6 Babies, Bombs, and Blackouts

by admin on October 14, 2010

In 1934 , at twenty-two, Harold Bingham and Ida Dunwell, then age 18, were married in a small chapel in Totley Rise, on the outskirts of Sheffield. In attendance were her grandmother Elizabeth and her father, Samuel Dunwell, Jr.  Suffering from a rare form of senility, Ida’s mother was unable to attend. (Today she would probably be diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease.)  Harold was represented by two of his sisters and several other extended family members and friends.

Several years went by and Harold began working his way up the steel ladder.  A son, Alex, came along in 1938.  The future looked bright for this ambitious young family man.  Then, in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland.  Overnight the world as they knew it would change forever.  As a major producer of coal and steel, Sheffield was a constant target of Hitler’s nighttime bombing raids.  Normal everyday items quickly became scarce as Nazi U-boats sank much needed supplies from the United States.  Britain stood alone literally an island isolated from the rest of the world, the last bastion of freedom from Nazi tyranny.

During the war it was necessary to observe “blackouts” at night.  Not a single light or candle or even a match could be struck in fear that Nazi night bombers would use the light to home in on their targets.  It was during one of these blackout nights in the summer of 1943 that son Michael was born. Doctors and nurses brought the child into the world totally by feel.  The family story goes that no one knew the gender of the baby until daylight the next day.

With the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered the war with zeal and determination to avenge the loss of so many on December 7.  But, Americans would never know the agony of being bombed out of their homes.  The decimation of Britain would take five years. The restoration of her psyche and infrastructure would take decades.  Postwar Britain held a bleak future for the Binghams and many other families on this war torn island.  Wretched poverty and terrible living conditions, however, were not enough to break the spirit of this strong-willed Englishman.

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