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A Nostalgic Look at my Grandma's Youth and Life in Early 20th Century Leeds

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) in her youth in a studio photograph. She was about 12 years old here.

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) in her youth in a studio photograph. She was about 12 years old here.

Grandma was one of four siblings

My grandma, Ivy Garnham, was born in 1908 in Leeds in West Yorkshire. She was one of four siblings, two boys and two girls, whose births spanned around 20 years. Their mother and father were Albert and Laura Garnham (whose maiden name was Tomlinson).

Albert and Laura had met at Sunday school, on a special day to celebrate the end of the harvest in the late 1890s. An outing was held on a huge, open-top carriage, pulled by a horse. As was the norm in those days, they soon started courting and married quite young.

They wed on 4th August 1900 at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel when they were both 21 years old.

Laura (my great-grandma) had their oldest child, Albert, in 1901, when she was first married. Then grandma came along a few years later in 1908.

I am not sure when their youngest brother, Dennis, was born, although I know their youngest sister, Madge, was born in 1918, when Laura was 39 years old. They grew up in Arthington Street in the Hunslet district of Leeds.

Grandma often told mum that it was one of the poorer areas of Leeds when she was a child, where youngsters went barefoot in the streets because their family could not afford to buy them shoes.

Grandma was one of the luckier ones. Although not well off, her family had enough money to manage and she was always smartly attired and never had to go without shoes.

My grandma Ivy Trigg's parents, Albert and Laura Garnham (nee Tomlinson) in their youth in 1900. I feel this is their wedding day on 4th August, as they are both dressed up and someone has written on it: "Mr and Mrs Garnham, 1900".

My grandma Ivy Trigg's parents, Albert and Laura Garnham (nee Tomlinson) in their youth in 1900. I feel this is their wedding day on 4th August, as they are both dressed up and someone has written on it: "Mr and Mrs Garnham, 1900".

Arthington Street in Hunslet, Leeds, the road where my grandma grew up. (This wasn't her house, incidentally - we believe it has long gone now, unfortunately).

Arthington Street in Hunslet, Leeds, the road where my grandma grew up. (This wasn't her house, incidentally - we believe it has long gone now, unfortunately).

But throughout her life, she always had vivid memories of her youth and of those children less fortunate than herself.

She always appreciated what she had and never took anything for granted. She was also very generous and would give someone in need her last penny.

In fact, after grandma died, in 1992, mum donated what little money grandma had left from her pension to the children's charity, Barnardos. This was because grandma had always said, if she came into any money, she would like to help put shoes on poor children's feet.

So the images from her youth of children barefoot in the street had stuck with grandma throughout her entire life.

An old-fashioned bed-warmer which people used in the late 19th and early 20th century in the days before hot water bottles.

An old-fashioned bed-warmer which people used in the late 19th and early 20th century in the days before hot water bottles.

Cold houses without central heating

Grandma's father was a brass finisher by trade and this came in useful in other aspects of day-to-day life too.

In those days, there was no central heating and the houses were freezing cold in winter.

So my great-grandad Garnham made brass hot water bottles himself, which were round and resembled what one might imagine a flying saucer would look like!

There was a hole in the middle of the top in which to put boiling water.

Prior to this, the only way of warming a cold bed was to use a long-handled bed warmer. The hot water bottle made by my grandma's father was vastly better than this. He should have patented it - he would have made a fortune!

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In fact, a Croatian inventor, Slavoljub Eduard Penkala (1871 - 1922) patented the first hot water bottle that was filled with water. But my great grandad Garnham had actually made hot water bottles before this!

Coal fires heated the rooms. I don't think many people truly appreciate what a great innovation central heating is!

My great-grandad also utilised his brass-working skills to make huge sparklers for Bonfire Night, to the delight of the kids!

In those days, it was commonplace for multiple families in the same street to share an outside toilet. There were mostly big families - grandma's own family with only four siblings was relatively small in those days. (My grandad came from a family of ten siblings as an example, as documented in another of my Hubs). So it cannot have been very pleasant having to share a toilet with several big neighbouring families!

They did not have the luxury of quilted toilet paper, incidentally - they cut old newspapers into squares to save money and hung it in the toilet cubicle.

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) as a little girl in Leeds in 1914, when she was six years old.

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) as a little girl in Leeds in 1914, when she was six years old.

Grandma's fear of her religious grandfather

As a child, grandma's maternal grandfather, Samuel Tomlinson, a devout Methodist, was deeply religious. He was a clog-maker and had his own cobbler's shop in the Leeds City Bridge district in the early 1900s.

I have looked through multiple historical documents, but have found very little about this branch of the family, unfortunately.

Grandma often told my mum how she found Grandad Tomlinson quite frightening when she was a child, due to his religious fervour. He had a "fire and brimstone" style of preaching and shouted of the torments of hell.

In later life, he would walk around the streets quoting the Bible - grandma described him as having "religious mania". She was quite scared when he started doing this.

Sadly, his religious obsession led to his commiting suicide in his old age, as he said he wanted to "meet his maker". This must have deeply traumatised my grandma, who was only young at the time.

My great-great-grandad, Mr Tomlinson, father of Laura Garnham (nee Tomlinson) around 1900. He was grandad to Ivy Trigg, my grandma. He would preach the Bible in Leeds' town centre, but scared my grandma with his religious fervour.

My great-great-grandad, Mr Tomlinson, father of Laura Garnham (nee Tomlinson) around 1900. He was grandad to Ivy Trigg, my grandma. He would preach the Bible in Leeds' town centre, but scared my grandma with his religious fervour.

My grandma Ivy Trigg's maternal grandmother - Grandma Tomlinson. I do not have any further information about her.

My grandma Ivy Trigg's maternal grandmother - Grandma Tomlinson. I do not have any further information about her.

The town centre area where my great-great-grandfather Tomlinson had a clog-making and cobbler's shop in the early 1900s.

The town centre area where my great-great-grandfather Tomlinson had a clog-making and cobbler's shop in the early 1900s.

My grandma was not a big church-goer and I don't recall her ever attending church in adulthood, except on occasions such as weddings and christenings.

I wonder whether her experiences with her own grandfather had deterred her.

This photo is captioned "Laura Garnham's sister & husband", so they were my grandma Ivy's aunt and uncle (date unknown). Sadly, I don't know their names.

This photo is captioned "Laura Garnham's sister & husband", so they were my grandma Ivy's aunt and uncle (date unknown). Sadly, I don't know their names.

The wedding of my grandma Ivy Trigg's cousin, who was a singer. I do not have her name. The groom played piano in the cinema in the days of silent films.

The wedding of my grandma Ivy Trigg's cousin, who was a singer. I do not have her name. The groom played piano in the cinema in the days of silent films.

Grandma's musical talents

As a child, grandma had a beautiful singing voice and could also play the piano.

She asked her parents if she could go to singing lessons and "have her voice trained", as she put it, as she wanted to be a singer.

But unfortunately, her dream was never realised. I'm not sure why.

Grandma later found out her cousin had gone to singing lessons and she felt quite envious. The cousin later married a pianist, who played in cinemas in the days of silent films. But we don't know whether the cousin ever became a professional singer.

Either way, grandma wished she had been given the opportunity to train as a singer and she carried on playing the piano all her life, until she was no longer able to do so in old age, sadly, due to arthritis in her fingers.

Older brother had mental health problems

Grandma's older brother, Albert, did not have a very happy life, unfortunately.

Mum was unsure what the problem was, but in those days, before proper psychological assessments were the norm, there was no diagnosis nor drugs to keep his condition under control and enable him to live a normal life. He also suffered from epileptic seizures.

Grandma's memories and mum's re-telling of them are somewhat jumbled on this topic. However, it would appear he was often naughty and as he grew older, his behaviour worsened considerably, until he was out of control in his teens.

Today, with the benefit of medical help, I would imagine some kind of mental disorder would be diagnosed, as grandma's last memory of Albert at home was of him at the age of 14, going crazy and chasing their mother round the house brandishing a carving knife. This would have been in about 1914. She was running for her life.

The family could no longer cope with his outbursts, as he was a threat to himself and everyone else, so reluctantly, they placed him in a nursing home. It was not a "mental home", as they were called in those days, but a privately-run nursing home, where he would have the best of care.

