Make Do And Mend

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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
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
In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
South East
1939 - 1945

"We were not far from Biggin Hill airfield. We had big guns on wheels near us and a lot of plane activity. The guns did not actually have the range to hit the planes that flew over on their way to the city. I wasn't frightened. We lived in a bungalow. We were self sufficient. Kent had a lot of farms. Dad was a good gardener and Mum was a good cook. I was brought up on rations but we were not short of anything really. Dad kept rabbits, ducks and chickens so we had meat and eggs. I do remember the sweet rations though and thought it unfair that adults got a pound of sweets a month but children only three quarters of a pound!. We only had 2 ounces of butter a week. Word soon spread around the village when oranges came in. Mum would send me round to the greengrocers to stand in the queue. We didn't have bananas as you had to have a green ration book to have those. [a baby's ration book] Mum used to buy a large joint of beef and pot roast it so we had it hot on Sunday, cold on Monday and Tuesday and then the rest was minced. When that ran out Mum would make a bacon pudding. I didn't like it. It was the one meal I didn't like. She used to cut up the fatty ends of bacon and make it into a doughy pudding that was steamed in a handkerchief. I was evacuated to Birmingham when I was six. I hated it. After six weeks I wrote to Mum.
"Dear Mum. Take me home".
We were bombed a lot. We could see the fires over London during the blitz. Our bungalow was fire bombed. It destroyed the main bedroom but they managed to put the fire out before it reached the rest of the building. I remember the Doodlebugs too. The bombing was heavy. I remember the noise. When the noise stopped we ran inside and sheltered. A landmine hit the school next door. Fortunately it was empty at the time. We were smothered in plaster, glass and debris. The school was completely destroyed. A whole row of cottages was hit a short distance away and everyone was killed."
Kent and Birmingham

Pam and James Whiting pictured at Sherborne war memorial on 1st September 2009, 70 years after |James arrived in Sherborne as Pam Whiting
Pam was the daughter of Florence, known as May, and Walter Harrison. They lived at St Paul's Cray, a village in Kent about 16 miles from the heart of London.
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

In The Home
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was 22 and working as a pharmacist at Beckenham, Kent. We were quite near the seat of action. We saw lots of planes overhead. They used to come over at the same time of day. The planes were heading for Luton or Vauxhall.
When my employer retired I took over the business. I thought I was too young. I was married by then. We talked it over and took it on.
People used to come to a little pop hole in a porch with their prescriptions next to the shop. We used to have to make their pills and their ointments from scratch. There were shortages. If we didn't have things in stock people would ask if it would be ready the next day. We just didn't know. If the right ingredients didn't come in we couldn't make their ointments for them.
If we had any spare time - and we didn't have much of that! - we would make our own make-up from what we had in the shop. You couldn't tell what shade it was going to end up. Sometimes it was too dark, sometimes too light. We weren't short of paper. We always seemed to have enough."
Kent

Irene Sanders

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

In The Home
South East
1939 - 1945

"My father had been in Germany for seven years before the war so he was used to working in difficult conditions but he was home before war broke out. Then he worked for the NAFFI, a reserved occupation so he wasn't called up although he was of serving age. He was head of a department at Kennington Naffi HQ. Mother was at home. My brother was serving with the Royal Engineers in India. I don't remember my older sister very well because she died when she was 16 of TB and I was only about 5. Mother had been apprenticed to a tailoress at the age of 14 1/2 and she served a five year apprenticeship. She made all of our clothes. I can't remember ever buying anything in our family. Her mother was the same. Grandmother had had 13 children but only six lived beyond childhood. Grandmother was a very interesting lady. She lived in Battersea at No 43 Kersley Street opposite St Stephens Church. It was only a two minute walk to Battersea Park and I remember she always had a dog and the dogs she had were always called Jimmy.
At home when the siren went when the planes came over we went to the shelters in Wandsworth Common or Clapham Common. We stayed underground all night. I remember dodging the searchlights. Sometimes I would pop home and make a hot drink.
It was a very interesting time! I wouldn't say I would want to go through it again but it was an interesting experience!"
London

Joy Sinnott

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

In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"Margaret Jessie Young ATS Southern Command no W/252589

