Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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Sherborne Bombing 70 Years On


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Clothing
South East
1939 - 1945
Rationing
"We were issued with clothing coupons and could spend them how we liked. Obviously a great coat took a lot of coupons and stockings not many. Furnishing fabric was unrationed and made splendid dressing gowns - and the silk from parachutes was marvellous for underclothes!"
South East

Margaret Webster
Is now a resident of St Johns Almshouse, Sherborne, Dorset but when war broke out was living in a small market town in Hertfordshire.
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

""When I was first married I lived in the New Forest. I remember the bombing raids on Southampton. We didn't have a shelter so we hid under the kitchen table. I remember the blast and shock waves when our road was hit."
Nancy also recalled her family life and the worries, separations and the wonderful Gurkhas. In her own words:
"Most of us who are still surviving have experienced the sadness of the Second World War, especially the ones on active service and the families left behind. My husband and I were so happy and blessed with our dear little daughter that we never realised we would ever be parted. As a young man he was eventually called up to do duty and training in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. We so enjoyed having him home on leave. Sadly the dreadful day came when the Regiment had to do service Overseas. I did not have any idea where he had gone for a long time. He was in the 14th Army against the Japanese. What the troops suffered in the jungle was sheer hell. His Regiment was with the wonderful Gurkhas. It was some years before I saw my husband again and my daughter was between six and seven years old and had to get used to a Daddy she did not know. Thankfully he came back to us but I am sure it affected him but he never complained or talked of the horrors of that time. We were the same age but I have survived for some time so I am sure he suffered and it affected his life. Like hundreds of families we all had our trials and upsets and it was far from easy but thankfully he came through.""
Hampshire

Nancy Pidgley
In 2008 Nancy was a keen supporter of the Gurkha cause and wrote to Joanna Lumley and was delighted to receive a personal reply which she treasures. She lent both her letter and the reply to Sherborne Museum to complement the touring Dance Nepal exhibition which the museum hosted for two months in 2009.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1942 - 1945

"I was in the ATS for three years. Previously I had been involved in administration in the Express Dairy Company at Frome, Somerset. My employer hadn't wanted to part with me and got me defered twice but I wouldn't have missed it for all the world. I served from August 1942 - March 1945. My husband was in the Royal Artillery, the West Somerset Yeomanry and worked as a field surveyor. I had to report to a training centre in Wrexham for a very intensive two week training course - not the three weeks it should have taken. We had to drill and learn to deal with gas attacks. We had a gas chamber and I remember tear gas and having to take off our respirators. That was quite an experience. I remember cleaning uniform buttons and all the inoculations we had to have - that went on right through the war. I was then sent to Streatford, Manchester for a one month admin. course and was then posted to the Military Hospital there. We had to live in barracks built before the First World War - pretty grim but the rations weren't too bad! My fiance said be careful I wasn't posted to Scotland! I don't remember any air raids - only at Frome. We had bombers going over during the daytime. They were heading for Bristol. Our planes roared like lions theirs had a horrible drone. Bombs were dropped at random sometimes when they were turned back and they were dropped on the Mendip Hills indiscriminately. I lost my brother in law in an air raid on Esson. He was a rear air gunner. He had wanted to be a pilot and had gone to Canada to learn but he couldn't do landings only take off. I had a cousin in Sandford Orcas, near Sherborne, who was shot down over northern France. Robert was 21 and they had been bombing rail heads. That was a Halifax bomber - they were such death traps. I remember mother sent me a letter to tell me the news with a penny halfpenny stamp with the King's head on it.
Wilton House was the headquarters of Southern Command. There I was doing totally different work It was a contrast to the barracks at Preston. Wilton was a lovely spot. I had a lovely room and there were superb gardens at the back. Then we were consolidated and sent to the old workhouse on the Warminster road. We were in a top room. We had to stand on barrack boxes to be able to see out at all. Standing on the floor you couldn't look out at all. We thought of what life had been like for the poor inmates. We were happy there. We had a stove - it was cosy in winter. I remember 1939 was the worst winter. There was a lot of ice - everything froze. They said it was Hitler's secret weapon! I remember having to do fire duty.
We used to go to Salisbury to TocH dos - there was a lovely canteen too. I remember Dr. Reginald Jacques chamber orchestra. Three or four of us used to go. I shared a bike with Mother - a Raleigh Roadster and then she got me an old New Hudson. Mother put the basket on the front right. On one occasion I had to take it to the Wilton cycle repairer and he fitted all new ball bearings in it. I remember wonderful cycle rides and lovely walks. It was such lovely countryside."
Somerset

