- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mrs Pat Coppen (nee Bowles)
- Location of story:
- Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 November 2004
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Nancy Waterfall, Learning Officer at the National Trust at Sutton Hoo on behalf of Mrs Pat Coppen and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
I was born in Colchester but brought up in Suffolk. I lived at Hope House Children’s Home, in Foxhall Rd, Ipswich, where we were dressed well. The home as a whole was evacuated to Northampton, but came back quite soon. Mr Grimswade, the Mayor of Ipswich was one of the Trustees of Hope House. He owned a draper’s shop near the Town Hall, and had some connection with the Pretty family who owned Sutton Hoo. The children from the home had to get his permission to marry. We used to go to the chapel built by Mr Grimswade.
After I joined the land army I lived at Sutton Hoo, and learned to milk cows there. There was an imitation udder to learn on! Then I was trained to use a machine, at Fawkenham where I was for for 9 months. I had first had to milk by hand there. Unfortunately, I contracted milk fever, which was rather like chicken pox, but the spots had a milk-like substance in them. So I was not allowed to milk any more, and had to go and work in the fields. While working as a milker, the regime was strict. We wore little white caps, white dungarees and wellingtons. We had to wash the udders down, and then the cows were inspected before being milked, and afterwards we had to muck out the cowstalls.
I shared a bedroom with 2 others, and we had to get up at 3am and go to bed at 8pm. Our gangleader enforced the bedtimes, and even if we were in the middle of a game of table tennis, she would insist we stopped and went to bed. The RAF from the camp over the road came to dances and to play table tennis — in a beautiful room with wood all round it. I still have a friend, who I met when he was an airman there.
The food was really healthy. The clothes were lovely, and good quality. At first we had jodphurs, but they stuck out at the sides, and so slacks came in. I got a taste for wearing them while I was in the Land Army. We got 2 shirts, jumpers, shoes with steel tips that made sparks, wellies, long socks knickers and a heavy coat. We never wore socks when getting in the barley harvest because they used to wriggle down into the shoes.
Once I had to take a bull for a walk to wear his feet down. I did not now he had been made into a pet, and had to get help to get him back in. The others laughed at me a lot. When we went to Woodbrige we went over the Anglo-Saxon burial mound. We used to get the train to go to the pictures at the Riverside Theatre. When the trains went by, the picture wobbled!
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