Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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

"I was in the Land Army and had to travel from Devon to Birmingham. I remember we didn't have any cups, we couldn't get cups so tea was served in jam jars! While I was in the Land Army I was sent to Coventry and was there when the blitz of Coventry happened. I remember the landmines and bombs that fell on the estate we were working on. My inlaws lived in Solihull. We couldn't get through the roads. I had to go through someones garden and out the back of their house pulling and lifting my bicycle with me to get through to get home.
I was sent to train to work with the decoders - you know Alan Turin and the Enigma Code. We were taking down signals. We took them down - we didn't decode them. I was sent to Bow Manor Loughborough to train. We had to be very accurate. There were lots of us on these little radio sets listening. All these men had different sending techniques. They changed their frequencies quite often. We had to turn our dials until we picked up the new frequencies. I remember the great comradeship of that time. We kept in touch for years and years. I had to go to London to take tests to do this work. We were sent a morse type signal and then another and had to decide whether it was sent by the same person or not. We were taught to listen for any similarities and had to mark the test messages with a tick or a cross. It took nine months to train us and during that time I was sent to Trowbridge and also Douglas on the Isle of Man. We had to pass the Royal Signals Test B2 before we could do the work. When the Invasion started we sometimes picked up some very sad messages like 'please tell my mother we did our best'. These were from young men, no more than boys, just like ours. It made us think we were all the same. Some were very sad. They knew they weren't coming home. My husband and I retired to Gillingham, Dorset and then I was in a British Legion Home at Taunton before coming to the Almshouse here in Sherborne where I am very happy. It is a lovely place."
Birmingham

Noel Leadbeater
Grew up in a suburb of Birmingham and is now a resident of St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was born at Ivy House Farm, Oborne, Dorset, a couple of miles east of Sherborne. I started school at Newland Infants School in the town but had left before the bombing raid. Newland School had a direct hit. I went on to Abbey School at the other end of the town and had to cycle there. On 30th September 1940, a cloudy day, I had cycled home and gone indoors. The sirens had gone but they had gone before and there had never been an air raid. Then we heard the planes and ran out and saw the bombs falling on the town. The planes were heading our way. We wondered if father was alright. He was on the other side of the road hand milking our cows. We went over to find him. Shrapnel was falling. We found him sheltering behind a pile of full cattle feed sacks. When it was all over we realised our friends Elsie and Ivy Cheeseman on the other side of the road from us - same name but no relation - had not returned from Sherborne. They had cycled in earlier that afternoon. Father got into his square Morris van and went off to see if he could find them. We could see smoke rising from the town. I am not sure if he did manage to find them or not. He did see a dead brewery shire horse and found a lot of damage.
At school we had this arrangement with a lady who lived opposite but worked in Frisby's shoe shop. If the siren went while my sister and I was at school we could go over to her house and hide in her shelter in the cupboard under the stairs.
Mother made butter - I never liked it and wouldn't eat it - and used to take it into the sweet shop in Cheap Street and exchange it for sweets and stuff she sold. There was a lot of blackmarket trading going on. I remember crossing over to the stable one night to see my horse and found a man wheeling a milk churn in. I thought it was a funny time to be shifting milk around. When we closed the door he took the lid off and it was full of joints of meat! Father had some. I'm not sure what he traded for it - butter, milk and eggs I expect.
I remember the blackout and barrage balloons. There was one at the highpoint on Sigwells where there was a Home Guard battery and lookout. I had a school friend who lived at Middle Lodge in the middle of Sherborne Castle Park. It didn't have any modern services at all. We used to have to go and draw water from the pump outside and it had oil lamps. During the war American soldiers were at the army hospital at the other end of the park and were always driving by. I used to like staying there. They used to toss us candy bars! They were a different lot to our soldiers - less orderly, very friendly but a bit sloppy compared to ours. I remember one day I was walking home to Oborne and one of the large American ambulances was driving by, pulled up and asked me if I wanted a lift. I said yes and got in. I didn't think about it.You wouldn't do that today. I probably shouldn't have done it then but it was alright.
I remember going out rabbiting. I used to go out with my first boyfriend rabbiting. We used to go under Oborne railway bridge. We used to eat a lot of rabbit during the war. We had rabbit stew and rabbit roast and if there were any leftovers mother used to cook the bones up with some lentils - it was always lentils to make a soup."
Oborne, Dorset

