I was 9 when the war started. When my parents told me that a war had started I had no idea what that meant. I asked if we would still be able to “play out” because that was what we did when we got home from school – we played in the street – football, cricket, rolling skating dollies tea parties. This was safe to do as we lived in a cul-de-sac (a street closed at one end) with no traffic. In fact there was very little traffic in those days since only people who needed a car for their work had one. People went to work by bike or bus.
I lived in Morecambe. We were never bombed because there were no factories or shipping and it was a long way from German airfields. However we still had to observe the blackouts and food, clothing, etc were still rationed for us like everyone else. Things that were not actually rationed were also in short supply like furnishings, books and bikes – in fact almost all everyday things.
We had evacuees – children from London who spoke with cockney accents, (which we found unusual) who came to live with families here and go to our schools so they would be safe from the bombing of their home towns.
We also had new recruits for the Royal Air Force who lived in the boarding houses. We used to watch them doing their preliminary training – marching and drilling – on the promenade.
The slogan DIG FOR VICTORY was on all the hoardings so my father (along with many others) dug up part of the back garden to grow our own vegetables and fruit – these tasted much nicer and fresher than from the shops so it was a bonus really. The posters had urged us to Dig for Victory and my Father split half of our fairly small garden in two and used half to grow peas, beans, potatoes, lettuce, and radishes. The other half was lawn but also contained 2 eating apple trees. When these had all been picked my Mother used to wrap surplus in tissue paper and store in the house in a dark place – we found these often lasted us through to Christmas.
Some people kept a few chickens – even in quite small gardens – which were useful for the eggs and also for Christmas Lunch!
We had one egg a week – usually with chips for tea. There was also dried egg which came from America and could be used for baking.
It was possible to buy liquid paraffin from the chemists – it was a cure for constipation – but it could also be used instead of margarine or butter in cakes. We didn’t seem to suffer any lasting effects from this!
Clothing coupons meant a problem more for families with growing children than say Grandparents who didn’t grow out of their clothes and could sometimes be relied upon to contribute some towards a wedding outfit.
My Father used to put metal segs (metal ‘taps’ that can be hammered or screwed into the toes or heels of your shoes to reduce wear and prolong the life of the soles) on the heels of my shoes to make them last longer – but I hated that because they made a noise as you walked. There were no trainers then – only pumps which some children ended up wearing for school.
Sweets were rationed, although I think you could still buy cakes from the confectioners. Strangely, bread was not rationed until after the war ended in 1946 and in fact was rationed for longer after the war than if it had just been rationed during the war.
One thing I remember was that detergent came into use instead of soap powder and seemed much better.
Looking back at these years, we know that it all turned out well for us as we were never occupied, but at the time we did not know what would happen and that was the most worrying thing.
Sheila married Les Burns in 1950. Les landed on Gold Beach on D-Day+22
Sheila in 1948