top of page

On The Home Front

During both Great Wars there was a considerable effort put in by everyone that remained 'On The Home Front', people from all walks of life pulled together to contribute. We would like to share a mixture of stories here, please submit anything for this category that doesn't fit in to the other 5 categories.


Woodward family (Joseph, Doreen, Mary & Margaret) in their Sunday Best 1941

Childhood Memories of Doreen Holliday nee Woodward 1: Gas masks

(as remembered by Christine Slater nee Holliday)


My Mam was born in 1930 and lived in a small terraced house in Victoria Road, Workington. Her father (Joe Woodward) was in a reserved occupation at the steel works, so life from a child’s point of view continued pretty much as normal during WW2. She continued to go to school (St Michaels Junior School and then Central School for Girls), but had to remember to take her gas mask, wherever she went. At school, they had drills to practice putting the gas mask on.

In 1940, my Mam’s younger sister (my Aunty Margaret) was born. Babies and toddlers had a special gas mask.


Doreen Woodward age 11

It covered the majority of the child and required someone to use the manual pump on the side to activate the filter. When the air raid siren went, the family had to shelter in the cupboard under the stairs, and it was Doreen’s job to keep pumping her sister’s gas mask. Fortunately, the air raid siren did not go off very often in West Cumbria.

Childhood Memories of Doreen Holliday by Christine Slater nee Holliday, Maryport

Baby Gas Masks

The gas mask made especially for babies and infants up to the age of two was developed in 1938. It covered the majority of the child and required someone to use the manual pump on the side to activate the filter. Sometimes called a 'baby helmet', the lower canvas section that tied around the child was rubberised to prevent poison gas seeping into the interior. Various bodies demonstrated the use of this gas mask to ensure parents knew exactly how to use the gas mask in an emergency.

Children’s gas masks

Gas masks for primary age children were coloured and supposed to look like Mickey Mouse to make them less frightening, but they smelt of rubber, so were not nice to wear.

Picture 1.png

Childhood Memories of Doreen Holliday by Christine Slater nee Holliday, Maryport

Women Doing Men’s Jobs: Workington Steel Works

Dorothy Messenger was Johnston my cousin once removed, my dad's cousin, drove an overhead crane at the steel works in Workington producing steel for the war effort. I was given some of this information by Alan Nixon my Uncle, my dad Donald's Brother.

Photo Credit:

Gwen Birkett, Maryport


The Miner’s Wife


At the beginning of WW1, mining was not a reserved occupation and many miners joined the forces. By mid-1915 over 1200 colliers from West Cumberland had signed up, meaning that those remaining were expected to work longer shifts and their wives and daughters were also expected to work harder and longer to support them. Mining families operated as a team.


The pit intruded into every aspect of domestic life. Miners’ pay was based on the output of individual teams and could vary from week to week. There were frequent accidents and work-related illnesses that often-required home nursing. Every miner and his family had to learn to live with his tiredness, aches and pains, his ruptures and rheumatism. The pitman, doomed to an arduous, dirty and dangerous occupation, expected his home to be a clean and tidy haven, a calm refuge from the noise and squalor of the pit.


Whilst her husband flogged his guts out underground, his wife drudged at home, often working almost as hard as he did and almost certainly for longer hours. Such women were always tired. Their working day could last from the small hours of the morning until midnight. This was in part due to the shift system. If a father and son were on different shifts the men would be coming in at all hours of the day, waiting for the bath and hot water, and a woman to wash their backs. The daily routine of a pit wife in 1920 is described by one of her daughters below.


The day began at 3.00am when eldest son, a hewer (haggar in West Cumberland), took his bait put up the night before

and went on shift at 4.00am. Mother would try and snatch an hour’s sleep before preparing a younger son, whose shift started at 6.00am. He would no sooner be off when Father would be coming in for breakfast and bath, his shift ending at 6.00am. Then it would be time for the children to get up and prepare for school. After they had gone Mother had no time to rest as she now had to prepare a dinner for the eldest son returning from the pit between 11.00 and 11.30. He would not have finished washing in front of the fire before the children had returned from school for their midday meal.


With the children off to school for the afternoon, she has to start preparing a meal and heating bath water for the next son who went on shift at 6.00am and would be returning to the house just after 2.00pm. By the time he had finished and was off the kitchen floor, it was nearly time for the school children to return. On top of this, there is a continual daily round of washing, shopping (nowhere to store food), baking, cooking, cleaning.


