Make Do And Mend

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Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1944 - 1945

"I went up to Oxford in October 1944 and was there on V.E. Day, which I well remember. I suppose rations were tighter than usual and we grumbled at bread and potatoes and the miserable butter ration and bought our own cakes. We lent each other clothes for variety, but everyone was in the same boat regarding coupons and rationing so we accepted any shortage and laughed at those who had pearls and twin-sets to wear! I used my brother's Fleet Air Arm trousers for rowing! We looked enviously at smart clothes in the shops - but we would probably have done so anyway. I took my bicycle to Oxford of course but travelled there by train.
Later, on V.J. Day I was home in Bournemouth and joined in the dancing on the promenade, but it did not have the same excitement as I did not know many people.
So, not much about cooking, or make do and mend, because that wasn't my scene and my mother seemed to cope somehow. In the country we could get eggs and honey and we could afford the sweet ration and tinned food that others could not. I was not used to fancy meals and clothes anyway, though when I had to cook for myself, in London after leaving college, when rationing was still on, I was more aware of shortages and limitations. I thought I would rather like to be a Wren in the "next" war!"
Oxford and Bournemouth

Shelagh Hill

Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"Perhaps because I was growing up in wartime I found it a source of new experiences rather than a drudge. Even the blackout with its window strips made me think "At last we can have Tudor windows!""
South West

Shelagh Hill

Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"My first memories of the wartime era are as a schoolboy in the late 1930s becoming aware of the hushed tones of my elders on talking of the European News. I became a Corporal in the OTC (Officers Training Corps). Our equipment was still of the First World War era - no wireless and our Dispatch Riders were mounted on horseback! We wore puttees and formed fours and were only allowed to read serious newspapers - the Daily Mirror with its strip cartoon of Jane was forbidden.
At the outbreak of war I was on a three generation holiday afloat in Norfolk and, whilst keeping in touch daily with the family business in London, we decided not to navigate back to base because it seemed there was a lot of unnecessary ill informed panic in the big city, which was confirmed when we returned a fortnight later. The our panic started because we had to make blacoouts, prepare safe areas and fit shields to our vehicle headlights.
We had to support such civilian groups as the Local Defence Volunteers, the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Royal Observer Corps and observe Air Raid Precautions. We assisted with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. For this we had a small yacht available on the Medway but although registered with large authorised inscriptions on both sides, she was laid-up and so out of commission. Some of our staff were leaving due to Conscription and were replaced by retired members. Then day and night bombing made the journey from the suburbs to the city a challenge because of all the new diversions and the road signs had been removed, as they had nationwide for reasons of security. Phrases such as "careless talk costs lives" - "be like dad, keep mum" - "dig for victory" - "make do and mend" and "waste not want not" were often heard.
We were finally fire bombed out of London. This was the only time my father was reduced to tears when he saw our family firm of stationers and newspaper makers, established in the 18th Century, reduced to a shell. We needed special dispensation to enter the building. There was some surprising salvage in the cellars where the lack of oxygen had left the antracite unconsumed and the bonded methylated spirits still in its Winchesters had failed to explode! The safe on the ground floor was a complete melt down but our industrial textiles stored as heavy weight rolls on steel racks were found marketable after severe trimming!
As an indentured apprentice one of my jobs was to make an inventory of the building's contents to support our war damage insurance claim. Whilst our turnover and revenue in this trade were seriously reduced this was somewhat offset by diversification as a government sub-contractor working from home in engineering on behalf of the war effort.
A twelve hour day was followed by home guard fire watching and anti-looting patrols. We were now fully kitted out , including bayonets, .300 rifles and five rounds of ammo. Our training was on-going from Lewis and Vickers machine guns and eventually a Tommy gun. We also had to maintain a flame thrower kept ready at our local road block and practice throwing live hand grenades. We did have a few field telephones but mainly relied on the Morse Code and signalling with flags. On the lighter side we went recruiting with our drum and fife band. As a former ceremonial bugler from my schooldays I was reduced to clashing the cymbals!
Although I was in a reserved occupation, call up papers duly arrived from the RAF, who were short of engineers. After some four months initial training I was posted to Ayr, where we were under canvas in a bell tent on cold, wet, soggy ground in winter, followed by Chester where conditions were much better. Here we became sufficiently skilled to be able, as one of several teams, to fetch an aircraft in for a service, change a Merlin in-line or Hercules radial engine, including all the associated components and ground test all within 24 hours. For a couple of months we were working a seven day week, 12 hours a day. For some of us this was overpowering, bearing in mind the care needed in servicing an aircraft; so we volunteered as a break for guard duty - two hours on and four hours off - which was much easier.
My unrelated but subsequent posting to a salvage and repair unit was in Kent. This was a compassionate posting due to the illness of my mother, which led to my being billeted at home and travelling on a camp bike. One of my family obligations was to have a hot meal of rationed food ready for me any evening on my return from duty. However my movements were erratic, being dictated by the repair work on aircraft anywhere in Kent, which often lasted several days. On these occasions we lived mainly on hay-box meals. I had one break due to being sent to an isolation hospital with german measles.
At this time doodle bugs were constantly arriving. For shelter I once dived under a petrol bowser, which was not exactly intelligent, but there was little time to think! So in a way it was a relief to find myself being kitted out for an unknown overseas posting. In the event, after a three week tropp ship journey, including several days of horrible sea sickness, I arrived in India for a posting 300 miles south wesdt of Calcutta at a sdtaging post in the Bengal jungle. This was a complete change in life.
Boredom was the chief problem. To counter this I became mis-employed as a Motor Transport fitter/driver. This meant I had a gharrie to drive, which was a real luxury because it was relatively dust free. Never the less I had to visit a hospital in Calcutta with infected ears and impetigo. Following this I had a period of convalesence in the Himalayas with a return journey via Agra - where I missed a connection and so was able to visit the Taj Mahal. My final flink, early in 1946, was to collect, with a colleague, a radar truck from Bombay and deliver it via Delhi to Calcutta. It was a week's journey of some 1500 miles styled as a single vehicle convoy, being serviced all found by Western Oriental Gentlemen. This included their rations which consisted mainly of rice and stew which did not impress us - but the journey did. It was mainly single tarmac roads with a bullock cart dust track on either side. The bridges were not really meant for heavy vehicles. Driving over the sleepers of a railway bridge was sometimes the alternative, especially when pontoons were not up to the job. On arrival at camp I was told to pack my belongings because my discharge papers had arrived. I was flown to Bighty with three refuelling stops. What a sudden change on arrival after the tropics to find a very cold English winter. Thus ended my war.
In retrospect the wartime experiences, whilst at times severely harsh and tiring, hastened my preparation towards becoming a self-sufficient person as already started by school discipline and the ethos of the Boy Scouts. Certainly there were a few lighter moments and perks when in uniform. On off duty times in the UK we could visit cinemas, dance halls and pubs; perks included postage paid letter forms, usually censored, free bus travel and an occasional furrlough or 36 hour pass; the use of service men's clubs such as TocH, Salvation Army, YMCA and WVS. One Christmas time with two others I was invited into the home of a large family of WVS girls whose boy friends were overseas - that was a very pleasant and totally unexpected surprise - which led to a pen friendship for the duration of the war.
However there was no real let up from the mental pressures of the times - the blackouts and bombing.
On returning to civvy street I was able to join a tennis club and swimming club."
Norfolk and International

