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Wartime memories of James Robinson and Joan Dickens

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

At the start of the war in 1939, Jim was 25 years old and Joan was 21. They both came from Prescot near Liverpool, and met at the local tennis club. They were married in Prescot Parish Church in January 1942 just as the last bombs were falling on Liverpool, and moved to St Helens.

Joan was trained as a commercial secretary at a Liverpool college. When there was an air raid, which happened with great frequency in those times in Liverpool, Joan and her fellow students would go down into the air raid shelters. Joan subsequently worked as a secretary at the Halifax Building Society in St Helens. As the men who had previously worked at the branch were away fighting, Joan had to help run the branch.

Jim was an accountant in St Helens, and told his family in the years after the war, that he did "secret war work in Manchester". As with many of that generation involved in some of the important war work that was classed as secret, and would probably have entailed Jim signing The Official Secrets Act, the exact nature of his work was never divulged and his family would never know what it was he did. Jim was in the Home Guard, stationed in Knowsley Park, Prescot. The main function of the unit was to man the anti-aircraft guns to try to protect Liverpool - a critical job given the Liverpool was the most heavily bombed area of the country, outside London. Around 4,000 people were killed in the Merseyside area during the Blitz. This death toll was second only to London, which suffered over 40,000 by the end of the war.

Both Joan's and Jim's fathers were in reserved occupations. James Robinson Sr worked for the BICC in Prescot, mainly making cables. Oswald Dickens worked for the coal board. As both these jobs were of critical value in the war effort and because both were older men, they were not called to serve in any of the armed forces.


Item list and details

Wedding photo (as hand-coloured at the time)

Person the story/items relate to

James Robinson and Joan Dickens

Person who shared the story/items


Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

My parents

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

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