Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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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
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
South West
1939 - 1945

"Remembered getting leather patches to sew on to elbows of jackets when they were threadbare to make them last longer. Some village WIs made these and sold them during the war."
South West

Freda King

Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was born 11th November 1928, Remembrance Day, so I was called Poppy.
I remember queuing for bananas and oranges. We used to turn worn out sheets sides to the middle to give them a new lease of life. Wedding dresses were made from parachute silk if you were lucky enough to get some.
Lots of rabbit meat was eaten and rabbits were bred especially for this purpose. Butter was rationed so we used to put jam on first and butter on top to make it go further. Rosehips were gathered for vitamin C. We got extra rations of preserving sugar to make jam. Children were allowed orange juice and cod liver oil. There was quite a good exchange system working - the Black Market!
We ate all of the pig - there were bath chaps, brawn, brain, tripe and chitterlings!
I remember dried egg, dried milk and mock cream. There was chicory and dandelion coffee. There was a shortage of kilner jars - we used candle wax to seal the jars. Candles were sold by the pound weight.
I remember red petrol and cars being stopped to check what was in the tank. Slits were fitted to the headlights to restrict the amount of light showing and of course everyone had blackout curtains.
A lot of flax was grown for soldiers uniforms.
Newspapers were rationed to half of their usual size to save paper.
I remember saving 18 coupons for a coat, 12 for a dress, 2 for stockings and 7 for shoes."
Weymouth, Dorset

Poppy and friends raising money during the war. Poppy Butcher

Poppy sharing her wartime collection at a Make do and Mend event.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember Blanket Coats. It saved on your coupons and soon they became the latest fashion. At first we had army blankets and could make them into coats. Then it became all the rage to get airforce coloured blankets and they were considered to be superior!"
Bristol

Alice Smith

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
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"It was getting dark. My father was Tower Captain and although he wasn't allowed to ring the bells during the war he still had a key to the tower. Off he went with his haversack. Mother put the tea back in the oven and we waited and about half an hour later he came back with the parachute in his bag! There was a lot of material in it and mother made herself a new set of underwear and there was enough left for me to have some too."
Cornwall

Joan Poole
of Cornwall remembers the day a parachute landed on their church tower pinnacle.
Clothing
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Jean got a job working at the Headquarters of the 228th American Hospital at Haydon Park, near Sherborne in the grounds of Sherborne Castle. The camp hospital, which treated injured servicement returning to this country, became fully operational on September 18th 1943. From April the following year almost 1200 beds became available. Jean recalled being given a box of 12 pairs of nylon stockings by the Americans which she shared with her friends but also sadly recorded the demise of her Scottish home made kilt when she was accidentally pushed backwards on to one of the coal stoves and the seat was completely burnt out of it! Her mother was really cross as the kilt had been made to preserve the ration of clothing coupons.!
More of Jean's memories can be found in her book "The 228th American Hospital at Haydon Park, nr Sherborne" a copy of which is in the Sherborne Museum Book Collection. "
Sherborne, Dorset

Jean Treasure
fortunately recorded her wartime memories in a book which makes interesting reading as sadly she has now died.
Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Father was recalled into the Navy. He had been a reserve. We were used to him being away for long periods of time. I was 11 and my brother 12 and there was a new baby - father had been home for a while!
We were all clued up on what would happen when the sirens went. We had an Aunt living with us and Mother had to do war work. We had an Anderson shelter in the garden. We all had jobs to do and things each one of us would take to the shelter. Well the first siren went and we all jumped out of bed and ran to the shelter without taking anything! We had big allotments behind the house that father dug and we kept hens so we had eggs but we shared what we had with others in our street. I remember queuing at the shops. When you finally got to the door and they found you didn't belong - you weren't registered with them or weren't a regular customer then you didn't get anything. If you were a regular and were known there might be a little 'something under the counter' for you. We were in a direct line for Filton and Patchway. When our fighters turned the German planes round they used to drop their bombs. We had some fall at the top and bottom of our road. I went to a convent school in the city. When we had had bombing all night we used to look out and watch it. The bus often had to stop before it got to our school as there were hose pipes in the road or rubble and we had to walk and climb over everything. We didn't get a day off though and if there was an air raid we had to take our lessons that had been prepared to the cellars.
It was amazing how inventive mother was with cooking. Her puddings had different names each week with different toppings - but they were the same puddings really.
Baby had to have a gas mask suit. We managed to get him in but we had to take it in turns to crank it all night or baby wouldn't have been able to breath. Gas masks were hot and uncomfortable.
Air Raid Wardens were a different sort of people. I had a nice little romance going at one time. I remember the news being censored and also the mail sent home. Father - Bill usually called Billy - was back at sea. We had to work out a clue system to work out where in the world he was. He would say we were saying last week whem he had been in port in South Africa. He sent home once and said would us children be more careful about what we wrote as everything apart from our names had been blacked out on the last letter we had written!
When we had been to the cinema we would come out having already closed our eyes to try to adjust to the blackout. I remember apologising after bumping into 'people' but it often turned out to be a pile of sandbags! At dances the Americans always wore dark glasses. It was supposed to help them see when they went outside. There was a lot of humour. One shop that had been blasted put up 'we never close'. We had a very healthy diet really. We hardly ever saw butter.
I remember the awful bombs. The sirens would go and they would whistle close by and then we knew they had just missed us. We had a Great Aunt in Canada who had wanted us children to go to her. We put our names down as we had to have medicals. Mum said no in the end as they couldn't guarantee we would go together. It is a good job she did as it was the boat that was torpedoed.
We used to knit all sorts of things. I knitted a scarf but it was taking such a long time I used to stretch it.
I remember dried egg. Mum and Aunt did everything possible to disguise it. Sometimes we got food parcels from her brother in Canada. There used to be some chocolate in it - that was a real treat!. We used to share eggs with others in the street who had children. I remember Father coming home one time with not just his kitbag but also a suitcase. That suitcase was full of oranges and he divided them between the children in our street.
Gas masks were dreadful - they misted up. I forgot to take mine to school one day. There was a raid but I wasn't allowed to go home to get it. I remember not being able to stretch out in the air raid shelter. Everyone was so wonderful. Neighbours made tea for everyone and everyone helped everyone else. It was the city and the airfield that got it on most raids. Mother worked where they made planes. There was a raid one day and it hit the shelter next to hers. She was really shocked to see all of the people sat upright. They looked alright but they were all dead - killed by the shock waves."
Bristol

Vera Powell

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!"

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