Retro Special: A look back at heroism, snow and new homes

campnw'Arctic scene on the canal of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Company yesterday. The boat with German prisoners of war among the crew is breaking ice to enable coal barges to get through to Sheffield power stations. For the last 28 days, the crew, under foreman Sidney Brice, have been starting at dawn each day, sometimes in blizzards and fog, to deal with ice varying in thickness from 1 to 9 inches.'Filed 5 March 1947

One hundred years of changing lives chronicled by The Star Retro - City that suffered in two world wars moved forward by building modern flats but dream of better lives soon shattered as estates fell into decline.

As the New Year looms, we’re looking back to just some anniversaries of years ending in 7 over the past 100 years that have featured in The Star’s Saturday Retro supplement.

Sheffield World War One hero Arnold Loosemore, who was awarded the Victoria Cross

One hundred years ago, Sheffielder Private Arnold Loosemore won the Victoria Cross for gallantry during World War One.

Arnold, who was working for a coal merchant when he enlisted in January 1915, was fighting with the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment in Langmarck, Belgium on August 11, 1917.

He crawled through a partially-cut wire fence, dragging his Lewis gun with him, and managed to kill 20 enemy soldiers with it despite facing heavy machine gun fire.

When the Lewis was destroyed, he shot three more of the enemy with his revolver and also shot several snipers while carrying a wounded comrade to safety.

Two million sheep died in the fields and many root vegetables were frozen into the ground

Arnold, who also won the Distinguished Conduct Medal, lost a leg when he was injured in October 1918, less than a month from the armistice.

He returned to Sheffield after the war but was buried in a shared grave after dying of tuberculosis in 1924 after his widow and young son were left almost penniless by the Government.

Arnold was honoured this August with a plaque on the cenotaph in Barker’s Pool.

* “Good afternoon. May I see your house?”

29nowFF'Park Hill Flats, Sheffield, in the 1960s.''26Listed

The place was a council house on Gregg House Road, Shiregreen and the person asking the question 70 years ago was the Queen.

Retro reader Frank H Marson got in touch with Retro to share his memories of that day in October 1937 when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later to become the Queen Mother, visited his estate.

He wrote: “When I was 16 years old and living on Gregg House Road, the King and Queen of England came to the road to open Hartley Brook Road School, of which I was a witness and have never forgotten it.”

Newspapers reported that the royal couple came to Sheffield after a visit to Barnsley in October 21, 1937 as part of a coronation tour.

Coun Enid Hattersley, Lord Mayor of Sheffield tree planting at Kelvin Flats...Mar 26 1982

They arrived at the “trim and pleasant” estate in a convoy of cars and visited the home of unemployed ex-serviceman George Sims, his wife and their daughter Dorothy, aged 12, who was a pupil of Hartley Brook Council School.

Accompanying them were the city’s first woman Lord Mayor, Coun Ann Eliza Longden and the town clerk Mr EB Gibson, plus the Princess Royal and the Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare.

The Queen asked to be shown round while the King stopped to talk to Mr Damms.

She waved to crowds from the front bedroom window.

Mrs Damms said afterwards: “The Queen was lovely. There was nothing at all to be afraid of in conversing with her.

“She soon made me feel perfectly comfortable and at home with her.”

Family members of Pte Arnold Loosemore VC, DWR, pictured with dignitaries during the commemorative plaque ceremony. Picture: Marie Caley NSST Loosemore MC 1

Her husband said that the King was very interested in his garden and asked him about his military service and how long he had been out of work, which was five years.

* The weather has turned freezing again and people around the country are getting stuck in blizzards and shivering without any power, so thoughts inevitably turn to the big freeze of 1947.

Sixty years ago, Sheffield, South Yorkshire and the Peak District was in the grip of what’s generally reckoned to be the worst winter in living memory.

Snowfall began on January 22 and continued to March 13.

Most places were under 2ft of snow and blizzards brought drifts up to 15 feet in places.

Roads and railways were blocked and German prisoners of war still housed in Sheffield were used to help clear rail tracks and break ice by boat on Sheffield canal to help the coal barges to get through and keep the city’s power stations going.

Supplies of coal for Sheffield public utilities were delivered by barge. Radio broadcasts were limited and the fledgling TV service suspended altogether, while the publication of some magazines was halted and newspapers were cut in size.

There were fears that food would run out.

Two million sheep died in the fields and many root vegetables were frozen into the ground (in some places they took pneumatic drills into the fields to help dig up parsnips).

The late potato crop was lost, resulting in them being rationed for the first time.

* A decade later, building started on Park Hill flats, which were completed in 1961.

The famous ‘streets in the sky’ were a popular place for Sheffielders to move to, new council homes that took families away from slum conditions and bombsites.

Neighbours who lived in the old back-to-backs were rehoused near each other and old street names were revived in the blocks.

However, as the buildings were allowed to decline they became unpopular and many Sheffielders just wanted to see the back of them, incredulous when the structures were given listed status in 1998.

It remains to be seen whether development company Urban Splash’s attempt to rebrand Park Hill as a desirable place to live will become a complete success.

* Another controversial estate, Kelvin Flats, was built in 1967 on Infirmary Road. Like Park Hill, the Kelvin fell into decline but they weren’t saved and the flats were demolished in 1995.

* Retro is back to normal next Saturday with 12 pages of memories and nostalgia.

In the meantime, have a Happy New Year!

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