Josephine Gait
a resident of St Johns' Almshouse, Sherborne spent many years in Somerset.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
1939 - 1945

"I remember our Anderson shelter - it was on wooden planks on the floor with two bunk beds on either side. In the early days I slept behind my parents leather settee. If the ceiling fell we would have some protection from the beams.
I remember the 7th September 1940. It was my mother's birthday - a Saturday. Father was on Home Guard duty. I was woken up at 8 or 9pm and taken to the front door. I remember looking at a huge inverted ' sunset' - except it was in the south-east! The city was burning. I remember sherbet fountains before the war - but they vanished completely and only came back in the 1950s. There was no ice cream during the war. I remember it came in large blocks in the late 1940s - it was pink and I was sick!
Occasionally we had oranges, no bananas and no pineapple - although you could get tinned pineapple towards the end of the war. I was surprised when I saw my first pineapple. It was identical in appearance to hand grenades! We had spent ones around. My father told the story of how you pulled the pin out and then threw them but occasionally they hit the top of the trench and fell back in. The Sergeant used to pick them up and throw them out again.
I remember kids queuing up to be evacuated. Mother decided at the last minute she couldn't go through with it. My teac her got in touch with my mother and offered us her house in North West London. My parents moved in and looked after it. We were 12 miles outside the city. My father worked in the city of London and travelled by tube when it was running. I remember the mesh on the tube windows - ? bakelite? - and the little slits on the tubes - a thin letterbox to see where you were. We used to take a bucket out searching for shrapnel. We also searched for rarer items. I remember Incendiary bombs - like a pipe and silvery with fins of a charcoal colour. I remember a long bomb with fins one end - sometimes whole or in pieces and also detonators - shiny mushrooms with a pointed head, the plunger - also tracer bullets - a brass cartridge part and parts of large shells. Father was in the Home Guard and went fire watching on the roof of the Bank of London. When we lived in Hornchurch, 12 miles into Essex, there was an aerodrome a mile away - the Hornchurch sector for the Thames and Thames Estuary."
Stoke Newington in East London

John Spencer

Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was living in Fulham in 1939 - the poor side of Chelsea. Father was a fleet reservist and was away. I remember Chamberlain addressing the Nation on that Sunday morning. I was 7, my sister was 5. We missed evacuation because we were out. We were sent to Sherlock Rowe outside of Reading. My parents borrowed a car and got us there. We were taken in by a lady of the WRVS or the WI and taken round the village to see who would take us in. Father was at sea but managed to find a house at Ashford, Middlesex. Our house was hit by incendiaries and the Fulham house was demolished. For a 7 to 13 year old war wasn't any hardship at all. It was exciting. I don't remember any hardships at all. We went out first thing in the morning to collect shrapnel. We walked to school in the gutters because that was where it collected! In 1944 I went to the County Grammar School in Ashford, Middlesex. It was hit by a V1 at night! A lot of people were killed in the area so we had to go to school half days after that as there weren't enough buildings left for all the pupils to go all day. Our Anderson shelter was absolutely useless - it flooded! We used it for three nights and then moved back inside. Some people had Morrison shelters - they were steel like a large rat trap. Father was at sea throughout until mid 1945 then our home was Rosyth as he was a boiler cleaner. It took 1 1/2 days by train to get there. I remember he brought a ditty box every 18 months full of chocolate - very exciting! We were there [Ashford] when London docks were bombed - we were 35 miles from the city but we could see it burning."
Fulham, London

