Among the recent donations to Leeds Museums was this collection of “rubbish” which was found under the floorboards of a house in Roundhay. The scraps of paper, torn-up letters and old cigarette packets might easily have been thrown away but the flat’s owners knew the history of the house and took a closer look. Several of the torn envelopes had post-marks from 1943 and were addressed to officers of the 111 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery who had been billeted at the house during the Second World War.
This small collection of discarded ephemera shines a small light on life in an officer’s mess in the summer of 1943. They had time to go to the theatre, as there is a ticket from the Leeds Empire. They got their writing paper courtesy of the YMCA and seem to have had to go as far as Batley to get their laundry done (there is a receipt from Batley Laundry Ltd.). They may have had contact with G.I.’s as at least one of the razor blade packets is American. Above all, they were heavy smokers and left behind large number of cigarette packets and matchboxes (Woodbines being the favoured brand).
There are many questions that we will never find answers to. The collection includes some personal letters from wives and family back home, which have been screwed up and thrown away rather than lovingly kept. The letters themselves mostly talk of banal everyday life on the home front with bits of local gossip.
Perhaps this extract from a letter written by Ida (from Surrey) to her “Dearest Dick” may indicate why he threw her letter away:
“Marie says that I was to tell you she still likes Ann Shelton better than Vera Lynn. Well Dear I hope you will be able to get home soon as there is still quite a bit of rubbish needs clearing up in the garden.”
All in all, a fascinating little glimpse of life in war-time Leeds.
By Social History Curator Kitty Ross