Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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

"I was at school when war broke out but I left before I had finished my education. My first job was supposed to be in a laboratory but it turned out to be making aircraft plywood. I didn't stay long! My second job was supposed to be hush-hush but turned out to be making perspex for aircraft. I didn't like it and only stayed nine days!. Then I went to work for the Canada Life Insurance Company where I did stay a little while but I wanted to work outside so I joined the Land Army. I was sent to a big house in Buckinghamshire as Under Gardener. The old gardener had retired but his two sons who took on the garden were called up and he had to come out of retirement. We dug up the tennis courts and grew potatoes and on the other courts we kept chickens. It was there I learnt to milk because they had two cows. The chauffeur/groom took on the hedging. We had plenty of vegetables and the cook was still there so we lived ok. I was 18 then. Clothing was rationed but that didn't worry me much as I wasn't very fashion conscious. When the groom was on holiday I had to learn to milk the cows and found I liked it. It was unusual for girls to like milking the cows so I was sent to the other end of Bucks where there was a much larger herd of 50 cows. I was there for several years as cow man. They had one of the early dairies - a milking parlour. I wasn't very mechanical really but they found I was very good at keeping the parlour running. Then I was sent to another herd where they had Shorthorns. Shortly afterwards they changed to real Jersey cows that had come from the Channel Islands. I liked those a lot. I used to make butter, cream and cheese for the house in small amounts but not for sale. I was in the Land Army for over ten years but I still haven't got my badge. I finally left to get married. We lived quite well during the war. Make do and Mend was what we were used to. Compared to the 1920s and 1930s life was actually better. During the recession there was real hardship. We had grown up used to having to use everything and waste nothing. Nothing was left over." Sheila continued to like her animals and kept and milked her goats until recent years."
Cheshire

Ted and Sheila Babbidge
nee Nash. Sheila's story. She is now 85 and living in Cheshire.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
General War Effort
"Iron railings were taken down for aircraft.
Emergency lighting - we ran light bulbs from batteries. We bought candles by the pound weight (lb).
We had blackout curtains and also fitted slits to car headlights to reduce the amount of light visible from the air.
Newspapers were rationed - they were printed 1/12 size.
Red petrol was for commercial use. You got in trouble if you used it in your car."
South West

Leigh Old VIcarage
Collective war time recollections at a taster session before their World War Two tea party.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
Entertainment
"There were no televisions but we all had radios - the wireless. We had Medium Wave and Long wave . We listened to the Home Service and Luxembourg, Lord Haw Haw, Workers Playtime and Henry Halls Guest Night.
Crystal sets had accumulators.
We danced the Jitterbug.
Vera Lynn was very popular.
We used to sing "I fell in love with Mary at the Dairy".
The soldiers billeted in the villages used to sing it when the saw the girls set off to milk the cows in the fields."
South West

Leigh Old VIcarage
Collective war time recollections at a taster session before their World War Two tea party.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Our family had started the village stores as long ago as 1800. Mother was Olive. We kept pigs and poultry. Long before war broke out we had to fill in an agricultural return. Each holding had a number and we had to declare how many animals kept every six months. Then we got coupons for animal feed. Mr Best at Bretts at Sherborne then sent out our allocation of poultry and pig meal. Strettons of Sherborne had a mobile thresher. Arthur Cooper drove it and was accompanied by Wacker Male when they came to the village every autumn and thrashed any crops for us. We then had to declare how many sacks of corn came out of the corn ricks so that surplus was not put on the black market. I remember when the army was stationed in Thornford for two or three years they had a cookhouse behind the old village hall with a large range in it. However they couldn't properly cook some of the rations sent to them. They had large joints of meat and there was a lot of waste. I used to help father take the large wheelbarrow up there every night to collect the swill. We put it in the big furnace in the outhouse that would hold 20 - 25 gallons and boiled it for the pigs. It smelt awful but the pigs loved it. The furnace used to be used to scald the pig carcasses after they were killed. Mother had to fill in a return every month to declare how many people were registered with her shop during rationing. Then permits were sent out and suppliers allocated the right amount of bacon, cheese and tea. Mr Rendall in Sherborne had his tea store by the Mermaid Hotel and he used to deliver our tea in his Trojan Brooke Bond Tea Van every week or fortnight. The Trojans didn't have a self starter and they had a chain drive. Mr Rendall used to have enough time to roll and light up a cigarette while he was getting the van started. He had to pull a lever in the cab up to get it started. Mother used to make some jam but was limited by the amount of sugar she could get as it was rationed- so was the butter, marg and lard and eggs. They used to come from King Stag. I think a few of them went on the black market!"
Thornford, Dorset

Philip lays the wreath at Thornford Remembrance Sunday service, Dorset Philip Ellwood

Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
Now both residents of Leigh Old Vicarage Care Home our interview ended as lunch was about to be served.
They asked what was on the menu and laughed when they were told it was gammon!
""We both came from farming families. Bet lived at Bailey Ridge, near Leigh, Dorset and I lived at Glanvilles Wootton"
Bet added " he used to cycle over to see me."
Reg continued " both farms were dairy, pigs and poultry. I had war time exemption to stay and help my father on the farm and my sister but my brother had to go in the army. We used to keep about five breeding sows [pigs]. Numbers were different then than now. Everyone had a few. Later on Bet's father put up the first pig sty, Danish type on top of Bailey Ridge. It was modelled after the Danish type. We kept Large whites, Saddlebacks and later Landrace Crosses. Black and whites were the better ones in those days. They were still natural then and they grazed the grass better. At 5 to 6 weeks they were called sucklers and we used to keep them on until they were ready. Breeds of pigs have changed. In the end we got round to keeping Landrace. Most were sold private.
Bet explained what happened to theirs " my father supplied Greehams the Butchers in Sherborne. They unsed to ring up when they wanted X numbers - usually up to five.
Reg said their used to be sold privately and to market sometimes.
"Everything was rationed - you used to have to sell the pig before you got the grub to feed them on!"
Bet agreed "you had to apply to the Ministry for the food. 5cwt. comes to mind but that might have been for the cows. You got so much a month for the piglet. We kept chicken too at home. - 100 pullets before we got married.
Reg said "everyone kept a few hens. We were alright for eggs. We weren't really short of anything in the war because we were both on farms and had everything we needed."
"when you killed a pig you salted it down - there were no freezers or anything like that. You had a lead brine bath - a large tray six feet long by four feet wide and about six inches deep for salting and you filled it with brine - mostly salt and some vinegar. We didn't have enough to drown it so you used to have to turn it and tip the brine over the meat."
Bet added "Mother made sausages and faggots and used all of the pigs head."
Reg laughed " the only thing wasted was the squeak!"
"It stayed a long time in the brine, I can't remember how long. You had to keep turning it to keep it covered."
Bet recalled "when you wanted to cook it you had to soak it overnight to get all of the salt out otherwise it would have been too salty to eat."
Reg recalled "My father used to do pigs and then send the meat up to London in baskets by train. The porters used to take it.""
Holnest, Dorset

Betty and Reg Coffin
Reg explained.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Geoff House "I was at Church Farm, Hilfield, Dorset during the war. We kept quite a large flock of sheep - not Dorset Horn's. white ones, I think they were Cheviots. People used to come in to shear them but I remember I had to pack the wool up - roll it properly. We got on alright during the war. We coped but in latter years we didn't have a lot of help because people had been called up. We didn't have any Land Girls to help us and we didn't have any evacuees staying with us either. We managed to get the harvest i. If you had been doing it all your life it just came naturally. We saw planes going over.
Edna Ridout recalled the Sherborne bombing raid. I was at a small dairy farm at Batcombe, Dorset. I remember the Sherborne bombing raid well. We had to do the milking - by hand. I had my three legged stool. It didn't take long really to milk a cow when you got used to it.
Geoff House recalled they kept some cows too but had a machine "sometimes we had to turn one of the cups over if the teat was a useless one or bad. Father made cheddar cheese. He paid an extra penny on top of the dairy price to buy up the milk in the village to make it. We had a cheese loft. I had to turn the cheese. We had coolers. I remember putting the milk into churns. I had to take the churns out into the road where we had a stand for them for the lorry to collect them. They were very heavy. We kept Shorthorns at first and later Friesians. They gave more milk.
Edna added " they were lovely cattle the Shorthorns. I remember Yeovil Market staying open during the war. The animals were eventually collected in a lorry. Geoff added " we used Tites, the hauliers, to collect ours."
Edna said " we didn't make cheese but we did make butter for our own use. It wasn't hard work when it was for yourself but it was hard when you had to make a lot to sell."
Geoff added "there were no plastic bags. We used to order ready printed greaseproof wrappers for the butter.""
Hilfield, Dorset

Geoff House Geoff House and Edna Ridout nee Davis
wanted to be interviewed together. Both from local farming families they felt they could jog each others memories - and it worked! Neither recalled any major shortage, except manpower, during the war as both were fairly self sufficient.
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

Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1943

""I was not yet 13 when war was declared in September 1939. I remember hearing it on the radio. My chief memory is of how pleased my mother, then aged 39, was to be able to take a full time job running an elementary school at Rockford, in the parish of Ellingham, Hampshire, between Ringwood and Fordingbridge, on the edge of the New Forest. She had been trained as a teacher at Salisbury Training College but in those days and for many years to follow, right up to my own time, one had, as a woman, to make that difficult choice between marriage and a career. She had married aged 20, directly after leaving college. She had been able to do supply work as a teacher, but that was all; my father was near retirement, so it was doubly important for her to have a job. It meant that we moved out of Southbourne and I had to stay with a family in Bournemouth from Monday to Friday in term time. Although the school house we moved to had no electricity and limited bathroom facilities, I loved it and really enjoyed finding out more about the countryside, its trees and flowers etc. Previously I had only known the countryside when on holiday or on days out - not the same as living there. We had a dog for the first time too! The house may have lacked facilities we now take for granted and sometimes, as on my first weekend back at school ,heavy rain meant it was impossible to go home as the green outside the school was flooded, as was the ford to the west of us, which had prevented some children from coming in to my mother's school. My father used the bus to go into Bournemouth where he worked at the Town Hall in the Education Department but I preferred to cycle the 15 or so miles, usually on Monday mornings (when I was let off gym) and Friday evenings, using what we had always called "the switchback road" through Matchams. The school house overlooked a wartime airfield ( now it is part of Blashford Lakes) and on more than one occasion I saw two aeroplanes (Lightnings I think they were called, they belonged to the Canadians or Americans) take off almost simultaneously and crash into each other so that the pilot was brought down in flames. They carried spare petrol, which added to the danger. On another occasion, when my mother was away, my father lent a torch to some men, dressed in uniform but without insignia, who asked the way to the anti-aircraft gun emplacement nearby. Father, always trusting, showed them the short way, but the next day the Military Police arrived and told him how spies had stolen a plane and flown it to somewhere near Salisbury! My school, Bournemouth School for Girls, which was then in Gervis Road near the Lansdowne, had, until 1942, to share premises with the evacuated Girls' Grammar School from Southampton so one week we went to school in the mornings (8.30am until 1pm) the next in the afternoons (2pm - 5.30pm), with additional lessons, like latin, held in a nearby hall out of normal school hours. School clubs too had to make do with makeshift accommodation much of the time. If an air-raid warning came, or sometimes just for practice, we had to take shelter in the cloakrooms, half underground and adapted for the purpose with extra girders. The coast, beach and cliffs were forbidden territory during the war and I needed a pass to come into Bournemouth. Swimming lessons stopped when the army took over Stokewood Road Baths, game facilities were limited and tennis was played in King's Park. We always carried our gas marks ( and had to practice using them too). There were talks of emergency rations, including chocolate, but we never got the opportunity of sampling them. When the evacuation of Dunkirk happened in June 1940, about 850 French soldiers were given temporary accommodation in the school for four days while we had an enforced holiday. A Guide friend and I not only collected what clothes etc we could for them ( they really wanted pants which we didn't have!) but tried out our French dictation on seemingly uncomprehending French ears. Afterwards real air raid alerts became more frequent. There were compensations as well known stars of ballet, drama and music came to Bournmemouth, as it was deemed safer than London, and our own school societies flourished despite difficulties. Our interests extended; we began to understand the Headmistress's support for the League of Nastions. We collected for charitable causes, collecting salvage, bought National Savings Stamps, learnt simple First Aid and Home Nursing. Guide Camps became Harvest Camps with camouflaged tents and the opportunity to wield a pitchfork, drive a tractor, clear river weeds and dig potatoes etc. In Rockford my mother joined the Women's Institute and I joined in the parties and dances for various soldiers, including Canadians. We enjoyed their gifts and company. As for rations, we accepted what came, walked the two miles to Ringwood to get "off the ration" sausages and offal, and though we grumbled when our dog stole the butter or meat, we somehow managed. As for make-do-and-mend we were used to that anyway and Guide badges included patching and mending! I don't remember feeling we were shorter in clothing and food than usual, though when I burnt my new blazer sleeve carrying an accumulator for the radio, I was careful to hide it from my mother! My father's growing of vegetables, which he had always liked doing, really came into its own. My mother's brother was a tailor so, even when I went to university, I was given a properly tailored new two piece suit as well as two new dresses."
Dorset and Hampshire

Shelagh Hill

Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"My sister was five years older than I was and had left school after School Certificate because, although she was clever, there were not the opportunities for scholarships to university in those days. She worked for the Post Office Headquarters in Finsbury Circus in London and lived on the south side of the river. My mother and I went up to London to help celebrate her 18th birthday on September 8th, which coincided with the first bombs dropped on London. I had a siren suit, which I had never before worn, and we took shelter in the basement and were impressed by the red glow of fires. Audrey took us to quieter places, like Kew Gardens and Richmond Park but when we came to go home Waterloo Station was closed and we had to go from Clapham Junction. When we got home my father had had a visit from my old Sunday School teacher, who brought flowers and expressed her sorrow at my supposed death! My sister was evacuated up to Harrogate soon afterwards and joined the Land Army."
London

Shelagh Hill

Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Perhaps because I was growing up in wartime I found it a source of new experiences rather than a drudge. Even the blackout with its window strips made me think "At last we can have Tudor windows!""
South West

Shelagh Hill

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