Harry's Story: Episode One
In this four part series, our founder Phil Stedman recounts stories from his father, Harry Stedman's incredible life...
My Dad was evacuated from Liverpool when he was four or five to a place called Broseley, in Shropshire. He was that classic kid on the train with a box round his neck with all his possessions in it, going off with his sisters and brothers, missing his mum terribly.
He stayed in a farm-like existence with a woman and her family. They loved him like he was their own, but he spent five years away from his mum and dad and I think that was always a massive influence on him. His mum would occasionally see him illegally and then get back on the train. Can you imagine what it must have been like? I can’t believe how he survived. I took him to the Imperial War Museum evacuee exhibition and he just cried like a baby, seeing all of these pictures of what was basically himself. That was amazing.
"Suddenly the world is a different place and he has to fight his way back to the top"
So he comes back and he’s ten years of age and he doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t sound like a Liverpudlian. He doesn’t sound like the rest of his family. The city has been absolutely flattened by the war. Suddenly the world is a different place and he has to fight his way back to the top. I think one of the things that runs through my dad is trying to find a place for himself.
A panoramic view of bomb damage in Liverpool.
At school he starts to get his first few jobs. I remember one of them was in a factory making tights. One of the first things he did was start a black market business, stealing unfinished tights from the factory, then getting his sisters at home to finish them to sellable-quality, dyeing them with teabag colours and that kind of stuff. He said he used to get very nervous stealing the tights from the factory.
"...When you're 16, the world’s amazing and you just think ‘God, what am I doing here?'"
There was a lot of employment after the war, so you just went from job to job without thinking about this amazing career that you were going to have - it was just getting by. And Liverpool was such a dump, it was just rubble. The one thing that must have really stuck in his mind was getting out. As men we must have all felt it ourselves, when you're 16, the world’s amazing and you just think ‘God, what am I doing here?'
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