"I wasn't going to be left alone in the village, all my friends were off to the war so I might as well. The village was in Leicestershire - hardly any cars about in the 1940's. Looking back now the village was idyllic, everyone knew everyone else and looked out for one another. When the church bell tolled everyone knew who had died - so many tolls for a man, so many for a woman and so many for a child. Of course there was chapel three times on a Sunday - where I learned to spell Congregational and got my finger stuck in a knot hole during the sermon! Family and neighbours brought a taste of their baking and cakes to share and on winter days Aunt Polly would tap, tap, tap up the Entry if snow was lying, with her pattens on, carrying a steaming jug of soup. It was good to grow up there.
As I said I wasn't being left behind so on the bus to Leicester and volunteers for the Navy (No - they only wanted Commander's daughters then), the Air Force (No, I didn't want to be a cook), the Army - yes! I could already drive after working for the Co-op milk round in the worst of a winter and delivering milk, which was then rationed, to people in three villages. I could certainly drive being taught by the Dairy Manager, Ernie Wilkinson, on the light Ford lorry. All I was required to learn was map reading and how to maintain the vehicle. When I returned home and told my mother, she began to cry. She was ironing and I shall always remember and I wondered why the tears. I was called up and went to the Barracks at Wigston, only a stone's throw from home. I was issued with khaki issue, had various inoculations, began drill or square bashing after that, and there was more to come when I was sent to Camberley in Surrey. I never felt so fit in my life.
Camberley was good; drill, car maintenance all being taught and being with ladies ( all well off) in the FANYs - First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. I never saw the lot I was with doing any First Aid, just good drivers, teachers and ride motor bike now and again with lengths of bloomers showing!
After being taught how to do the daily maintenance on a vehicle, how to read a map with headlights half-shaded, I was posted to Roche Court, Farnham, Hants, driving lorries day and night.
Next I was sent to Salisbury to Longford castle, billeted at the Moat, Britford. We drivers, leather straps over the top of our caps and the wheel symbol stitched on the bottom of our sleeves, we were the elite of Longford. We were called upon to drive top ranking Officers in big cars, Ford USs, Humber Snipes. Then on lighter duty to ferry girls from the Moat to Longford in the small covered PU's. On one drive the steering went and I careered along the boulders down Longford Castle drive. I was on a charge the next day but I can't remember the outcome as D Day was approaching and life was hectic. I did doze off when driving the Medical Officer, who took over the wheel and ordered three days rest!
We drove everywhere, in Dorset mainly and on Salisbury Plain, down to Weymouth where part of the Mulberry Harbour was being built. Across to the Isle of Wight - that was work on the Pluto pipeline ready for D Day but we didn't know that then. We collected Intelligence men from London at Winchester station and took them along the coast to Weymouth mainly. Very often I used to go to Wilton House and while he was in at a meeting I dare not get out of the car. I also remember when I went to Studland where men were laying mines in the bay. I was desperate for a wee. I thought I was in an area of woodland but later learnt that there was camouflage and some of the dummy trees had bodies inside! That side of things was a problem for a woman in security areas. As D Day approached our driving became less. I remember many boats along the Solent then and one day the drone of planes towing gliders flying quite low that flew over the camp.

On my so called day off I used to drive a very handsome staff sergeant to Bournemouth. He was in charge of finance for the whole camp. He used to call at houses where army personnel lodged to pay for accomodation, then on to Bournemouth to collect maybe cleaning etc and we always went to Bobby's for refreshments, then walk along the cliff top piled high with barbed wire before returning to Salisbury. I fell hook, line and sinker for him. We were married on 12 August 1944 at the Enderby Congregational Church. Somehow my mother provided lunch which was hard on rations at that time. My family was teatotal and a non smoking one yet I always remember the dishes of scented cigarettes my father provided! We had special permission to travel to Matlock for a few days and as we waited on the platfor loads of soldiers passed by with the announcement being made that the train was not for the use of the public - however we made it.

Before D Day I drove Lady Pamela Digby. Only myself and one other were allowed to drive her as we dove FAST [ Winston Churchill's daughter] There were more tanks on the road around Dorset than cars. It was a very happy time and I kept in touch with Lady Pamela until her death in a home in Dorchester.

Margaret has a newspaper cuttings about Wilton House's crucial D Day role that reads
"The planning for Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, took place at Wilton House . . . Wilton House was requisitioned as the headquarters of Southern Command in June 1940. The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke remained in residence while the top secret planning for D Day was co-ordinated in the famous Double Cube Room. . . . During the planning stages of the operation the house was visited by Churchill, Eisenhower, General de Gaulle and King George V. However it was all top secret so little evidence remains" Debbie Evans, the Tourism Manager at Wilton House added. "
England

Margaret Aldridge
was born in 1924 and lived in the village of Enderby, Leicestershire, five miles south west of Leicester city and now pincered by the M1 and M69. Margaret recalls the village was dominated by the granite quarry and the shoe and hosiery factories.
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.