Miners provided their own working clothes, and this provided another challenge to the miner’s wife. His clothes had to be washed weekly and every day on his return from shift they would be “dadded”, that is hung out on the washing line and beaten, to try and get most of the coal dust out of them. Then she would be starting again, preparing an evening meal for the children, putting up Fathers bait, ready for him to go on shift at 10.00pm. The end of a normal day.


Reference: Griselda Carr (2001) Pit Women: Coal Communities in Northern England in the Early Twentieth Century by. London: Merlin Press

Research by: David Malcolm, Maryport Local History Group

A Memory from Alice Oglanby, Grasslot


Not too long ago I realised how far back my memory took me. I could have only been two at the end of the war, having been born in December 1942.


My earliest memory was peeping under the blackout blinds and watching the flares drop on Grasslot green. We lived on Gilmore Street. It has been rebuilt since then, but there was a good sized green between the next row of houses which was Mandle Terrace.

The planes used to fly over at night and drop flares to light up their targets, which was Maryport at the time, where a few bombs were dropped during the war.

At the time my dad worked at Risehow Colliery and was often on nights. We had a mattress under the stairs where we slept with our parents if there was an air raid warning. It was a bit of a squash - 2 adults and 4 kids. It was a game to us kids, but our parents were on edge until the “All Clear” sounded.


I remember the gas masks we all had and used to take them with us in their containers if we went out.


Rationing was a big item during the war and for a good while afterwards. Many things were scarce and we were only allowed a ration of certain foods per person.


Then they called them the good old days ???


When Bombs fell on Maryport


On the clear night of July 27 1940, under a full moon, a lone Luftwaffe Bomber, believed to be a Dornier Do 17, (the Flying Pencil), which had failed to jettison its payload of four 250Kg bombs at its Clydesdale target, was following the Solway Coast southwards on its homeward journey, when the pilot espied Maryport as a suitable target. The bomber flew in low over the town & jettisoned its bombs on what the pilot is said to have believed to be an army barracks, (the former British School on the corner of Camp Road & North Street), & buildings near the docks, which he is said to have believed to be warehouses, perhaps mistaking large houses for them.

The first bomb fell on a garden at lngelby Terrace & the second on the former British School, causing no casualties but destroying the latter.

The third bomb fell on Well Lane & destroyed numbers 2, 13 & 14, killing a number of people. The bomb severely damaged the house adjacent to the Lifeboat Inn, Shipping Brow, where a gap is now present today. The fourth bomb fell on 10 High Street, killing four occupants.

In total, seven people were killed by the lone bomber, five residents & two visitors, & five injured, in this tragic event.


In memory to those killed:

Margaret Ann Costin, Age 59, at 2 Well Lane

Robert Thomason, Age 68, at 13 Well Lane

William Milligan, Age 72, at 14 Well Lane

Jessie Harrison, Age 26, at 10 High Street

Sarah Harrison, Age 55, at 10 High Street

Joseph Howard, Age 60, at 10 High Street

Sarah Ann Howard, Age 62, at 10 High Street

Text Credit: Maryport Town Council

Collection for the photos: Ronnie Bell

Maryport Post Women photo_MMHL.jpeg

Maryport Post Women c.1916

Women took over from regular postmen who had enlisted for WW1. The first Post Woman was Faith Head. 


Standing left to right:

Faith Head, B. Foster, A.L. Head

Seated: E. Davidson, A. Ferguson

The Post Office recruited 35,000 women in the first two years of WW1. Thousands of bilingual women were also employed to work on postal and telegraphic censorship monitoring. Women were also involved in the introduction of Separation Allowances. These were payments made by the government through the Post Office to the wives of men who left lo fight.

Credit: Maryport Maritime Heritage Ltd

The Last time I saw my Dad


My Grandma was Mary Pocklington before she married Joseph Woodward.


She lived in the same house in Victoria Road, Workington for her whole life. There were 3 rooms on the ground floor and 3 rooms upstairs. On the ground floor at the front was the parlour that was hardly ever used. In the middle, just after the steep narrow stairs that led up to the bedrooms, was the kitchen, which was the heart of the house, and where all the cooking was done on the black-leaded fireplace in the old days.


