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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

In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was born in Wales and was at Derry when war broke out. I was 17 and wanted to join the Wrens. I had to go to Newport for a check-up - there were seven doctors there! It was quite disturbing. I had only ever seen one doctor at a time before! When I came back it was the wrong time at the station and I got on the wrong train. We lived in villages between hills and the trains went up the valleys. The train names were taken off during the war and the station signs were taken down so I got on the wrong train and went up the wrong valley! I realised what had happened and got off. It was February and it was snowing and cold. I needed to get back to Bargoed to get on the right train. I realised there was someone following me and it turned out to be a retired Colonel who asked me back to his hotel! He just wanted me to keep warm until the train left and offered to buy me a drink. I said I couldn't have a drink as we didn't drink at home! He said he meant a soft drink and eventually I got back to Derry. I remember the lovely smell of hot chocolate at his hotel. I was really disappointed because I was given a dispensation not to go as Mum had just had a baby boy and also had my other little brother and I was needed at home. I didn't see anyone to talk to so when I saw a card in the local shop, a general stores, for part-time help I asked if I could apply to get me out and meet people. Mum said yes and I started working there - it was really nice and being a general stores we didn't go short of anything!"
Wales

Gwynneth Heath

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

"I was nearly one when war broke out. I remember my Mickey Mouse gas mask. It was blue and red and frightened me. The colours were supposed to make them friendlier but I didn't like mine at all. I remember it hanging on my pram when I was taken out. It was quiet at St Ives, hardly any signs of the war at all except for one bomb that landed on the gas works next to my Grandad's house. I don't remember a lot about the war because I was so small. There were no sweets but then I grew up not knowing anything about sweets. My Mum was very good at making things. We didn't have any bananas either during the war. I remember my cousin who was in the navy coming home and he brought me a banana. I wouldn't eat it. I said 'I can't eat that it's yellow!' I remember dried egg. I loved dried egg. I didn't think of it as having anything to do with hens and egg shapes! Apparently a ship was bombed a short distance away from the harbour out at sea and there were bodies floating in but of course I didn't see any of that. When I was three Mum took me down to the Guildhall to take part in some entertainment for the troops. It was the first time I had ever seen a black man. They were Americans and they gave me sweets. Afterwards they found out where we lived and used to knock on the door and ask "Is my little sweetheart there?" and leave me sweets and things. I also remember sticky things that came out of tins. They were nice but I can't remember what they were called. My father was manager of the local Co-op shop - so we didn't go short of anything!"
St Ives, Cornwall

Nan Paine
was born at St Ives, Cornwall in 1939.
In The Home
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was 18 when war broke out. We lived in a small market town. Father had been a regular Naval Officer in the First World War. There were two adults and three of my brothers and we had two cousins and an Aunt staying with us. At the beginning of the war I had started my nurses training and I was working on a Childrens Ward at Ashbridge. Then I went down with tuberculosis. I continued my training at Adenbrooks, Cambridge and was there from 1942 - 45.
My three brothers were older and it was a struggle with the rationing. We were lucky having a good fishmonger. The shops had jolly posters. I remember one - 'Rabbits are coming but the Russians went'. I remember clothes rationing but it didn't really affect me as I was in uniform most of the time. We had an extremely competent dietician at the hospital - catering could be described as dull! We had dried eggs for supper and prunes and porridge for breakfast. I remember the complaints book - there was one about a nail being found in a scone and the answer it was the Iron Ration! There were lots of jokes. I remember when the evacuees came. We had a mother and three children - orthdox Jews. They had to get a special dispensation about food. We had French friends and couldn't believe France had capitulated. I remember the horror and incredulity of us all when France capitulated. I was shattered. We were very much a service family. I had a cousin at El Alamein. I clearly remember the exhileration when we won the battle of El Alamein. I remember all the churchbells rang for El Alamein - that was not usually allowed during wartime. They had not rung since the war had begun. They were only to be rung to give news of invasion. I went to Kings College Chapel and we sang 'Now thank we all our God' and could hardly hear ourselves because every bell in Cambridge was ringing. I remember we were all given leaflets as to what to do if we were invaded 'try not to give the enemy anything, particularly food or maps and keep off the roads.' All signposts, railway station signboards etc were taken down so that (hopefully!) the enemy invaders would get lost. Nothing was scrapped any more.
I remember mail being censored - we didn't know what was going on. I also remember saving paper. You couldn't get anything wrapped. I went to the theatre once carrying a saucepan! Everyone was the same. Nobody laughed. I think they were envious of the saucepan - I had just managed to buy it! I put it under my seat.
I remember when peace was declared - I was on Midsummer Common, Cambridge. I remember dancing around a huge bonfire. I had a Belgian Blue Jacket. Morale was high. I always thought we were going to win. We had some nasty moments but we had a navy. We trusted the King, Churchill, Montgomery and de Gaulle.
I remember for the last few months of the war we had sick German prisoners of war in the hospital where I worked. I don't think any of them wanted to escape but we had a British Tommy on guard outside the ward. The junior night nurse had to wake him in the morning with a cup of tea!"
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.
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

