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After the war: A story of empathy and moving on

Fascinating Facts on Leeds in WW2

Air Raid Precaution (APR): The Council set up 132 APR posts, 60 training centres and over 7,000 APR Wardens in Leeds. Their jobs were to protect people and buildings across Leeds from the impact of Air Raids.


Medical Care: First Aid posts were set up across Leeds. At Armley and Bramley swimming baths the water was removed and floors laid so they could be used as First Aid stations. Harewood House and Lotherton Hall were both used as military hospitals during WW2.


Prisoner Of War (POW) camps: There were two prisoner of war camps in Leeds. No 244 on Butcher Hill, West Park and No 91 on Post Hill at Farnley.


Industry: Leeds based businesses played their part in the war effort. Burtons the tailors made army uniforms. John Fowler’s factory made over 1,500 armoured fighting vehicles and tanks. At Avro works in Yeadon, over 4,000 aircraft were produced. The Barnbow Factory in East Leeds made guns for the battlefield. Blackburns in Roundhay, today a Tesco supermarket, produced Torpedo and Blackburn bombers. Vickers Armstrong in Leeds made tanks. Waddingtons, famous for making board games, printed maps on cloth and inserted them secretly into Monopoly games. These were sent to Prisoner Of War camps. Money was also included in the packs. If there was a dot after Mayfair a map of Germany was inside. These maps helped 35,000 troops to escape.


Joining the army: By the end of WW2 over 100,000 Leeds men and 10,000 women had joined the army.


Women on the Home Front: Over 14,500 women were employed in aircraft and engineering work in Leeds. Many women also joined men on the Leeds Home Guard.


Air raid shelters: In Leeds there were 14,000 domestic air raid shelters. These were mostly either Anderson Shelters or reinforced cellars. Anderson Shelters were free to anyone earning less than £250 per year. There were 132 public shelters including one under the Grand Theatre, Kardomah Café Briggate and North Street in the city centre, Newton Park Church in Chapeltown and 1110 Town Street in Armley. Blast walls protected the entrances to shops on the Headrow.


Blackout: APR Wardens organised blackouts in Leeds. Blackouts stopped the enemy planes locating targets for aerial bombing. APR Wardens would patrol the streets at night checking for chinks of light. Fines were given for not sticking to the blackout rules.


Evacuation: On 1 September 1939, 18,250 children from Leeds travelled on 51 special trains, with 1,450 teachers and 1,350 volunteer helpers to new homes in the countryside. 200 schools took part in the evacuations. They carried a few belongings, mostly clothes in a pillowcase, to places including Gainsborough, Doncaster, Retford, Ilkley and Lincoln. Many children returned to Leeds before Christmas.


Rations: Over 4 million ration books were distributed in Leeds during WW2. 70,000 tins of National Dried Milk and 125,000 bottles of cod liver oil and orange juice were given out each week for young children. Clothing was also rationed meaning people had to find interesting ways of making new outfits! There are stories of some brides making dresses out of old parachute silk.