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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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
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

Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
Scotland
South West
South East
1937 - 1945

"I worked at Harper House, a boarding house for Sherborne School, as a sewing maid with Mr Tindall as House Master. In the 1920s he asked me to join him as House Matron at West Downs Preparatory School, Winchester, the Preparatory School for Winchester College, where he had just been appointed Head Master.
Two of my friends went with him too. West Downs was a lovely school and I enjoyed my work there. I used to come home during the holidays or sometimes went on holiday with the Tindalls to the Isle of Wight or Newquay.
When the war came we were worried about the boys.
Some of my favourite Old Boys were Peter Scott who as a boy used to come and ask.
"May can I borrow your watch?" He was always drawing as a young boy but didn't have a watch. He used to draw wildlife in the grounds during his lunch hour. We also had Angus Ogilvy and his brother. Their parents gave me a clock for looking after them so well!
Southampton was bombed and we always had bombers flying overhead. Some of the parents were worried too so Mr Tindall started looking for a safe place to move the school to. We took over Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire in South West Scotland and soon the boys started arriving. All went well at first. Their parents managed to send supplies of most things they needed and there was always something for us too. Then things changed. We found we were on the flight path for Ireland and Mr Tindall started to get worried again.
I went home for the summer holidays. It was a long train journey. I used to have a break in London and go and stay with Aunt Louisa and Uncle Zeb at Finsbury Park. Uncle Zeb was an Austrian Pastry Cook but he was interred in the Alexandra Palace in the First World War in case he was a spy! Aunt used to be allowed to visit him on Sundays. After the war they changed their name back to her maiden name, from Reinthler to Hunt, in case the same thing happened again!
I was crossing Waterloo Bridge one afternoon when there was an air raid and had to go to the nearest shelter. Some time afterwards Uncle Zeb's house was bombed and most of their road. They were re-housed close by. On my way back to Scotland Mother, Louisa's older sister, used to send up a few supplies from the country -eggs, fruit and jam- and I used to drop them off.
When we got back to Scotland we had a shock. The army had taken over Glenapp castle and with less than 48 hours before the boys were due back we had to start searching for another home for the school.
Mr Tindall spent most of the next day with the army who tried to find somewhere for the boys. Then at the last minute we learnt Blair Castle, near Blair Atholl village, in Perthshire was being made available for us. Some of us went on to the castle while others waited to collect the boys as they arrived back and see they were sent on to Blair Atholl. There hadn't been time to tell them to go to Blair Atholl. It was a lovely place to stay. It had been an auxillary hospital in the First World War but was the family home of the Duke of Atholl. The Duke was the only person allowed to keep a private army and we often saw his Atholl Highlanders. While we were there the Duke died and we watched the Highlanders parade and pipe the coffin from the house to the church. We watched from the upper windows. The family made us very welcome and we had few shortages. The estate was large and the remaining keepers kept us well supplied with food.
The boys were very careful in the castle and I don't remember any breakages but they all came from well off homes so were used to such places.
In May 1945 I had a phonecall from Dorset to say Mother was seriously ill so I packed up and caught the first train home. She died soon after I got there and I stayed home to look after father and never returned to Scotland. At home we had rationing but we had a large garden and two allotments. My brother was a thatcher and got a special petrol allowance so he could carry on working. He often came home with something for the table. My Uncle was a keeper in Honeycombe Wood so he sometimes gave us things too. He kept pigs and built a smoke house near the house. He used oak shavings and smoked the joints and hams so we often had meat too. "
Dorset, Scotland, London

Emily May Garrett

Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
South East
1939 - 1945

"I remember the shortages. I didn't take sugar fortunately so I didn't miss it! All the fats were rationed and soap. It was lovely to get a tablet of soap. You couldn't get washing powder for love nor money - and oh we were so pleased if we could get some Lux! [ soft soap flakes]. If you did you shared it. You didn't keep it to yourself. There were no dog biscuits or cat food either. You used to queue at the fishmongers to get bits to feed the cats on. I had two cats. Clothes - well it was Make do and Mend. Fortunately we were all handy and made our own clothes. Mother was a seamstress so we always had a good wardrobe. She was always in demand. Stockings - well if we heard someone had some we used to queue for ages to get just one pair. At Soho there were lots of stalls. If a whisper went round that stockings might be coming in we would start to queue and would get one pair if we were lucky. They were lyle or fine cotton. Silk stockings were like gold dust. If anyone came from America with silk stockings they were plagued! The RAF smuggled them in sometimes for us. We unpicked knitted jumpers and pullovers, washed the wool to get the crinkles out and then re-knitted it into something else. Shoes were very hard to get hold of. I don't remember getting a new pair. People used to go round second hand stalls to get footwear. Wellingtons were the most important thing in our wardrobe ! Father was a good gardener. We grew beans, peas and potatoes. We tried everything to supplement our diet. The number of bananas I managed to get during the war you could count on one hand. We grew soft fruit too and we had two plum trees and an apple tree. Most of us shared everything -there were just one or two who didn't. We saved our sugar to make jam but there was never enough but it didn't matter because it never stayed on the shelf too long! I remember the first time we used pectin to make it set better. When the war ended there were lots of celebrations. I remember lots of street parties - we tried to make the most of everything. It wasn't the end of rationing though. It went on for another four years. It actually got worse after the war - not better. Everything was in short supply."
London

