James 'Jim' Evans 1918 - 19

Jim was born 30 December 1918, married 20 March 1930 while serving in the Royal Navy to Lilian Makin, eldest daughter of Peter and Harriet Makin. I am indebted to Jim, although I never met him, we corresponded for a few years and he has written his life story which can be found below.

I am equally indebted to Lilian, Jim's widow for collecting together all the photographs in many of these ages and allowing me to make copies of them. And answering hundreds of questions when I visited in 1998.

The Jim Evans Story, written by Jim Evans

Editor:  JIM wrote this after we had corresponded. Sadly he died before we could meet. I did meet his widow Joyce who gave me lots more info. She has gone too.  This is his story - I haven't corrected the spelling or grammar. Read it with a South Yorkshire accent:

Retirement gives one plenty of time to sit back and …

“ old times, good times and bad but always somehow having a touch of humour. In 1926 during the strike, my old man used to take me coal picking on Stubbin Tip. I was only eight at the time - we used to go up Haugh Lane and down a track to Bank Cottages which was pretty steep and pulling a barrow of coal up was no Joke. He used to tie me to the barrow for two reasons - one to help him pull, the other so I couldn’t run off.

This barrow was a home made effort about 6 feet long and three feet wide with wheels off old wringing machines or mangles as they were called. The axle was made by “Old Footit” the blacksmith at the top of Pottery Street. Funny name for anyone, but a popular one. If anything went wrong down Pottery Street where I was born, you could hear them shout his name or something like it.]

Bank Cottages was where Tommy Machin lived and in later years while working for the Coal Board at a bore-hole that went down into the old Barnsley seam, we found out, me and our George, that if you got one of Tommy’s hens and stuffed it down the hole which was about a foot in diameter. The pressure would build up and then blow the hen about 10 feet up in the air, or you could catch a hen, tuck it’s head under it’s wing, rock it a few times and it would be fast asleep. We had about six in a row one day, when he came to feed them, (but) he didn’t like it one bit. He said, “‘Ow do yer think they going to lay eggs if you keep putting them to sleep?”

When I was fourteen I started work at New Stubbin Colliery and the and the first few days were a bit rough, the older lads used to play all kinds of tricks on you. But after a while I was as bad as the rest. I stopped at Stubbin till about 1935 and times were bad, work a week,  lake a week, listen for the buzzer at 11:30 - if it went there was no work for the afternoon shift so I packed up and got a job at Sheffield Steel Products. There I was one of seventeen in a shop which was a long place with about fifty women. I though, “this is going to be great fun”. We were polishing and packing knives on a contract. But I think the women were more educated that miners as far as language was concerned. The money was twice as much as I’d been getting at the pit. The only snag was after six months, the contract finished and so did I.

So it was pit work again, but with a difference - this time “Miner Drainage”. It was keeping working pits clear of water by installing pumps in old pits to pump water out, as underground, nearly all pits in the area are connected.

New Stubbin Colliery was located north of

Greasborough Lane.

The colliery is now a stores centre for

other local pits.

"There were at least three pits at Stubbin which

were situated to the west of Rawmarsh.

The land on which they stood belonged to

Wentworth Estates and the pit was owned

by Earl Fitzwilliam's Collieries Co. Ltd.

up to nationalisation. The first sod of the

new colliery development was cut by

Viscount Milton son of Earl Fitzwilliam on

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Nov 14, 1913  and it took until 1915 to complete the sinking. One source has it that in 1920 Higher and Lower Stubbin Collieries closed. In 1933 Earl Fitzwilliam Collieries Co. registered and sank another pit called New Stubbin which reached the Parkgate seam, with the Thorncliffe seam being reached in 1933.

Stubbin is a derelict site much abused by bikie boys, yobs with air rifles, car wreckers, tyre burners, fly tippers and arsonists that neither the police nor the local wardens care to tackle. Having said that it is also a haven for wildlife. Walk up there on a day when the snow has left a good dusting on the ground and you can see the pug marks of many foxes, feral cats, rabbit, hare, and weasels criss-crossing the open areas. The site is home to many species of birds, insects and wildflowers and in my opinion it is more deserving of Nature Reserve Status than many area that have it already."

