparse: “Auntie Madge’s parcel arrived. I got cold-cream and powder from her and a collar from Grandad [Field]. Also received a diary from Eileen Swatton.” Sadly we don’t have this diary for 1944 or 1945.

Close up of a portrait possibly of Peggy Jane Skinner, enclosed in her 1940s diaries. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

Close up of a portrait possibly of Peggy Jane Skinner, enclosed in her 1940s diaries. Source: Mark Norris, WWZG collection.

If Peggy Jane Skinner were still alive, she would be celebrating her 90th Birthday on 20 December 2014.

We would love to hear from anyone who knew Peggy Jane Skinner via our comments page.

Happy 90th birthday Peggy Jane Skinner, not forgotten!

 

 


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