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


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.
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

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

"I was in the Land Army and had to travel from Devon to Birmingham. I remember we didn't have any cups, we couldn't get cups so tea was served in jam jars! While I was in the Land Army I was sent to Coventry and was there when the blitz of Coventry happened. I remember the landmines and bombs that fell on the estate we were working on. My inlaws lived in Solihull. We couldn't get through the roads. I had to go through someones garden and out the back of their house pulling and lifting my bicycle with me to get through to get home.
I was sent to train to work with the decoders - you know Alan Turin and the Enigma Code. We were taking down signals. We took them down - we didn't decode them. I was sent to Bow Manor Loughborough to train. We had to be very accurate. There were lots of us on these little radio sets listening. All these men had different sending techniques. They changed their frequencies quite often. We had to turn our dials until we picked up the new frequencies. I remember the great comradeship of that time. We kept in touch for years and years. I had to go to London to take tests to do this work. We were sent a morse type signal and then another and had to decide whether it was sent by the same person or not. We were taught to listen for any similarities and had to mark the test messages with a tick or a cross. It took nine months to train us and during that time I was sent to Trowbridge and also Douglas on the Isle of Man. We had to pass the Royal Signals Test B2 before we could do the work. When the Invasion started we sometimes picked up some very sad messages like 'please tell my mother we did our best'. These were from young men, no more than boys, just like ours. It made us think we were all the same. Some were very sad. They knew they weren't coming home. My husband and I retired to Gillingham, Dorset and then I was in a British Legion Home at Taunton before coming to the Almshouse here in Sherborne where I am very happy. It is a lovely place."
Birmingham

Noel Leadbeater
Grew up in a suburb of Birmingham and is now a resident of St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Scotland
Wales
Northern Ireland
North West
North East
Midlands
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"Every household became a miniature munitions dump during Christmas - and the munitions are wanted now for active service. Your munitions comprise all those Christmas cards, letters, boxes, gift wrappings, decorations and crackers. Paper is a munition of war. Every household must see that its accumulation of Christmas paper gets to the enemy in the most effective form. In one envelope there is sufficient paper to make a wad for a bullet. Remember that 3lbs of waste paper makes containers for two anti-aircraft shells. A ton of paper will make, among other things, 9000 shell fuse components. You probably had your weekly joint of meat on Christmas Day. Don't forget that the bone is wanted too. Bones provide glycerine for high explosives as well as glue for binding particular aircraft parts, body filling for camouflage paints, fertiliser for growing food, and feeding meals for cattle and poultry. Scrap metal is also vitally important. Five tons of ferrous metal will provide steel for 8145 anti-aircraft shells."
UK

Wartime Christmas
A newspaper cutting of January 1942 has been sent to us.

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