New Stubbin Colliery - then and now

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At seventeen my main hobby was football but like all the lads I used to chase the lasses, but always came back to one who lived in our yard, and from the age of twelve we haven’t been very far apart from one another, apart from the war that is, and she is still ordering me about. My wife Lilian I mean, not that I take any notice of her.

In them days Pottery Street had all the mod cons, ash middins, dry closets, blackclocks and bugs. When it was hot they used to come out - the bugs I mean, and feed on you - sucking blood. If they had a feed off our old man, they’d be drunk for three days. We used to chase them up the bedroom wall with a candle. But you had to watch em - they’d turn around and blow it out. The ash midden with a dry closet at each end was terrible, if you went round the back where the men used to empty them about once a month and opened the door, you could see the holes of the day closet and any one’s shining face who happened to be in session. But it didn’t pay to put your head too far in, you might get plastered with a “choc ice”. Blackclocks were in there (by the) thousands. We had plenty, but the neighbours used to say they hadn’t any in their house. We tried all sorts - tar, plastering holes up, but the best stuff was called “Eatum” from the chemists, you had to sprinkle it about and they used to eat one another until there was only one left and we used to kill that with a seven pound hammer.

Speaking of tar, it was used for lots of things beside roads. Our old fellow always had a drum full of it for on top of the hut, it kept the rain out, or if you had a cold and inhaled it, (it was) supposed to cure it. They even had tar band round the dogs neck for distemper.

One day we were playing in the hut, me, two mates and three lasses and one of them laid on the seat and in them days they only wore bloomers if it was their turn, there weren’t many about. Somehow her frock was disarranged - that’s a big word - and behold what is that! Choose whatever it was. Doctor Evans decided it was distemper and gave it a stroke of the old tar brush. I didn’t know at the time their real purpose was for cracking nuts. That episode got me a real hiding - pit boot up the arse and a belting, not for the tar, but for the half pound best lard it cost to get it off.

Working at nights was a great pastime as you could really depend on fine weather in summer before, but not now. Right up Cortworth Lane past Elsecar Reservoir and back up Botley Bank calling at a few orchards for a few windfalls to eat on the way.

Some of the girls who we were knocking about with went to work at Blackpool or St. Anns (Lytham St Anns) and it was a problem getting to see them, which we soon solved. We used to buy a pocket watch from Seniors at a bob a week, take it next door and pawn it for thirty bob - the train fare to Blackpool was 5/9d return so two of us were OK for off with a bit of spendo. All that way for a wrestle on the sandhills!

Getting back to the working part of the life which was now at the Mines Drainage, we used to bike to work each day. If you hadn’t a bike you hadn’t a job and a lot of time was at an old pit called Hemmingfield. There was me, Arthur Murfin and Herbert Riley with one or two older men to look after us. One in particular was Tommy Allen from Mexboro, who had been a top line amateur boxer in his younger days, also a bit of a joker. He came one morning and offered some chocolate drops round. It must have been my lucky day, I didn’t bother, but Herbert had a couple and it wasn’t long before his trousers were up and down like a yo-yo. They were number 9 physic tablets.

About this time the government was calling lads at twenty up for 6 months training in case of war, so four of us decided to have a ‘holiday’. We went to Cutlers Hall Sheffield and passed with a choice - I decided on the Royal Navy, not being a great walker. I’d heard enough from my elder brother Ernest (Cuffty) Evans. He was a bit a scrapper at one time and was well known as the man who kicked a football across no-mans land as they advanced towards Haveringcourt during the Battle of Cambria during World War (One) 1914-1918. He lost his arm to an exploding bullet seven days after the attack but received the Military Medal for bravery.

There were some right cases went for medicals. Herbert Riley chose the RN but finished up in the Black Watch and was later taken prisoner at Hong Kong for the rest of the War. One came out of the medical room with a face as long as a fiddle. He wore a bad truss for a rupture and was medically exempt. One of the lads who didn’t want to go asked if he could borrow it when he went in. The chap said to the doctor.

“M.E. - Medically exempt, doctor.”     “No”, said the doctor, “Middle East! If you can wear a truss upside down, you can ride a camel.”

I was sent calling up papers to report to HMS Royal Arthur Training Depot at Skegness, but I was a fortnight late going. When I did get there I looked like being shot - absent without leave during war time, and I wasn’t even in the RN yet!

After that I think they picked on me. I did thirty days “jankers” punishment in the first two months, ten days for this, ten days for that, ten days for the other, but after that I’d had enough and from then on, anyone in a blue uniform and pear cap I saluted smartly - postmen, salvation army, railway porters, anybody.

It was early in December 1939 and I was being put through the final training routine down at Devenport the Naval Barracks. Like bing in jail - you dare not cough without written permission, I met a lad called Danny Newbert from off Kilnhurst Road, Rawmarsh, so we pulled about together. Then in March 1940 we got drafted to HMS Destroyer Valentine. It was a grand ship and on her trials in Plymouth  which were to take about three weeks. I put in a request for leave to get married. It was the only way you could get leave and it had forced put so I had to tell the Captain a little lie.

I was married by special licence at Rawmarsh Parish Church by Canon Scoveal on 20th March 1940 to my childhood sweetheart Lilian Makin, a grand lass and still is although she ought to have been in the forces - the orders she gives me now I’m retired!

Back at Plymouth on HMS Valentine which was by the way a V & W class destroyer which carried twin turrets of 4.7mm guns, Bofors Oilekons, torpedo tubes and depth chargers, trials were nearly over and time to go. On 15 May 1940, we were sent as an anti-aircraft ship on the coast of Holland along with other destroyers of the same group.  It was bad at the time our troops were being attacked by Junkers and Stuka dive bombers, and it was our job to try and knock them down. I believe we were credited with 3 before we were hit by a stick of 4 bombs and started to go down. We managed to get off, me along with John Fountain and swam to a Carley float and finally got to shore about 45 of us out of 150. Danny Newbert was one of the unlucky ones. This was on the 15th May 1940 and after 4 days of walking and rides on lorries through Holland and Belgium we got to Dunkirk Naval Barracks in France, kitted up in French uniform and sent home on survivors leave.  Ed - Lucky Jim - this was just 2 weeks before the Dunkirk evacuation.

Above - Jim Evans;  Below - ?, Lily and Jim

Photos donated by Lilian Evans

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This is a picture of HMS Valentine - Jim would have been in board. More here.

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Photo taken by Rino Tofoli during the first days of World War II. Ghislaine Tofoli-de Meijer is looking at the temporary grave of the British sailors, who lost their lives in the defence of the southern part of the Netherlands”. And the ship is beached.

Ed:  Jim glosses over this, but in fact it would have been a terrifying experience. This is from Wikepedia: "After completing an ugrade, Valentine joined the Nore Command, responsible for East coast convoys, transferring to Dover Command in May. Valentine was one of four destroyers deployed to the Scheldt estuary to support demolition operations and the evacuation of shipping from Antwerp. While providing AA cover to Allied troops, Valentine was damaged by dive bombers on 15 May 1940, and beached near Terneuzen.  31 of Valentine's crew were killed, with a further 21 injured."  The ship is still laying there, due the fact of possible explosives and a very nearby factory. With very low tide the bow is still visible in the mud. 

The report about the Valentine was on the news and my family were very happy to see me. And after about 10 days of being treated like a hero and kissed and hugged by Mrs Price, I got a recall and zi joined HMS Whitehall on 30 June 1940.

Whitehall was another V & W destroyer and we proceeded on to the evacuation of Dunkirk.

 

After about 4 days of fetching troops back to Dover we were on one run and HMS Basilisk another of our destroyers was badly damaged and to keep the way clear we had to torpedo her and sink her. I think it was June 1st when after a real pasting, not hit, but damaged aft by near misses we were sent to Plymouth for much needed repairs.

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We had just got in from a run to Gibraltar and when the mail came aboard I got a telegram to say I was a father. It was a week old but I got leave and it didn’t take me long to get to Montague Hospital where Sheila was born on 31st July 1941 the one and only as it happens. We had been away for 2 years one period and no leave when one of the lads got one to say he was a father.  When we explained to him that he hadn’t been home for 2 years he said “that’s nothing, there’s 3 years between me and our kid”

Photo left: Jim, Sheila and Lilly a few years later. Photo donated by Lee Brooks.

