Witness

Witness

Oral History Project at the University of Sheffield
Full list of Witness Oral Histories
The following list is the full collection of Oral Histories collected by the Witness project, organised by year. 2017-18 Interviews Katherine Leigh interviewing John Dixon Torin Page interviewing Sue Beardon Emily Gee interviewing Lyn Armstrong...
WALKLEY ACTION GROUP
Walkley is a suburb to the North-West of Sheffield city centre. The close-knit community that thrives there today is a result of strong community action in the late sixties and early seventies. In 1970 Walkley...

About Us

The Witness Project is based at the University of Sheffield’s Department of History. Witness was set up in 2011 by two of the department’s historians, Charles West and Andrew Heath, to collect and preserve Sheffield’s past through the medium of oral history. The interviews are carried out by trained history students in their second year who are tasked with conducting a number of interviews with residents of the city.

The Witness Project is now in its seventh year. Over the years we have collected over fifty interviews, all readily accessible via our online archive. Our work has uncovered lesser known aspects of Sheffield’s history, as well as personal thoughts and anecdotes that provide valuable insight into life in Sheffield in the twentieth century. We have interviews covering everything from the Sheffield Blitz to Sheffield’s nightclubs!

Thanks to all those who’ve supported the Witness oral history project: Charles West, Andrew Heath, Daniel Lee, Michelle Winslow, Jessica Hill, Richita Bhattacharyya, Sarah Kenny, Liz Goodwin, Georgia Trelogan, Will Roberts and James Pearson. Above all, though, thanks to our amazing interviewees – the people who make Sheffield special.

Project on Jewish Sheffield

Photo of Nathan Lapatnick, who fled the Russian Empire in 1890

Witness, together with students in the university, have produced an insightful and fascinating project interviewing and exploring the lives of Jewish communities living in and around Sheffield. Focusing upon life during the 20th century growing up in the city of Sheffield, many interviewees gave their personal testimonies to their own individual circumstances as well as experiences of or after World War II. This Oral History Project adds to our ever-growing discovering of Sheffield's history.

Interview with Steve Bush
Interviewers: Laura Neilson Transcript: Steve Bush keyword transcript (pdf)
Read More "Interview with Steve Bush"
Interview with Jo Burns
Interviewers: Laura Neilson Transcript: Jo Burns keyword transcript (pdf)
Read More "Interview with Jo Burns"
Interview with John Dixon
" Interviewers: Katherine Leigh Transcript: Katy Leigh interviewing John Dixon (PDF)
Read More "Interview with John Dixon"
Interview with Sue Beardon
" Interviewers: Torin Page Transcript Torin Page interviewing Sue Beardon (pdf)
Read More "Interview with Sue Beardon"
Interview with Shelagh Woolliscroft
Interviewers: Isobel Ashby Isobel Ashby interviewing SHELAGH WOOLLISCROFT transcript (PDF)
Read More "Interview with Shelagh Woolliscroft"
Interview with Angela Lam
"" Isobel Ashby ANGELA LAM transcript (PDF) Interviewer: Isobel Ashby  
Read More "Interview with Angela Lam"
Interview with Jack Cooper
 Interview: keyword transcript Main themes covered: To follow. To follow. Interviewer: Charlene Bates
Read More "Interview with Jack Cooper"
Interview with Joan Creswick
Interview: keyword transcript Main themes covered: To follow. To follow. Interviewer: Charlene Bates
Read More "Interview with Joan Creswick"
Interview with Steve Bush
Interviewers: Laura Neilson Transcript: Steve Bush keyword transcript (pdf)
Read More "Interview with Steve Bush"
Interview with Jo Burns
Interviewers: Laura Neilson Transcript: Jo Burns keyword transcript (pdf)
Read More "Interview with Jo Burns"
Interview with John Dixon
" Interviewers: Katherine Leigh Transcript: Katy Leigh interviewing John Dixon (PDF)
Read More "Interview with John Dixon"
Interview with Sue Beardon
" Interviewers: Torin Page Transcript Torin Page interviewing Sue Beardon (pdf)
Read More "Interview with Sue Beardon"
Interview with Shelagh Woolliscroft
Interviewers: Isobel Ashby Isobel Ashby interviewing SHELAGH WOOLLISCROFT transcript (PDF)
Read More "Interview with Shelagh Woolliscroft"
Interview with Angela Lam
"" Isobel Ashby ANGELA LAM transcript (PDF) Interviewer: Isobel Ashby  
Read More "Interview with Angela Lam"
Interview with Jack Cooper
 Interview: keyword transcript Main themes covered: To follow. To follow. Interviewer: Charlene Bates
Read More "Interview with Jack Cooper"

