Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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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.
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945
Entertainment
"There were no televisions but we all had radios - the wireless. We had Medium Wave and Long wave . We listened to the Home Service and Luxembourg, Lord Haw Haw, Workers Playtime and Henry Halls Guest Night.
Crystal sets had accumulators.
We danced the Jitterbug.
Vera Lynn was very popular.
We used to sing "I fell in love with Mary at the Dairy".
The soldiers billeted in the villages used to sing it when the saw the girls set off to milk the cows in the fields."
South West

Leigh Old VIcarage
Collective war time recollections at a taster session before their World War Two tea party.
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Our family had started the village stores as long ago as 1800. Mother was Olive. We kept pigs and poultry. Long before war broke out we had to fill in an agricultural return. Each holding had a number and we had to declare how many animals kept every six months. Then we got coupons for animal feed. Mr Best at Bretts at Sherborne then sent out our allocation of poultry and pig meal. Strettons of Sherborne had a mobile thresher. Arthur Cooper drove it and was accompanied by Wacker Male when they came to the village every autumn and thrashed any crops for us. We then had to declare how many sacks of corn came out of the corn ricks so that surplus was not put on the black market. I remember when the army was stationed in Thornford for two or three years they had a cookhouse behind the old village hall with a large range in it. However they couldn't properly cook some of the rations sent to them. They had large joints of meat and there was a lot of waste. I used to help father take the large wheelbarrow up there every night to collect the swill. We put it in the big furnace in the outhouse that would hold 20 - 25 gallons and boiled it for the pigs. It smelt awful but the pigs loved it. The furnace used to be used to scald the pig carcasses after they were killed. Mother had to fill in a return every month to declare how many people were registered with her shop during rationing. Then permits were sent out and suppliers allocated the right amount of bacon, cheese and tea. Mr Rendall in Sherborne had his tea store by the Mermaid Hotel and he used to deliver our tea in his Trojan Brooke Bond Tea Van every week or fortnight. The Trojans didn't have a self starter and they had a chain drive. Mr Rendall used to have enough time to roll and light up a cigarette while he was getting the van started. He had to pull a lever in the cab up to get it started. Mother used to make some jam but was limited by the amount of sugar she could get as it was rationed- so was the butter, marg and lard and eggs. They used to come from King Stag. I think a few of them went on the black market!"
Thornford, Dorset

Philip lays the wreath at Thornford Remembrance Sunday service, Dorset Philip Ellwood

Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"Mum showed us how to make a new collar for a man's shirt. We cut off the long tail and used this to make a new collar to replace a worn out one. Then we put a new piece of material on for the shirt tail. It didn't match but no one was going to see it!"
Sherborne, Dorset

Sonia Batten

Food and Cooking
South West
1939 - 1945

"We had to eat whalemeat (we called it “snoek”) and it wasn’t pleasant but you eked it out with onions, which you could get, to try to make it taste nice. We got it in chunks from the butcher, when you could get it – you didn’t have posh meat like pork, you had scrag-ends and tried to make them go as far as you could. If you were friendly with someone who didn’t like eggs, say, you could swap rations with them. As children, we weren’t allowed to try to cook at home because of the waste as food was too precious – we were taught at school but with dried ingredients and nothing adventurous, only little sponges or scones. If you were fortunate enough to have an older sister, or like me, my older cousin Muriel next door, they might go out with one of the Americans, it was wonderful because they could give you a tin of fruit which was like gold dust. A tin of Spam was just heaven, I quite often think of it now when I pass it in Sainsbury’s. We fried it up and had it hot. If you think about it, it was a healthy diet – no fat, only 2oz of sugar and 2oz of sugar allowed a week. When oranges came in everyone queued up and they were just marvellous, you had to queue for everything, you got sugar in a little blue bag. People don’t realise how long it went on for, all through the fifties. We grew gooseberries, loganberries and crab apples which were a good help-out and we put a few potatoes in to grow and we had chickens, of course, in a shed. Vegetables weren’t so difficult as most people had allotments, but it was the other basics were hard. We were allowed a few sweets a week, this woman had a little shop off the main road (in Parkstone) and she used to make home-made sweets like toffee and aniseed balls, but you could only have so many. She made chocolate-covered toffee, I don’t know how she did it, but she had to stop after a while because of the rationing."
Wimborne, Dorset

Betty Bletsoe
nee Ellis (aged 79) from Wimborne, Dorset
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"My cousin in America sent a lovely check (yellow and blue) dirndl with a stiff petticoat – I was so proud, I felt like Doris Day. I looked after it and looked after it until I got too big, then it was passed on to someone else, much to my chagrin. You had to wear shoes for far too long, that’s why my feet are so bad today – you wore other people’s shoes because feet weren’t considered important. That’s why I always made sure you (daughter)were measured by the Startrite shoe-fitter. I remember someone made my brother a coat out of a blanket, like a duffel coat with a hood. We’d take advantage if a pilot bailed out, got the parachute silk by nefarious means to make underwear out of."
Wimborne, Dorset

Betty Bletsoe
nee Ellis (aged 79) from Wimborne, Dorset
In The Home
South West
1939 - 1945

"There was no heating anywhere as coal was rationed. We had a big black range, my mother would set it in the morning before she went to work and I lit it when I got back from school – we lit it late to make it last. Sometimes you could get coke which used to burn a long time. I slept up in the attic with a candle and it was really cold. There were two bedrooms, both with fireplaces, but you only ever had a fire if you were ill."
Wimborne, Dorset

Betty Bletsoe
nee Ellis (aged 79) from Wimborne, Dorset

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