Wartime Memories of Arnside

Gillian Asplin was born Gillian Davy in 1939 in Grange-over-Sands, but the family soon moved to Arnside as her father had a business transporting coal from the railway sidings at Sandside. She has strong memories of her early days on High Knott Road. Her father was away from home during World War 2 and the family had to make do. Christmas trees were not easily available, but Gillian and her older brother were over the back wall onto Arnside Knott providing the family tree by other means.


Her brother became a boarder at the local school Earnseat, now Ashmeadow House on the Promenade and as the Second World War started evacuees came to Arnside. The lady staying with Gillian sounds to have been rather strict as even though a very small child she can remember being taught to eat everything she was given on pain of a visit from the Minister of Food. Rationing was in force, and a favourite treat was dipping bread in the lard and jelly under a joint of meat.

Another evacuee three doors down was the sister of a famous star off the radio. Miss Cavanagh would give Gillian elocution lessons and teach her the “correct” sound of her own name!

Barrow Blitz

Gillian often spent time walking over Arnside Knott and one early evening the bombers could be seen over Barrow-in Furness where ships for the war were being built. The planes could be seen returning back to Germany and a house in Grange-over-Sands was destroyed one night by a bomber returning from a raid. In Gillian’s interview, at this point, you can hear an aircraft in the background, by coincidence the sound of an RAF training aircraft from Yorkshire. These memories are still strong even though, at the time, she was a small child and the terrible significance of the bombing was unknown to her.

Wartime treats

When father came home on leave he’d bring American friends from Salisbury. A new treat was chewing gum, but there was twist in the tale as she would get into trouble for sticking bits under the edge of the kitchen table. On a trip to Salisbury, after saving up petrol coupons, American troops in convoy along the Dorset roads would throw sweets to the children in cars passing by.

Another delight was collecting rosehips, the bakers in the village and her friendship with the Barnes’ children at Earnseat. Gillian’s brother used to wear knitted swim suits when he was enjoying the swimming pool. Here Gillian made friends with Helen and they went together to their next school at Seascale on the west Cumbrian coast.

Mother’s work

Women in Arnside contributed much to the war effort. Gillian’s mother was an ambulance driver, and she had many a long and difficult drive to the hospital at Conishead Priory, the ambulance having blackout covers on its headlights.


Everyone endured rationing, but Gillian and her mother enjoyed their secret ways round the problem. Gillian was away at her new school at Seascale, where the staff were vigilant, trying to control illicit sweet supplies. When sweets were needed, letters home carrying the question, “Have the cows got out again” would be a code to her mother that fresh supplies were needed. They lived at High Fell above Grange and cows had escaped from the farm opposite.

Enterprise has always been a part of the Davy family, Gillian’s and herself were keen golfers. Her father’s first games were at Arnside, but one enduring golfing establishment is Grange Fell Golf Course.

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