Neighbours from Sheffield Blitz reunited after more than 70 years

Kit and Madeline share memories as they are reunited for the first time in more than 70 years
Kit and Madeline share memories as they are reunited for the first time in more than 70 years
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The memories came flooding back as neighbours during the Sheffield Blitz were reunited for the first time in more than 70 years.

Madeline Dye recently turned 105, and after The Star covered her birthday celebrations, 97-year-old Woman of Steel Kit Sollitt got in touch to share her recollections of living beside the former bookbinder as a young woman.

Kit Sollitt on her wedding day

Kit Sollitt on her wedding day

Rather than sharing her tales with us, we thought it would be better to bring these two remarkable women together so they could reminisce about the more than 200 years of history they have witnessed between them.

Sheltering from Nazi bombs in cramped cellars, stirring tales of wartime heroics and the incredibly tough working conditions they and their families endured were just some of the topics they touched upon as they got chatting.

Madeline lived for almost her entire life so far on Gleadless Road, in Heeley, and for a handful of years - between the ages of around 18 and 25 - Kit lived in the same row of terraced houses with her family.

They had not met since Kit got married and moved out around the end of the war, but they rolled back the years during a get-together at Norton Lees Hall Care Home, where Madeline now resides.

Madeline and her sister Auralie

Madeline and her sister Auralie

They lived side by side during the Second World War, and Madeline recalled sheltering in the cellar during the raids with her siblings, nine nephews and nieces and other relatives - which must have been quite a squeeze.

She told how they emerged to find a house practically opposite had been badly damaged, with all its windows blown out.

Madeline's memories of Kit are understandably hazy after all these years, but as the pair pored over old family photos some of the faces struck a chord.

In particular, it was Kit's late brother Tommy Batty who stood out in her memory - and his compelling story soon emerged.

Tommy was born blind in one eye and could only hear out of one year but his disabilities didn't prevent him being called up as the Allies plotted the Normandy landings.

"When they were going to invade they called up anybody with two legs and arms," joked Kit.

And so it was that Tommy did his duty on D-Day and survived to tell the tale, returning to these shores to resume his career as a steelworker.

While Tommy survived Europe's battlefields, it was conditions in the workplace back home which nearly accounted for his father - also named Tommy.

The talented steel grinder developed a serious skin condition caused, says Kit, by chemicals present in the wet stones - ironically brought into replace dry stones to improve safety for steel workers.

He was ordered by medics to stop work and spent the next five years recuperating in Norfolk, during which time Kit's mother ran a fish and chip shop to make ends meet for her and their eight children.

Looking at a photo of Tommy senior entertaining crowds at Upper Heeley Working Men's Club, Madeline comments 'he loved to show off'.

Although only a handful of years separate the old neighbours, Madeline and Kit seem generations apart when it comes to some of their experiences.

For example, Madeline had never stepped foot in a pub before celebrating her 90th birthday in one, while Kit told how she first ventured into a watering hole aged just 16.

Kit famously answered the call to join the Women of Steel and keep Sheffield's foundries producing the military vehicles and weapons which powered the war effort.

Madeline was never called upon to join the production line. She continued to work as a bookbinder during the war and long after, while helping to raise her many nieces and nephews.

How much Kit's years in what was then a male-dominated industry forged her outlook on life is hard to say, but it's clear she was never one to tolerate sexism in any form.

Explaining how she was one of six daughters and two sons, she adds witheringly that this was 'much to my father's disappointment - he only wanted sons'.