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After things had quietened down and all the repairs seen to, we went to Liverpool and settled down to some nice peaceful Atlantic convoys, German subs and long range bombers. Focha wolfs, I think that’s how it’s spelt but when it got rough it was murder. The ship used to roll from side to side and you can just imagine about 20 sailors on the toilet when it rolled to starboard, all trotting out with their trousers down and when it went to port back on the pot altogether like a line of chorus girls. After about 2 years which included the big 8 day blitz of Liverpool, numerous convoys calling at Halifax, Canada, 2 Russian convoys, one to Murnansk and the next one to Archangel all for nothing now, the wife wonders why I wont go out of Rawmarsh.

Editor's Note:  Putting this into perspective - here's Wikipedia's story

On 26 May, the ship was assigned to Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France. She made two evacuation trips on 30 May, carrying 655 troops from Dunkirk to Dover on the first voyage and another 593 on the second. On 31 May, she joined Winchelsea and the destroyer Venomous in an evacuation run to Dunkirk and carried another 943 troops to Dover. On 1 June, after German aircraft sank the destroyer Basilisk in shallow water at La Panne, Belgium, Whitehall joined the fishing trawler Jolie Mascotte in rescuing 131 members of Basilisk's crew, destroyed the wreck of Basilisk with gunfire, and then, after suffering damage in a German air attack, landed 571 personnel – a mix of evacuated troops and Basilisk survivors – at Dover, bringing to 2,762 the number of personnel she evacuated during Dynamo. The ship was depicted in the Dover scene of the 1958 movie 'Dunkirk', starring John Mills.

After Dynamo, Whitehall was under repair at Plymouth until 26 August 1940. With her repairs complete, she transferred to Harwich to conduct patrols and convoy defence operations in the North Sea. In September 1940, she was transferred to Western Approaches Command for convoy escort duties in the Western Approaches as a part of the 8th Escort Group based at Liverpool. She joined the destroyer Sturdy, the minesweeper Jason, the corvettes Arabis, Coreopsis, Heliotrope, and Hibiscus, and three naval trawlers as the escort of Convoy HX 79 on 18 October 1940; the convoy came under sustained attack by five German submarines, which sank 12 of its merchant ships and damaged another without loss to themselves. Whitehall continued on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic for the rest of 1940 without major incident.

Jim continued on numerous convoys throughout 1941 seeing a lot of action.  The Mediterranean was the next place. We transferred to the base at Gibraltar In February 1942 we were on convoys to Malta and that was no joke either. We lost the aircraft carrier Eagle one run. It was torpedoed and sank in 4 minutes, but during the night, coming back with survivors on, we caught the submarine on the surface and rammed it at 20 knotts. No survivors were picked up from it - we were full with our own lads as it happened. A very good history of the Whitehall cam be found here.

The next job we had I had been drafted to HMS Malcolm, a destroyer which had been fitted with specially strengthened bows.

Six destroyers full of commandos set off from Gibraltar and all they had to do was smash through the booms and land the troops, 2 at Oran, 2 at Algiers and 2 at Cassablanca. It was the invasion of North Africa and there were plenty of fireworks about and everything went alright. Back in dry dock having holes patched up for a few weeks and then back on convoy duties and for quite a long time it was more or less routine. I think we were winning at last and when we had invaded Europe all we had to do was escort supply boats and wait for it all to end which it did finally.

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Ed: when Jim says that everything went alright and then you read in Wikipedia that "On 8 November 1942 Malcolm and HMS Broke were part of Operation Terminal: an amphibious assault on the port of Algiers. It was hoped, and expected by some of the operation's planners, that the Vichy French would choose not to fire on the approaching British ships, but they were proved wrong when the shore batteries opened up on both ships. Malcolm tried to break through the boom but was hit and severely damaged by a shell fired from the shore. Ten of her crew were killed, many more were injured and three of her four boilers were extinguished, cutting her speed to 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph). She was forced to retreat and played no further part in the operation. Although the operation did not go well, the main objective to take Algiers Harbour, before it could be destroyed, was achieved.  Malcolm was repaired and returned in her convoy escorting role on 22 January 1943, escorting convoys in the South Atlantic from Freetown to Gibraltar."   Jim returned  to civilian life and his ship, the Malcolm, was taken away and scrapped.