Featured: Jewish Sheffield

The Woolman family is of a Jewish family who travelled to the UK from Lithuania in the 1860s and settled in Sheffield. The orphan boy is my father, David Brown, whose mother was Annie Woolman, and who was brought up in Sheffield by his grandparents, Mark and Fanny Woolman after his parents’ deaths when he was six. You will see that there is a picture of Paradise Square which was the centre of Jewish life in the early years of the twentieth century, and a picture of the Hebrew School in 1910. There is also a photo of the science class at the Central School, Sheffield, in 1926, which includes my father. Note the bare boards on the school​ room floor.

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Adam Peach interviewing Jack Watt

Adam Peach interview with Mr John Watt, 2nd February 2016, Loxely Park Care Home, Sheffield. Grew up in York during the war and enlisted into the RAF in 1945. Became head of history at Newcastle University after the war.

 

0.0 – 3.20: Early Life – Born in York on the 29th March 1927. Eldest of 8 children, mother worked at Rowntrees, father worked on the railway. Attended primary school at St. Wilfreds and then on to Leeds St. Michael’s college from 1937 until 1944. Strong Catholic Upbringing. War was difficult for school but enjoyed sport, discipline was very tough. Enjoyed football and cricket. Joined the air Training Corps at 14. Joined the University Air squadron.

3.21 – 6.40: Outbreak of war – Listened to Chamberlain’s address, very sobering, but also slightly excited. Recalls finding his mother crying quietly whilst preparing the blackout. Knew prior that war was inevitable.  Viewed Chamberlain as a worker for peace.

6.41 – 12.00: Memories of the effect of the war in York: Fall of France as the moment when the war became more serious. Memories of hearing about Dunkirk. Recalls seeing the suffering of some soldiers who had been visiting York. Recalls seeing Hurricanes frequently practice in the skies around York.

 

12.01 -16.48: Experiences of RAF bombers over York. John reveals a scar down his right leg from climbing over a fence. Recalls witnessing an RAF bomber explode over York in September 1943. Messenger in the Civil defence at the time. Recalls the horror of finding the mangled body of an airman. Frequent nightmares. Occurred after the bombers had formed up for a raid.

 

16.49 – 33.51: Memories of the Blitz – memories of the York raid. Had a job of blowing a whistle to alert the locals of an incoming raid. Recalls gas mask fittings as a child. York received evacuees from Hull, recalls the poverty of the people involved. Sound of the guns around York frightening, had an Anderson shelter in his father’s back garden. His school in Leeds was evacuated, went to an alternative school in York.

 

33.52 – 39.00: Opinions and news – Found out about the war via radio. Peak periods such as when Germany invaded Russia. Usually BBC news. Good opinion of Churchill, but not without his flaws. Recalls Churchill visiting Leeds during the 1945 election campaign. Parents were supporters of Clement Attlee. Voted for Labour in  1950.

 

39.01 – 40.30: Memories of rationing: Can’t recall rationing effecting his families lives. Entitled to more than they were using, mother was good at making do with what she had. People living on own effected more.

 

40.31 – 52.30: Memories of significant events – Memories of the build up to D-day, vast military presence. Knew the invasion was going to happen. Soldiers frequently visited from Stockton, last were Military policemen. Job was to direct traffic on the beaches. Got friendly with a MP from Devon, gave him his football boots. Used to chat with the soldiers when on exercise. Big Canadian presence in York. Knew Britain would win the war after the Americans entered and Germany invaded Russia. Fear of Japanese war, had to be fought brutally half way around the world. VE day celebrated in the union at Leeds.

 

52.32 – 61.00: Post War RAF service – Joined up on the 3rd September 1945. Taken allegiance in March. Air crew receiving centre first part of training and aptitude tests. Spent first weeks farming until superiors decided where they were needed. Became an RT operator, posted to Germany. Had to guide planes through an air corridor across Germany to Berlin. Stationed on Lüneburg Heath from December 1946 to March 1948.

61.01 – 66.00: Memories of Post war Germany – Helped ex Luftwaffe Navigator who had been a POW to improve his English to become a translator. Germans very friendly. Went through Braunschweig, heavily bombed in an RAF uniform, no reaction from Germans. Convinced there was going to be a war with Russia, British on Germany’s side.