Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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Everyday Life
South West
South East
1939 - 1945

"I was one of the Salvage Corps with the rest of the village youths at Great Somerford, Chippenham, Wiltshire. We collected newspaper for the war effort. There was a poster on the stable door where we sorted and stored it 'Help the National War Effort by Saving Waste Paper - Start today'. The stable was provided by the farmer Mr Cole of Hollow Street and organised by Lady Palmer of The Manor who supplied our transport, a horse and cart and sack trucks. We marched through the village carrying flags and banners in recognition of the war effort."
Wiltshire

Olive Gibbs
Aged 82, nee Wakefield recalls.
Everyday Life
Midlands
1938 - 1945

"The air raids were terrible. One awful night the ARP Wardens made us all leave our houses and go outside and lie in the ditch under the elm trees in the field. Shrapnel came down all around us. During the raid which went on for several hours there was also a storm of incendiary bombs. The noise was indescribable and we were so cold as it was November. Next day I walked the eight miles along the Coventry Road into the city to Lewis's. No buses could get through as so much of the Coventry Road had been blitzed. It was no wonder that the sky towards Birmingham had been so red the night before. Most of the places were still burning. When I eventually got within sight of Lewis's I found the road was barred because there was a 1000 lb unexploded bomb outside the main entrance to the store I had to turn round and walk home again. We had no gas, electricity or water. It was cut off for several days. There was one stand-pipe a quarter of a mile from the house and Mother and I took buckets there for water. Candles, when we could get them, provided light and we cooked what we could on the open fire or in the Valor oil-stove - if we had any paraffin. When we had a cousin coming we saved up three weeks of meat coupons to be able to buy a small joint. The night before was the night they bombed Coventry so badly and there was no gas, electricity or water. Father built a big fire in the grate and tied the joint up with string and suspended it from a poker in front of the fire. It took a long time to cook but it was delicious!"
Solihull

Peggy Nash
nee Williams. Born 14th April 1925
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945
Peggy recalls her first wartime meeting with her future parents-in-law
"We went down to High Wycombe for me to meet Jim's parents. We went on the motor-bike and I was so scared they wouldn't like me. I liked them very much and we got on so well together. We sat on the settee and watched Mother making doughnuts in the way the American chefs had taught her. The ingredients were by courtesy of the American Army - otherwise it wouldn't have been possible! They were delicious and smothered in sugar - we couldn't remember anything like them!" It was a different world than in Solihull. The garden at Backlands was lovely. The top half had apple, damson, greengae, plum, pear and cherry trees. By the cherry trees Dad had arks in which he kept rabbits and ducks. Water had to be fetched from the well in the next field. One September morning we got up very early and walked along the lane to a field where we picked several pounds of mushrooms. We tok them home and Mother cooked some for us with bacon and eggs from the farm next door - an unbelievable breakfast with rationing as it was, but one of the perks of living in the country. I helped pick fruit which Mother would bottle, jam or turn into wine. She was a great wine-maker. She also cooked marvellous meals on a tiny iron-range that was coal-fired and I ate more food in that weekend than I had for a month! Jim's mother was housekeeper at the American Air Force HQ at Wycombe Abbey and was in charge of the meals for the Officers' Mess. They used to give her parcels of food, especially sugar, whenever they could. They so often had a surplus as they weren't rationed like we were. It was a shock to their system when they first came over to England and found they couldn't just walk into a cafe or restaurant and order steak and chips or a hamburger. We often went down to Wycombe on the motor-bike for the day. It was like another world - so peaceful and quiet - except for one weekend when a flying bomb ( doodlebug) landed in the next field and blew us out of bed! It killed a lot of chickens and turkeys My parents had always insisted I hand over my unopened pay packet, though they didn't need it. I was given five shillings a week pocket money (25p) and had to buy everything. Neither of my parents gave us a wedding present. I had enough ration coupons for our three sheets and three blankets and Jim gave me the money for them - all we were allowed. It was difficult to have a white wedding in wartime. I wore a pale blue crepe dress, a navy blue bonnet shaped hat and navy court shoes and gloves and carried red roses. We were lucky as there was a very big wedding before ours and the church was full of flowers."
High Wycombe

Peggy Nash
nee Williams. Born 14th April 1925
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1941 - 1947

"I was born at Sutton Bingham, Somerset. Our cottage was pulled down when they built the reservoir in the 1950s. I left school in 1941 when I was 14 years old and went to work at Netherton Farm, Closworth three miles away. I worked there three years before I was old enough to join the Land Army as a dairymaid. I started looking after the ducks, chicken, geese and turkeys. I fed the pigs and the calves and had to hand milk the cows until they had a milking machine. There was no electricity. We had paraffin lanterns for lighting the house and the cow stalls and had to carry them with us. Then we had a milking machine powered by a Lister ending. I had a yoke to carry two large buckets of milk to the dairy at a time. It was put into a large bowl and left to strain after it passed through the cooler. We grew kale, turnips, cow cabbages, sugarbeet, mangels, potatoes and kale. It was hard work hoeing all of the crops between milking times. We still had horses to do the mowing and reaping. I met my husband Leslie in 1947. Everything was rationed. We had to have coupons to get the furniture. All we could get was a sideboard, a table and four chairs, one armchair, a bed and a dressing-table! Edna and her husband Leslie now live at Ryme Intrinseca, about two miles from where she worked during the war. Leslie was delighted to be presented with a long service medal for his lifetime's work on the farm at the Dorset County Show."
Sutton Bingham, Somerset

