Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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All | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950

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In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
South East
1939 - 1945

"We were not far from Biggin Hill airfield. We had big guns on wheels near us and a lot of plane activity. The guns did not actually have the range to hit the planes that flew over on their way to the city. I wasn't frightened. We lived in a bungalow. We were self sufficient. Kent had a lot of farms. Dad was a good gardener and Mum was a good cook. I was brought up on rations but we were not short of anything really. Dad kept rabbits, ducks and chickens so we had meat and eggs. I do remember the sweet rations though and thought it unfair that adults got a pound of sweets a month but children only three quarters of a pound!. We only had 2 ounces of butter a week. Word soon spread around the village when oranges came in. Mum would send me round to the greengrocers to stand in the queue. We didn't have bananas as you had to have a green ration book to have those. [a baby's ration book] Mum used to buy a large joint of beef and pot roast it so we had it hot on Sunday, cold on Monday and Tuesday and then the rest was minced. When that ran out Mum would make a bacon pudding. I didn't like it. It was the one meal I didn't like. She used to cut up the fatty ends of bacon and make it into a doughy pudding that was steamed in a handkerchief. I was evacuated to Birmingham when I was six. I hated it. After six weeks I wrote to Mum.
"Dear Mum. Take me home".
We were bombed a lot. We could see the fires over London during the blitz. Our bungalow was fire bombed. It destroyed the main bedroom but they managed to put the fire out before it reached the rest of the building. I remember the Doodlebugs too. The bombing was heavy. I remember the noise. When the noise stopped we ran inside and sheltered. A landmine hit the school next door. Fortunately it was empty at the time. We were smothered in plaster, glass and debris. The school was completely destroyed. A whole row of cottages was hit a short distance away and everyone was killed."
Kent and Birmingham

Pam and James Whiting pictured at Sherborne war memorial on 1st September 2009, 70 years after |James arrived in Sherborne as Pam Whiting
Pam was the daughter of Florence, known as May, and Walter Harrison. They lived at St Paul's Cray, a village in Kent about 16 miles from the heart of London.
Everyday Life
Midlands
1938 - 1940

"In 1938 we were measured and fitted with gas masks during the Munich crisis. Trenches were dug for shelter from air-raids and some street shelters were built. Then the Munich Agreement was signed and we all thought we were safe from war! We bought a three bedroom house in Solihull. The war put an end to my school days. In the summer of 1940 I went to work in the staff office at Lewis's store in Bull Street, Birmingham Even during the war Lewis's held dinner dances in the restaurants. Sometimes Joe Loss provided the music. When Joe Loss wanted to see Mr O'Sullivan in a hurry he used to bring us a box of chocolates if we could give him an appointment straight away. Sweets were rationed and chocolate almost non-existant so he always did go straight in!"
Solihull

Peggy Nash
nee Williams. Born 14th April 1925
Everyday Life
Midlands
1938 - 1945

"The air raids were terrible. One awful night the ARP Wardens made us all leave our houses and go outside and lie in the ditch under the elm trees in the field. Shrapnel came down all around us. During the raid which went on for several hours there was also a storm of incendiary bombs. The noise was indescribable and we were so cold as it was November. Next day I walked the eight miles along the Coventry Road into the city to Lewis's. No buses could get through as so much of the Coventry Road had been blitzed. It was no wonder that the sky towards Birmingham had been so red the night before. Most of the places were still burning. When I eventually got within sight of Lewis's I found the road was barred because there was a 1000 lb unexploded bomb outside the main entrance to the store I had to turn round and walk home again. We had no gas, electricity or water. It was cut off for several days. There was one stand-pipe a quarter of a mile from the house and Mother and I took buckets there for water. Candles, when we could get them, provided light and we cooked what we could on the open fire or in the Valor oil-stove - if we had any paraffin. When we had a cousin coming we saved up three weeks of meat coupons to be able to buy a small joint. The night before was the night they bombed Coventry so badly and there was no gas, electricity or water. Father built a big fire in the grate and tied the joint up with string and suspended it from a poker in front of the fire. It took a long time to cook but it was delicious!"
Solihull

