Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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Supported through
'Their Past Your Future 2' (TPYF2) Programme



All | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950

Everyday Life
Northern Ireland
North West
North East
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"Bess Cummings was 14 when she and her brother Lewis were put on board the ill fated City of Benares in September 1940 to be sent to Canada to escape the blitz. Five days later a torpedo sank the ship but Bess and Lewis were two of only 20 survivors. They were sent to Scotland to recover after 16 hours in the freezing North Atlantic where she clung to an overturned lifeboat with a girl called Beth. They became friends in Scotland and later she met and married Beth's brother Geoff and moved to Cheltenham in the 1950s where Geoff worked at GCHQ. Bess became Headteacher at Bishops Cleeve Primary School. Beth died in August 2010 but in 2006 was delighted to travel to New York on board the Queen Mary where she told her story to an author who was researching the sinking of the City of Benares. Bess never forgot how lucky she was to survive and be re-united with her brother who she was convinced had died. In 2008 she said "It wasn't frightening. We had been living through the BLitz so we were used to bumps and bangs. Life after the attack was there to take hold of and make the most of."
North Atlantic


Everyday Life
1939 - 1945

"Su Penn said my war was very different to Ray's. I was in the Rhonda and Ray was in the city and was an evacuee. War hardly touched my family. We didn't have any bombing raids although we did see planes going over at times. We managed. What I remember most was the freedom to roam! My mother, like other women in wartime, had to work so she did not know where I was all day! You couldn't do it today but no harm came to me."

Ray and Su Penn are pictured at the Museum when they showed children and their parents their Wartime ration pack and explaine Ray and Su Penn

Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"18 months into the war at the age of 17 I volunteered for the RAF. Mother was upset when I told her. We lived on a small farm at Bembury, Thornford and had everything we needed. We were not short of anything. First of all I was sent to South Wales and then to RAF Locking and finally Bicester where I was running up aeroplane engines. I went home for the day sometimes. The train was blacked out. They used to ring a bell and had a system to let you know where you were. I often got sent back with two dozen eggs in my bag from mother. Some 18 months later they were looking for RAF servicemen to come out and become civilian workers in factories. I was called to the office one day and told it was my turn to go. I was sent to a factory making air screws [ propellers].
I remember the Sherborne air raid [30th September 1940]. I was in Yeovil that day. It was a typical Autumn day - fine but lots of low unbroken cloud. I heard the planes. I think they took fright and lost their sense of direction. I saw the bombs falling on Sherborne soon after 4pm. I went home to Thornford and had tea and then cycled into Sherborne. I had school friends there from Fosters School and I wanted to find out if they were alright. I left my bike at an Aunt's and walked into town. The streets were full of rubble and there was a strong smell of gas. There were some unexploded bombs too and bits of shrapnel all over the place. It was dark by then. I walked round and found my school friend's house in Newland, opposite the Carlton Cinema. It had been bombed but they were unhurt but they had to move out because the house wasn't safe. I was always amazed at how Sherborne sprang back. The rebuilding took quite a while - several years. It could have been much worse. I don't think the bombers knew where they were and were fleeing from our aircraft and dropped their bombs to lighten their load and get away.
Asked about the rumour that Sherborne might have had a secret factory that was their target Mr Mitchell replied "I never heard of a secret factory. I don't think Sherborne was the target for that day's mission. In the RAF I found out my boss had been the Tracker that day and he said he had been unable to muster enough aircraft to mount a proper counter-attack. There were too few serviceable aircraft available."
Thornford, Dorset

Merlin Mitchell
was born at Thornford near Sherborne, Dorset.

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