Make Do And Mend

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

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Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
South East
1939 - 1945
IVY MITCHELL nee PULLMAN RECALLED 17th Jan 2009
"I was born at Templecombe but was working in Sherborne at the start of the war. If I had stayed working at the boys and girls school I probably would not have been called up but I went to work at Milborne Port Glove Factory and that was when I was called up. I was sent to work in Reading for four years. First I had to fill shells, not the very big ones, and then later on I was trained to test them - that was dangerous. You had flames coming out of the machine around your legs. I was in lodgings and had a day off a fortnight. I couldn’t afford to go home more than once a month. My Uncle who was a Police Inspector at Bognor Regis used to pay for me to go to stay with him once a month.
I used to travel from Templecombe by train and changed at Basingstoke. I was in lodgings. I had three days off one Christmas and was going to travel back with my friend. We knew the train would be packed so we gathered a bunch of prickly holly. We soon cleared a space.
I was quite popular because I didn’t take sugar so my sugar ration was shared with the others. There was hardly any cake. Sometimes we managed to get some Huntley and Palmers cake - but that was under the carpet! It was lovely.
If we had relations working in food factories they used to share the extras their employers gave them. We swapped with something we could send them. Father used to shoot rabbits and we sent them up to Bristol relations. They used to send back cheese from the factory they worked in.
My friend’s brother was in the army. He sent a wooden box of fruit to me from France. We couldn’t get any. When it arrived the fruit had been stolen and all I got was the empty box!"
Reading

Ivy Mitchell nee Pullman Ivy Mitchell
Ivy Mitchell nee Pullman born at Templecombe (90 in November 2008) and sent to work in Reading filling shells.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
South East
1939 - 1945

"Mum and I were living in Earls Court, Kensington. My Dad was serving abroad. I remember being taken out to see the light in the city from the blitz. We could read a newspaper at night in the street it was so bright. Then we got bombed out. Mum and I went to live with my aunt and uncle at Brookwood.[ near Woking, Surrey ] Uncle Bob was serving in the RAF and based in Ireland. Every time he came home he would bring some fresh hens eggs. Aunty used to keep them in a crock in the cellar for safety."
Earls Court, Kensington

Jane Weymer
Jane is now living in Stalbridge, Dorset
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
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was one of the Salvage Corps with the rest of the village youths at Great Somerford, Chippenham, Wiltshire. We collected newspaper for the war effort. There was a poster on the stable door where we sorted and stored it 'Help the National War Effort by Saving Waste Paper - Start today'. The stable was provided by the farmer Mr Cole of Hollow Street and organised by Lady Palmer of The Manor who supplied our transport, a horse and cart and sack trucks. We marched through the village carrying flags and banners in recognition of the war effort."
Wiltshire

Olive Gibbs
Aged 82, nee Wakefield recalls.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945
Peggy recalls her first wartime meeting with her future parents-in-law
"We went down to High Wycombe for me to meet Jim's parents. We went on the motor-bike and I was so scared they wouldn't like me. I liked them very much and we got on so well together. We sat on the settee and watched Mother making doughnuts in the way the American chefs had taught her. The ingredients were by courtesy of the American Army - otherwise it wouldn't have been possible! They were delicious and smothered in sugar - we couldn't remember anything like them!" It was a different world than in Solihull. The garden at Backlands was lovely. The top half had apple, damson, greengae, plum, pear and cherry trees. By the cherry trees Dad had arks in which he kept rabbits and ducks. Water had to be fetched from the well in the next field. One September morning we got up very early and walked along the lane to a field where we picked several pounds of mushrooms. We tok them home and Mother cooked some for us with bacon and eggs from the farm next door - an unbelievable breakfast with rationing as it was, but one of the perks of living in the country. I helped pick fruit which Mother would bottle, jam or turn into wine. She was a great wine-maker. She also cooked marvellous meals on a tiny iron-range that was coal-fired and I ate more food in that weekend than I had for a month! Jim's mother was housekeeper at the American Air Force HQ at Wycombe Abbey and was in charge of the meals for the Officers' Mess. They used to give her parcels of food, especially sugar, whenever they could. They so often had a surplus as they weren't rationed like we were. It was a shock to their system when they first came over to England and found they couldn't just walk into a cafe or restaurant and order steak and chips or a hamburger. We often went down to Wycombe on the motor-bike for the day. It was like another world - so peaceful and quiet - except for one weekend when a flying bomb ( doodlebug) landed in the next field and blew us out of bed! It killed a lot of chickens and turkeys My parents had always insisted I hand over my unopened pay packet, though they didn't need it. I was given five shillings a week pocket money (25p) and had to buy everything. Neither of my parents gave us a wedding present. I had enough ration coupons for our three sheets and three blankets and Jim gave me the money for them - all we were allowed. It was difficult to have a white wedding in wartime. I wore a pale blue crepe dress, a navy blue bonnet shaped hat and navy court shoes and gloves and carried red roses. We were lucky as there was a very big wedding before ours and the church was full of flowers."
High Wycombe