Audrey Ashman
nee Cheeseman was born at Oborne, near Sherborne, Dorset
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was born in Wiltshire but Mother died and I went to live with an Aunt in London. My Dad lived on the Woburn Estate and I remember we went down to stay there sometimes to get a good night's sleep from the Blitz in London. He used to give us real eggs - we were used to powdered egg in London during the war. I do remember a thing called Wootton Pie but I can't remember how it was made during the war.
In London I started out having been put into a factory 'Standard Telephones and Cables' making parts for aircraft etc. One day on the radio Lord Haw Haw said they would bomb the factory - and they did. One bomb fell between our building and the wood shed and the whole of our side wall was taken out - the clock stopped at 5 to 8am and about 50 people were killed who were going upstairs to the Offices above. It was my chance to leave there as they had to find room for the day and the night shift and there was no blackout any longer on the bombed wall. I joined the NAFFI. We had our problems but on the whole it was alright. We had seven beds in a Nissan Hut and crickets in the wall! They used to wake us up at night. We had a double oven fire in the kitchen which had to be lit early each morning before anyone could have a cup of tea. The water had to be boiled there.
My other memories are of my cousin who sent us tea from India. My brother was in the navy but fortunately he came home safely. My Dad was in the Home Guard. I have so many memories - so many of my friends were killed. I used to pick up bits of shrapnel on the way home in the morning after spending all night in a public air raid shelter under the local Almshouse. I remember so many children being evacuated to the country for safety. We had two and a half pints of milk a week for the two of us at home but when I went into the NAFFI my Aunt only got half a pint every other day. I remember my Uncle was awarded the MBE but he would never say why. He had won the Military Medal in the 1914 war as well.
I remember gas masks, barrage balloons and blackout curtains. We had a table shelter. It took up nearly all of our big kitchen space! I remember our Ration Books - we had coupons or points for everything you wanted to buy.
My cousin was killed in the Berlin airlift. His brother was killed on an oil tanker. I remember being confirmed in St. Paul's Cathedral after it was bombed and having tea in a Lyon's Corner House afterwards. VE Day was also my birthday. I was in Fleet Street - you couldn't move it was so packed with people!"
London and South East

Eileen Harris
now resides at St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne but lived at Bradford Abbas for 38 years.
Clothing
Everyday Life
1939 - 1945

"I was on the borders of Northants in the country at Hatfield. My future husband worked for De Havillands - a reserved occupation. We were getting married on the fourth of November. We found people were moving out of London. There was a new housing estate at St Albans but they were being bought up by people moving out of the city. We brought forward plans for our wedding. We had relations in Leicester at Poddington on the Bedfordshire border. Villagers got together with cars to bring them from the station for the wedding. My husband had Saturday and Sunday off and then had to get straight back. When we got to St Albans our house wasn't finished. Our furniture had come down the week before. The steps had still not been done. Nothing happened for a few months. A plane off loaded its bombs on its way back from the city and they fell on Kell End Hospital. De Havilland's workers had shelters but these concertina-ed and collapsed and people were killed so my husband would never go in one. I remember we were having supper when bombs came screaming down. My husband and I and the dog took shelter in the cupboard under the stairs. When we came out our house was intact but there was cocoa all across the table, spilled by the shock waves. My husband was working on toolmaking. He started at 7.30am and had to cycle five miles into work in the dark and would be there all hours. There was a blackout on cycle lamps. The lamps were covered with black with only a small slit cut in it to let a little light out. We used to club together to get enough petrol and shared and have people rides. It was very quiet. I became pregnant. The general lying in hospital was evacuated to the Bishops Palace at St Albans. I arrived there and shortly afterwards Staff Nurse said 'I have a surprise for you. You are having twins'. I had two girls but not identical. It was a bit of a shock and in wartime a problem as we had a pram for one. My husband saw an ad for a twin pram. The air raid warden came with twin gas masks and I was supposed to sit and pump enough air for both of them! Rationing - well we were lucky with twins because they got extra. We kept ducks amd hens and grew tomatoes and currants. We had a big pram and then we needed a pushchair. We had to get a Doctor's certificate to get a twin pushchair! You couldn't get identical clothing for twins - but I didn't want to in any case - and mine weren't identical. We stayed there all of the war. Although a married woman and with twins I was still called up for war work. I was sent to Peakes Coat Factory - once a specialist firm but then producing uniforms for the troops. I wasn't very good. I broke the sewing machine needle. I did get a suit there at cost price. They still made specialist coats that were sent to America.
When the twins were three they used to walk everywhere quite happily. I took them out for a walk on the edge of St Albans. I remember they were dressed nicely in little kilts. We went to the Marshallwick Estate - there was a piece of land there that had never been built on. The estate hadn't been finished when the war started. They weren't allowed to build any more houses during the war. I remember the whole area was covered with a crowd of German prisoners of war. They all stopped work and looked at the twins. I think they were getting the land ready to plant crops. It was at the end of the building site. Houses cost £500 then.
My husband had to work at his bench standing on concrete under electric light all day long. It wasn't good for him. He had had a motorbike accident and working like that caused him to have an ulcerated leg. I was supposed to soak bandages with cod liver oil -you can imagine the state of my new sheets! We got to see a consultant. He was the King's Doctor! He got rid of the cod liver oil and stripped the veins in the leg instead - and that cured it. They don't do that today."
Hatfield, Northants