Peggy Nash
nee Williams. Born 14th April 1925
Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
1942 - 1942

"Christmas Day 1942 we had Lieutenant Knott and Sandy Powell , a Lance Corporal from the A.A. Battery to dinner. Somewhere father had obtained a small chicken and Mother made a pudding from dired elderberries, carrots and apples and about a tea cupful of dried fruit. The cake was much the same but the marzipad was cooked semolina and flour with almond essence she had saved from before the war and the icing was a little of our sugar ration and dried milk powder. We were very proud of that cake! There weren't any crackers, dates, nuts, oranges, tinned fruit - and there were no Christmas trees! The rations for one person per week were 4oz of bacon - usually very, very fat, 2 ounces of butter, 2 ounces of preserves (jam and marmalade), 1 ounce of cheese, a shillings worth of meat (5p) which amounted to about 10 ounces of fresh meat. You were supposed to get one fresh egg a week but it was often five or six weeks before they came in and you had to queue at the shop by 8am if you hoped to get 2 - no matter how many ration books you had. COupons also had to be used for that rare tin of Spam. It worked out roughly at one tin of something each month. Tea was also rationed at 2 ounces a week and sugar was 8 ounces but soon went dow to 4 ounces. At one time even bread and potatoes were rationed. There were long queues at butchers hoping to get 2 sausages or a slice of liver as they weren't rationed. Many children were years old before they ever saw a banana, orange, lemon or grapefruit. There was a small ration of soal and soap powder. Every scrap of soap had to be used. Small pieces were kept until there were enough pieces to melt down with a little water to make it soft. Clothes were rationed too and shoes had wooden soles because of a shortage of leather. Knickers and petticoatds were made out of worn out nighties and frocks were turned into blouses or skirts and mens things cut down and remade into childrens clothes. Worn out knitted things were unpicked and multicoloured striped jumpers became fashionable. Sheets were turned sides to the middle and then made into pillowcases. There were no nylon stockings only cotton lisle ones. We dyed our legs with permanganate of potash and then drew a line up the back with a brown crayon for a seam. If you got caught in a real downpour the brown went blotchy! Father once brought home half of a silk parachute. We didn't ask where he got it from. We turned it into nighties and undies. At the end of July 1942 I was 'called up' and sent to the Warwickshire Agricultural Committee Hostel (War Ag) to work as an assistant cook. It was hard work. You were lucky if you had a day off a week and usually worked over 60 hours a week. It was better than working in a noisy munitions factory."
Solihull

Peggy Nash
nee Williams. Born 14th April 1925
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
North West
Midlands
1939 - 1945

"I was at school when war broke out but I left before I had finished my education. My first job was supposed to be in a laboratory but it turned out to be making aircraft plywood. I didn't stay long! My second job was supposed to be hush-hush but turned out to be making perspex for aircraft. I didn't like it and only stayed nine days!. Then I went to work for the Canada Life Insurance Company where I did stay a little while but I wanted to work outside so I joined the Land Army. I was sent to a big house in Buckinghamshire as Under Gardener. The old gardener had retired but his two sons who took on the garden were called up and he had to come out of retirement. We dug up the tennis courts and grew potatoes and on the other courts we kept chickens. It was there I learnt to milk because they had two cows. The chauffeur/groom took on the hedging. We had plenty of vegetables and the cook was still there so we lived ok. I was 18 then. Clothing was rationed but that didn't worry me much as I wasn't very fashion conscious. When the groom was on holiday I had to learn to milk the cows and found I liked it. It was unusual for girls to like milking the cows so I was sent to the other end of Bucks where there was a much larger herd of 50 cows. I was there for several years as cow man. They had one of the early dairies - a milking parlour. I wasn't very mechanical really but they found I was very good at keeping the parlour running. Then I was sent to another herd where they had Shorthorns. Shortly afterwards they changed to real Jersey cows that had come from the Channel Islands. I liked those a lot. I used to make butter, cream and cheese for the house in small amounts but not for sale. I was in the Land Army for over ten years but I still haven't got my badge. I finally left to get married. We lived quite well during the war. Make do and Mend was what we were used to. Compared to the 1920s and 1930s life was actually better. During the recession there was real hardship. We had grown up used to having to use everything and waste nothing. Nothing was left over." Sheila continued to like her animals and kept and milked her goats until recent years."
Cheshire