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

"I was living in London when war broke out and was evacuated to Devon. My first place was in Honiton but it wasn't a very nice billet. They expected me to look after their child all the time and I wasn't used to that at home where I was the youngest! My sister was evacuated too but she cried so much she only stayed a week and went home. I stayed three years. I passed my school exam and went to Axminster High School. I had been living in South West London and we went to Devon by train - all of us as a school on a whole train. We didn't know where we were going. My parents didn't know either. We went with our suitcases and were picked up by the people who had volunteered to take us in. My lady was at the station to meet us. Her husband was a Scout Master but we didn't see him very often. I think he was involved in war work and working away. I liked the countryside. My grandmother lived in the countryside and that was where I finished up eventually and went to school in Reading. I didn't find it boring or quiet. My Gran was good at turning her hand at anything. At the lady's who had us at Axminster - mother, daughter and grandchild as well - we didn't have much in the wau of eating - very poor really. The rations went to the lady of the house and she eeked it out. Clothes - can't remember much about clothes. My mother was a seamstress. I expect she made us clothes. Mum and Dad came down separately at times to see me when I was in Devon.
My Gran in Reading - now that was fun. Half of the field behind her house was the REME HQ. There was a big camp there and so we half expected to be bombed but we never were. We saw the planes going over. There was a trememndous amount of activity. I went home before the end of the war. I finished school in the December and I went home early in 1945. That was at the time when the flying bombs and rockets were coming over London. We heard the rockets coming over and this tremendous whoosh and then the bombs fell. My sister was standing next to the oven and they dropped a bomb and the front door was blown off and the house was damaged and my sister went deaf - but it was only temporary. We saw a lot of houses destroyed. It was very frightening. I went to work for George Payne - they made Payne's Poppets, the chocolates. I started from scratch. They needed a young person in the office. I had a good training from filing to computers. Then they moved down to Devon after the war. I can't remember them being short of chocolate.
Nylon stockings were scarce. We did get some but I can't remember how we used to get hold of them!"
Devon and Reading

Olive Newton

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

Everyday Life
South East
1941 - 1945

"Yvonne Young was born in India in 1923 but was sent with her sister to be educated in England. At the age of 18, in 1941, she joined the WRNS and became one of the famous Code Breakers at Bletchley Park for two years. After that she was a driver for the Admiralty in London. After the war Yvonne trained as a ballerina withe the Sadlers Wells Company before leaving to work for an airline. Yvonne married Peter Molloy and they retired to Dorset in 1979 where she died in April 2011"
London

Anonymous

Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"My sister was five years older than I was and had left school after School Certificate because, although she was clever, there were not the opportunities for scholarships to university in those days. She worked for the Post Office Headquarters in Finsbury Circus in London and lived on the south side of the river. My mother and I went up to London to help celebrate her 18th birthday on September 8th, which coincided with the first bombs dropped on London. I had a siren suit, which I had never before worn, and we took shelter in the basement and were impressed by the red glow of fires. Audrey took us to quieter places, like Kew Gardens and Richmond Park but when we came to go home Waterloo Station was closed and we had to go from Clapham Junction. When we got home my father had had a visit from my old Sunday School teacher, who brought flowers and expressed her sorrow at my supposed death! My sister was evacuated up to Harrogate soon afterwards and joined the Land Army."
London