Denise Richards
now lives at St John's Almshouse, Sherborne, Dorset but recalled her wartime years.
Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I came from Surrey but now live in St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne, Dorset. At 14 I went into service but at 20 I was called up for war work and worked in a factory - making things for guns. I stayed at home as I lived close by and was picked up for work. We lived in the country in a village called Frimley Green - all fields, farms and allotments. I lived with grandparents on both sides of us! We were quite well off for food - one grandmother used to sit and talk about rationing in the First War and go back even further to how very short of food they were in the Boer War. Things were much worse then. My father was in the Queens Regiment and was away at war from 1914. He served until his time was up. During the school holidays I used to walk to see relations - the only way to get there. My uncles all had allotments and one grandfather was a gardener. He used to keep his kitchen garden for growing fruit and had allotments. I remember doing a lot of knitting and sewing in the war."
Surrey

Mary Jones

Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was born at Yenston near Templecombe, Somerset and now live at St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne, Dorset. I am 90 years old. During the war I was a mobile nurse. I worked in lots of different places - London way, Portsmouth, Sherborne and Yeovil. Our patients, wounded troops, came by train and transport. We had high standards in nursing then. Everything had to be done just right. I met my husband who was born in Sherborne when I was working there. I remember the evacuees arriving. My father had a mixed farm - not sure what sort of cows they were but they were brown and white."
Templecombe, Somerset

Irene Chidgey

Food and Cooking
South West
1939 - 1945

"Living on the farm we were lucky. We used to kill two or three pigs most summers for us and the men. We always had plenty of milk and rabbits - we ate rabbits three or four times a week. I remember dough boys and stir up puddings boiled in the cloth. We used to grow a ton of spuds in the garden. They used to last us nearly all year round."
Sherborne, Dorset

Jack Dimond
Sherborne Farmer and author lives beneath the Old Castle ruins and has sold over 15,000 copies of his memoirs.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
Evacuees
"I remember the day the evacuees came. There was a convoy of about 200 buses coming down the road. It just went on and on. They were all packed with evacuees. Six stopped in Sherborne and the children were offloaded in the Church Hall. Others stopped in neigbouring villages. Some went right on down to Maiden Newton, all the villages in between and on to Dorchester and even Weymouth. Mother went down to the Church Hall and we were allotted two. We had two boys Robert and Billie. They came with their gas masks. One of them cried for over a week he was so homesick. Our evacuees stayed about 2 1/2 years. We didn't have an apple left in the orchard! They cleared them. Father didn't say anything - but they were cider apples and they still ate them! My sister still hears from one of the evacuees at Christmas."
Sherborne, Dorset

Jack Dimond
Sherborne Farmer and author lives beneath the Old Castle ruins and has sold over 15,000 copies of his memoirs.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Jack Dimond recalls the first time he saw a German bomber fly overhead only a few weeks after war was declared 'Didn’t we run! We were frightened out of our lives. My sister was crying her eyes out.' The planes became a more frequent sight and the children were able to tell whose plane it was by the engine noise. 'One night we heard a loud noise and when we looked out there was a German bomber overhead in flames. We thought it was returning from a bombing raid on Bristol. We thought it was going to land on the house but it was a rough and windy night and it went over and came down in Oborne about a mile away. I went with my father and we were the first on the scene but there was nothing we could do. We could see the pilot and crew in the cockpit. They were buried in Oborne cemetery. One afternoon I remember two of our Spitfires were practicing overhead and collided. They both crashed in the road about 50 yards away. They were both on fire and bits had fallen off as they came down. My sister was four fields away turning hay and the horse bolted when the field caught on fire. I don’t know how she stayed on the seat. My mother was hand milking when a large part of one of the engines went through the cow-shed roof landing three yards from her. When we got home we found her sat on the path crying. Being on the farm rationing didn’t affect us too much. Our two evacuees had the time of their lives. On the day of the Sherborne bombing raid [30th September 1940] there were 13 of us in our shelter. We didn’t think we would get out alive. That night we walked into town picking our way through the rubble. We had a job to place the streets. Households were left without water for ten days.'"
Sherborne, Dorset

