On my mother’s marriage certificate, dated 2nd January 1940, she is described as ‘journeyman tailor’, and ‘telephonist with ARP’.
ARP stands for Air Raid Precautions and relates to the fact that it was 4 months since Britain had declared war on Germany. Air raids were expected but had not yet taken place. In fact it would be another 9 months before the first of the raids that came to be known as ‘The Blitz’ took place. From 7 September 1940, one year into the war, London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London.
As a telephonist, her ARP work would have been based in the basement of Stoke Newington Town Hall, the same building in which the wedding ceremony was conducted. Work for ARP was voluntary and unpaid so it is my assumption that Ivy continued with her other job, the one listed as ‘tailor journeyman’. The term journeyman means that she had completed her training and was now working the tailoring trade, although not as a self-employed tailor. I know from experience that she was a skilled tailor. She made many of her own, and my sisters’, clothes, both hand and machine sewn. She was also extraordinarily skilled at embroidery and smocking.
She told me with some pride that she worked on the production of the first pair of DAKS trousers. This was a patented invention of her employer, Simpsons of Picadilly. First released in 1935, it was the first self supporting trouser, allegedly invented by Alexander Simpson in response to the fact that braces interrupted his swing whilst playing golf and caused his shirt to become untucked. That date is significant. Mum turned 18 in July 1935 so was, presumably, only 17 when these garments were first made. It is said that Simpson was so confident of the invention’s success he had 100,000 manufactured ahead of the launch. My guess is that Ivy was one of many young women engaged in that mass production effort.
Simpsons were the largest employer in Stoke Newington and were employed from the outbreak of war in the manufacture of uniforms for all three services. So it is likely that she remained fully occupied at this job as well as working nights in the ARP centre in the basement of Stoke Newington town hall. Throughout the period of the second world war Simpsons produced some 7 million military garments, despite the Stoke Newington factory being partially damaged in a bombing raid.
She had left school at 14 to become the breadwinner for herself and her mother, her father having died from pneumonia. He was a barber, not an ideal occupation for an asthmatic! Mum worked for a time in a sweet factory. I don’t know at what stage she joined Simpsons. She lived through those 57 days.
In addition to the bombs that inflicted damage on Simpsons, she would have seen the damage done to a block of flats at Coronation Road where 160 people sheltering in the basement were killed, and many more injured. This was at 9 o’clock on the evening of 13th October. She may well have been among the crowds who greeted the King and Queen when they visited a couple of days later to survey the damage, and comiserate with the relatives of those killed and injured.
She and her mother left London in the spring of 1941. She was pregnant with me. Her husband – my father – went on to serve as a flight engineer in bomber command. In 1943 he joined a pathfinder squadron. His Lancaster bomber was shot down during a raid on the German industrial city of Mannheim on November 18th 1943. He was 25 and Mum 26.
I feel bound to add that, during the course of the war, Mannheim, like many Gerrman cities, suffered far worse damage than London. According to wikipedia, ‘During the Third Reich, at least 2,262 of Mannheim’s Jews were despatched for extermination. Air raids on Mannheim destroyed the city during the Second World War. Since Mannheim was an important industrial centre for Nazi Germany, Mannheim was heavily damaged during aerial bombing by the R.A.F. and the U.S. Air Force. In addition to bombing the important factories, the R.A.F. razed the city center of Mannheim with nighttime area bombing. Some sources state that the first deliberate “terror bombing” of German civilians by the R.A.F. occurred at Mannheim on December 16, 1940‘.
Do you know any tailors? Perhaps there are members of your family who are skilled with the needle.
3 thoughts on “Tailor: #atozchallenge”
Interesting post. My dad used to have all his suits made specially by Sammy Cohen, an East End tailor, as he was only the same height as me. My aunt, Dad’s sister, always made her daughters’ dresses, and mine too.
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Always fascinating to read of other people’s lives. I lived in Stoke Newington in the early 1980s 🙂
Must catch up with the rest of your AtoZ posts
This blog is for me. I am now following after blog hopping from North Carolina during the #Challenge. Will enjoy catching up with your past posts. I have been writing about hotels and inns, the architects and setting. If you have time or interest, come and learn something more about fixing tea or ordering tea at a lovely hotel on the letter T day. This is what I love about the #Challenge when you find a well presented blog like this with things that call to me. Thanks.