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

"At 100 Dorothy recalled "I was the youngest of four. My father, Charles, was shepherd on the farm and when he died my oldest brother Harry took over. I remember him coming home from the First World War. I was eight when he was called up. By the time the Second World War started, Mother, Elizabeth, had a heart condition so I was exempted from war work because I had to look after her. We were lucky in the country and being on the farm we had most things that we needed. I did gloving at home. Mine were leather samples of the highest quality that were sent out to store buyers. Ours was such a small village and off of the main road so the war didn't affect us a lot. We had our garden and I made jam.""
Closworth near Yeovil

Dorothy Loveless
Lived all her life at Closworth near Yeovil, Somerset in the cottage where she was born.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"Sheets when worn thin were turned 'sides to the middle' to make them last longer.
Wedding dresses were made from parachute silk.
School children were allowed more clothing coupons.
Flax was grown for soldiers uniform.
Damsons were sold to dye sailors uniform material."
South West

Leigh Old VIcarage
Collective war time recollections at a taster session before their World War Two tea party.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"Mum showed us how to make a new collar for a man's shirt. We cut off the long tail and used this to make a new collar to replace a worn out one. Then we put a new piece of material on for the shirt tail. It didn't match but no one was going to see it!"
Sherborne, Dorset

Sonia Batten

Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"My cousin in America sent a lovely check (yellow and blue) dirndl with a stiff petticoat – I was so proud, I felt like Doris Day. I looked after it and looked after it until I got too big, then it was passed on to someone else, much to my chagrin. You had to wear shoes for far too long, that’s why my feet are so bad today – you wore other people’s shoes because feet weren’t considered important. That’s why I always made sure you (daughter)were measured by the Startrite shoe-fitter. I remember someone made my brother a coat out of a blanket, like a duffel coat with a hood. We’d take advantage if a pilot bailed out, got the parachute silk by nefarious means to make underwear out of."
Wimborne, Dorset

Betty Bletsoe
nee Ellis (aged 79) from Wimborne, Dorset
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
South West
1939 - 1945

"Fortunately father still had his shoemaking last in the shed. He got it out and used to mend our shoes with rubber tips or metal ones! If you took them to the cobblers in town they would be kept a month or so because he was so short of supplies - even rubber soles and heels."
North-East Dorset

