Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"We lived at Budleigh Salterton, Devon and I remember we visited Exmouth.I was only a little girl. I remember seeing a large number of American troops who were billeted in the town. I remember the Officers were accommodated in a big house. The white Americans were all put into houses - those houses that didn't already have evacuees. They could wander about wherever they liked. I remember asking why the black troops - and there were a lot of them - had to live in tents on the front. I couldn't understand why - even at my young age. They were not allowed to wander about like the white Americans and had restricted hours. It struck me as wrong."
Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Mrs Radgick
was visiting the museum recently from Devon and had a vivid childhood wartime memory she wanted to share with us.
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Rona Moore nee Parfitt was the eldest of five children and lived for over 70 years in the North East Somerset village of Timsbury. On leaving school she worked at Fry's in Keynsham until the Second World War when she recalled she worked on Lancaster bombers. After the war she returned to Fry's and later joined the staff of the Cheshire Homes at Timsbury where she stayed until she retired."

Rona Moore

Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1940 - 1945

"We were up in Lenthay Playing Fields at 4pm - out of Abbey School in Horsecastles. I remember the sirens sounding and we ran home [Monday 30th September 1940 Sherborne]. Mum and my sisters and the Air Raid Warden were looking for us and Mr Wiscombe from the Cemetery house [ at No 1 South View, Lenthay]. The Air Raid Warden heard a noise and looked up and saw a plane 'Good God Mrs - bombs'. Mum turned us back to go under the stairs but we only got as far as the front room. I was heading for under the stairs but tripped over a broom and Joy fell on top of me. Mr Wiscombe followed us in. The Air Raid Warden threw himself on top of us. When we got outside after it was all over we saw The Warren's house was flattened. Before that we had always gone to the Digby Mausoleum for Sunday School but we couldn't because of an unexploded bomb. I remember the ARPs and Rescue Squads arriving and wondered what to do. The Public School Army Cadet boys also arrived to help. We had no ceilings and damaged walls and were told to go and stay with relations. My Gran in Coldharbour was pleased to see us. We had a bomb crater in the garden - I remember the squad digging down to find it and then it was abandoned because they were called to Portland to deal with unexploded bombs - I wonder if it is still there. Six soldiers were billeted in our ruined house and their canteen was set up next door. Our potatoes and cabbages were dug up!
Father was billeted at Shroton near Blandford after getting out of Dunkirk. He was a Sergeant in the BEF in France. He found a place for us and we moved there for 19 or 20 weeks. I remember going to school at Shroton and then we all returned to Sherborne."
Sherborne, Dorset

Tony Noake

Food and Cooking
In The Home
Northern Ireland
North West
North East
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"Every household became a miniature munitions dump during Christmas - and the munitions are wanted now for active service. Your munitions comprise all those Christmas cards, letters, boxes, gift wrappings, decorations and crackers. Paper is a munition of war. Every household must see that its accumulation of Christmas paper gets to the enemy in the most effective form. In one envelope there is sufficient paper to make a wad for a bullet. Remember that 3lbs of waste paper makes containers for two anti-aircraft shells. A ton of paper will make, among other things, 9000 shell fuse components. You probably had your weekly joint of meat on Christmas Day. Don't forget that the bone is wanted too. Bones provide glycerine for high explosives as well as glue for binding particular aircraft parts, body filling for camouflage paints, fertiliser for growing food, and feeding meals for cattle and poultry. Scrap metal is also vitally important. Five tons of ferrous metal will provide steel for 8145 anti-aircraft shells."

Wartime Christmas
A newspaper cutting of January 1942 has been sent to us.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"We lived near the Bristol Aircraft Company factory so we were a frequent target. I remember running home from school with the planes coming overhead. I stayed on the pavement to watch with mother shouting to get indoors. Sometimes the planes would continue up North."

Adrian Jelf
had a very different war to his wife Brenda for she was in Sherborne which only had one bombing raid, although it claimed the life of her father, and he was in Bristol which was constantly bombed.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
My Second World War experiences.
"I was aged four when war broke out in 1939. I lived in Sherborne, Dorset, with my Mum and Dad and my cat, Smut, who was a fantastic catcher of mice and rabbits - all these trophies he brought home to our doorstep!! We lived in a council house on the western outskirts of Sherborne in an area called 'Lenthay'. My best friend, Barbara (two months younger than me), lived next door - we were inseparable and started school together in September 1940 at the Abbey Primary School. We always carried our gas masks in a square cardboard box on string round our necks and we had identification bracelets giving our name, date of birth and National Identity number.
The first lot of evacuees from London came to Sherborne in October 1939 and we had a girl called Ivy Mahoney billeted with us. She was from a poor family and my mum soon found new underwear and clothes for her as her own were falling apart. She taught me lots of Cockney songs and my dad used to play schools (writing on a blackboard) in the evenings with us; he was always the teacher! He also played his records on the wind-up gramaphone; that's when I first realised how much I liked to dance. Ivy was very homesick, in spite of my parents loving care, and after six months her mother came and took her back to London in 'The Phoney War' when the expected German bombing did not start. Sadly, however, she and her family were killed in a later bombing raid on the East End of London.

So . . my Dad had to give up his job at the start of the war and was seconded to the Army, requisitioning (taking over) houses for Army use towards the war effort. He was also a Special Police Constable and went out on patrol at night, leaving me and my cat Smut asleep on a camp bed under the stairs each night, in case of a night bombing attack. It was great fun for me sleeping there. My Dad's office was a mile away on the other side of town.