Joy Sinnott

Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
North West
South East
1939 - 1945

"My father was a morse code instructor during the war. I didn't go to ordinary school but was taught by post as part of the Parents Union School that I think was based in the Lake District. We were in Aberdeen for a few months when father was instruction Naval Cadets. He had three months to teach them what should have taken three years.
In Aberdeen I remember an air raid. Mother and I were sitting under the kitchen table. Our canary was on the top in its cage. I don't know why we didn't have her underneath with us. She used to travel everywhere with us. She was so used to travelling she used to sing on station platforms and wasn't at all worried when travellers came to talk to her.
I remember one air raid while we were in Aberdeen - a big one that went on and on. When there was a lull Mother and I went to visit the old man next door and stayed with him when it started again. I remember he gave me some books to read to take my mind off of the raid - but they were all in Gaelic! He hadn't realised I couldn't read them. We had double summer time while we were in Aberdeen. In Aberdeen we were above the city and could look down on it and the harbour. There was a big ship anchored in the harbour and an enemy plane came over and started firing on it. I remember lots of tracer bullets. The ship was firing at the plane. I shall always remember what mother said. It sounded strange to me.
"Isn't that pretty. I do like that!" - the colours were quite pretty as they fired at each other but it was really quite frightening.

We were in Scarborough too. I remember mother seeing a queue. We didn't know what we were queuing for but after a long time we got to the front of the shop and all we could have was just one Victoria plum. It was a very big one. I don't remember ever seeing such a large plum before and I can't remember what we did with it! Mother used to skin things too. I remember a lot of rabbit meat.

When we were in Brighton I remember another air raid. We hid under the table for what seemed like hours. I can remember the pattern of the linoleum today - I was looking at it for so long!

When we were in Shropshire we had a bungalow in a steeply sided valley. It only had oil lamps and oil for cooking. We used to hear the bombers go over heading for Shrewsbury. We used to go outside to listen and heard the thump, thump thump as the bombs fell. I was an only child so I didn't have enough courage to go out on my own at night and climb up the hill. I would have liked to to see the town and where the bombs had fallen. Mum used to buy my sweet ration once a month. She always bought chocolate bars and then broke them up. I got two chunks each day. I never had any sugar I was always given saccharin. Mum loved making jam so saved all of the sugar ration for that. When sugar wasn't rationed any longer I didn't like the taste of it at all. It tasted funny to me.

I don't remember being short of clothes but mother was very good at sewing. I do remember one of the places we stayed at had a an electric heater with two switches. She wasn't used to it. We hadn't had anything like it at home. She put on one switch and there was a warm light but no heat. She said "I don't think much of this heater". She didn't realise you had to put on the other switch to get the heat!"


Marguerite found two wartime booklets - the Protection of Your Home against Air Raids and Your Food in War-time. Marguerite k Marguerite Backhouse
A talented artist who now lives at Glanvilles Wootton, Dorset not surprising recalls, colours and scenes during her wartime schooldays that took her across the country.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"The family had been there over 200 years. It was a mixed farm so we had everything we wanted - pork, eggs, milk, butter, cheese and vegetables. No one had served in the forces as they had reserved occupations although my father was a member of the Home Guard. They used to meet in a hut in a sand pit but there was usually nothing for them to do. I stayed with my aunt in Winchester for two years. We had a lot of troop movements leading up to D Day. I remember the troops marching on the roads too. She had American soldiers billetted with her. We used to hear our bombers going out on raids. They went overhead both at the farm and at Winchester. Sometimes we saw them coming back with vapour trails behind some of them who just made it home. At the farm I remember hearing the empty cartridge cases raining down on the galvanised roofs of the farm buildings and the noise it made. We weren't really short of anything. We never wasted anything in any case so it was nothing new to us."
Eastleigh, near Winchester

Rob Boyes

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
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was in London and so was my future wife Violet. Times were much harder in the city than down here in the country [ Norman has lived in Sherborne, Dorset for many years]. We didn't have large gardens, allotments or keep chickens. Violet's family was bombed out twice and then she and her brother were evacuated.
I remember my mother was determined to keep the rations fair. She used to have our 6oz butter ration - 2oz for each of my parents and 2oz for me and divide it accurately each week as soon as she got it so that we all got exactly 2oz each."
London

Norman Gardner

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