Denzil Goddard
a resident of Leigh Old Vicarage wanted to record his wartime memories.
Food and Cooking
In The Home
Everyday Life
South West
South East
1937 - 1945

"I worked at Harper House, a boarding house for Sherborne School, as a sewing maid with Mr Tindall as House Master. In the 1920s he asked me to join him as House Matron at West Downs Preparatory School, Winchester, the Preparatory School for Winchester College, where he had just been appointed Head Master.
Two of my friends went with him too. West Downs was a lovely school and I enjoyed my work there. I used to come home during the holidays or sometimes went on holiday with the Tindalls to the Isle of Wight or Newquay.
When the war came we were worried about the boys.
Some of my favourite Old Boys were Peter Scott who as a boy used to come and ask.
"May can I borrow your watch?" He was always drawing as a young boy but didn't have a watch. He used to draw wildlife in the grounds during his lunch hour. We also had Angus Ogilvy and his brother. Their parents gave me a clock for looking after them so well!
Southampton was bombed and we always had bombers flying overhead. Some of the parents were worried too so Mr Tindall started looking for a safe place to move the school to. We took over Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire in South West Scotland and soon the boys started arriving. All went well at first. Their parents managed to send supplies of most things they needed and there was always something for us too. Then things changed. We found we were on the flight path for Ireland and Mr Tindall started to get worried again.
I went home for the summer holidays. It was a long train journey. I used to have a break in London and go and stay with Aunt Louisa and Uncle Zeb at Finsbury Park. Uncle Zeb was an Austrian Pastry Cook but he was interred in the Alexandra Palace in the First World War in case he was a spy! Aunt used to be allowed to visit him on Sundays. After the war they changed their name back to her maiden name, from Reinthler to Hunt, in case the same thing happened again!
I was crossing Waterloo Bridge one afternoon when there was an air raid and had to go to the nearest shelter. Some time afterwards Uncle Zeb's house was bombed and most of their road. They were re-housed close by. On my way back to Scotland Mother, Louisa's older sister, used to send up a few supplies from the country -eggs, fruit and jam- and I used to drop them off.
When we got back to Scotland we had a shock. The army had taken over Glenapp castle and with less than 48 hours before the boys were due back we had to start searching for another home for the school.
Mr Tindall spent most of the next day with the army who tried to find somewhere for the boys. Then at the last minute we learnt Blair Castle, near Blair Atholl village, in Perthshire was being made available for us. Some of us went on to the castle while others waited to collect the boys as they arrived back and see they were sent on to Blair Atholl. There hadn't been time to tell them to go to Blair Atholl. It was a lovely place to stay. It had been an auxillary hospital in the First World War but was the family home of the Duke of Atholl. The Duke was the only person allowed to keep a private army and we often saw his Atholl Highlanders. While we were there the Duke died and we watched the Highlanders parade and pipe the coffin from the house to the church. We watched from the upper windows. The family made us very welcome and we had few shortages. The estate was large and the remaining keepers kept us well supplied with food.
The boys were very careful in the castle and I don't remember any breakages but they all came from well off homes so were used to such places.
In May 1945 I had a phonecall from Dorset to say Mother was seriously ill so I packed up and caught the first train home. She died soon after I got there and I stayed home to look after father and never returned to Scotland. At home we had rationing but we had a large garden and two allotments. My brother was a thatcher and got a special petrol allowance so he could carry on working. He often came home with something for the table. My Uncle was a keeper in Honeycombe Wood so he sometimes gave us things too. He kept pigs and built a smoke house near the house. He used oak shavings and smoked the joints and hams so we often had meat too. "
Dorset, Scotland, London

