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Britain On The Homefront

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#31 ham and jam

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Posted 01 June 2004 - 08:36 AM

With Permission from Elsie

I should be glad to have my contribution put on another website

D-Day Experience: A Wren at Portsmouth
By Elsie Horton

In 1944 I was a Wren on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. We worked at Fort Southwick, an underground complex below the Portsdown hills, behind Portsmouth. I was a watchkeeper in the Signals Distribution Office. All signals coming into C-in-C, or initiated by one of his staff, had to record and distribute - either to officers in the complex or to ships and shore establishments in the Portsmouth command, which stretched from Newhaven to Portland.

Extra hours
In the spring of 1944, increased numbers of personnel appeared - not only Wrens and naval officers and ratings, but army and RAF people and several US soldiers and sailors (who did not work directly with SDO staff). We were changed from four watches to three watches, which meant extra hours. All leave was cancelled. On buses, within a few miles of the coast, paybooks had to be shown (identity cards for civilians) - only those who lived on the Isle of Wight were allowed to visit there.

Portsmouth Harbour was a solid mass of ships and landing craft of every description. Every little river along the South Coast had its share of LCTs and LCAs. Every roadside had its contingent of parked Army lorries and tanks, with the soldiers camped alongside. Fareham Common was covered by and Army camp. When we were free of an evening, we liked to take a walk, in any direction, and have a chat with these boys, who would often make us a cup of tea.

D-Day approaching
Night watch on Saturday 3 June: the first couple of hours passed in the usual busy way, ships passing to and fro. Then at about 22.00 hours a signal gave news of a convoy sailing from the West Country, its destination 'Far Shore'- a nomenclature soon to be familiar, and translated as the coast of Normandy. This was followed throughout the night by similar ship movements; it was obvious that the 'Second Front', so long awaited, was at last taking place. By studying all the signals, it was possible to work out that the D-Day was planned for Monday 5 June. Alas for the best-laid schemes of men, the weather played havoc with the plans. I cant remember when I found out that, because of forecast storms, the invasion had been postponed for 24 hours. I would guess that I learned the news just before the end of the watch.

The next day, June 4, was my 20th birthday. My friend Brenda and I celebrated by having lunch at the Red Lion in Fareham.

Going to battle
On the Monday I was on late watch, approximately 14.00-22.00. As all the signals relating to D-Day were secret, only a few were aware of impending events. We were relieved by the night watch and returned to our quarters in Fort Wallington in the 'liberty boat' (a battered old bus). We had eaten at Fort Southwick so it was straight to bed. While everyone else slept, I had a sleepless night, listening to the roar of planes overhead, and thinking of all the men, soldiers, sailors and airmen on their way to battle, and what they might face.

Normandy Invasion announced
The next morning, on arriving at Fort Southwick for the early watch, it was strange to look down over Portsmouth and see the harbour, which had been so full, now empty of all shipping. Only the victory was still there - was it a hopeful signal? It was quite a relief, when I arrived in the tunnel, that it had been announced on the BBC news that troops had landed on the coast of Normandy, and I was free to talk about it. That first week or so was extremely hectic, as we were the only UK base in WT contact with the invasion fleet. We had to learn a whole new language - codenames, etc.

In our free time, walking around Fareham could be quite interesting. There was a constant stream of lorries, full of young soldiers, on their way to embarkation points, and of course they all waved. After a while we learned to be careful, after we found wed waved to a lorryload of German prisoners (and they had the nerve to wave back!) We saw some very peculiar vehicles go through, each one obviously designed for some specific purpose. Another common sight, both before and after D-Day, were 'Queen Marys', very long, low articulated vehicles, which were used to transport crashed RAF aircraft.

It was amazing that in only a few weeks life settled down into routine. Convoys continued to come from both east and west, made up of both naval and merchant ships, Mulberry harbour parts, landing craft and heavy battleships and cruisers on their way to bombard the French coast. And, as aircraft continued to cross the skies, we saw our first flying fortress.