He was still in the nursing home when my mum was a child and she recalled going in the car with her grandparents to visit him every Sunday in the 1930s. By this time, Laura was elderly and mum recalled she had to wear some kind of surgical boot. She became disabled in later years.

Laura would remain in the car most times. I believe it was because she was so upset at her son being in a home and "not in his right mind". It had been her husband Albert senior's decision to put their son in a nursing home.

It must have cost them a considerable amount of money to put him in a privately-run facility in those days and not the "asylum", but they wanted the best of care for him.

Garnham family photo, showing my grandma as a young girl with her brothers. This was before their sister Madge was born.

Garnham family photo, showing my grandma as a young girl with her brothers. This was before their sister Madge was born.

My mum (pictured as a child in the 1930s) recalled visits to a private mental health facility in Leeds to visit her uncle Albert, her mum's older brother, where he lived from the age of 14.

My mum (pictured as a child in the 1930s) recalled visits to a private mental health facility in Leeds to visit her uncle Albert, her mum's older brother, where he lived from the age of 14.

Mum remembered well their visits, even though she would have been under ten years old at the time.

On arrival, she and her grandfather would knock on the door, as it resembled a large private house, although some of the residents' windows had bars on the outside. It was somewhere out in the countryside, on the outskirts of Leeds.

When they knocked, mum recalled some of the young men who were residents looking out of their windows.

My great-grandad always took gifts for all the residents, including sweets and cigarettes, which he handed out on arrival. Everyone was always grateful.

Grandma Ivy Trigg's brother Albert in 1914, in his early teens. He spent the rest of his life in a residential home because he had mental health problems and severe epilepsy. The family visited him regularly.

Grandma Ivy Trigg's brother Albert in 1914, in his early teens. He spent the rest of his life in a residential home because he had mental health problems and severe epilepsy. The family visited him regularly.

When they visited Albert, they always took him a food parcel of treats that they knew he liked. They would sit and talk. However, on one occasion, mum recalled young Albert having an epileptic fit during their visit. It was very frightening and her grandad told her to go straight back to the car while nurses at the home tended to him.

Mum remembered seeing another resident, an older gent, wandering round on their visits. He was not a danger to anyone and was allowed to wander freely around the home and grounds. He was labeled as "backward" and was nicknamed "Old Cootie". He was a loner and used to spend his days outdoors bird-watching.

Albert junior remained in the home until his untimely death in 1939. Mum's grandad Garnham told her he had died of a broken heart because he missed his mum. However, I would imagine his death at such a young age was connected to his epilepsy.

Children queue up for vaccinations - something grandma, mum and I never had to do.

Children queue up for vaccinations - something grandma, mum and I never had to do.

No vaccinations for any of the siblings

One thing grandma recalled was the fact that her parents thought the smallpox vaccination might be to blame for young Albert's health problems.

In those days, it was compulsory for children to have this vaccination in school. However, it appeared to be after this that Albert's health and other issues began.

As a result, my grandma and the other younger siblings did not have any vaccinations.

In order to be excused from the mandatory jabs, they needed a letter from a church official or some other similar official, including a doctor, to state the children were not to have the vaccination.

Incidentally, this is a tradition that has continued in our family to this day on my mum's side. She did not have any vaccinations in school herself and nor did my older brother and I.

Grandma's sister Madge

With there being a ten-year age gap between my grandma and her little sister, Madge, grandma always looked after and looked out for her young sibling.

When grandma was in her teens, Madge fell quite ill after falling off her bicycle. She had gone flying through the air and landed on a metal pole, which was used to hold up the washing line. It cut her leg open quite badly.The cut soon went septic and Madge used to scream in pain. Her leg was very inflamed and swollen.

There were no antibiotics and my grandma used to apply a poultice of bread soaked in boiling water to the wound, squeezing out some of the hot water to "draw" out the poison. This agonizing treatment had to be carried out several times a day, until the inflammation subsided and the wound healed.

Afterwards, Madge always said that grandma had saved her leg.

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) as a young woman in the 1920s, when she was credited with having saved her sister Madge's leg when it was septic and she was very ill.

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) as a young woman in the 1920s, when she was credited with having saved her sister Madge's leg when it was septic and she was very ill.

