Sheffield teenager recalls Blitz nights on 'blood tub' ambulances

A former Sheffielder who vividly remembers the nights of the Blitz in December 1940 is Emma Pyecroft.

Aged 18 then, she worked as a driver for for the ARP ambulance brigade in Sheffield. “We used to call them the blood tubs,” she said.

Emma, who lived in Gleadless with her family during the war, gave up a career in the theatre to ‘do her bit’.

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She said: “I was a ballet dancer and I was in the theatre most of my adult life.

“About two years into the war, we decided we should do something for the country. I went back to Sheffield and joined the ARP ambulance service.

She added: “It was the blackout and we had to drive with no lights on and no lights in the street. We were stationed at Carbrook School.”

The nights of the first air raids were unforgettable for the young ambulance driver.

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“I remember two very big raids on the East End of Sheffield, it was the steelworks they were after, and the one in the centre of Sheffield.

“I remember a whole family that was bombed. They had gone into the air raid shelter and each one we kept bringing out was dead.

“I remember vividly the last one brought out was a woman with a blue coat with a big black fur collar. I picked up her foot, which had blown off, and put it with her.

“We had eight bodies in the ambulance and we couldn’t find a morgue anywhere. We saw a barn in a field and I said, ‘Probably that’s a morgue’.

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“We carried eight dead bodies over two fields into the barn.”

Pretty gruesome stuff for an 18-year-old to cope with but Emma just said: “It was all a part of life’s pattern.

“I was only very young. When you’re young, you cope with anything.”

Emma recalled the scene that night as she drove through the city streets: “It was all on fire and burned. It was terrible, there were fires burning all over and people in the air raid shelters.

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“As soon as the sirens would go you had to go straight on duty, so I walked to Carbook School with the bombs dropping.”

Then she managed to get a lift. “A big lorry came down and drove me straight down to the school, where I went on duty.”

Emma used her theatre skills to do her bit for morale, too. “I organised a concert at Carbrook School with ambulance staff. We called it Blitz and Pieces.

People came in and watched it, so it provided a bit of entertainment.”

She also danced solo to entertain wounded soldiers.

Emma, now 94, lives in the village of Timsbury near Bath. She still drives locally.