Jack Dimond
Sherborne Farmer and author lives beneath the Old Castle ruins and has sold over 15,000 copies of his memoirs.
Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was in Central London during the war. I was nursing - in training when war broke out. I was on night duty when Great Ormond Street Hospital was bombed in the blitz. Most of the teaching hospitals had been evacuated to base hospitals in the country. None closed but bed numbers fluctuated. It was a very highly organised system evacuating patients every morning. As soon as they could be moved they were moved out to base hospitals. Green Line coaches were commandeered as convoys of ambulances. Every morning the convoys left. It was a very organised system every morning and then on the return journey patients were brought back who had recovered from operations. During the blitz it was horrendous. I remember a particular night when I was on night duty on the fifth floor. The sirens went and we wheeled the beds and cots - and remember we had very sick babies and children - out into the corridor as it was considered the safest place away from glass and arc lights. That night I shall never forget as long as I live. Crump, crump, crump we heard followed by bounces on the roof - a very large bomb had gone down the main lift shaft. All the main services were knocked out. We still wore a Victorian style uniform - long capes, gas masks on shoulder and each of us had to carry a baby wrapped in a blanket and their huge baby gas masks packed in large cardboard boxes. We had to carry everything down into the basemet lit only by a small pen torch. It was regarded as the safest place. It was a very big hospital and a tall building so an easy target. As soon as we got to the basement the water started to rise until it was a huge flood several feet deep. Everything from the kitchen was floating. I remember seeing babies bottles, a pound of sausages, childrens green ration books - they all floated by. Firemen from the ak-ak factory opposite came to rescue us. I don't know how they did it. They piggybacked us up from the basement still carrying our baby patients and all our equipment and put us down on the ground floor. We all gathered in the atrium of the hospital and assembled. Then we went out in single file across the forecourt and across the road to the Hospital for Nervous Diseases. It was like treading on an ice rink. Every bit of glass from our hospital had been blown out. It was treacherous to walk on, especially carrying so much and our precious babies. We also had our white starched bonnets - we were a sitting target. It was pitch dark and a black out. We never came out until 6am/7am and then went into the Out Patients Department and sat on the floor. We were all 18 years of age. We were given a boiled egg each for breakfast.
Wartime London was difficult, especially in September 1940 at the height of the blitz. German bombers came up the Thames in the late afternoon to bomb the East End. I remember it always smelt like burnt toast afterwards. I shall never forget it. Mother was home on the outskirts of Reading and Father was at The Front for the second time in his life as he had served in the First War. Our patients had special dried milk and special juices because of course they did not need a meat ration so their needs were substituted. There were no oranges so rose-hip sysrup was substituted. Rationing didn't stop when the war stopped - not until 1953, the last being meat - not until after the Coronation. Food was shorter after the war, especially bread and potatoes that had not been rationed before. We had to feed the people of Europe. I started nursing six months before war broke out and I was a Senior Sister by the end of the war. Our Nurses Uniform altered during the war to save material. Our Nurses dresses had been 12 inches above the ground and this went up to 14 inches. The dresses had taken six and a half yards of material to make! They took the straps off of our aprons and our bibs were fixed with safety pins. Caps changed in style too. Gradually our long sleeves became short sleeves. Our long full capes became short capes. The problem was getting everything starched. It was difficult to get enough starch. We had at least one clean apron a day. We had to buy our own uniform. We went to the hospital tailors to get measured. Mother said it was like starting at boarding school all over again! In our second year we were given enough material to make our uniform. We were paid £15 a year, in the second year £20 and in the third £30. It was quite expensive to go into nursing before the Health Service. If you didn't like it and left you had to pay them back. You had to supply your own safety pins too. You had to pay for breakages; six pence (6d) for a broken thermometer. It was very disciplined. We were not allowed out after 10pm. Only in recent years have women become emancipated. We were all under 21 [ 21 then being the coming of age] so Matron was responsible for all of us. It was a great responsibility."
Central London

Mary Hatt
Mary Hatt was interviewed at the St Johns Almshouse Memories Tea Party where she has recently retired to after a lifetime career in nursing.

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