""When I was first married I lived in the New Forest. I remember the bombing raids on Southampton. We didn't have a shelter so we hid under the kitchen table. I remember the blast and shock waves when our road was hit."
Nancy also recalled her family life and the worries, separations and the wonderful Gurkhas. In her own words:
"Most of us who are still surviving have experienced the sadness of the Second World War, especially the ones on active service and the families left behind. My husband and I were so happy and blessed with our dear little daughter that we never realised we would ever be parted. As a young man he was eventually called up to do duty and training in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. We so enjoyed having him home on leave. Sadly the dreadful day came when the Regiment had to do service Overseas. I did not have any idea where he had gone for a long time. He was in the 14th Army against the Japanese. What the troops suffered in the jungle was sheer hell. His Regiment was with the wonderful Gurkhas. It was some years before I saw my husband again and my daughter was between six and seven years old and had to get used to a Daddy she did not know. Thankfully he came back to us but I am sure it affected him but he never complained or talked of the horrors of that time. We were the same age but I have survived for some time so I am sure he suffered and it affected his life. Like hundreds of families we all had our trials and upsets and it was far from easy but thankfully he came through.""
Hampshire

Nancy Pidgley
In 2008 Nancy was a keen supporter of the Gurkha cause and wrote to Joanna Lumley and was delighted to receive a personal reply which she treasures. She lent both her letter and the reply to Sherborne Museum to complement the touring Dance Nepal exhibition which the museum hosted for two months in 2009.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1942 - 1945

"I was in the ATS for three years. Previously I had been involved in administration in the Express Dairy Company at Frome, Somerset. My employer hadn't wanted to part with me and got me defered twice but I wouldn't have missed it for all the world. I served from August 1942 - March 1945. My husband was in the Royal Artillery, the West Somerset Yeomanry and worked as a field surveyor. I had to report to a training centre in Wrexham for a very intensive two week training course - not the three weeks it should have taken. We had to drill and learn to deal with gas attacks. We had a gas chamber and I remember tear gas and having to take off our respirators. That was quite an experience. I remember cleaning uniform buttons and all the inoculations we had to have - that went on right through the war. I was then sent to Streatford, Manchester for a one month admin. course and was then posted to the Military Hospital there. We had to live in barracks built before the First World War - pretty grim but the rations weren't too bad! My fiance said be careful I wasn't posted to Scotland! I don't remember any air raids - only at Frome. We had bombers going over during the daytime. They were heading for Bristol. Our planes roared like lions theirs had a horrible drone. Bombs were dropped at random sometimes when they were turned back and they were dropped on the Mendip Hills indiscriminately. I lost my brother in law in an air raid on Esson. He was a rear air gunner. He had wanted to be a pilot and had gone to Canada to learn but he couldn't do landings only take off. I had a cousin in Sandford Orcas, near Sherborne, who was shot down over northern France. Robert was 21 and they had been bombing rail heads. That was a Halifax bomber - they were such death traps. I remember mother sent me a letter to tell me the news with a penny halfpenny stamp with the King's head on it.
Wilton House was the headquarters of Southern Command. There I was doing totally different work It was a contrast to the barracks at Preston. Wilton was a lovely spot. I had a lovely room and there were superb gardens at the back. Then we were consolidated and sent to the old workhouse on the Warminster road. We were in a top room. We had to stand on barrack boxes to be able to see out at all. Standing on the floor you couldn't look out at all. We thought of what life had been like for the poor inmates. We were happy there. We had a stove - it was cosy in winter. I remember 1939 was the worst winter. There was a lot of ice - everything froze. They said it was Hitler's secret weapon! I remember having to do fire duty.
We used to go to Salisbury to TocH dos - there was a lovely canteen too. I remember Dr. Reginald Jacques chamber orchestra. Three or four of us used to go. I shared a bike with Mother - a Raleigh Roadster and then she got me an old New Hudson. Mother put the basket on the front right. On one occasion I had to take it to the Wilton cycle repairer and he fitted all new ball bearings in it. I remember wonderful cycle rides and lovely walks. It was such lovely countryside."
Somerset

Josephine Gait
a resident of St Johns' Almshouse, Sherborne spent many years in Somerset.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
1939 - 1945

