|WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site|
Sources: Young People and War
The learning activities for the 'Young People and War' theme are based on the following stories. You can use the extracts as they appear on this page, or follow the links to read the full stories.
We arrived in Montreal and were conveyed by bus to the dormitories of a women's college whose students were on holiday. It was a curious place. There were a number of beds in each room, and all the doors had been removed, taken off their hinges. We were assigned beds, and sat about wondering what would happen next. Somebody started to cry, and with no doors one could hear it, and it swept through the dormitories until we were all wailing, regardless of age. In an odd way, I seem to remember that it helped.
When our bus arrived at Holy Trinity Church Primary School in Southport a crowd of would-be billet mothers were waiting by the gate. We had to run the gauntlet to get into the schoolyard and as I dragged my reluctant brother by the hand I heard a lady remark, 'I like the look of that one — the girl.' I remember feeling strong resentment at the slur on my brother and the cattle-market atmosphere.
I heard machine-gun fire and an engine roaring behind me. I turned around and suddenly, from behind a fluffy cumulus cloud, a German aeroplane emerged with jet-black smoke pouring from one of the engines. The plane was diving towards me. I was terrified, thinking that I was going to be machine-gunned. I partly jumped and partly fell from the binder seat and then froze with fright as the plane, screaming above my head, crashed into the next field, about 200/300 yards away, with a terrific explosion.
As always I kept a lookout for bits of shrapnel, after all this was the best time to find some, before the streets were aired and the rest of the world was up and about. On this morning, quite unexpectedly, I came across an unexploded incendiary bomb. About 18 inches long, looking like an aluminium cylinder with a tail fin of another metal and painted in a drab khaki colour. WOW! A prize indeed. The bomb was carefully picked up and slipped into my pocket, where it went through the holes into the lining of the coat.
The night had started as a perfect autumn evening; bright and cloudless, the moon full and the clear air crisp and fresh. Now the air stank of stale, singed dust, similar to an old Hoover dust bag.
But the far more difficult problem was to devise some substitute for marzipan. There were no ground almonds, nor fresh eggs. We used water, dried egg, soya flour and almond essence. The resultant paste was a brilliant yellow. The combination of soya and almond essence gave off a strong bitter aroma, which might pass for the smell of marzipan provided it was breathed through a gas mask.
The highlight of the evening was the auction of a BLACK BANANA! He said no one had ever seen a banana before, and he thinks it must have come from a soldier at one of the many American air bases in the area. My dad remembered someone holding it in the air and everyone ooohing in amazement at the over-ripe banana. There were hundreds of people at the event. A real spectacle!
Mum made him sandwiches to eat on the train. All there was to eat at that time was dry bread and mustard powder, which was made into a paste with water. These mustard sandwiches were carefully wrapped with mum saying over and over, "I am sorry David, I am so sorry.""
In complete contrast, one highlight for me was the coming of spam from America. It was an oasis in our desert of mediocrity; an elixir in our sea of austerity. It seems to me that it was meatier, juicier, and much tastier than it is now. (Tricks of memory again, no doubt.) We ate it in sandwiches; we ate it fried with chips; cold with salad; chopped in spam-and-egg pies, until, of course, it ceased to provide the variety we longed for, but I never tired of it.
My Nan had managed to get two bottles of pop, one red, one green, and she was dissolving a slab of yellowish gelatine into a pan of hot water. She was making fizzy jelly! The smell was not promising. On the kitchen table were six pink candles made from gas tapers cut into three-inch lengths and with the wax scraped off to form wicks. She had dyed them pink with cochineal. And she had squandered two ounces of margarine to make an eggless sponge cake, stuck together with the universal "plum" jam.
At home one day, I just fancied a Mars Bar. I climbed on a chair and took sixpence out of Mother's purse in her shopping basket on top of the kitchen cabinet, and slipped out of the house. 'Where's your coupon?' asked Mr Duncan. Not to be thwarted, I returned home, climbed up again for the ration book and sped back to the shop, triumphant.
I rather liked dried eggs. There was a menu book I had but have now lost, which was printed by the Ministry of Food. Twenty-four ways to serve cod and potatoes. We had a food parcel once. Delicious ham from Canada. The instructions for cooking were in French, which we guess-translated.
Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced.