An Ilkeston Teenager's War Diary 1940

Phil Henshaw and his book: An Ilkeston Teenager's War Diary 1940
Phil Henshaw and his book: An Ilkeston Teenager's War Diary 1940

The excitement and fear of air raids bomb shelters  and family story tinged with tragedy have been brought to life in a fascinating book which reveals the secrets of an Ilkeston teenager’s Second world War diary.

Former Ilkeston author Phil Henshaw has transcribed his father’s diary from 1940 bringing his experiences blinking into the light after more than 70 years.

Colin Henshaw  as an  Air Cadet 1942.

Colin Henshaw as an Air Cadet 1942.

Written as an teenager growing up in Ilkeston in the first full year of the Second World War, it gives an insight into the world of a boy leading an ordinary life during extraordinary times.

Phil 61, said he came across his father’s diary when he borrowed a box of family photographs from his sister he was intending to scan.

He said; “It is only a tiny diary about three inches high. But it was fascinating to see him commenting on his daily life.

“As well as what was happening around him he would pick up the news from newspapers and the wireless in the first full year of the war which would go on for five years. Something nobody expected at the time.”

Colin Henshaw's tiny diary.

Colin Henshaw's tiny diary.

Phil’s book An Ilkeston Teenager’s War Diary 1940 combines daily descriptions of adolescent life with running reports on the progress of the war.

Older readers will recognise many of the references to places in the town, whilst younger ones will be able to build a picture of a teenage life in wartime.

“He heard sirens going off in Ilkeston , German planes came over quite a lot an there were a few bombs dropped. It would possibly have been a target for the mines, Stanton line works and hosiery and knitwear factories.

“My father left Gladstone Boy’s school school at 13 and had been working at the Co-op for a year when war broke out.

Colin Henshaw pictured in the 1980s.

Colin Henshaw pictured in the 1980s.

“As well as working he would have been playing out with his mates.”

"My father left Gladstone Boy's school school at 13 and had been working at the Co-op for a year when war broke out.

"As well as working he would have been playing out with his mates.

"There were multiple weekly trips to the pictures and he comments on the films of the time. It documents his growing awareness of the opposite sex.

There were evacuees staying with the family from Southend on sea.

"I just thought it was an interesting insight into his life against the backdrop of the war and its impacting on people's lives. At the time there was a boyish excitement they had an air raid shelter in the back garden."

But for Colin like so many wartime teenagers the fun was short lived.

His elder brother Len signed up for the Navy and he always anticipated his letters home with interest. Tragically Len was killed aged just 19 in action on HMS Illustrious shortly after the diary ends in 1941.

Colin went on to work for the Co-op for a further 30 years. He died in 2008.

Here are a few entries he made in his wartime diary all those years ago.

17th Feb 1940 - "To my surprise there was about 6 more inches of snow on the ground this morning....German troop ship captured by the British Navy today, about 300 British prisoners on board. Its about time we did something"

29th April - "One day I shall have to take Elsie the furnishings girl out. She is lovely and I am in love with her."

12th May - 'Went a walk up Cossall in morning with the dog, a very nice day as well. Germany has a new army, a parachute corps.

"They are dropping them in the villages where they are spying and cutting all communications."

30th Aug - "Enemy planes have been over Ilkeston all the day long. I heard them 3 times very high up. In the afternoon the plan must have been spotted for the AA guns put up a short barrage."

5th Sept - "Last night the sirens were not sounded but bombs were dropped, doing damage to houses. One house was completely wrecked while others suffered slight damage. One bomb was dropped at bottom of Inglefield Rd."

9th Dec - "On duty tonight (as fire warden at the Co-op) with Jack Whitworth. We explored the roof of the new building. In the guard room where we pass the time on, we live in luxury. There is 6 sprung bunks, wireless, dartboard, electric fire and many other things."

Phil's book An Ilkeston Teenager's War Diary 1940 has been published by Moorley’s of Ilkeston.

Priced at £4.50, copies are available from Moorley’s shop on Park Road or from www.moorleys.co.uk

Photos below are : The diary, me with the book, Colin as Air Cadet 1942, and Colin in the 1980's