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A Norfolk Village War

by Wymondham Learning Centre

Contributed by 
Wymondham Learning Centre
People in story: 
Joan Cornish (nee Moy) and Ed Cornish, Henrietta and Percy Moy
Location of story: 
Hardingham, Diss
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 April 2005

This story was submitted to the BBC People’s War site by Wymondham Learning Centre on behalf of the author who fully understand the site's terms and conditions.

I was nineteen years old in the year that war broke out and I was living with my parents, Henrietta and Percy Moy in the village of Hardingham in Norfolk. My mother was named after an aunt on the richer side of the family.

I was working at Hobbies Engineering in Dereham, which was nine miles from home. I had to cycle to work but, if the weather was really bad, I would go by train. As I only earned 6d an hour, the fare of about 1/-6d was very expensive for me, especially if we were doing shorter hours. We tried not to use the train if possible. The firm was making aircraft parts so it was an important job.

The usual length of our working week was five and a half days, but if there was an urgent order to get out, we would have to work on Saturday and Sunday. It was not comfortable work. We were standing all day and, as we were making threaded screws, cold liquid, which was used to cool the steel, dripped down onto our hands.

My father, Percy, was a lengthman, which was a person employed to maintain a section of road or railway. He worked on the roads. He also rented a piece of land on which he kept about six red poll cows. They were red haired and hornless and gave rich milk. We sold milk and cream and my mother churned the milk into butter. We supplied cream to Sir Bartley and Lady Edwards at Hardingham Hall. Fresh fruit and vegetables were supplied from the garden and every year we would fatten a pig for Christmas. The scraps from the kitchen helped to feed the pig, and, after it had been slaughtered, the butcher would cut it into joints for us and some of it would be smoked for bacon.

Most countrymen kept a dog for companionship, and as well as killing the rats, the dog would bring back rabbits, which my mother would turn into a tasty stew that would last for several days. She would take out its innards and there was plenty of meat on the back. So we didn’t go hungry.

When I returned from work, I was tired, having been on my feet all day and having
cycled so far. There was no electric light but when the oil lamp was lit, we would read, patch clothes and listen to the news about the progress of the war on the wireless.

We could not afford, to listen for too long, as the sets were powered by accumulators, which we had to take to Hingham to be recharged. Most Monday and Friday nights I would cycle to Hingham to the village dances. I had a dynamo on my bike so that I could see the road in the dark.

There were always service men around from the military bases at Watton, Deopham and Shipdham to dance with. It was exciting when the Americans arrived as they had so much more money than British servicemen. I met my husband, Ed Cornish from Cleckheaton in Yorkshire, at a dance. He was a lorry driver with RASC and we married in Hardingham Church whilst he was on leave.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Working Through War Category
Rationing Category
Norfolk Category
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