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Recollections of a Wartime Childhood (Part 3)

by AgeConcernShropshire

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Brenda Davies (nee Jones), Jocelyn Williams (nee Jones)
Location of story: 
Knighton area
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 May 2005

Recollections of a Wartime Childhood (Part 3)

As well as coupons for petrol there were coupons for almost everything. All foods, apart from homegrown vegetables, were strictly rationed. As children we were mainly concerned with the “Sweet Ration”, which was minimal, and all housewives became expert at augmenting the few ounces of tea, butter, sugar and margarine, which comprised the weekly ration per person. Today’s families would undoubtedly demolish the same amounts in just one meal!

Bananas and oranges were just a mouth-watering memory, and our one luxury was the home-made ice cream made by Mrs Rudge in Knighton, for which there were long queues on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Clothing, too, except for hats, was on coupons, so there was a lot of “mend and make do.” We did occasionally acquire lengths of material, from what must be an un-named source on the black market, and into which, we thought, we made most fashionable creations! Dresses became very short and skimpy; with padded shoulders, and to compensate the ladies wore very red lipstick and sported very glamorous hair styles — long and very wavy!

The black market touched us all in one-way or another. Most farms were self-sufficient with milking cows, poultry and bacon pigs, and farm produce could be profitably sold to those less fortunate in the towns.

Butter was still made in the farmhouse churns. Each week we had a standing order with our aunt at Wernygeufron for a large basin of her most delicious salty butter, which came with a pretty swan motif on the top. The memory of the taste of that butter spread on a thick slice of home-baked bread from the Knighton Bread Ovens still makes the taste buds water.

Poultry was all free-range and many dozens of eggs found their way to the homes of friends and associates as far afield, even, as Birmingham. A plumptuous boiling fowl or tasty young cockerel would often accompany them, the dealings being carried out with great discretion.

As well as farmers, anyone who had a patch of land or large garden kept pigs and poultry. One pig per household, on licence, was the rule; a number of meat coupons were forfeited if one kept a pig. The rule was often discreetly broken and everyone was shaken to the core when Ministry (of Food) Inspectors made a prosecution against someone for having a second (or third) pig salting in the cellar! It was even known for The Ministry to find carefully wrapped flitches hidden in beds and bedrooms. In addition to a hefty fine, but far worse, the precious hams and sides were confiscated!

The shock was attributable not to the relevation that, in a close community, the law had been broken, but to the fact that information had been leaked, and many did not sleep easy in their beds for many weeks with the realisation that “there, but for the grace of God”, went they!

We were lucky that we still had weekly bread deliveries to the door, delicious, big, round and still warm, cobs, brought from Knighton by Ray and Don Felton, and Mr Bob Baker.

The weekly joint, sized according to one’s rations, came up on the Saturday bus from Knighton and was collected from The Builders Arms, in Lloyney, or left on farm gateposts along the route. Milk and eggs were plentiful, most people having a few Rhode Island Reds, and all farms had their milking cows. In Llanfair and Lloyney our milk was fresh and organic, from the cows which grazed in the local meadows and brought around daily in a large pail by Mr Dai Davies of Teme Cottage who measured out generous pints or ½ pints with a special measure.

Rabbit, too, would be on the weekly menu in most households, being before myxamotosis and too plentiful for the farmer’s peace of mind, but they were a most helpful addition to the decreased food stocks.

Cooking utensils were in short supply, aluminium being used in aircraft production, patriotic housewives had donated all their aluminium pots and pans to this end.

Iron railings, too were dismantled by many households as a contribution to the war effort.

We were all very frightened of what were termed “German spies”. New faces and strangers were treated with great suspicion and their movements noted and commented on. They all turned out to be perfectly normal — but these were not normal times. They were widespread warnings on careless speech. “Careless talk cost lives”, we were admonished and “Remember, walls have ears.”

Mention must be made of the young men and women of the villages and parish who were conscripted for National Service, and of whom we often thought and feared for. Alec and Grace Gwilt from Lloyney Shop; George Price and Joyce Cole from The Top Row, Lloyney. Bert Thomas, Coed-y-Hendre; Dick and Jim Price, Belmont; Joan and Harry King, Skyborry; Tom Price, The Cwm; George Parker, Coed-y-Hendre Mill; Desmond and John Bright; Ken Speke; Ernie Price; John and Sidney Davies, and perhaps, others — thankfully, they returned unharmed, but there were others in neighbouring parishes and in Knighton who died, and brought home to us the horrors of war.

Those who were not engaged on the land, or other work deemed essential, but too old for active service, had to seek employment in the Munitions factory in Knighton, which worked night and day making “Aero” parts.

The war ended in 1945, V.E. and V.J. days were hailed with great rejoicing and big celebrations were held with sports in Llan-a-Videy and tea in the school, presided over by the redoubtable Mrs Miles, whilst the indispensable Mr Jack Miles officiated importantly on the door.

The lone Church bell, silenced for six long years, pealed the glad tidings to the villages on either side of the river Teme.

During the war, Church bells thoughout the land were silenced, destined only to toll the ominous news that our shores were being invaded, so that now its unfamiliar resonant chime fell like music on our ears.

With truly thankful hearts all denominations attended a joint Thanksgiving Service in St. Mary’s Church where previously, many national “Days of Prayer” had been held.

Now, with prayers answered, gas masks, ration books and identification cards were to become collectors items, just poignant reminders of six, never-to-be-forgotten years.

Looking back, it is hard to realise that these events took place fifty years ago, almost a lifetime. The war wrought changes, and greater changes still have followed in its wake. Sadly, it ended a way and quality of life that will never return.

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