When Madge was at school (early 1920s) the little girls wore boots that fastened up the leg with many buttons and metal hooks at the top. There were no boots with zips at that time and it was a long, laborious task putting the boots on and taking them off again.

When the weather was wet, the school teacher had to take off the pupils' coats and often their boots to dry them when they arrived.

There was no central heating and they would have been freezing had they sat in wet clothes all day.

In the classroom was a large coal fire. This would probably not be permitted today for health and safety reasons!

But the pupils' outer clothes were hung around it to dry out in the winter. Then the teacher must put the children's boots on again. Madge said the teacher hated doing it, as it was such a time-consuming job.

Grandma's little brother, Dennis

By the time grandma's youngest brother, Dennis, was born, grandma was growing up fast. I am not sure when exactly Dennis was born, but it was some years after grandma.

Unfortunately, he suffered from asthma all his life and was never 100 per cent well.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, when Dennis was a young man, he desperately wanted to join the Army and go abroad with the troops. But he failed the Army medical due to his asthma and was upset that he wouldn't be able to join up.

Determined to aid the war effort somehow, he became involved in civilian duties - I am not sure if it was the Home Guard , but he was deployed to London, where he became a fire-fighter. He was usually found putting out the fires in bombed-out streets and houses, rescuing the survivors.

It was hard work and with London being the capital, of course, it was frequently bombed quite heavily, so Dennis was continually working in a smoky environment. Needless to say, this made his asthma worse. It was ironic that he could not join the Army due to asthma, yet ended up doing a civilian job which was probably far worse for his health.

He never recovered from asthma his entire life, but had been so determined to help the war effort that in a way, he sacrificed his health for his country.

Grandma's younger brother Dennis Garnham.

Grandma's younger brother Dennis Garnham.

My grandma as a young woman (exact date unknown)

My grandma as a young woman (exact date unknown)

Hunslet Mills, site of many of the district's industrial premises when my grandma was growing up in the area in the 1920s.

Hunslet Mills, site of many of the district's industrial premises when my grandma was growing up in the area in the 1920s.

Going out to work at age 13

My grandma left school at the age of just 13 in 1921. This was the average age for leaving school in those days. There was no chance of progressing to university for someone such as my grandma, from a working class background.

Grandma had wanted to work at the local woollen factory, but her mother wouldn't let her. Although grandma quite fancied working there, it wasn't a particularly well-paid job, nor was it one held in high esteem.

So my great-grandma Laura put her foot down and said no! (My mum said afterwards she felt Laura was a bit of a snob, really). Laura herself was a tailoress, according to her marriage certificate.

Instead, my grandma had to find work in a sewing factory, where the pay was higher, but it was very hard, monotonous work.

There were many industrial premises in Hunslet and my grandma was never out of work in her younger days with her sewing skills.

It was a skill which came in useful throughout grandma's life, as she was a skilled seamstress. She also taught herself to knit and made many of my outfits when I was a child.

Incidentally, grandma's lifelong admiration of the late singer, Frankie Vaughan, began when she worked in the sewing factory, as one of her colleagues was the young Frankie's cousin. She always followed his career with interest and went to see his show many times, particularly in old age.

I have documented this in more detail in my other Hub about grandma's life as a seaside landlady in the 1950s.

My grandma during World War Two, when she worked in a munitions factory

My grandma during World War Two, when she worked in a munitions factory

Women working at a Yorkshire munitions factory during World War Two.

Women working at a Yorkshire munitions factory during World War Two.

Working life

My grandma continued with factory work throughout the 1920s, although she married my grandad, Frank Trigg, in 1927. Mum told me grandma and grandad Trigg had gone to the same school. I'm not sure when they started courting, as grandad was a couple of years older.

Grandma took time out from work, as a newly-wed, to start a family - my mum Audrey (born 1928) and my uncle Ken, born a couple of years later.

As mentioned earlier in this Hub, my great-grandfather Garnham was a skilled brass finisher, who worked for many years for a small firm run by two brothers.

When he retired, they were so pleased with the loyal service he had given them during his working life that they gave him a pension for life. This was unheard of in those days and meant financial security for the family into old age.

