Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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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

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

Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"My first memories of the wartime era are as a schoolboy in the late 1930s becoming aware of the hushed tones of my elders on talking of the European News. I became a Corporal in the OTC (Officers Training Corps). Our equipment was still of the First World War era - no wireless and our Dispatch Riders were mounted on horseback! We wore puttees and formed fours and were only allowed to read serious newspapers - the Daily Mirror with its strip cartoon of Jane was forbidden.
At the outbreak of war I was on a three generation holiday afloat in Norfolk and, whilst keeping in touch daily with the family business in London, we decided not to navigate back to base because it seemed there was a lot of unnecessary ill informed panic in the big city, which was confirmed when we returned a fortnight later. The our panic started because we had to make blacoouts, prepare safe areas and fit shields to our vehicle headlights.
We had to support such civilian groups as the Local Defence Volunteers, the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Royal Observer Corps and observe Air Raid Precautions. We assisted with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. For this we had a small yacht available on the Medway but although registered with large authorised inscriptions on both sides, she was laid-up and so out of commission. Some of our staff were leaving due to Conscription and were replaced by retired members. Then day and night bombing made the journey from the suburbs to the city a challenge because of all the new diversions and the road signs had been removed, as they had nationwide for reasons of security. Phrases such as "careless talk costs lives" - "be like dad, keep mum" - "dig for victory" - "make do and mend" and "waste not want not" were often heard.
We were finally fire bombed out of London. This was the only time my father was reduced to tears when he saw our family firm of stationers and newspaper makers, established in the 18th Century, reduced to a shell. We needed special dispensation to enter the building. There was some surprising salvage in the cellars where the lack of oxygen had left the antracite unconsumed and the bonded methylated spirits still in its Winchesters had failed to explode! The safe on the ground floor was a complete melt down but our industrial textiles stored as heavy weight rolls on steel racks were found marketable after severe trimming!
As an indentured apprentice one of my jobs was to make an inventory of the building's contents to support our war damage insurance claim. Whilst our turnover and revenue in this trade were seriously reduced this was somewhat offset by diversification as a government sub-contractor working from home in engineering on behalf of the war effort.
A twelve hour day was followed by home guard fire watching and anti-looting patrols. We were now fully kitted out , including bayonets, .300 rifles and five rounds of ammo. Our training was on-going from Lewis and Vickers machine guns and eventually a Tommy gun. We also had to maintain a flame thrower kept ready at our local road block and practice throwing live hand grenades. We did have a few field telephones but mainly relied on the Morse Code and signalling with flags. On the lighter side we went recruiting with our drum and fife band. As a former ceremonial bugler from my schooldays I was reduced to clashing the cymbals!
Although I was in a reserved occupation, call up papers duly arrived from the RAF, who were short of engineers. After some four months initial training I was posted to Ayr, where we were under canvas in a bell tent on cold, wet, soggy ground in winter, followed by Chester where conditions were much better. Here we became sufficiently skilled to be able, as one of several teams, to fetch an aircraft in for a service, change a Merlin in-line or Hercules radial engine, including all the associated components and ground test all within 24 hours. For a couple of months we were working a seven day week, 12 hours a day. For some of us this was overpowering, bearing in mind the care needed in servicing an aircraft; so we volunteered as a break for guard duty - two hours on and four hours off - which was much easier.
My unrelated but subsequent posting to a salvage and repair unit was in Kent. This was a compassionate posting due to the illness of my mother, which led to my being billeted at home and travelling on a camp bike. One of my family obligations was to have a hot meal of rationed food ready for me any evening on my return from duty. However my movements were erratic, being dictated by the repair work on aircraft anywhere in Kent, which often lasted several days. On these occasions we lived mainly on hay-box meals. I had one break due to being sent to an isolation hospital with german measles.
At this time doodle bugs were constantly arriving. For shelter I once dived under a petrol bowser, which was not exactly intelligent, but there was little time to think! So in a way it was a relief to find myself being kitted out for an unknown overseas posting. In the event, after a three week tropp ship journey, including several days of horrible sea sickness, I arrived in India for a posting 300 miles south wesdt of Calcutta at a sdtaging post in the Bengal jungle. This was a complete change in life.
Boredom was the chief problem. To counter this I became mis-employed as a Motor Transport fitter/driver. This meant I had a gharrie to drive, which was a real luxury because it was relatively dust free. Never the less I had to visit a hospital in Calcutta with infected ears and impetigo. Following this I had a period of convalesence in the Himalayas with a return journey via Agra - where I missed a connection and so was able to visit the Taj Mahal. My final flink, early in 1946, was to collect, with a colleague, a radar truck from Bombay and deliver it via Delhi to Calcutta. It was a week's journey of some 1500 miles styled as a single vehicle convoy, being serviced all found by Western Oriental Gentlemen. This included their rations which consisted mainly of rice and stew which did not impress us - but the journey did. It was mainly single tarmac roads with a bullock cart dust track on either side. The bridges were not really meant for heavy vehicles. Driving over the sleepers of a railway bridge was sometimes the alternative, especially when pontoons were not up to the job. On arrival at camp I was told to pack my belongings because my discharge papers had arrived. I was flown to Bighty with three refuelling stops. What a sudden change on arrival after the tropics to find a very cold English winter. Thus ended my war.
In retrospect the wartime experiences, whilst at times severely harsh and tiring, hastened my preparation towards becoming a self-sufficient person as already started by school discipline and the ethos of the Boy Scouts. Certainly there were a few lighter moments and perks when in uniform. On off duty times in the UK we could visit cinemas, dance halls and pubs; perks included postage paid letter forms, usually censored, free bus travel and an occasional furrlough or 36 hour pass; the use of service men's clubs such as TocH, Salvation Army, YMCA and WVS. One Christmas time with two others I was invited into the home of a large family of WVS girls whose boy friends were overseas - that was a very pleasant and totally unexpected surprise - which led to a pen friendship for the duration of the war.
However there was no real let up from the mental pressures of the times - the blackouts and bombing.
On returning to civvy street I was able to join a tennis club and swimming club."
Norfolk and International