The kitchen led to a back kitchen, where there was a sink with a cold water tap. A door led out into the back yard. There was a coalhouse and a toilet at the end of the yard, and a door leading out to the back lane. There were thousands of such houses in the West Cumbrian industrial towns and surrounding villages, where the families of miners and foundry workers lived.

My great grandmother was Hannah Reay. She married Frederick William Pocklington on 25 March 1900 and they had 7 children, one of whom died in infancy. Fred was working as a foundry labourer before enlisting to the 6th Border Regiment in Carlisle on 22 January 1915, when he was 37 years old.

When I was visiting my Grandma once in the early 1980’s, she told me about the last time she saw her father. She remembered seeing him walk in through the back door. Her mother was busy making bread. The visit was totally unexpected, but Fred had been allowed to visit his family before leaving the next day to see active service on the Front Line. Mary was 10 years old at the time.


Mary and Hannah Pocklington in the back yard at 96 Victoria Rd, Workington around 1921.

Six months later, Fred was killed in action at The Dardanelles on 9 Aug 1915, leaving Hannah a widow at 37 years old, and mother of 6 children, aged from 16 months to 15 years.

Memory of Mary Woodward (nee Pocklington) as told by her granddaughter Christine Slater


Credit: Maryport Maritime Heritage Ltd

Maryport Ladies Football Team 1917_MMHL.jpeg

Maryport Ladies Football Team


Maryport Ladies football Team C1917

By Sue Fox, Maryport Maritime Heritage Ltd (Maritime Museum)


The majority of these women worked at Williamson’s Tannery.


As women took over work in factories in WW1, they were encouraged to set up women’s factory football teams. These teams grew in number and skill and continued for a few years after the war, much to the horror of the Football Association, who were very uncomfortable with the popularity of women’s football.

Credit: Maryport Maritime Heritage Ltd


Maryport 4 - Seaton 0

Played at Maryport raising £24 1s-3d for the Servian Relief Fund

Scorers: Pattinson, Nutter, Davidson, Scott


Seaton 1 - Maryport 0

Workington Ladies Cup Tie Played at Lonsdale Park, Workington

Scorer: Peacock


Cockermouth 3 - Maryport 1

Played at Lairthwaite, Cockermouth

In aid of Cockermouth YMCA Hut Week


Maryport 6 - Carlisle Women 1

Played at the Athletic Ground

Maryport in aid of wounded soldiers & sailors


Growing Up in Grasslot

You asked me to share some of my memories from living as a child on Collins Terrace. I have written below a few of my memories. Bath day for us was once a week and was always Sunday. If it was cold it was always a tin bath in front of the fire. First in was always the cleanest. During the summer we used to get bathed in the dolly tub in the backyard.


Another memory that I have is of my mum making what was called hooky mats, which were a rug made using scraps of old clothing and any available material. At Christmas mum would put down a new hooky mat in the living room. She would take up the old one and put it upstairs next to the bed. The old one was also used as extra bedding when it was cold.

I remember that my Mum used to pluck chicken's for Mr Wilkingson who lived on Collins Terrace. He used to raise chickens for Christmas and the locals used to pay him weekly. They would then get their chicken at Christmas. My mum used to get our chicken as payment for plucking them.


I also remember Christmas on Collins Terrace. As you will understand there was not a lot of money about then but we always managed to have a lovely time. I remember one year when we received a huge parcel sent by a relative who had emigrated to America. It contained a tin ride on jeep that was green with a big white star on it. There was also a doll and pram for us girls. Dad insisted that all the children on the Terrace got their turns to ride in the jeep or for the girls to push the pram. In those days you shared what you had.

Margaret Johnston nee Porter 

Mam and Dad were Patrick and Eileen Porter

Childhood Memories of Freda Scott


I was 5 years old when the war started, but have vivid memories of sirens going off at night, and being lifted out of bed, wrapped in a blanket, and taken downstairs to sit in the cupboard under the stairs with my parents, and only a candle to provide some light. We lived in Cockermouth at the time and did not wear gas masks.

Memories of Ron McAvoy, Grasslot


My Grandma was fine £3 for showing a light during WW2! Her name was Sarah Brodley and she lived at Grasslot at the time.

My other Grandma, Mary McAvoy used to make a big pan of soup in the washhouse and sell it to workmen going by. She lived at 71 Grasslot.

bottom of page