Defending the Docks Oral History

Defending the Docks was a community heritage project researching many different aspects of the history of Barrow-in-Furness during the Second World War. While our archaeological surveys shed light on the physical and military remains of the period, it was just as important to find out about the civilian experience of war.  We interviewed seven people who grew up in Barrow in the 1940s recording their memories of the time.

Evelyn Steel and her brother Jack Curphey recall their lives on Walney Island during the Second World War. They describe their experience of air raids and how the island was defended from attack. They speak of interactions with the Pioneer Corps and the airmen maintaining the barrage balloons. Evelyn talks about her work at the education office at the town hall and Jack describes delivering drawings to the various Vickers offices before starting his apprenticeship in the fitting department.

Oral History Interview with Evelyn Steel and Jack Curphey – Defending the Docks

Margaret Charnley recalls listening to the announcement of the outbreak of war on a battery-powered radio. She speaks of her father and uncle working in the Vickers shipyard. She also describes being trapped in a shelter following a bomb blast which badly damaged her house as well as her experience of rationing.

Oral History Interview with Margaret Charnley – Defending the Docks

John Crossfield speaks of his father working in Vickers shipyard during the Second World War. He talks of his experience of the Barrow Blitz and the damage done to the town. John recalls his evacuation in 1941 and his family life during the war.

Oral History Interview with John Crossfield – Defending the Docks

Edith Knight talks of her childhood in Barrow during the Second World War. Edith recalls her anxiety during the air raids and bomb damage to her house. She speaks of her experience at school and of the effects of rationing.

Oral History Interview with Edith Knight – Defending the Docks

Denys Vaughan remembers his early life growing up near the docks in Barrow. He talks about his Step Father leaving his job at the shipyard to join the merchant navy, the blackout during the war and what he remembers of Walney’s wartime defences.

Oral History Interview with Denys Vaughan – Defending the Docks

Sheila Watson remembers growing up in Barrow during the Second World War. She recalls sleeping under the stairs during the Barrow Blitz and playing in the bomb shelters. She speaks of family members working for the Furness Railway Company and Vickers Shipyard. Sheila remembers seeing a barrage balloon burst into flames during a thunderstorm, the home guard practising near Fairfield Road, and going to the beach through a gap in the barbed wire.

Oral History Interview with Sheila Watson – Defending the Docks

Alfred Fishwick speaks of his childhood in Barrow during the Second World War. He recalls his mother working as a welder at the Vickers shipyard and his grandfather working as a fitter. Alf recalls collecting muck to fertilise his grandfather’s allotment and being evacuated to Keswick. He also speaks of bomb damage to Barrow, visits to the airfield and seeing the town’s defences.

Oral History Interview with Alfred Fishwick – Defending the Docks

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