On Monday 30th September 1940, Barbara and I were taken to school as usual, sitting on our little seats behind our Mums on their bicycles - Barbara's Mum was a teacher in our school. We each had our bottle of milk in the morning as usual, and after our sandwich lunch had a rest 'heads on hands' on our school desks. My Mum met me at 3 o'clock after school on the bike. [See Pam's separate account of that afternoon to continue the story of that day.]

My Dad was 'called up' into the RAF on the 17th August 1942 aged 35. When he was training to be an Armourer (Bomb loader) at Hereford, Mum and I followed him there and stayed with some friends. I went to school in Hereford for two terms and really enjoyed it - I had a friend called "Orange"! I remember sitting in a rocking chair, eating chestnuts - Hereford is famous for its many chestnut trees. Then Dad was posted to Warmwell, near Weymouth, so we returned home. He then went to Scotland and, finally, Norway - so I didn't see him for a year or more. I still have a bracelet and brooch he brought me back from our Norwegian friends, Ingrid and Eimar.
While Dad was away it was just, Mum, me and the cat - quite cosy in winter with the 'blackouts' up at the windows. "NO LIGHTS TO BE SHOWN AT ALL " (in case bombers could see buildings etc) ARP Wardens came round at night to make sure no lights were showing anywhere - no street lights for six years! We didn't have too much food to eat, although Mum grew some vegetables in the garden. Our ration of cheese for two for a week could be eaten in one or two sandwiches. Many hours were spent by me shaking the cream from the top of pints of milk to turn it into a little butter!
My Gran in Sussex had a smallholding and we sometimes received a plucked chicken in the post from her. I remember once the post was delayed and the bird was rotten when we received it. No sweets, chocolates, bananas, oranges, ice-cream. Bread, vegetables, a little meat and cheese, fish, dried eggs (ugh) were on ration and available. Some people kept chickens for the eggs ( and the dead chickens). When my Dad was eventually demobbed in 1946 I had left Primary School, had passed the 11-plus and was attending Grammar School ( Lord Digby's School for Girls, Sherborne). I can still vividly remember running up the road in my school uniform (my skirt was dyed navy-blue and cut down from one of Mum's, because clothes were rationed too) and greeting this Dad who I hadn't seen for a long time. We soon sorted ourselves out as a family and I thrived from a very happy childhood."
Sherborne, Dorset

Pam Kaile
nee Biss
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember the bombing of Bath. Not many people realise how badly it was bombed in April 1942. We hear about Bristol but we suffered terribly. Over 400 people were killed that night and nearly as many houses totally destroyed. Afterwards it was found another 700 were so badly damaged they had to be demolished too. Curator's note - it is said the bombing of Bath came as a direct result of the RAF destroying the medieval city of Lubeck that contained so many timber buildings. More can be found out about the Bombing of Bath in Niall Rothnie's book of that title."

Kathleen White

Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Mary, now 87. lives at Cheltenham and has been presented with the Bletchley Park Commemorative Badge by Cheltenham's GCHQ. Mary recalls sending and receiving coded messages and admits it was a strange life. Our work was classed as secret and we had to wear a little fish sewn into our lapels. It was part of being Code and Cipher as the fish can't speak or hear. The War Office sent big drums to our base and we inserted them into the coding machine. The codes were changed every day and each letter came out as a number. We sent out coded messages to lots of secret and important destinations. The coded messages we received we had to put back into the machine to decode.
Mrs Powell worked with three other girls and a male officer. We did have some fun when we could get into London and went dancing at Hammersmith Palais."

Mary Powell
Mary's interesting wartime experiences have been sent to us by an anonymous contributor. Mrs Powell went to RAF Innsworth as a shorthand typist but was then posted to Headquarters Flying Training Command at Shinfield Park, Reading. It was here that she learnt volunteers were required for Code and Cipher and was accepted on a course to Oxford.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Bess was a well known Gloucestershire teacher who was one of only 20 survivors when the City of Benares was torpedoes on her way to Canada in September 1940. Bess was 14 when she and her brother set sail to Canada with many others to escape the blitz. Five days out of port the ship was torpedoed and she spent 16 hours in the freezing water clinging to ther upturned keep of a lifeboat. When rescued by the navy with her brother and another girl called Beth she was taken to Scotland where she met Beth's brother Geoff after the war. They married and moved to Cheltenham where Bess's husband Geoff worked at GCHQ and Bess entered the teaching profession and later became a head teacher."

Bess Cummings
Died in August 2010. A friend has asked that she should be included in the project.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"The decoy town for Bristol was sited between Shipham and Charterhouse at Black Down on the Mendip Hills. Great care had been taken to recreate well known features of the port and railway network to scale so that they were realistic. Bunkers were equipped to be able to light decoys such as twinkling train lights, arcing tram cables and after the bombs fell, burying themselves in the Mendip soil, decoy fires were lit to convince the pilots that they had found their targets and the city was ablaze. Almost a thousand such decoys were constructed across the country and no doubt saved thousands of lives."
Mendip Hills

Rod Morris
of Rodney Stoke, Somerset recalls the decoy town that was built on top of the Mendips to draw enemy aircraft away from their targets and drop their bombs on more rural area.

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