Ted and Sheila Babbidge
nee Nash. Sheila's story. She is now 85 and living in Cheshire.
Everyday Life
Scotland
Wales
Northern Ireland
North West
North East
Midlands
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"Bess Cummings was 14 when she and her brother Lewis were put on board the ill fated City of Benares in September 1940 to be sent to Canada to escape the blitz. Five days later a torpedo sank the ship but Bess and Lewis were two of only 20 survivors. They were sent to Scotland to recover after 16 hours in the freezing North Atlantic where she clung to an overturned lifeboat with a girl called Beth. They became friends in Scotland and later she met and married Beth's brother Geoff and moved to Cheltenham in the 1950s where Geoff worked at GCHQ. Bess became Headteacher at Bishops Cleeve Primary School. Beth died in August 2010 but in 2006 was delighted to travel to New York on board the Queen Mary where she told her story to an author who was researching the sinking of the City of Benares. Bess never forgot how lucky she was to survive and be re-united with her brother who she was convinced had died. In 2008 she said "It wasn't frightening. We had been living through the BLitz so we were used to bumps and bangs. Life after the attack was there to take hold of and make the most of."
North Atlantic

Anonymous

Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
1939 - 1945

"I was away at school, Nottingham High School, and we moved to Ramsdale Park, which was someone's home. We went and occupied it. It wasn't like school at all. We had a lovely time. It was very different from where my sister and I had lived in the town. My parents came to see us in a taxi; there weren't many cars and petrol was rationed. Rationing meant less butter - tiny bits of everything! Sugar was rationed. I didn't eat many sweets so I didn't miss them. I remember the blackout. All the lights were out and we had to make sure no light showed. I remember the air raids too. Mother used to turn clothes to make new ones, cut some down for us and make us new ones. We used to knit too. Stripey jumbers were popular We lived over a bank. Father worked there. Mother used to say we were caretakers.
I remember lots of vegetable gardens and when the war was over there were celebrations and street parties everywhere"
Nottingham

Joan Hyde

In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"Margaret Jessie Young ATS Southern Command no W/252589

"I wasn't going to be left alone in the village, all my friends were off to the war so I might as well. The village was in Leicestershire - hardly any cars about in the 1940's. Looking back now the village was idyllic, everyone knew everyone else and looked out for one another. When the church bell tolled everyone knew who had died - so many tolls for a man, so many for a woman and so many for a child. Of course there was chapel three times on a Sunday - where I learned to spell Congregational and got my finger stuck in a knot hole during the sermon! Family and neighbours brought a taste of their baking and cakes to share and on winter days Aunt Polly would tap, tap, tap up the Entry if snow was lying, with her pattens on, carrying a steaming jug of soup. It was good to grow up there.
As I said I wasn't being left behind so on the bus to Leicester and volunteers for the Navy (No - they only wanted Commander's daughters then), the Air Force (No, I didn't want to be a cook), the Army - yes! I could already drive after working for the Co-op milk round in the worst of a winter and delivering milk, which was then rationed, to people in three villages. I could certainly drive being taught by the Dairy Manager, Ernie Wilkinson, on the light Ford lorry. All I was required to learn was map reading and how to maintain the vehicle. When I returned home and told my mother, she began to cry. She was ironing and I shall always remember and I wondered why the tears. I was called up and went to the Barracks at Wigston, only a stone's throw from home. I was issued with khaki issue, had various inoculations, began drill or square bashing after that, and there was more to come when I was sent to Camberley in Surrey. I never felt so fit in my life.
Camberley was good; drill, car maintenance all being taught and being with ladies ( all well off) in the FANYs - First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. I never saw the lot I was with doing any First Aid, just good drivers, teachers and ride motor bike now and again with lengths of bloomers showing!
After being taught how to do the daily maintenance on a vehicle, how to read a map with headlights half-shaded, I was posted to Roche Court, Farnham, Hants, driving lorries day and night.
Next I was sent to Salisbury to Longford castle, billeted at the Moat, Britford. We drivers, leather straps over the top of our caps and the wheel symbol stitched on the bottom of our sleeves, we were the elite of Longford. We were called upon to drive top ranking Officers in big cars, Ford USs, Humber Snipes. Then on lighter duty to ferry girls from the Moat to Longford in the small covered PU's. On one drive the steering went and I careered along the boulders down Longford Castle drive. I was on a charge the next day but I can't remember the outcome as D Day was approaching and life was hectic. I did doze off when driving the Medical Officer, who took over the wheel and ordered three days rest!
We drove everywhere, in Dorset mainly and on Salisbury Plain, down to Weymouth where part of the Mulberry Harbour was being built. Across to the Isle of Wight - that was work on the Pluto pipeline ready for D Day but we didn't know that then. We collected Intelligence men from London at Winchester station and took them along the coast to Weymouth mainly. Very often I used to go to Wilton House and while he was in at a meeting I dare not get out of the car. I also remember when I went to Studland where men were laying mines in the bay. I was desperate for a wee. I thought I was in an area of woodland but later learnt that there was camouflage and some of the dummy trees had bodies inside! That side of things was a problem for a woman in security areas. As D Day approached our driving became less. I remember many boats along the Solent then and one day the drone of planes towing gliders flying quite low that flew over the camp.