After the birth of Audrey and Kenneth, my grandma did return to work and at the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, she chose to work in a munitions factory to help the war effort. My grandad, in the RAF, was serving abroad during the war, as detailed in my earlier Hub about his life.

My mum told me grandma didn't have to go back to work, but she wanted to "do her bit" for the war effort. The factory made detonators for torpedoes. She worked on a drilling machine. However, it made her ill.

A white liquid was poured on to the shells during the process - I presume it was the coolant I have seen described when I researched this - and it gave grandma a bad chest and bronchitis, which she suffered for the rest of her life.

Her health became so poor that reluctantly, she had to leave the factory.

She then took a job at a grocer's shop on Balm Road, Hunslet, called Gallons. It was not far from where grandma had grown up. The shop was managed by a lady who had two children, whose husband was away with the troops.

It was also near to where her mother-in-law, Anne Trigg lived. My grandma would visit Anne, a widow, at lunchtime and take her food.

The shops on Balm Road,Hunslet, in the 1940s. Gallons, the food shop where grandma worked, was on the left.

The shops on Balm Road,Hunslet, in the 1940s. Gallons, the food shop where grandma worked, was on the left.

One day when grandma arrived, the Catholic priest was at the house. He asked grandma to leave and come back later because she was not a Catholic, while her mother-in-law was.

Grandma's mother-in-law, Anne Trigg

Grandma's mother-in-law, Anne Trigg

Grandma found out that as well as looking after people and praying with them, he also asked them for money for the church, which was presumably why he had asked grandma to leave!

She felt he was taking advantage of an old lady and told him off in no uncertain terms!

Grandma was always like that - very forthright and straight talking!

She stayed with her mother-in-law and refused to let her hand over any money. She was fuming that the priest had asked her to leave her own mum-in-law's house!

Family wedding

Grandma had been married for some years and had two children when her younger sister, Madge, met the love of her life, Bill Brown.

Their romance was not without its problems - mainly caused by their mother, who already had a beau lined up for her youngest daughter! He was a wealthy local man called Alan Stokes, who had a car and who wanted to court Madge.

Madge Brown (nee Garnham) who was my grandma's younger sister, pictured in later life on a holiday to the seaside.

Madge Brown (nee Garnham) who was my grandma's younger sister, pictured in later life on a holiday to the seaside.

But Madge was quite headstrong and was determined to marry for love and not money. This was in the 1930s, before the Second World War.

So Madge started dating Bill in secret. Madge borrowed her father's car and told her parents she was taking her young niece, my mum Audrey, out. But she was meeting Bill secretly and instead parked the car up and hopped over a wall to go for a walk with him, leaving mum sitting in the car and sworn to secrecy!

Eventually, Madge married Bill, whose mother was French and very pretty.

They were wed for many years and had three children, Sandra, Shirley and Paul.

During a holiday to France, to visit their son, Paul, who lived there when he grew up, Madge and Bill were stunned when they saw a statue of a French princess in a museum and it looked just like their daughter Sandra! They often wondered after that if Bill's mother had been descended from the French aristocracy.

Bill had a problem with one ear and as a child had a serious operation and had lost his eardrum. He had to wear cotton wool in that ear for the rest of his life. Yet during the Second World War, initially he was put on the guns and searchlight. The noise gave him problems with his other ear and eventually, he was taken off the frontline duties and became a "batman".

This was the term used for a soldier or airman who was assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant in the offices.

In civilian life, Bill worked as a compositor for the Yorkshire Post newspaper. He would arrange the type ready for for printing into a composing machine in the days of "hot metal", long before the modern, computerized production of newspapers. He worked from around 8pm until the wee small hours getting the paper "off the press" and ready to deliver to the news stands.

Eventually, he went after a better job, still in the newspaper industry, which led to the family moving to Timperley in Altrincham.

Mum recalled her Aunty Madge once took her to see Bill at work and she was fascinated by the newspaper press, seeing each completed page come off the end of the line of machinery.

Paul Brown

Paul Brown

Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown

Shirley Brown

Shirley Brown

Family illness and the isolation hospital

When grandma was a young woman in the 1930s, her son, my uncle Ken, fell very ill with scarlet fever. He was only about six or seven at the time.

