Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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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.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"My father was the vicar of our village. During the war we had to dig up our lawns and gardens and turn them into allotments. Close to our garden was the park. My father used to take my sister with him and they used to go off with the wheelbarrow each week to gather sheep droppings for manure for the garden. I remember my sister was asked at school what she had been doing at the weekend and I shall always remember her reply 'I had to help my father gather up the sheep motions for the garden!'"
East Coker, Somerset

Monica Whipp
of East Coker recalls.
In The Home
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"Alf was born in London in 1910 into a middle class family. One of his earliest memories was of Zeppelin airships bombing London and research has shown that there was a raid on the night of 31st May - 1st June 1915. When he was 28 he joined the RAF hoping to be a pilot. He was very disappointed he failed the medical due to colour blindness. Instead he became involved with the development of ground based and later airborne aircraft - intercept radar, which was proceeding at a rapid pace with war imminent. After the outbreak of World War II he was stationed at Bawdsey Manor in Suffolk at what was then the cutting edge of British electronic research.
It was here that he met his future wife 'Dinks' and they were married a year later at Sherborne Abbey, Dorset. Best man was his brother in law Wing Commander 'Gerry' Lawrence.
Their romance was against a background of Britian at war and Dinks recalls being in a cinema in Exeter with Alf when a bombing raid occured, and the pandemonium that ensued. She also recalls during their honeymoon, walking with Alf and being shot at by German Messerschmidts flying low along the road.
Alf recalled the chaos of Dunkirk in May 1940; for several days and nights he was one of many helping with the rapid refuelling and servicing of fighter aircraft flying in and then straight back to France, often with their engines left running and pilots remaining in their cockpits; such was the speed of their turnaround - and aircraft flying in so shot up they were unable to take off again.
Alf and Dinks spent several idyllic months stationed on the Isle of Man before Alf was posted overseas to Calcutta, India, in September 1941. He was on a troopship called 'The Empress of Russia'. It was part of a convoy which sailed first to Iceland and then down the Western Atlantic to avoid German U-boats. Conditions on board rapidly became appalling and the convoy was attacked at leasty once by U-Boats, with neighbouring ships being hit and going down.
In Calcutta, Alf helped build small radar stations on barges so they could be moved about. Then he moved to Burma where the British 14th Army were fighting the Japanese. Alf never talked much about his time in Burman. He was lucky to avoid caputre by the advancing Japanese on a number of occasions. During this time his borhter, Hubert, was killed in April 1942, while defusing an unexploded bomb in Birmingham.
His war ended when the Japanese surrendered in August 1945 and after some time in Bombay was able to return home to England where his wife, Dinks, hadn't seen him for several years."

Flt Lieutenant Alfred Lewis Winn
25th May 1910 - 17th June 1998. Extracts from his memoirs written down by a friend.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Missed the ice cream man that used to cycle round the outskirts of Southampton and the villages on his Walls ice cream bicycle and storage box. He used to sell 1d, 2d and 3d large and small bricks of ice cream. That all disappeared until after the war."

Bert Jenkins
of Southampton
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"My father was a Major serving in the Middle East. When he came home he found we were in the path of the flying bombs. I remember him lifting me up to see one flying over. I remember it so well. I wasn’t frightened. I was only small and didn’t see the fear in it. My father had seasoned a piece of olive wood and had it made into workboxes for me, my sister and my mother. That was where my interest in needlework and boxes started. He also had a bookcase made and it was shipped back wrapped in sugar bags, put together in this country and then had glass doors added. My father found us a safe home in Scotland to get us out of London. When I was about seven I made a little needlecase. It annoys me now because the stitches aren’t straight! I worked it in chainstitch, featherstitch and other stitches. After the war we returned to London and I worked for Jacqmar and was lucky enough to work on the Queen’s Coronation robes and dresses."

Beryl Lawrence
recalls her early year in wartime London.

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