On my so called day off I used to drive a very handsome staff sergeant to Bournemouth. He was in charge of finance for the whole camp. He used to call at houses where army personnel lodged to pay for accomodation, then on to Bournemouth to collect maybe cleaning etc and we always went to Bobby's for refreshments, then walk along the cliff top piled high with barbed wire before returning to Salisbury. I fell hook, line and sinker for him. We were married on 12 August 1944 at the Enderby Congregational Church. Somehow my mother provided lunch which was hard on rations at that time. My family was teatotal and a non smoking one yet I always remember the dishes of scented cigarettes my father provided! We had special permission to travel to Matlock for a few days and as we waited on the platfor loads of soldiers passed by with the announcement being made that the train was not for the use of the public - however we made it.

Before D Day I drove Lady Pamela Digby. Only myself and one other were allowed to drive her as we dove FAST [ Winston Churchill's daughter] There were more tanks on the road around Dorset than cars. It was a very happy time and I kept in touch with Lady Pamela until her death in a home in Dorchester.

Margaret has a newspaper cuttings about Wilton House's crucial D Day role that reads
"The planning for Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, took place at Wilton House . . . Wilton House was requisitioned as the headquarters of Southern Command in June 1940. The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke remained in residence while the top secret planning for D Day was co-ordinated in the famous Double Cube Room. . . . During the planning stages of the operation the house was visited by Churchill, Eisenhower, General de Gaulle and King George V. However it was all top secret so little evidence remains" Debbie Evans, the Tourism Manager at Wilton House added. "
England

Margaret Aldridge
was born in 1924 and lived in the village of Enderby, Leicestershire, five miles south west of Leicester city and now pincered by the M1 and M69. Margaret recalls the village was dominated by the granite quarry and the shoe and hosiery factories.
Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
South East
1939 - 1945

