Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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In The Home
South West
1939 - 1945

"There was no heating anywhere as coal was rationed. We had a big black range, my mother would set it in the morning before she went to work and I lit it when I got back from school – we lit it late to make it last. Sometimes you could get coke which used to burn a long time. I slept up in the attic with a candle and it was really cold. There were two bedrooms, both with fireplaces, but you only ever had a fire if you were ill."
Wimborne, Dorset

Betty Bletsoe
nee Ellis (aged 79) from Wimborne, Dorset
Food and Cooking
In The Home
South West
1939 - 1945

"You couldn't get wallpaper so my father used to distemper the walls and sometimes used to let us children sponge patterns on it in any colours we had left in the bottom of emulsion paint tins from before the war.
Mum used to give us girls some scissors on a Saturday to cut up any newspapers we had bought in the week - they were half size and not very many of them - into toilet paper for the next week. We had to thread the squares on to string that was used time and time again and hang them up on the hooks on the back of the outside toilet door. Mum used to make Butmar, she used to call it, mixing the small butter ration with any left over margarine from her cooking to make it go further. If we were running short of sugar she used carrots from the garden for sweetening and carrot cake was popular. Parsnips could also be boiled down into a paste and mixed with a little flavouring for a spread on the bread. I didn't like bread and dripping much! Dad had kept racing pigeons before the war and instead of racing them he used to breed them so we had some extra eggs and pigeon meat. They used to breed all the time so we always had extra meat for the table! Dad's Uncle kept a few bees so sometimes we were lucky and were given a jar of honey. I didn't like the lumpy bits of comb in some if it but it would have meant too much honey being lost if it had been strained to remove them."
Frome, Somerset

Gladys Neads

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

Food and Cooking
South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember the day they were moving food supplies to the warehouse in town. A sack of sugar fell off the back of the lorry. No one noticed. Word spread quickly and doors flew open. Women came out with china basins and mixing bowls and just scooped it up. There was no fighting. It was all shared out. Everyone had some. It was a great treat because it was rationed."
North-East Dorset

Anonymous

Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"Fortunately father still had his shoemaking last in the shed. He got it out and used to mend our shoes with rubber tips or metal ones! If you took them to the cobblers in town they would be kept a month or so because he was so short of supplies - even rubber soles and heels."
North-East Dorset

Anonymous

Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I lived at Martinstown, near Dorchester. My brother was a butcher's boy in the town and used to cycle to work. He then had to cycle round with small deliveries in the week to the villages in a big basket on the front of the bike. During the war he was called up and I was leaving school so I was offered the job. I had to learn to mend punctures and needed to on occasions. The shop didn't want to use their petrol ration any more than they had to so I had to take round what was available and take orders for weekend deliveries that were made with the van. I had never cycled so far in my life. It did have a few perks though because the butcher would wrap up a few bits of meat for my mum if there was anything and she was really pleased to see it when I got home and always managed to make us a nice meal although it was often only meat scraps and trimmings."
Martinstown, Dorchester

Anonymous

Everyday Life
Scotland
Wales
Northern Ireland
North West
North East
Midlands
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

Anonymous

Everyday Life
South East
1941 - 1945

"Yvonne Young was born in India in 1923 but was sent with her sister to be educated in England. At the age of 18, in 1941, she joined the WRNS and became one of the famous Code Breakers at Bletchley Park for two years. After that she was a driver for the Admiralty in London. After the war Yvonne trained as a ballerina withe the Sadlers Wells Company before leaving to work for an airline. Yvonne married Peter Molloy and they retired to Dorset in 1979 where she died in April 2011"
London

Anonymous

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