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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Phoney War

by WMCSVActionDesk

Contributed by 
WMCSVActionDesk
People in story: 
John Harding
Location of story: 
Hereford
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4888056
Contributed on: 
09 August 2005

The first few months of the war was a phoney war, nothing seemed to happen except that the R.A.F. dropped leaflets on Germany telling the people to give up, which in my mind was just stupid. Life on the farm was very enjoyable, Gerald and I shared a big double bed in our own bedroom just as if we were brothers. For me it was more enjoyable than it was for Gerald, because suddenly I had a mother again, for supper we always had dry bread and cheese with one glass of cider or milk, we could have as many glasses of milk as we wished but only one glass of cider, even though there were huge barrels of the stuff in the outhouses. At lunch you had to eat whatever you had asked for, every bit, and the plate had to be cleaned ready to take some pudding, by wiping it with a piece of bread which you also had to eat. The farmers sons had two sets of boxing gloves and they used to have Gerald and myself boxing each other in the orchard, we used to box three two minute rounds and were made to stick strictly to the rules. There was a set of Hand Bells on the farm, there were eight, all of different sizes, and each had a leather strap with which to hold them. We often tried to make up tunes on the bells, with Freda and her friend Audrey, who was the Postman's daughter, you had to hold a bell in each hand and shake it so that it rang just once. They had three cows on the farm and although I tried several times I was never able to milk them using two hands, I could manage using one hand and we would squirt milk at each other in the cow shed at milking times. There were several cider apple trees on the farm and I remember going with the farmer to the top meadow to catch one of the Horses, (there were no tractors on this farm, or many others in these years) after bringing him back to one of the barns, he was harnessed up to a cart so that he could pull it down to the orchard. Using a long pole the farmer then shook the branches of the tree so that the apples fell to the ground and we picked them all up and filled several sacks, which were placed on the cart to be taken back to the barn. When the horse’s work was done he was unhitched from the cart, and I volunteered to take him back to the top meadow. His harness was replaced with a rope halter and holding this, we started off up the fields, he was a very big horse whose main job was pulling a plough, and it was very daunting, walking along, leading this huge animal. All went very well until we came to the top meadow and the horse saw his companion on the other side of the hedge, he didn't wait until we got to the gate, he just picked up his heels and galloped away from me through the gate and to his friend, I didn't get chance to get the halter off him so I had to let it stay around his neck. Being September it was Hop Picking time, and the Farmers wife and the girls went Hop Picking at a farm just down the Road. We went along with them and we all stood around a crib which consisted of two crossed sticks at either end of a piece of sacking. The Hops grew up strings which were supported by wires, and you had to pull down the vine, and then pick off the hops, which were the flowers of the vine. Periodically the farmer would come on horse-back to measure your Hops, he did this with a round basket which held a bushel, and scooped up as many bushels as were in the crib. Your card was then marked so that you could get paid for the amount of hops that you had picked. Hop Picking seemed to be quite a social event, most families in the area had a crib and different members of the family would be around the crib helping to pick the hops at all different times. Besides the locals, there were a lot of Gypsy type families that were picking, and these were housed in out-buildings on the farm. The two eldest men from the farm that I was staying at, worked in the Kiln, drying the Hops, I was invited into the Kiln one day, the top floor where the men were, was covered in hops and were moved around with large wooden spades. I was given a drink of cider out of a bottle that the men had brought with them, but the cider had been contaminated with the bitter taste of hops and was nothing like the sweet cider that we used to have at supper time.

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Anastasia Travers a volunteer with WM CSV Actiondesk on behalf of John Harding and has been added to the site with his permission. John Harding fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Outbreak of War 1939 Category
Hereford and Worcester Category
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