"I remember our Anderson shelter - it was on wooden planks on the floor with two bunk beds on either side. In the early days I slept behind my parents leather settee. If the ceiling fell we would have some protection from the beams.
I remember the 7th September 1940. It was my mother's birthday - a Saturday. Father was on Home Guard duty. I was woken up at 8 or 9pm and taken to the front door. I remember looking at a huge inverted ' sunset' - except it was in the south-east! The city was burning. I remember sherbet fountains before the war - but they vanished completely and only came back in the 1950s. There was no ice cream during the war. I remember it came in large blocks in the late 1940s - it was pink and I was sick!
Occasionally we had oranges, no bananas and no pineapple - although you could get tinned pineapple towards the end of the war. I was surprised when I saw my first pineapple. It was identical in appearance to hand grenades! We had spent ones around. My father told the story of how you pulled the pin out and then threw them but occasionally they hit the top of the trench and fell back in. The Sergeant used to pick them up and throw them out again.
I remember kids queuing up to be evacuated. Mother decided at the last minute she couldn't go through with it. My teac her got in touch with my mother and offered us her house in North West London. My parents moved in and looked after it. We were 12 miles outside the city. My father worked in the city of London and travelled by tube when it was running. I remember the mesh on the tube windows - ? bakelite? - and the little slits on the tubes - a thin letterbox to see where you were. We used to take a bucket out searching for shrapnel. We also searched for rarer items. I remember Incendiary bombs - like a pipe and silvery with fins of a charcoal colour. I remember a long bomb with fins one end - sometimes whole or in pieces and also detonators - shiny mushrooms with a pointed head, the plunger - also tracer bullets - a brass cartridge part and parts of large shells. Father was in the Home Guard and went fire watching on the roof of the Bank of London. When we lived in Hornchurch, 12 miles into Essex, there was an aerodrome a mile away - the Hornchurch sector for the Thames and Thames Estuary."
Stoke Newington in East London

John Spencer

Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
North East
1939 - 1945

"We lived in a semi-detached house in Sheffield. I was two. I remember hearing Great-Grandfather had been a table knife grinder. I remember the noise of the bombers coming over Sheffield. Our shelter was underneath in the cellar. We had metal beds in it and I was in the underneath one. Neighbouts used to come in and share our shelter with us. They made it exciting - not frightening.
I was a long awaited child. My father worked in the steel works. I had wanted a teddy bear and one night be went into Sheffield's large department store called Atkinsons and came home with this teddy in his siren suit. Stores stayed open longer in those days so he was able to go in and buy it on his way home from work. He just got there in time. That night the store was bombed and raised to the ground. Teddy was the last toy sold there. He will be 70 on 12th December.!
I remember when the whole of Sheffield was bombed one night. 17 restaurants were hit in one night. Next day Dad returned from work and had see firement outside of a pork butchers frying bacon!
I remember spam - it was quite nice actually. It was one of those pseodo meats devised for the war I believe. I also remember corn beef and snoeck.
There was a prisoner of war camp on the Moors in the south part of Sheffield. There was a big prisoner of war camp there. I saw the officers with their long coats and peaked caps and their guards. One day one took a detour up our road! Mum ran up and fetched us in saying 'That's a bad man'."
Sheffield

Brenda Spencer
Brenda joined our Memories Tea Party at Sherborne Museum and brought her very special teddy bear to show everyone.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
South East
1938 - 1945

"We were bombed out and moved to Bristol during the war. I remember the air raids and the bombs falling. There were Morrision shelters -a steel construction 6 x 4 with a mesh type grid around. I remember hiding under the stairs with my mother. Fortunately we were in the shelter when the house was hit. The ceilings came down and there was dust everywhere. Then we moved to relatives at Westbury on Trim. In 1943/4. I remember the sound of the air raid sirens raised the hair on the back of my neck. I recall barrage balloons and the arc of searchlights. Father was in the LCC and would be on Fire Duty at County Hall. He was a member of the Magic Circle and a ventriloquist and had Punch and Judy dolls. After the war the house was patched up. I can remember the workmen. People got grants to repair war damage after a survey. The blown out windows were taken away and the doors didn't fit. We kept chicken, two ducks and I remember we used to swap food coupons. Word used to get around when bananas had arrived at the greengrocers. There used to be broken biscuits at the front of the shop counter. Money was scarce. I remember soap came in large blocks. Soap was rubbed on our hair instead of shampoo. There was a gridded container to put used bits of soap in that was then circulated in water to make washing up liquid. Sheets were turned sides to the middle. We never threw anything away.

I remember an incendiary bomb coming through our roof - right into my mother's bedroom. We had a brown haircord carpet and it burnt a hole through it and continued to burn as it went down through the floor."
Sutton, Surrey and Bristol

Malcolm Saunders
was born at Sutton, Surrey in 1938
In The Home
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I don't remember a lot about wartime shortages because I was still at Cambridge. My family home was at Birkenhead where there was some bombing. We were staying at the family holiday house outside of Holyhead when war broke out four or five days later. I remember the evacuees arrived from LIverpool - three children were sent to our house. Some evacuees didn't stay long. Our holiday house was large and slept 15. It had been requisitioned as a Recovery Hospital in World War I and the same thing happened again in the Second War. I remember Mother and an Aunt went down after the war to arrange for everything to be put right. I was not aware of any shortages."
South East

Hibbert Binney

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