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
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

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.
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!"
Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I came from Surrey but now live in St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne, Dorset. At 14 I went into service but at 20 I was called up for war work and worked in a factory - making things for guns. I stayed at home as I lived close by and was picked up for work. We lived in the country in a village called Frimley Green - all fields, farms and allotments. I lived with grandparents on both sides of us! We were quite well off for food - one grandmother used to sit and talk about rationing in the First War and go back even further to how very short of food they were in the Boer War. Things were much worse then. My father was in the Queens Regiment and was away at war from 1914. He served until his time was up. During the school holidays I used to walk to see relations - the only way to get there. My uncles all had allotments and one grandfather was a gardener. He used to keep his kitchen garden for growing fruit and had allotments. I remember doing a lot of knitting and sewing in the war."
Surrey

Mary Jones

Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was in Central London during the war. I was nursing - in training when war broke out. I was on night duty when Great Ormond Street Hospital was bombed in the blitz. Most of the teaching hospitals had been evacuated to base hospitals in the country. None closed but bed numbers fluctuated. It was a very highly organised system evacuating patients every morning. As soon as they could be moved they were moved out to base hospitals. Green Line coaches were commandeered as convoys of ambulances. Every morning the convoys left. It was a very organised system every morning and then on the return journey patients were brought back who had recovered from operations. During the blitz it was horrendous. I remember a particular night when I was on night duty on the fifth floor. The sirens went and we wheeled the beds and cots - and remember we had very sick babies and children - out into the corridor as it was considered the safest place away from glass and arc lights. That night I shall never forget as long as I live. Crump, crump, crump we heard followed by bounces on the roof - a very large bomb had gone down the main lift shaft. All the main services were knocked out. We still wore a Victorian style uniform - long capes, gas masks on shoulder and each of us had to carry a baby wrapped in a blanket and their huge baby gas masks packed in large cardboard boxes. We had to carry everything down into the basemet lit only by a small pen torch. It was regarded as the safest place. It was a very big hospital and a tall building so an easy target. As soon as we got to the basement the water started to rise until it was a huge flood several feet deep. Everything from the kitchen was floating. I remember seeing babies bottles, a pound of sausages, childrens green ration books - they all floated by. Firemen from the ak-ak factory opposite came to rescue us. I don't know how they did it. They piggybacked us up from the basement still carrying our baby patients and all our equipment and put us down on the ground floor. We all gathered in the atrium of the hospital and assembled. Then we went out in single file across the forecourt and across the road to the Hospital for Nervous Diseases. It was like treading on an ice rink. Every bit of glass from our hospital had been blown out. It was treacherous to walk on, especially carrying so much and our precious babies. We also had our white starched bonnets - we were a sitting target. It was pitch dark and a black out. We never came out until 6am/7am and then went into the Out Patients Department and sat on the floor. We were all 18 years of age. We were given a boiled egg each for breakfast.
Wartime London was difficult, especially in September 1940 at the height of the blitz. German bombers came up the Thames in the late afternoon to bomb the East End. I remember it always smelt like burnt toast afterwards. I shall never forget it. Mother was home on the outskirts of Reading and Father was at The Front for the second time in his life as he had served in the First War. Our patients had special dried milk and special juices because of course they did not need a meat ration so their needs were substituted. There were no oranges so rose-hip sysrup was substituted. Rationing didn't stop when the war stopped - not until 1953, the last being meat - not until after the Coronation. Food was shorter after the war, especially bread and potatoes that had not been rationed before. We had to feed the people of Europe. I started nursing six months before war broke out and I was a Senior Sister by the end of the war. Our Nurses Uniform altered during the war to save material. Our Nurses dresses had been 12 inches above the ground and this went up to 14 inches. The dresses had taken six and a half yards of material to make! They took the straps off of our aprons and our bibs were fixed with safety pins. Caps changed in style too. Gradually our long sleeves became short sleeves. Our long full capes became short capes. The problem was getting everything starched. It was difficult to get enough starch. We had at least one clean apron a day. We had to buy our own uniform. We went to the hospital tailors to get measured. Mother said it was like starting at boarding school all over again! In our second year we were given enough material to make our uniform. We were paid £15 a year, in the second year £20 and in the third £30. It was quite expensive to go into nursing before the Health Service. If you didn't like it and left you had to pay them back. You had to supply your own safety pins too. You had to pay for breakages; six pence (6d) for a broken thermometer. It was very disciplined. We were not allowed out after 10pm. Only in recent years have women become emancipated. We were all under 21 [ 21 then being the coming of age] so Matron was responsible for all of us. It was a great responsibility."
Central London

Mary Hatt
Mary Hatt was interviewed at the St Johns Almshouse Memories Tea Party where she has recently retired to after a lifetime career in nursing.
Clothing
South East
1939 - 1945
Rationing
"We were issued with clothing coupons and could spend them how we liked. Obviously a great coat took a lot of coupons and stockings not many. Furnishing fabric was unrationed and made splendid dressing gowns - and the silk from parachutes was marvellous for underclothes!"
South East

Margaret Webster
Is now a resident of St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne, Dorset but when war broke out was living in a small market town in Hertfordshire.

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