Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was one of 11 aged between 3 and 18. We lived by the coast at Fairlight in East Sussex, near Hastings. Our hamlet overlooked the Channel. Next door to us the Army took over the bungalow and the Officers often gave us food - chips and things. In return Mum let them have a bath. The water was uncertain it was on and off all the time. I remember the searchlight on the church behind us. We had some very bad dog fights. I used to stand and watch them picked out by the searchlights. Quite a few crashed near us. My brother would be quick on the scene before the officers and used to pick up bits and bring them home. We had bombings all around us. One day we were having exercise in our playing field. The teacher called "Everyone down" and a doodlebug came over. It went just above one of the trees and then crashed. I remember seeing the flames coming out of it. We heard mines going off too. We all had our gas masks and had to take them to school - when we could get there. Some days we couldn't because of bad bombing raids. One day a German pilot bailed out. He was found sitting on our churchyard wall. The military came and got him. We had a lot of Americans and Canadians around us."
Sussex

Joyce Bailey
nee Smith spent her war years in Sussex and now lives in Dorset.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
North East
1939 - 1945

"I was one of 11 - the third youngest. We lived 12 miles from Sheffield. Father worked in the colliery. It was near the tank factory. We were used to hearing planes going over and shrapnel coming down. We used to pick it up in the morning. One sister was in the ATS and she was often coming home when there was an air raid in progress. I remember walking down to the air raid shelter. We used one of the old mining shafts and stayed there all night not coming out until morning. We had to go to the pump station. I just remember hearing the bombs whistling overhead. I went to a Church of England Primary School. The tanks often went rumbling past the school because the tank factory, Newton Chamgers HQ, was closeby. One bomb fell in the garden where my husband lived. His sister went out to have a look and got burnt. He worked in the steel works and lived in back to back colliery cottages built in 16s all in rows. When one of the babies was born the midwife said "this bairn can't stay here" and they went to live on a farm. The farmer grew swedes, turnips and potatoes and if you went potato picking you came home with a free bucket of potatoes at the end of the day which was very useful."
South Yorkshire

Patricia Ibbotson
came from South Yorkshire and now lives in Dorset.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
Val now lives in Yetminster, Dorset but spent her war years in her home town of Southampton
"Father, Albert Victor Sherlock, served in the First World War and his lungs were damaged. I was five when the Second World War ended and ten when he died. He was too ill to serve in the Second War and used to drive for ENSA. His day job was a postman. I remember burning Potters for his breathing. I remember the Big Push in Southampton. The roads were lined with tanks. Troops lived in the road ouside our house. I remember sitting on the pavement and watching them. I remember skipping along with my friend May and the troops would throw us down sweets. The operation was delayed from the 5th to the 6th so they were there an extra 24 hours.
My brother, now 84, was in the navy. He had wanted to be a pilot but he was colour blind and was in the Stores at Gosport. Mother in Law was in Havant, Hampshire. He used to say "Are you a bit short of food for your chickens?" The store was packed from floor to ceiling with stale bread! Mother was deaf and didn't hear the sirens. Mrs Thomas next door used to hammer on the wall when they went off and I was lifted out of my cot. If it was too late to get outside we used to shelter under the table. Southampton was badly bombed - I remember it burning on both sides of use but not on our street. I remember the fear when one bomb fell on the corner of the road where we lived.
I remember standing on the sidebard looking out for father. He took me on one of the entertainment evenings.
Mother and my Aunt decided we should evacuate to Salisbury - but we only stayed one night!"
Southampton.Hampshire

Val Cookson
nee Sherlock is well known for her troop of Dollywood Dancers, named after her mother Dorothy nee Wood. The dancers entertained at the Wartime tea party at Leigh Old Vicarage when the Make do and Mend Project was launched.
Everyday Life
North West
South East
1939 - 1945

"It never had a bomb dropped on it but I was evacuated to Kirk Sandal in Lancashire. It was part of the Pilkington Glass Works with an estate built around it. Father was moved to Bristol with his work and was bombed there. I had an older sister and she was evacuated to Lincoln. We didn't get evacuated together as she was 11 years older than me. We went to visit my Grandmother in London for her birthday on the 8th of September. We arrived just as planes started bombing the docks in London!"
Lancashire and London

Annette Hallett was interviewed at Crafty Times Memories afternoon. Annette Hallett
grew up in Leeds.
Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
South East
1939 - 1945