It was a serious illness in those days which caused a sore throat, high temperature and a rash. It is not as common today and with antibiotics is much easier to treat.

Complications due to the spread of the infection could occur and may include ear infection, throat infection and possibly an abscess, sinus infection and even pneumonia.

When Ken fell ill, he was taken away to hospital and had to be put in isolation, as it was highly contagious.

The family expected my mum to develop symptoms of the disease, as when she and Ken were small, they used to share a bed.

But amazingly, my mum escaped the infection, although Ken was away at the isolation hospital for some time. He made a full recovery and suffered no lasting effects.

For less serious ailments, my great-grandad Garnham used to make his own remedies, such as cough mixture. Mum did not know what the ingredients were (apart from she said one was made with liquorice sticks!) but he would boil it in a big pan over the open fire.

He had a cure for almost everything. As a child, mum had ear-ache and grandma put some kind of hot liquid solution, made by my great-grandad, in her ear. This softened the wax and made it come away, which cured the ear-ache, but I don't imagine it felt very pleasant!

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) as a young mum with her youngest child, my uncle Ken, who developed scarlet fever as a youngster.

My grandma Ivy Trigg (nee Garnham) as a young mum with her youngest child, my uncle Ken, who developed scarlet fever as a youngster.

Over-the-counter cures for ailments

In those days, the family would pay the doctor out of their own pocket, as the National Health Service was not launched until 1948.

The chemist's shop was useful too for over-the-counter cures for everyday ailments.

When mum and Ken were little, they both caught impetigo on their faces. This is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection, causing blisters and sores. It was very painful.

Mum's infection was on her chin and because it could be spread by touch, the school nurse used to cover it with a white sticking plaster (mum said it was more like a piece of carpet tape). This was very painful and gave the infection no chance to heal. When it was pulled off, it was agony and made her chin bleed.

Grandma marched the kids off to the chemist's, where they were prescribed some kind of ointment, which worked. They were going on their holiday to the seaside and she asked what they should do with regard to going in the sea. The chemist, a lady, said playing in the sea would be good for their skin and would help clear the infection.

In those days, the 1930s, mum said the sea was lovely and clean (no pollution) and the salt water helped the infection heal properly.

As an adult, mum read an article about the Dead Sea and how it cured a variety of ailments and remembered how, as a child, she had been cured by sea-water.

My mum Audrey Evans (nee Trigg) and her little brother Kenneth in 1932.

My mum Audrey Evans (nee Trigg) and her little brother Kenneth in 1932.

Chased by protective geese!

Grandma and grandad had moved to an area called Southleigh Estate in around 1937.

It was a lovely area for the children to grow up, as it was on the outskirts of Middleton Woods and there were plenty of adventures to be had.

When grandma was young, Middleton Woods had been private land. The owner was a lady she knew as Miss Maud, who lived in a huge mansion house on the land. She was very well-to-do and had never married.

She had planned on leaving her estate to her nephew, but tragically, he was killed in the 1914-18 war and she had no other relatives. So Miss Maud had given the land to Leeds Council and it became a local beauty spot which members of the public could now visit.

The grounds were properly maintained by the council gardeners and included a rose garden and mum remembers the beautiful displays of bluebells to this day.

The huge house became the golf clubhouse. There was also a boating lake and shrubberies.

The old gamekeeper's cottage in Middleton Woods.

The old gamekeeper's cottage in Middleton Woods.

During a family day out to Middleton Woods, mum recalled they saw a small cottage nestling amid the greenery.

As they approached, a lady rushed out and told them not to go near her gate. Suddenly, there was a terrible commotion as all her geese, protecting the property, started running at the gate to warn off the intruders!

It transpired the lady was a widow who grew her own fruit and vegetables and sold them to make a living. Her geese were better than any guard dog!

She was complaining that kids kept stealing her apples, which she needed to sell.

At one time, it had been the gamekeeper's cottage when the woods had been a private estate.

On this particular day, the Trigg family heard some terrible news. As the widow stood in her doorway, chatting, she suddenly told my mum to, "Sshhhh!" and be quiet. She was listening to the radio.

The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, was making a broadcast to the nation on the BBC at 11am. It was 3rd September, 1939, the day he announced that a state of war existed between Britain and Germany.