Memories of ‘Dad’s Army’

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A REAL life member of ‘Dad’s Army’ who helped to protect Worksop folk during the Second World War has had his memoirs published.

Fred Marshall was a warden for the ARP, Air Raid Precautions, team whose job it was to issue gas masks, organise shelters, and ensure people were obeying the blackout.

They had mock exercises, sometimes twice a week, to make sure they were prepared for any emergency.

Fred recalled: “The back room boys created almost impossible situations for us.”

“Sometimes we had live ‘casualties’. The moans and groans that came from the so-called injured sounded very realistic and unbearable.”

“We had first to ascertain how many injured or trapped there were and make detailed reports.”

“All the casualties wore light blue overall suits and if they had no identification labels, we had to search the breast pockets.”

“This was always a bit of an embarrassment to us, but we often got giggles from the girls.”

The ARP wardens had to liaise with the ambulance and fire services and were sometimes told off for having done their job for them.

Fred’s tales of wartime Worksop are told in Gas Masks and Goodliffes, a book published post-humously by his son John.

John had the painstaking job of deciphering his father’s longhand notes, written during the year before he died, when he was virtually blind.

He said: “My father decided he wanted to record his memoirs so he wrote them by hand with the help of my mother Phyllis.”

“He died in 1988 at the age of 79. It took me a long time to work through the notes but I guess you could call it a labour of love because I did promise him that I would try to get them published.”

“It’s taken me over 20 years but I got there in the end.”

“I learnt about my father that I didn’t know.”

Fred was born in a workhouse in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, in 1909, the illegitimate son of Victoria Jubilee Marshall.

She was born in 1887, Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee year, hence her unusual name.

Fred’s childhood memories are told in his first book Bastard Brat, which John, who lives in Devon, had published in 2008.

The Marshall family moved to Worksop from Sheffield in 1938 after Fred got a job as manager of Goodliffe’s bakery.

They lived in a cottage on Abbey Street, rent seven shillings a week, and John went to Abbey Infants and Abbey Boys schools.

As an ARP warden Fred gave out Mickey Mouse-shaped gas masks to children, designed not to frighten them.

For fire exercises they always chose a warden’s garden because he had a large pile of wood at the back.

“A warden would assume an air raid had happened. It was worked out that certain roads were impassable because of flooding from the mains.”

“We would find a large chalk circle marked unexploded bomb. I was fortunate enough never to experience the real thing.”

Fred also recalled hearing the bombing of Sheffield and feeling the blasts in the shop windows.

Gas Masks and Goodliffes, £2.99, is available from Bookworm in Retford or email John at johnmarshalldaw@aol.com.