When I was applying for university in early 2016, I sort of made an agreement with my mum that I’d stay at home as long as we did a loft conversion for me to live in. I was unsure about having to stay in accommodation and so was my mum. My dad didn’t really mind what I did, as long as I was happy. We all thought this was a happy medium.
A couple of months later, we properly got the ball moving. The whole family got involved and we emptied our loft. Fifteen years worth of clutter. Everything was being moved from my house to my auntie’s house until the conversion is complete. Whilst there, everything can be sifted through and then put back into our loft space. Still following me? Good.
Jumping forward to the present day and the loft conversion is about ninety percent complete, so my auntie and I begin the arduous task of going through all of our belongings with a fine tooth comb, organising everything in boxes ready to be put back in the soon-to-be completed loft space.
This sounds like an everyday, monotonous task that people just have to do in their lives. But it was definitely not.
The things we found would definitely not be seen as your everyday clutter.
Before I continue, bear in mind that literally everything was bagged prior to us moving any items so we had no idea of what was stowed away up in our loft. We just moved it.
Probably the most interesting item we found did not actually belong to us. Maybe interesting is not the best adjective. Sombre. Definitely sombre…
Incase you can’t tell by the photo, this is an infant gas mask. Now, when I saw this in an old plastic bag, my mum remembered finding it when we first moved into the house and forgot about it. It must have belonged to the previous owners.
The fact that this was found was not too surprising. My house is in Huyton, in Merseyside. After doing a bit of digging, I found out that during the Second World War, Huyton was home to three wartime camps: a prisoner-of-war camp, an internment camp (which is pretty much a concentration camp) and a base for American servicemen. It’s safe to say that this town was bleak enough, but on top of all of this, were the Blitz bombings. An estimated four thousand people were killed during these bombings in Liverpool alone. So, for houses in Huyton or anywhere in Merseyside to have gas masks is pretty normal. Albeit I didn’t think it was normal at first.
Judging by photos on the internet, it seemed that the parents would put on their own gas masks in the wake of an attack and would also but their entire baby into this much bigger gas mask.
Along with this mask, we found a soldier helmet dated 1939 and a police helmet with no date inside. The weight of these helmets… it’s astounding how anyone could have carried such weight on their heads for hours and hours on end.
We don’t actually know if the previous owners of the house ever had to use this gas mask or whether the man living there wore the helmet or was in the police. We have never spoken to the previous owners. All we know is that the ‘man of the house’ was named George. We know this because he signed his name and the date on the back of the bathroom door. July 1964. We really don’t know why he did that. We’ve never replaced the door for that reason.
The thought of my little house being a bomb site during the war is a really scary thought. Babies in gas masks. Prisoner of war and concentration camps just metres from my house. And I had no idea.