Anonymous

Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1943

""I was not yet 13 when war was declared in September 1939. I remember hearing it on the radio. My chief memory is of how pleased my mother, then aged 39, was to be able to take a full time job running an elementary school at Rockford, in the parish of Ellingham, Hampshire, between Ringwood and Fordingbridge, on the edge of the New Forest. She had been trained as a teacher at Salisbury Training College but in those days and for many years to follow, right up to my own time, one had, as a woman, to make that difficult choice between marriage and a career. She had married aged 20, directly after leaving college. She had been able to do supply work as a teacher, but that was all; my father was near retirement, so it was doubly important for her to have a job. It meant that we moved out of Southbourne and I had to stay with a family in Bournemouth from Monday to Friday in term time. Although the school house we moved to had no electricity and limited bathroom facilities, I loved it and really enjoyed finding out more about the countryside, its trees and flowers etc. Previously I had only known the countryside when on holiday or on days out - not the same as living there. We had a dog for the first time too! The house may have lacked facilities we now take for granted and sometimes, as on my first weekend back at school ,heavy rain meant it was impossible to go home as the green outside the school was flooded, as was the ford to the west of us, which had prevented some children from coming in to my mother's school. My father used the bus to go into Bournemouth where he worked at the Town Hall in the Education Department but I preferred to cycle the 15 or so miles, usually on Monday mornings (when I was let off gym) and Friday evenings, using what we had always called "the switchback road" through Matchams. The school house overlooked a wartime airfield ( now it is part of Blashford Lakes) and on more than one occasion I saw two aeroplanes (Lightnings I think they were called, they belonged to the Canadians or Americans) take off almost simultaneously and crash into each other so that the pilot was brought down in flames. They carried spare petrol, which added to the danger. On another occasion, when my mother was away, my father lent a torch to some men, dressed in uniform but without insignia, who asked the way to the anti-aircraft gun emplacement nearby. Father, always trusting, showed them the short way, but the next day the Military Police arrived and told him how spies had stolen a plane and flown it to somewhere near Salisbury! My school, Bournemouth School for Girls, which was then in Gervis Road near the Lansdowne, had, until 1942, to share premises with the evacuated Girls' Grammar School from Southampton so one week we went to school in the mornings (8.30am until 1pm) the next in the afternoons (2pm - 5.30pm), with additional lessons, like latin, held in a nearby hall out of normal school hours. School clubs too had to make do with makeshift accommodation much of the time. If an air-raid warning came, or sometimes just for practice, we had to take shelter in the cloakrooms, half underground and adapted for the purpose with extra girders. The coast, beach and cliffs were forbidden territory during the war and I needed a pass to come into Bournemouth. Swimming lessons stopped when the army took over Stokewood Road Baths, game facilities were limited and tennis was played in King's Park. We always carried our gas marks ( and had to practice using them too). There were talks of emergency rations, including chocolate, but we never got the opportunity of sampling them. When the evacuation of Dunkirk happened in June 1940, about 850 French soldiers were given temporary accommodation in the school for four days while we had an enforced holiday. A Guide friend and I not only collected what clothes etc we could for them ( they really wanted pants which we didn't have!) but tried out our French dictation on seemingly uncomprehending French ears. Afterwards real air raid alerts became more frequent. There were compensations as well known stars of ballet, drama and music came to Bournmemouth, as it was deemed safer than London, and our own school societies flourished despite difficulties. Our interests extended; we began to understand the Headmistress's support for the League of Nastions. We collected for charitable causes, collecting salvage, bought National Savings Stamps, learnt simple First Aid and Home Nursing. Guide Camps became Harvest Camps with camouflaged tents and the opportunity to wield a pitchfork, drive a tractor, clear river weeds and dig potatoes etc. In Rockford my mother joined the Women's Institute and I joined in the parties and dances for various soldiers, including Canadians. We enjoyed their gifts and company. As for rations, we accepted what came, walked the two miles to Ringwood to get "off the ration" sausages and offal, and though we grumbled when our dog stole the butter or meat, we somehow managed. As for make-do-and-mend we were used to that anyway and Guide badges included patching and mending! I don't remember feeling we were shorter in clothing and food than usual, though when I burnt my new blazer sleeve carrying an accumulator for the radio, I was careful to hide it from my mother! My father's growing of vegetables, which he had always liked doing, really came into its own. My mother's brother was a tailor so, even when I went to university, I was given a properly tailored new two piece suit as well as two new dresses."
Dorset and Hampshire

Shelagh Hill

Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember my first black suit. During the war to buy a suit would take most of one's coupons. I wanted a black suit before I went off as a V.A.D. If one had a decent tailor it turned out to be feasible to convert a man's dinner jacket and trousers into a coat and skirt. My father happened to have replaced his old one just before the war, and out of the very nice barathea cloth mother's tailor made a jacket, with a well made skirt, but it had to be slightly gored in four pieces. Also I remember remnants of cloth were not rationed so sometimes leading to sofa-cover material being turned into summer frocks! "


Sheila Rideout
RECALLS EVACUATION - and the great change from the city facilities she had been used to.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was quite good at knitting so I used up lots of odd ends of wool knitting stripy jumpers. I used to unpick some that were worn out, wash the wool and use that too. Sometimes I would cut off the ribbing and the cuffs if that was all that was worn, pick up the stitches and knit new ones in a different colour. I would cut off the feet of knitted socks, pick up the stitches and knit new feet on them - often in a different colour - but it didn't matter as no one was going to see them!"
Bow, Devon

Lucy Fulls

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