Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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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.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was at Leigh, Dorset and I can remember we used to have a German Prisoner of war come to work on our farm. His name was Bernard and he was very nice. He used to come to stay with us without a guard during the week and return to the Prisoner of War Camp at the weekend. I remember he was really annoyed when we used to sweep the chimney because we used to push the sweeping brush up the chimney from inside. Apparently in Germany they used to get on the roof and push the brush down! Bernard used to say 'It goes down chimney not up!'
The German prisoner of war story reminded Alec Oxford who was at the same memories afternoon that some German Prisoners of War also worked in the Railway Goods Sheds."
Leigh, Dorset

Pauline House
was a war baby so has few wartime memories.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was a war baby. I was fostered with a spinster at Branksome. 'Aunty Rose' was very nice and took in a lot of children.
We were on Alder Road near the Pineland Laundry. I remember I had ricketts during the war and I was sent to Boscombe Hospital. I remember the lovely smell of hot chocolate at the hospital. I had to sit in a type of high backed chair to try and correct my posture. I also remember grey horrible porridge at the hospital - and tripe!
My other war memories were of sand buckets, sand bags and water tanks. When I went back to Aunty Rose and started school it was on the Branksome main road. I ran in front of an army lorry one day. The soldiers gave me chocolates and comics! - a real treat. I remember being given chewing gum by Alerican troops at the school gates and when I was a foster child I remember a lovely party at the Shaftesbury Military Base.
I used to do everyones shopping for them and took their dogs out for walks. I remember being sent to the fishmongers for 6d worth of cat fish. I remember making us rissoles out of sausage meat and shepherds pie out of sausage meat too! The Manager at World Stores knew me and he always used to give us kids a little bit of something from under the counter - broken biscuits or a bit of spam!
Aunty Rose was quite old and had dreadful cramps. I used to look after her and stayed off of school. Eventually the authorities found out and moved me to East Street Bridport, Charmouth and then Wynford Eagle. I went to Maiden Newton School and when I left school I worked for people in the Sherborne area where I live today."
Dorset

Shirley Sargent

Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was in hospital during the war at one time. I remember the hospitals being banked up with sandbags to give them some protection. I remember when they tried to bomb the gas works at Branksome. We used to hear the sier go for when the men came out of work. They had a 12 o'clock lunch so they missed it fortunately. Another time it was between 3 and 4pm - the kiddies were coming home from school. A Fish and Chip shop three doors away was bombed. You could see the fire from our window. The lady that I lived with used to look after 6 or 7 of us foster children. It was all like an adventure to us kids during the war!"
Poole, Dorset

Shirley Sargent

Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Shirley remembers while she was at Branksome Chine near Bournemouth there was barbed wire on the beaches and you were not allowed to go on the beach."
Branksome Chine near Bournemouth

Shirley Sargent

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.
Everyday Life
South West
1940 - 1945

"I was in a trench on the far side of Foster's Field during the Sherborne air raid with the rest of Fosters School pupils. We saw the bombs hitting Newland. My sister worked in the Southern Electricity shop and office. She was under her desk when a bomb landed on Newcombe's shop. She was fortunate not to be injured.
Alec then went to Canada to get his wings going in the Elizabeth I. First of all he saw floating ice and a couple of days later he was sweating in the sun, the journey being completed in five days. His flying training was in Ontario and when he came back he undertook a night vision course. In Canada there were lights but over here he had to learn to fly using his instruments as there was a blackout.
We had worked up as a squadron to go out to the Far East but after they dropped the two nuclear bombs there was no point so we went to South West Wales, to Dale which was chosen as the runway went off the cliff edge - with the purpose to train naval officers to use radar. I was there two years doing experimental flying - ground control approach - fog landing. I was flying Fireflies there, a spitfire with a hook known as a Seafire and Wildcat - an American aircraft. I moved about a bit and had some interesting times."
Sherborne, Dorset

Alec Oxford
has written a celebration of the 150 years of the railway coming to Sherborne, the anniversary being 7th May 2010 and recounted a little know wartime railway story at the Museum Memories afternoon.

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