Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Val Rowsell remembered nine people living in their three bedroom cottage at Long Load, Somerset so there wasn't any room for evacuees. "Mum had a lovely garden so we didn't go short of anything. We had Mum's sister because her husband was away in the navy, Grandmother, my two older brothers and I had just been born and we had a cousin too. I was only a baby in the war but I do remember we used to congregate under the stairs if there was an emergency or under the very strong kitchen table. I do remember very clearly after the war when the soldiers began returning home the school put on a play on the subject with the pupils on crutches and bandaged. That sticks in my mind."
Long Load, Somerset

Val Rowsell
was a war baby.
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
South West
1939 - 1946

"Dorothy celebrated her 100th birthday on the 20th February 2010 and will be interviewed at the end of March with her family. Dorothy recalls being in the Wrens "I worked my way up to Chief Petty Officer. After the war it was very difficult to find a job and then I applied to be cook/housekeeper at Melbury House in Dorset in 1946. I loved it and stayed there until I retired in 1970." Dorothy retired to Park Cottage on the Melbury Estate and is looking forward to a special birthday afternoon tea with the Hon. Mrs Charlotte Townshend of Melbury House. She will be talking about her wartime years, thought to be connected with the code breakers at Bletchley Park and her post war years of rationing and how they coped at a big house. Dorothy has been a resident of the Leigh Old Vicarage Care Home, who have been key partners in the Make do and Mend Project, for just over a year."
Dorset

Dorothy Darknell
Dorothy is pictured with her nephew and godson Rowland Cook of Oxford and great-niece Rosalind Cook
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was 11 and we lived at Petties Farm, next to the White Hart. We kept about 12 cows in those days. During the war we had to plough up a lot of our land and grow a lot of crops for animal feed too. We rented about an acre and a half of allotment land in the village as well and grew feed crops and rotated it with potatoes. We weren't really short of anything during the war. We had rationing but we grew most of the things we needed as we had a large vegetable garden too. When rationing came in and meat was short mother started keeping a lot of rabbits so we ate a lot of rabbit meat and occasionally there was a pheasant or two. Then mother started keeping Aylesbury ducks as well so sometimes we had a duck to eat. We had poultry and eggs and then mother started making our own butter too. My sister Betty and I didn't like the home made butter very much so mother and father ate that and we had the butter ration! At school we were taught to go and lie in a ditch if there was a bombing raid and the shrapnel would go over us. We used to get a lot of air raid warnings and were used to the siren going off and didn't take a lot of notice of that but one day [30th September 1940] after school I was on my own and that was the only time during the war that I was really frightened. My job was to go to the allotments and gather rabbit food - dandelions and leaves, anything they would eat. The siren sounded. It was a cloudy day and I never saw the planes but then the noise started and I saw the black smoke start to rise in the distance and realised it was for real. It was the only bombing raid of the war but I remember how frightened I was. I remember the evacuees coming too. We had lots of them from all over London. They used to walk miles to Yetminster School each day from the villages - there weren't any school buses in those days - and then they had to walk home again afterwards."
Yetminster, Dorset

Colin King in front of his wartime home Petties Farm, Yetminster. Gardening has been a great part of his life as well as farm Colin King
of Yetminster remembers his wartime schooldays at home in Yetminster.
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.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1940 - 1945
Kathleen goes back to the evacuees reunion regularly and has kept in touch with many of her wartime friends.
"We started off going to Suffolk with an Aunt and Uncle from South East London. Three months later my Aunt fell down stairs. She tripped over the cat and we returned home and in 1940 were evacuated to Seavington St Michael in Somerset with my school. I was evacuated with my brother. We all arrived by train and gathered at the Horlicks factory at Chard and were simply tipped out there. I remember being given milk and iced buns which I thought was wonderful. Then we were bussed out to the villages. We didn't want to be separated and when my father was called up Mother came too. She worked in the local hostel where those evacuee children with problems who could not be billeted out with families used to have to live. I didn't find the country frightening because we used to spend our holidays in Suffolk.. I loved it. Mother had been a country girl from Suffolk who went into service and that was how she met my father, a Londoner.
In the early days of the war we had an Anderson shelter in the garden which we shared as they took 10. Our ARP warden gave a warning for gas. My friend's sister had just put her hair rollers in and couldn't get her gas mask on! Her father said "you aren't going to do that again for the rest of the war!"
In Somerset we went to the village school and after a year we moved to Donyatt. We evacuees were in the village hall. I then went to night school and learnt shorthand. I went to Dowlish Wake [a village close by] at 15 as a junior shorthand typist for the shipping department of Standard Telephones and Cables who were then making munitions. I was confirmed at St Mary's Church in Ilminster and had a very happy time there. I didn't want to go back home. I joined the choir, the Youth Club and went to dances and we had barn dances too. I walked from Donyatt to Ilminster regularly as they had a Picture Palace there. Rationing was not a problem although there weren't any sweets. Occasionally a shop in Ilminster got gelatine sweets and I used to rush to get my 2oz ration! We had plenty of eggs, cream, bread and jam and used to top up at breakfast for the day ahead. There were several smallholdings close by so we got chicken and eggs - plenty of eggs. I remember clothing coupons and we used to plan out how we were going to use them. I don't remember any particular shortages. I do remember all of us evacuees were provided with wellingtons.
Trains were blacked out. I remember travelling from Taunton to Ilminster - there were no lights on the station. We had to guess where we were as they took the station name boards down too. We came from Taunton to Chard and got off at Donyatt Halt. They had war time pillboxes there and close by was the airfield, Merryfield. I remember the Americans used to fly their wounded in to Merryfield and I used to see convoys of Red Cross collecting them. I liked the convoys - the soldiers used to throw out nylon stockings and sweets!"
Somerset

Kath Pettigrew
Kath Pettigrew partners Val Cookson, who founded the Dollywood Dancers [named after her mother Dolly Wood], entertaining at the launch of the Make do and Mend Project Wartime Garden Party and were interviewed in February 2010 at a Memories Tea Party.
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!"
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

In The Home
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945
Norman Gardner also wanted to record some of his late wife, Violet's, wartime experiences.
"My wife to be was living first just outside Woolwich in South West London when the war started. In one of the early bombing raids on the London Docks the family was bombed out - completely destroying their house and all their possessions. They moved to a house in Greenwich further along the river. A few weeks later they were bombed out again. Violet, her young brother and Mother were then evacuated to Swindon, Wiltshire and stayed there for a year or so, later returning to London when the bombing ceased. Violet had now left school and was working as a Trainee Buyer in a large department store in Ilford, Essex. She was soon called up for 'War Work' and on interview was offered three choices - nurse, land girl or work in an aircraft factory. She chose the aircraft factory as one had recently been set up near her home in underground tunnels constructed for the railway but never used. No such luck! She was sent to the Fairy Aviation Co. works at Hays Middlesex. However it was fortunate in a way because I was working for the same company and we met, fell in love and were married soon after the end of the war."
London

Norman Gardner

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