No toys on Christmas

During the war no manufacturing of toys took place. Industries were geared to the maximum output of war materials and essential goods. Shortages existed everywhere, and toys were at the bottom of a long list of priorities such as food, clothing, pencils, paper, soap, and a host of other things. Born only months before the war began, I was unaware of the shortages. I couldn’t begin to miss things I had never had – sweets, fresh fruits, or ice cream. It didn’t mean I had no toys or didn’t receive Christmas presents. Quite the contrary, I remember handmade toys far more ingenious than anything in the toyshops today.

Almost all of our toys reflected the theme of war and its dreadful violence. Boys often received handmade models of the famous Spitfire. Other toys included tanks, ships, guns and soldiers, all made of wood.

I must confess, I have little idea what girls received – perhaps a dollhouse or cradle, again made from wood. The only metal toy I remember owning was a tin air raid warden helmet. The rim had very sharp edges that were quite dangerous.


On that wonderful Christmas morning, I unwrapped a hand-made cargo ship and torpedo. It was the most amazing toy I had ever seen. The ship was about a foot long, with a small trap door on the port side of the hull. The door was held in place by setting a mechanism similar to a mousetrap. I had difficulty setting it and often required help. Once secured in place, the ship would float with the door partly below the water line. Next came the torpedo, which, aimed at the trap door, sprang it open on impact and sunk the ship.

Tragically unaware, I happily played with my toy in the bathtub while the same thing was happening to real ships crossing the Atlantic. I don’t know who made my ship; possibly it was made during the long hours of convoy duty by one of Ben’s shipmates.

About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
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