In 1944, she returned to the UK for coastal defence duties and although was in home waters in June 1944, she was not involved in the Normandy Landings. She remained in a coastal defence role until "Victory in Europe Day". She was decommissioned and broken up in the months following the end of the war.

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Photo donated by Lee Brooks

Back to civvy street

 

So for me the 6 months holiday was over (1939-1945) a long 6 months back to civilian life with £96 and a new demob suit from Laws at Parkgate and the £96 we spent at Cantors on furniture because all we had was a bed at ort old mans - we were lodgers.

I went back to my old job mines drainage.The manager was Mr Saul or Major Saul. He won his rank in the Home Guard, tales have been told of people on guard straight from Ashwood Road Club and shooting at the Man in the Moon. Mick, he was a relation of mine, said he was German the Man in the Moon. Of course at that time John Smiths was still a good pint. Another night they were playing cards and Mick’s wife was with them when the Duty Officer came round, so they put her in the drying cubicle where they used to hang wet clothes. The Duty Officer had a chat and a smoke which lasted about 1/2 hour before he went and by that time Mick’s wife had lost 1/2 stone in sweat. My brother Ern’s daughter married a lad from Peterboro. He was a Sergeant Pilot and a great chap. He came to work with us and lodged at our Ern’s, never worked down a pit, but things weren’t too strict at that time. He bought an old Singer car with his money and we went all over in it, looking up old war time mates, round Bradford and Dewsbury way.

But the money at work wasn’t much a week in fact I don’t think they’d had a raise all through the war and when it came to Kilnhurst races there was more crying and blubbering than any house full of kids. Certain people who had a bit of cash and an account at Kilnhurst Co-op used to let not so lucky people have anything they wanted and for 3 months they had a great time. It happenend to us once, the porn shops used to be full; suits, boots, shirts, bedding anything at all and by the time you’d done you hadn’t 3d to go to Robbies Pictures, but life still went on. Our George, my sister Mary’s lad, came one day. He was made out with black clocks the tiles used to be humped up every morning and our Mona, his wife, was a lass from Newcastle way. I don’t think they had ought like this up there. Then we decided to do something about it.

This story is ongoing as I am still transcribing Jim's words

Jim and Lily's family

As Jim said, he and Lily grew up in Rawmarsh around Pottery Street. Some other authors have described the area thus:

"Most houses in the Rawmarsh of the  1920s were 'two up,two down' and in Pottery Street there were 4 outside toilets for every 6 houses. Every few weeks a man would empty them and also the 'ash-mid' - a container for ashes from the fires.  At about 2 am,  a man would come  round the streets and wake the miners by tapping on the windows with a pole.  Later, another man would come and light the gas lamps. The main streets were High Street and Stocks Lane. Trams ran between them and then on to Kilnhurst Road until 1933 when they were replaced by 'tracklesses' - buses running on electricity.  Behind 'Greenfields' there was a pottery factory and there was a fever hospital in Barbers Avenue. Fresh  water was available at Caudle Well. Conisbrough & Denaby Main Local History

 

 

 

Jim and Lilian had a daughter:

  • Sheila Evans born 31 July 1941. Sheila is married to Terry Brooks (born 1 September 1962) and they have:

    • Jill Brooks born 3 August 1963

    • Lee James Brooks born 19 May 1967 married to Andrea Burgin and they had a son. Lee and Andrea were divorced. Lee hit the headlines in a daring rescue when he rescued someone from a canal on his way to work at Tinsley Wires

      • Shaun Robert Brooks born 14 August 1987

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Terry, Sheila, Lilian and Jim - Skegness 1977

Donated by Lilian Evans

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Terry and Lee Brooks 11 N0-v 2017 - donated by Lee Brooks

On to Rose Evans\