The man who kept a quilt for 70 years



After World War Two, thousands of British families were sent packages of food from strangers in the US. But nine-year-old Joseph Briddock and his family were given something unexpected. Seven decades later he is still keeping it safe.

Joseph Briddock does not remember the box arriving but he remembers the moment it was opened.

“Some things came out that we had never seen before,” he says. The box had been sent from the US and was stuffed full of tins of corned beef, powdered egg, sugar and chocolate.

“I remember getting out these little boxes of cornflakes and my mother opening them and the smell just hit you. It was so beautiful.”

Stamped on the side of the box was the word “Care”. Set up in 1945, the Co-operative for American Remittances to Europe started a scheme where people in the US paid $10 to send a parcel to families who had been hit hard by the war.

Thousands of people in the UK received Care packages. Most were filled with food but in one of the boxes sent to Briddock’s family there was something unexpected – a patchwork quilt.

“I remember opening it up and just being absolutely overcome by it,” he says.

The quilt had been sent by the Methodist Ladies of New York. All of the Care packages helped to brighten the days at the end of the war, but for Briddock’s mother Annie this was different.

“It was a real quality thing to get,” he explains. “It was so warm and luxurious and they had lost a lot of stuff because we were bombed out three times.”

Briddock, now 79, still remembers the nights they were forced to hide in the air-raid shelter at the bottom of their garden. There they would wait, listening to the noises overhead.

“There was always an inch of water on the floor and the smell, that damp smell that came up at you all the time,” he says.

“We weren’t allowed to put our backs on the wall of the shelter because it was said that if a bomb dropped nearby, the vibrations could break your back.”

When that night’s bombing was over the family would climb back outside. Sometimes the house was damaged, sometimes it was not. But their Anderson shelter could not protect them from every attack.

In 1943, the whole family was caught in the open as a German fighter plane appeared at roof level, shooting as it flew. “We were all sort of scattered. I ran into the doorway of a house and my mother ran into a front garden and lay on my sister.”

They survived, but the pilot went on to kill 38 children and six teachers at Sandhurst Road School in Catford, south-east London.