Edna Gillard
nee House
Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"At 100 Dorothy recalled "I was the youngest of four. My father, Charles, was shepherd on the farm and when he died my oldest brother Harry took over. I remember him coming home from the First World War. I was eight when he was called up. By the time the Second World War started, Mother, Elizabeth, had a heart condition so I was exempted from war work because I had to look after her. We were lucky in the country and being on the farm we had most things that we needed. I did gloving at home. Mine were leather samples of the highest quality that were sent out to store buyers. Ours was such a small village and off of the main road so the war didn't affect us a lot. We had our garden and I made jam.""
Closworth near Yeovil

Dorothy Loveless
Lived all her life at Closworth near Yeovil, Somerset in the cottage where she was born.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Ruth can trace her history back to Benjamin Jesty, the Yetminster farmer who discovered that cow pox gave protection against the dreaded smallpox long before Jenner. The couple met during the war. Eric had been an improver in Hull but had also been a member of the Territorial Army, so he was one of the first to be called up and it was the evacuation from Dunkirk that brought him to Yetminster where he was re-located to the Church Hall. He helped man the Lewis Gun at Yetminster cross roads and it was during this time that he met Ruth. Shortly afterwards Eric was posted to Glastonbury but this did not deter him for he cycled the 36 mile round trip to see her twice a week despite the difficult conditions as the signposts had been removed and there was a strict blackout. Ruth recalled everyone clubbed together because of the rationing to make her big day a success."
Yetminster, Dorset

Pictured with husband Eric on their diamond wedding day. Ruth Foster
nee Jesty of Yetminster
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
North West
Midlands
1939 - 1945

"I was at school when war broke out but I left before I had finished my education. My first job was supposed to be in a laboratory but it turned out to be making aircraft plywood. I didn't stay long! My second job was supposed to be hush-hush but turned out to be making perspex for aircraft. I didn't like it and only stayed nine days!. Then I went to work for the Canada Life Insurance Company where I did stay a little while but I wanted to work outside so I joined the Land Army. I was sent to a big house in Buckinghamshire as Under Gardener. The old gardener had retired but his two sons who took on the garden were called up and he had to come out of retirement. We dug up the tennis courts and grew potatoes and on the other courts we kept chickens. It was there I learnt to milk because they had two cows. The chauffeur/groom took on the hedging. We had plenty of vegetables and the cook was still there so we lived ok. I was 18 then. Clothing was rationed but that didn't worry me much as I wasn't very fashion conscious. When the groom was on holiday I had to learn to milk the cows and found I liked it. It was unusual for girls to like milking the cows so I was sent to the other end of Bucks where there was a much larger herd of 50 cows. I was there for several years as cow man. They had one of the early dairies - a milking parlour. I wasn't very mechanical really but they found I was very good at keeping the parlour running. Then I was sent to another herd where they had Shorthorns. Shortly afterwards they changed to real Jersey cows that had come from the Channel Islands. I liked those a lot. I used to make butter, cream and cheese for the house in small amounts but not for sale. I was in the Land Army for over ten years but I still haven't got my badge. I finally left to get married. We lived quite well during the war. Make do and Mend was what we were used to. Compared to the 1920s and 1930s life was actually better. During the recession there was real hardship. We had grown up used to having to use everything and waste nothing. Nothing was left over." Sheila continued to like her animals and kept and milked her goats until recent years."
Cheshire

Ted and Sheila Babbidge
nee Nash. Sheila's story. She is now 85 and living in Cheshire.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"Sheets when worn thin were turned 'sides to the middle' to make them last longer.
Wedding dresses were made from parachute silk.
School children were allowed more clothing coupons.
Flax was grown for soldiers uniform.
Damsons were sold to dye sailors uniform material."
South West

Leigh Old VIcarage
Collective war time recollections at a taster session before their World War Two tea party.
Food and Cooking
South West
1938 - 1945

"Lots of rabbits were kept and bred for meat ' we ate lots of rabbits meat'.
Butter was rationed. We used to put ham on first and a little butter on top to make it go further.
We picked rose hips for vitamin c and they were turned into syrup.
You could get extra coupons to buy preserving sugar to make jam.
Children were given cod liver oil and orange juice to keep them healthy.
We kept pigs. We ate everything of the pig but the squeak!
We ate bath chaps, brawn, the brain and chitterlings. We ate a lot of tripe.
We had dried egg and dried milk and mock cream.
Chicory and dandelion were used for coffee.
There was a shortage of kilner preserving jars. We used candle wax to seal the jars.
We ate bully beef and we got to like Spam that came from America.
If you were lucky you could exchange items and might be able to get something on the Black Market.
"
South West

Leigh Old VIcarage
Collective war time recollections at a taster session before their World War Two tea party.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
General War Effort
"Iron railings were taken down for aircraft.
Emergency lighting - we ran light bulbs from batteries. We bought candles by the pound weight (lb).
We had blackout curtains and also fitted slits to car headlights to reduce the amount of light visible from the air.
Newspapers were rationed - they were printed 1/12 size.
Red petrol was for commercial use. You got in trouble if you used it in your car."
South West

Leigh Old VIcarage
Collective war time recollections at a taster session before their World War Two tea party.

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