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Second World War memories still vivid for Jackson

Posted: November 5, 2018


Second World War memories still vivid for Jackson


Fred Jackson got his 'calling up' papers from the British Army when he turned 18.
 
But his war-time battles started several years before, as he, his three brothers and their parents, lived through almost daily bombings as the Germans tried to disable the ships and rail yard located a mere 100 yards from their Liverpool home.
 
"This one night, they started about five o'clock, and my father had gone for tobacco for his pipe, and he apparently heard them and he was looking up, he could see them far away," said Jackson from his East St. Paul home.
 
"They were coming straight for the yards.  As they got closer to dropping the bombs, he dropped on the ground and laid down, not far from our house.  And he saw the bombs coming down and one went right through our living room window."
 
Jackson, now 94, recalls his boyhood days in Second World War England quite matter-of-factly, but when asked if he was afraid, he simply says 'yeah'.
 
His is an incredible story of life in a time that those who didn't grow up during the Great War can't begin to imagine.  Jackson said the war was in its infancy, and the Germans bombed Liverpool most days, and always around 5 or 6 o'clock.
 
That predictability allowed for families like Jackson's to be somewhat ready, but it also bread a casual attitude amongst some folks, and he said after continual bombings that always seem to miss your house, some people tuned out the sight and sounds of the planes that threatened their daily lives.
 
On the day the bomb went through his living room window, his neighbors on both sides were killed.
 
"A lot of people wouldn't go anywhere, they had nowhere to go, or it was too early, they're having their dinner, and they'd stay.  Unlucky for them, a lot of them were killed," he said.
 
The Jacksons followed wartime protocol, and family members went to different shelters.  Jackson said his mom and baby brother, who was 10 years his junior, would go to one shelter.  His one brother and father would go to another and he and another brother went to a six-by-four-foot shelter with another family.
 
On the day his house was destroyed, he was in his shelter at another house.
 
"I ran to my shelter and I huddled with the mother and the father and their two children, with my other young brother."
 
The bomb hit the house he was in and destroyed it.  The force blew the door right off the shelter, which was made of brick and had an approximately six inch thick concrete roof.  The roof had been lifted and turned before landing back on top of the shelter.
 
"The bomb had hit dead centre.  We looked out and right up to the start of the shelter the hole went down.  I'll never forget it, just a hole and nothing.  It killed a lot of people in our district at that time," he said.
 
Jackson got out of the shelter and ran to find his mother.  He ran past his house, and his mind played a trick on him - he thought his house was still standing.
 
"I ran up the back street and as I'm passing my house I looked in, and the funny thing is, the backyard wall was still up, but the door had been blown off.  As I glanced in, what I thought I saw was the backside of the house," he said.
 
"Anyway I ran and found my mother ... I said the house I was in it's gone, they've got nowhere to live now.  I told them they could come and live with us.  As I'm talking to my mother, my father comes from the wreckage of our house ... My father says to me, 'you haven't got a house'."
 
They moved into a second home nearby and it too was bombed.  Jackson, about 16 by this time, was at a church meeting when a man burst through the doors and told them a 2,000-pound bomb had landed near his house.
 
"I just up and ran.  And I ran and I ran.  I came to the road where we lived right opposite the park and the house was gone.  Oh, was I ever scared," he said.
 
"There was nothing, nothing there."
 
He tried to dig through the collapsed walls and roof to get to the shelter in the basement, but he couldn't.  Bombs were still falling and he began running again, eventually ending up at a nearby college, where he and hundreds of others sought refuge.
 
He said men, women and children lined the basement passageways that served as shelters, and he stepped over them until he found a spot to rest.  He was tired, he'd had no sleep and his world had been destroyed again.
 
"I went right to almost the very end, and there was space so I found a spot and I sat down, pulled my overcoat over me and hat down.  We'd had no sleep, I was so tired, I'd been running everywhere and I just lay down and went fast asleep.
 
"I woke up and I couldn't move ... I panicked and started pushing bodies off me ... I sat up, you couldn't see anything, it was all smoke and dust, you could hear the fire blazing further away and I thought what the heck?"
 
Many in the shelter were dead, and Jackson couldn't move for the bodies.  He also couldn't see, so he waited.  He heard a baby crying, so he felt around and found it.
 
"I picked it up, I opened my coat and I put it inside.  It was crying ... I pulled my overcoat off and fastened the buttons and I stood there.  Gradually the baby stopped crying," he said.
 
"I don't know how long I stood there."
 
Finally, a light shone and a man called out asking if anyone was alive.
 
Jackson called out to him, and followed the light, stepping over dead bodies.  Once outside, he was told to go to a nearby school to report in.  He left the baby with the man there, and then ran back to his toppled home.
 
This time, he was able to dig through to the basement and there, in the shelter under the stairs, was his mother, grandmother and younger brother, all safe.  In fact, his entire family survived both bombings.
 
Jackson was traumatized, and has no recollection of the next three months of his life.  But he eventually got work, which took him away from his home, and then he got called up to the army.
 
He had hoped to be assigned to the Royal Corps of Signals to be a Signal Caller with his brother.

They had both learned Morse Code when they were Boy Scouts, and the skill was important in the army. 
 
Instead, he ended up as a Dispatch Rider, delivering messages for the army on a motorbike.
 
He spent four years in the army and was stationed all over England, Italy and finally, he spent his final nine months in Cairo.
 
He met his wife, Joyce, and they had one daughter in England before moving to Winnipeg.  They had two more children, a daughter and a son.
 
Joyce passed away 18 years ago, and Jackson enjoys playing cards and the occasional visit to the Henderson Legion.
 
 
Pictures:  Jackson today in his East St. Paul home and as a Dispatch Rider in 1942.
 

 

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