Denzil Goddard
a resident of Leigh Old Vicarage wanted to record his wartime memories.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
Scotland
South West
South East
1937 - 1945

"I worked at Harper House, a boarding house for Sherborne School, as a sewing maid with Mr Tindall as House Master. In the 1920s he asked me to join him as House Matron at West Downs Preparatory School, Winchester, the Preparatory School for Winchester College, where he had just been appointed Head Master.
Two of my friends went with him too. West Downs was a lovely school and I enjoyed my work there. I used to come home during the holidays or sometimes went on holiday with the Tindalls to the Isle of Wight or Newquay.
When the war came we were worried about the boys.
Some of my favourite Old Boys were Peter Scott who as a boy used to come and ask.
"May can I borrow your watch?" He was always drawing as a young boy but didn't have a watch. He used to draw wildlife in the grounds during his lunch hour. We also had Angus Ogilvy and his brother. Their parents gave me a clock for looking after them so well!
Southampton was bombed and we always had bombers flying overhead. Some of the parents were worried too so Mr Tindall started looking for a safe place to move the school to. We took over Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire in South West Scotland and soon the boys started arriving. All went well at first. Their parents managed to send supplies of most things they needed and there was always something for us too. Then things changed. We found we were on the flight path for Ireland and Mr Tindall started to get worried again.
I went home for the summer holidays. It was a long train journey. I used to have a break in London and go and stay with Aunt Louisa and Uncle Zeb at Finsbury Park. Uncle Zeb was an Austrian Pastry Cook but he was interred in the Alexandra Palace in the First World War in case he was a spy! Aunt used to be allowed to visit him on Sundays. After the war they changed their name back to her maiden name, from Reinthler to Hunt, in case the same thing happened again!
I was crossing Waterloo Bridge one afternoon when there was an air raid and had to go to the nearest shelter. Some time afterwards Uncle Zeb's house was bombed and most of their road. They were re-housed close by. On my way back to Scotland Mother, Louisa's older sister, used to send up a few supplies from the country -eggs, fruit and jam- and I used to drop them off.
When we got back to Scotland we had a shock. The army had taken over Glenapp castle and with less than 48 hours before the boys were due back we had to start searching for another home for the school.
Mr Tindall spent most of the next day with the army who tried to find somewhere for the boys. Then at the last minute we learnt Blair Castle, near Blair Atholl village, in Perthshire was being made available for us. Some of us went on to the castle while others waited to collect the boys as they arrived back and see they were sent on to Blair Atholl. There hadn't been time to tell them to go to Blair Atholl. It was a lovely place to stay. It had been an auxillary hospital in the First World War but was the family home of the Duke of Atholl. The Duke was the only person allowed to keep a private army and we often saw his Atholl Highlanders. While we were there the Duke died and we watched the Highlanders parade and pipe the coffin from the house to the church. We watched from the upper windows. The family made us very welcome and we had few shortages. The estate was large and the remaining keepers kept us well supplied with food.
The boys were very careful in the castle and I don't remember any breakages but they all came from well off homes so were used to such places.
In May 1945 I had a phonecall from Dorset to say Mother was seriously ill so I packed up and caught the first train home. She died soon after I got there and I stayed home to look after father and never returned to Scotland. At home we had rationing but we had a large garden and two allotments. My brother was a thatcher and got a special petrol allowance so he could carry on working. He often came home with something for the table. My Uncle was a keeper in Honeycombe Wood so he sometimes gave us things too. He kept pigs and built a smoke house near the house. He used oak shavings and smoked the joints and hams so we often had meat too. "
Dorset, Scotland, London

Emily May Garrett

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

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