Emily May Garrett

South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember my first black suit. During the war to buy a suit would take most of one's coupons. I wanted a black suit before I went off as a V.A.D. If one had a decent tailor it turned out to be feasible to convert a man's dinner jacket and trousers into a coat and skirt. My father happened to have replaced his old one just before the war, and out of the very nice barathea cloth mother's tailor made a jacket, with a well made skirt, but it had to be slightly gored in four pieces. Also I remember remnants of cloth were not rationed so sometimes leading to sofa-cover material being turned into summer frocks! "

Sheila Rideout
RECALLS EVACUATION - and the great change from the city facilities she had been used to.
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was quite good at knitting so I used up lots of odd ends of wool knitting stripy jumpers. I used to unpick some that were worn out, wash the wool and use that too. Sometimes I would cut off the ribbing and the cuffs if that was all that was worn, pick up the stitches and knit new ones in a different colour. I would cut off the feet of knitted socks, pick up the stitches and knit new feet on them - often in a different colour - but it didn't matter as no one was going to see them!"
Bow, Devon

Lucy Fulls

Food and Cooking
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was brought up on the small family farm in the village. We kept a small number of Ruby Red Devon Cattle. They gave a lot of very creamy milk. We had cream with everything and were not short during the war. However as I got older I couldn't stand cream any longer. I blamed it on all the cream mother gave us when we were younger."
Bow, Devon

Maurice Fulls

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

"We were born near Sherborne, Dorset but when Tom returned from the First World War there was no work so we had to move to Bow in Devon. He had learnt to drive during the war and the village Doctor was looking for a chauffeur. All of the Devon houses had quite big gardens but hardly any of them were behind the houses. They were on the other side of the road or behind another house! Tom grew everything we needed and we were lucky because I was never very strong and often needed the Doctor - but we never got a bill!
There was a woman in the village who said she lived "by the Lord". She never bought any food and there was always something left on her doorstep for her. There would be knocks at the door and when she looked out there was food there. This went on through the war too. There was a lot of bombing at Exeter 16 miles away but we were lucky in the country."
Bow, Devon

Lily Jeffery

Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I lived at the little hamlet of Lower Wraxall, Dorset, until I was 18 in 1945. We saw lots of action. I remember a huge air battle and aircraft coming down in flames. It was sad - they were someones sons weren't they?. We were milking cows at the time. We saw men coming out in parachutes. We had a lot of troops in the village and military police after Dunkirk. They went off on their motorbikes to look for the men. I worked with my father on his farm when I left school.
Then I went to Leigh in 1945 when I was 18, milking. That's why I have bad hands. We had to milk 60 cows by hand!
Troops used to live in an old cottage. They used to sing "I fell in love with Mary at the dairy" when we walked by.
We had a huge vegetable garden and got plenty of food that way. I was about 13 or 14 when the war started. We didn't really understand. We thought it was good fun really.
We didn't have evacuees but we did at the village school at Rampisham. There was a family evacuated from Weymouth. Mr Fraser had a plumbing business and he went backwards and forwards every day and there was Digby the fruit wholesalers and he did the same. I remember the troops gathering for D Day and they used to say "Careless talk costs Lives"
We had butter and loads of cheese. We had a cheesemaker and a cheese loft. When you went into the cheese room it was full off lots of truckles of cheese - mostly cheddar but sometimes Dorset Blue Vinny. I can't tell you the recipe. I never touched the stuff myself. No we weren't short really. We had pig meat and plenty of butter.
I could make butter today with a big churn. It was the good old days. You see we had all those troops in the village!"
Lower Wraxall, Dorset

Edith Jessop
nee Hallett
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"We worked on the farm. We really didn't know much about the war. We didn't have any shortages I can think of. We had evacuees in Chetnole. They didn't stay long. They soon got fed up with the country and went home. At one time we had evacuees billeted on us. They went to Chetnole School."
Chetnole, Dorset

Paul Horsey

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