Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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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.
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.
Food and Cooking
South West
1939 - 1945

"At home father had three allotments at South View - two on one side of the footpath and one on the other - so we grew everything we needed. He was renowned for his onions and he used to sell some. At home we had nails all around Back House as we called it and rabbits were hung there, paunched and all ready for cooking. Father used to work for Wyatt Paul on the farm, although he couldn't drive a tractor. Wyatt Paul owned most of the village in those days. Father was a rick thatcher for them and that was how I became interested but I became an apprentice and went on to become a Master Thatcher. Father used to go rabbiting and ferreting so we used to have rabbit three or four times a week. There were five of us children to feed. We used to have rabbit stew and roast rabbit. If we had anything else - like pork or beef - that was a real surprise. We weren't short of food in the war. I can't remember being really short of anything."
Sherborne, Dorset

Ron Gosney (2nd right) with other older residents of Bradford Abbas at a special village occasion. Ron Gosney
became one of the 'Grand Old Men' of the village in 2009 re-enacting the original gathering in the 1930s when the oldest residents famed for their longevity became film stars! In 2009 those Bradfordians of advancing ages were honoured at a social gathering in the village. Ron became Master Thatcher of the village.

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