Shelagh Hill

Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"My first memories of the wartime era are as a schoolboy in the late 1930s becoming aware of the hushed tones of my elders on talking of the European News. I became a Corporal in the OTC (Officers Training Corps). Our equipment was still of the First World War era - no wireless and our Dispatch Riders were mounted on horseback! We wore puttees and formed fours and were only allowed to read serious newspapers - the Daily Mirror with its strip cartoon of Jane was forbidden.
At the outbreak of war I was on a three generation holiday afloat in Norfolk and, whilst keeping in touch daily with the family business in London, we decided not to navigate back to base because it seemed there was a lot of unnecessary ill informed panic in the big city, which was confirmed when we returned a fortnight later. The our panic started because we had to make blacoouts, prepare safe areas and fit shields to our vehicle headlights.
We had to support such civilian groups as the Local Defence Volunteers, the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Royal Observer Corps and observe Air Raid Precautions. We assisted with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. For this we had a small yacht available on the Medway but although registered with large authorised inscriptions on both sides, she was laid-up and so out of commission. Some of our staff were leaving due to Conscription and were replaced by retired members. Then day and night bombing made the journey from the suburbs to the city a challenge because of all the new diversions and the road signs had been removed, as they had nationwide for reasons of security. Phrases such as "careless talk costs lives" - "be like dad, keep mum" - "dig for victory" - "make do and mend" and "waste not want not" were often heard.
We were finally fire bombed out of London. This was the only time my father was reduced to tears when he saw our family firm of stationers and newspaper makers, established in the 18th Century, reduced to a shell. We needed special dispensation to enter the building. There was some surprising salvage in the cellars where the lack of oxygen had left the antracite unconsumed and the bonded methylated spirits still in its Winchesters had failed to explode! The safe on the ground floor was a complete melt down but our industrial textiles stored as heavy weight rolls on steel racks were found marketable after severe trimming!
As an indentured apprentice one of my jobs was to make an inventory of the building's contents to support our war damage insurance claim. Whilst our turnover and revenue in this trade were seriously reduced this was somewhat offset by diversification as a government sub-contractor working from home in engineering on behalf of the war effort.
A twelve hour day was followed by home guard fire watching and anti-looting patrols. We were now fully kitted out , including bayonets, .300 rifles and five rounds of ammo. Our training was on-going from Lewis and Vickers machine guns and eventually a Tommy gun. We also had to maintain a flame thrower kept ready at our local road block and practice throwing live hand grenades. We did have a few field telephones but mainly relied on the Morse Code and signalling with flags. On the lighter side we went recruiting with our drum and fife band. As a former ceremonial bugler from my schooldays I was reduced to clashing the cymbals!
Although I was in a reserved occupation, call up papers duly arrived from the RAF, who were short of engineers. After some four months initial training I was posted to Ayr, where we were under canvas in a bell tent on cold, wet, soggy ground in winter, followed by Chester where conditions were much better. Here we became sufficiently skilled to be able, as one of several teams, to fetch an aircraft in for a service, change a Merlin in-line or Hercules radial engine, including all the associated components and ground test all within 24 hours. For a couple of months we were working a seven day week, 12 hours a day. For some of us this was overpowering, bearing in mind the care needed in servicing an aircraft; so we volunteered as a break for guard duty - two hours on and four hours off - which was much easier.
My unrelated but subsequent posting to a salvage and repair unit was in Kent. This was a compassionate posting due to the illness of my mother, which led to my being billeted at home and travelling on a camp bike. One of my family obligations was to have a hot meal of rationed food ready for me any evening on my return from duty. However my movements were erratic, being dictated by the repair work on aircraft anywhere in Kent, which often lasted several days. On these occasions we lived mainly on hay-box meals. I had one break due to being sent to an isolation hospital with german measles.
At this time doodle bugs were constantly arriving. For shelter I once dived under a petrol bowser, which was not exactly intelligent, but there was little time to think! So in a way it was a relief to find myself being kitted out for an unknown overseas posting. In the event, after a three week tropp ship journey, including several days of horrible sea sickness, I arrived in India for a posting 300 miles south wesdt of Calcutta at a sdtaging post in the Bengal jungle. This was a complete change in life.
Boredom was the chief problem. To counter this I became mis-employed as a Motor Transport fitter/driver. This meant I had a gharrie to drive, which was a real luxury because it was relatively dust free. Never the less I had to visit a hospital in Calcutta with infected ears and impetigo. Following this I had a period of convalesence in the Himalayas with a return journey via Agra - where I missed a connection and so was able to visit the Taj Mahal. My final flink, early in 1946, was to collect, with a colleague, a radar truck from Bombay and deliver it via Delhi to Calcutta. It was a week's journey of some 1500 miles styled as a single vehicle convoy, being serviced all found by Western Oriental Gentlemen. This included their rations which consisted mainly of rice and stew which did not impress us - but the journey did. It was mainly single tarmac roads with a bullock cart dust track on either side. The bridges were not really meant for heavy vehicles. Driving over the sleepers of a railway bridge was sometimes the alternative, especially when pontoons were not up to the job. On arrival at camp I was told to pack my belongings because my discharge papers had arrived. I was flown to Bighty with three refuelling stops. What a sudden change on arrival after the tropics to find a very cold English winter. Thus ended my war.
In retrospect the wartime experiences, whilst at times severely harsh and tiring, hastened my preparation towards becoming a self-sufficient person as already started by school discipline and the ethos of the Boy Scouts. Certainly there were a few lighter moments and perks when in uniform. On off duty times in the UK we could visit cinemas, dance halls and pubs; perks included postage paid letter forms, usually censored, free bus travel and an occasional furrlough or 36 hour pass; the use of service men's clubs such as TocH, Salvation Army, YMCA and WVS. One Christmas time with two others I was invited into the home of a large family of WVS girls whose boy friends were overseas - that was a very pleasant and totally unexpected surprise - which led to a pen friendship for the duration of the war.
However there was no real let up from the mental pressures of the times - the blackouts and bombing.
On returning to civvy street I was able to join a tennis club and swimming club."
Norfolk and International

Denzil Goddard
a resident of Leigh Old Vicarage wanted to record his wartime memories.

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