"I came from Norfolk. I was up at Oxford when war broke out. We were miles away from the war. Hitler was going to make it his headquarters so the German aircraft were not allowed to bomb it. I finished my finals on the Friday and on the Monday took over my Father's school for six weeks. There were 48 mixed infants there at St Albans. There were quite a lot of air raid warnings. The planes were heading for Hatfield and the aircraft factories. We had a wartime shelter and got used to teaching underground. It was very difficult. We had tilley lamps and no heating and took our own stools down with us. There was one corridor that ran into another, only one small loo and - no food! If parents could not collect their children because the All Clear had not sounded they had to stay with us, often until 6.30pm until it was safe to collect them. It was difficult to keep them amused because we didn't have any books or paper with us so we did spelling tests, times tables and sang songs - anything we knew by heart - I remember Cherry Ripe and Going to Strawberry Fair. As an education it really was a blank. I was very lucky we already knew about Make do and Mend! There was an excellent cook at the Junior School. I was lucky. I avoided hardships that way. When I went to the High School in Nottingham we were very lucky - there were no bombs. The army occupied half of the school. We had to be very economical with paper and re-use every bit. This was while the army was being very lavish!
I do remember at Nottingham I had to go down to town for lunch and all I ever had for lunch was sausages or fish cakes that had been kept warm for hours! We had the odd bomb drop near us because of Hatfield. I remember we had to take evacuees at St Albans and try to get them fitted in - they were always shrieking to go home but they were in a safe place.
I remember rationing. We used to get two pints of milk on a Monday and the milkman used to leave another two pints on a Tuesday for the week. I was new to catering and it gradually got worse. Fresh veg was difficult and there was no fish. We only had meat for two meals a week. There was spam - it looked pink and it tasted pink! We had horse meat and whale meat, powdered milk and powdered egg. Bread and potatoes were rationed too after the war. I remember the Woolton Loaf - it had a lot of potato flour in it because wheat was in short supply. There were no bananas - children didn't know what they were. If you knew a shopkeeper you got extras! - a little something wrapped up and slipped into your shopping bag!
I remember having to cycle six miles to work. I remember boyfriends used to regularly disappear - they got called up. You had just got to know them and then they were gone. Some didn't come back.
Clothes - well it was Make do and Mend. I remember curtains being made into a skirt. Stockings disappeared so we wore ankle socks a lot. I remember I made a jumper once - well it was rather a nice waistcoat really out of 12 cards of mending wool - that wasn't rationed!
Furniture was rationed too! We were rationed for sheets. It was very difficult setting up home. There was a two years wait for a vacuum cleamer. I remember spending a lot of money at a fairground trying to win some saucepans - I didn't though. They were probably stuck down. You just couldn't get new saucepans. A lot of old ones were gathered for the war effort and people got out their old cast iron ones again. They were too heavy for camping stoves.
There was Utility Furniture too - it lasted well and wasn't bad in design - it was vaguely Scandinavian.
Weather during the war wasn't bad - but we weren't allowed to go anywhere! After the war we had some really bad winters. I remember at St Albans seeing the lights in the sky when London was bombed."
Oxford

Vicky Cornford
retired to Yetminster, Dorset and was interviewed at a Memories Tea Party at CraftyTimes Tea Room in the village who hosted the event. Vicky enjoyed her afternoon " I haven't talked about those days for years. It is all coming back to me now!"
In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
1939 - 1945
Mrs Leadbeater recalls
"When war broke out in 1939 my parents had a daughter of 18 who served in the Land Army and then the ATS, a son of 16 who went into the army at 18 and a son of 14 who eventually served in the Royal Marines and was badly wounded. In addition there were two daughters at school and two sons and a daughter at home under school age. They lived in a suburb of Birmingham. My father, weakened by as etc. in the Great War, by himself dug a deep home and sited our air raid shelter in it - as near as he could get to a 1914-18 dug-out. When the sirens went Dad and Mum had to carry baby and toddlers down to the air-raid shelter, older children helping as best they could. In spite of air-raids my father cycled to work next day and mother washed, cooked, cleaned, took children to school and tried to keep her family cheerful. She never had enough to eat and always she remembered her service in Belgium and France during the First World War. She knew what the Germans were capable of and this dread haunted her - fearing for her children and what would happen to them. She did not fear for herself - she was as brave as a lion but this anxiety took its toll and she had many illnesses later on and died at 70. There must have been many mothers like mine, feeding families on very little, worrying day and night and never knowing what was happening to the older children in the battlefield of Iltaly and at sea and a daughter away from home and concerned for younger siblings and not able to help the family. These women have never received the recognition they deserved. I would like to salute them all."
Birmingham

Noel Leadbeater
Grew up in a suburb of Birmingham and is now a resident of St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne.

Do you remember having to make do and mend? Please submit your experiences.