David Ashby

Everyday Life
South West
1940 - 1945

"I was in a trench on the far side of Foster's Field during the Sherborne air raid with the rest of Fosters School pupils. We saw the bombs hitting Newland. My sister worked in the Southern Electricity shop and office. She was under her desk when a bomb landed on Newcombe's shop. She was fortunate not to be injured.
Alec then went to Canada to get his wings going in the Elizabeth I. First of all he saw floating ice and a couple of days later he was sweating in the sun, the journey being completed in five days. His flying training was in Ontario and when he came back he undertook a night vision course. In Canada there were lights but over here he had to learn to fly using his instruments as there was a blackout.
We had worked up as a squadron to go out to the Far East but after they dropped the two nuclear bombs there was no point so we went to South West Wales, to Dale which was chosen as the runway went off the cliff edge - with the purpose to train naval officers to use radar. I was there two years doing experimental flying - ground control approach - fog landing. I was flying Fireflies there, a spitfire with a hook known as a Seafire and Wildcat - an American aircraft. I moved about a bit and had some interesting times."
Sherborne, Dorset

Alec Oxford
has written a celebration of the 150 years of the railway coming to Sherborne, the anniversary being 7th May 2010 and recounted a little know wartime railway story at the Museum Memories afternoon.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was in hospital during the war at one time. I remember the hospitals being banked up with sandbags to give them some protection. I remember when they tried to bomb the gas works at Branksome. We used to hear the sier go for when the men came out of work. They had a 12 o'clock lunch so they missed it fortunately. Another time it was between 3 and 4pm - the kiddies were coming home from school. A Fish and Chip shop three doors away was bombed. You could see the fire from our window. The lady that I lived with used to look after 6 or 7 of us foster children. It was all like an adventure to us kids during the war!"
Poole, Dorset

Shirley Sargent

Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
North East
1939 - 1945

"We lived in a semi-detached house in Sheffield. I was two. I remember hearing Great-Grandfather had been a table knife grinder. I remember the noise of the bombers coming over Sheffield. Our shelter was underneath in the cellar. We had metal beds in it and I was in the underneath one. Neighbouts used to come in and share our shelter with us. They made it exciting - not frightening.
I was a long awaited child. My father worked in the steel works. I had wanted a teddy bear and one night be went into Sheffield's large department store called Atkinsons and came home with this teddy in his siren suit. Stores stayed open longer in those days so he was able to go in and buy it on his way home from work. He just got there in time. That night the store was bombed and raised to the ground. Teddy was the last toy sold there. He will be 70 on 12th December.!
I remember when the whole of Sheffield was bombed one night. 17 restaurants were hit in one night. Next day Dad returned from work and had see firement outside of a pork butchers frying bacon!
I remember spam - it was quite nice actually. It was one of those pseodo meats devised for the war I believe. I also remember corn beef and snoeck.
There was a prisoner of war camp on the Moors in the south part of Sheffield. There was a big prisoner of war camp there. I saw the officers with their long coats and peaked caps and their guards. One day one took a detour up our road! Mum ran up and fetched us in saying 'That's a bad man'."
Sheffield

Brenda Spencer
Brenda joined our Memories Tea Party at Sherborne Museum and brought her very special teddy bear to show everyone.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember the excitement of a group of ladies when a sea green silk parachute 'became available'. I thought silk would be fine and smooth but to me it felt quite rough, not at all what I expected and I wondered what they could make out of it that would be comfortable to wear."
South West

John Spencer

Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Shirley remembers while she was at Branksome Chine near Bournemouth there was barbed wire on the beaches and you were not allowed to go on the beach."
Branksome Chine near Bournemouth

Shirley Sargent

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