"I came from Norfolk. I was up at Oxford when war broke out. We were miles away from the war. Hitler was going to make it his headquarters so the German aircraft were not allowed to bomb it. I finished my finals on the Friday and on the Monday took over my Father's school for six weeks. There were 48 mixed infants there at St Albans. There were quite a lot of air raid warnings. The planes were heading for Hatfield and the aircraft factories. We had a wartime shelter and got used to teaching underground. It was very difficult. We had tilley lamps and no heating and took our own stools down with us. There was one corridor that ran into another, only one small loo and - no food! If parents could not collect their children because the All Clear had not sounded they had to stay with us, often until 6.30pm until it was safe to collect them. It was difficult to keep them amused because we didn't have any books or paper with us so we did spelling tests, times tables and sang songs - anything we knew by heart - I remember Cherry Ripe and Going to Strawberry Fair. As an education it really was a blank. I was very lucky we already knew about Make do and Mend! There was an excellent cook at the Junior School. I was lucky. I avoided hardships that way. When I went to the High School in Nottingham we were very lucky - there were no bombs. The army occupied half of the school. We had to be very economical with paper and re-use every bit. This was while the army was being very lavish!
I do remember at Nottingham I had to go down to town for lunch and all I ever had for lunch was sausages or fish cakes that had been kept warm for hours! We had the odd bomb drop near us because of Hatfield. I remember we had to take evacuees at St Albans and try to get them fitted in - they were always shrieking to go home but they were in a safe place.
I remember rationing. We used to get two pints of milk on a Monday and the milkman used to leave another two pints on a Tuesday for the week. I was new to catering and it gradually got worse. Fresh veg was difficult and there was no fish. We only had meat for two meals a week. There was spam - it looked pink and it tasted pink! We had horse meat and whale meat, powdered milk and powdered egg. Bread and potatoes were rationed too after the war. I remember the Woolton Loaf - it had a lot of potato flour in it because wheat was in short supply. There were no bananas - children didn't know what they were. If you knew a shopkeeper you got extras! - a little something wrapped up and slipped into your shopping bag!
I remember having to cycle six miles to work. I remember boyfriends used to regularly disappear - they got called up. You had just got to know them and then they were gone. Some didn't come back.
Clothes - well it was Make do and Mend. I remember curtains being made into a skirt. Stockings disappeared so we wore ankle socks a lot. I remember I made a jumper once - well it was rather a nice waistcoat really out of 12 cards of mending wool - that wasn't rationed!
Furniture was rationed too! We were rationed for sheets. It was very difficult setting up home. There was a two years wait for a vacuum cleamer. I remember spending a lot of money at a fairground trying to win some saucepans - I didn't though. They were probably stuck down. You just couldn't get new saucepans. A lot of old ones were gathered for the war effort and people got out their old cast iron ones again. They were too heavy for camping stoves.
There was Utility Furniture too - it lasted well and wasn't bad in design - it was vaguely Scandinavian.
Weather during the war wasn't bad - but we weren't allowed to go anywhere! After the war we had some really bad winters. I remember at St Albans seeing the lights in the sky when London was bombed."
Oxford

Vicky Cornford
retired to Yetminster, Dorset and was interviewed at a Memories Tea Party at CraftyTimes Tea Room in the village who hosted the event. Vicky enjoyed her afternoon " I haven't talked about those days for years. It is all coming back to me now!"
Everyday Life
Wales
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.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was in London and so was my future wife Violet. Times were much harder in the city than down here in the country [ Norman has lived in Sherborne, Dorset for many years]. We didn't have large gardens, allotments or keep chickens. Violet's family was bombed out twice and then she and her brother were evacuated.
I remember my mother was determined to keep the rations fair. She used to have our 6oz butter ration - 2oz for each of my parents and 2oz for me and divide it accurately each week as soon as she got it so that we all got exactly 2oz each."
London

Norman Gardner

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

Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Mother used to keep all of the tea leaves and dry them and then mix them with the new tea ration to make it go further. I remember the evacuees coming to Thornford. They weren't used to the countryside and despite being told to look to cross the road they didn't always. I was playing outside one day and most of the younger children were on the other side of the road in a field. The last boy started to run to the gate and I called out to him there was a bike coming. He didn't listen and ran outside into the road and was hit by a Despatch Rider. He looked very ill but was still breathing. I rushed and got the lady where he was billeted and the Despatch Rider stayed until she came. Then he said he had to go as he had an important message to deliver. The poor boy was taken to the Yeatman Hospital but died three days later just as his mother was about to get off the train at Sherborne Station. They had had a job to find her in London in time. He was buried in Sherborne Cemetery. It was sad as he had left London to be safe in the countryside. We didn't get much traffic and he had to run out just as a bike was coming. The Despatch Riders used to ride fast as they always had important messages to deliver to Sherborne Castle and Leweston Manor which had been taken over by the military."
Thornford, Dorset

Kath Gray

In The Home
Everyday Life
Midlands
1939 - 1945
Mrs Leadbeater recalls
"When war broke out in 1939 my parents had a daughter of 18 who served in the Land Army and then the ATS, a son of 16 who went into the army at 18 and a son of 14 who eventually served in the Royal Marines and was badly wounded. In addition there were two daughters at school and two sons and a daughter at home under school age. They lived in a suburb of Birmingham. My father, weakened by as etc. in the Great War, by himself dug a deep home and sited our air raid shelter in it - as near as he could get to a 1914-18 dug-out. When the sirens went Dad and Mum had to carry baby and toddlers down to the air-raid shelter, older children helping as best they could. In spite of air-raids my father cycled to work next day and mother washed, cooked, cleaned, took children to school and tried to keep her family cheerful. She never had enough to eat and always she remembered her service in Belgium and France during the First World War. She knew what the Germans were capable of and this dread haunted her - fearing for her children and what would happen to them. She did not fear for herself - she was as brave as a lion but this anxiety took its toll and she had many illnesses later on and died at 70. There must have been many mothers like mine, feeding families on very little, worrying day and night and never knowing what was happening to the older children in the battlefield of Iltaly and at sea and a daughter away from home and concerned for younger siblings and not able to help the family. These women have never received the recognition they deserved. I would like to salute them all."
Birmingham

Noel Leadbeater
Grew up in a suburb of Birmingham and is now a resident of St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne.

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