VE Day 1945 (8 May) brought a flurry of signals from politicians, commanders, etc. I Particularly remember that from General Eisenhower, addressed to all those he had commanded. He said that after the war, there could be arguments as to who had made the greatest contribution to victory, but those who had taken part knew that only co-operation and a joint effort had brought about the desired result. A thought worth remembering in these fraught days!

Thankyou Elsie


#32 ham and jam

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Posted 18 October 2004 - 06:46 AM

Battle of Britain celebrations evoke sad memories for Irene

By Alex Melvin

A 90-YEAR-OLD widow who watched her husband's Spitfire shot down in the Battle of Britain spoke of his bravery on the eve of an RAF march through Harrow on Friday.

Irene Carr, of Becmead Avenue, Kenton saw the plane burst into flames before crashing down into a nearby farm.

She did not know her husband was inside but remembers remarking, "God, whoever's in there will never come out alive".

German Luftwaffes swarmed over the Dorset coast-line on October 6, 1940 - one of the fiercest days' fighting in the Battle of Britain. Many lost their lives, including Irene's husband, 27-year-old RAF pilot John Akroyd.

The memories are still vivid for Irene. She said: "I was sitting in my air-raid shelter and watched the plane go down. It looked horrific. I was sure the pilot would be dead.

"But the adjutant told me my husband had been pulled from the wreckage and was alive. He said John was very badly burned. I was taken to the hospital and saw his face. it was terrible. I asked the doctor if he would see again and he said No'."

John died the next day. He had been married to Irene for under a year.

Most of his squadron from 152 RAF Warmwell also lost their lives.

At just 25, Irene was widowed and left to face the rest of the war alone.

She said: "We were married two months before the war and wanted to have a family. But he volunteered for Spitfire service.He didn't have to because he was a flying instructor by trade and could have got a comfortable posting teaching people to fly in Africa.

"He knew how dangerous it would be, but that was John."

When John died, Irene moved back to her home town of Ealing where she got a job in an accounts office.

The austerity of rationing and the menace of the doodle-bug bomb made the war years tough. However, Irene remarried in 1949, and has lived in Kenton for the last 53 years.

She has been back to Warmwell to visit John's grave many times since his death.

The small Dorset town is now a holiday camp, but a monument was erected to remind future generations of those who died fighting for freedom.

Irene said: "John was a lovely man who got on with everybody, but we lived in very different times then."

#33 misako



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Posted 18 October 2004 - 06:49 AM

Oh what a story.., brought tears to my eyes. Misako

#34 eohara



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Posted 21 October 2004 - 05:40 PM

Thank you so much for sharing all these wonderful, touching, emotional stories.

One of my uncles joined the USAF right at the end of the war and was stationed in London. There he met a pretty young lady named Doreen, married her, and brought her back to the States.

They were stationed in Kansas (infamous for its strong tornadoes as U.S. folks know). During tornado season the warning sirens would sound -- often several times a day. My Aunt Doreen told me she thought "you run into a shelter for a bloody STORM?" She said she refused to do it unless she could see the storm outside her window and headed her way. She insisted "I lived through the Blitz --
how bad could any storm be?"

She had a wonderful sense of humor and could always make me laugh. She told me many stories of growing up in England and her experiences when she first moved to the States. She used to cut open teabags and use the tea "the English way", swearing that the teabags ruined the flavor of the tea.

You may have guessed I loved her dearly. I thought of her often when I visited London.

Eileen O.

#35 ham and jam

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 06:08 PM

THANKYOU Eileen for that wonderful bit of family history, great stuff.

Its still something you hear today from that generation, " I lived through the Blitz, so im sure as hell not going to let that get me"


#36 ham and jam

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 05:03 AM

Posted Image
London bus

Dig for Victory

In 1939 farming became part of the war effort, a state controlled industry whose aim was to feed wartime Britain. Food imports had to be reduced because the ships were needed to transport guns, planes and soldiers, and the best way to reduce imports was to grow more food. Farming was modernised and many fallow fields were ploughed up in order to produce food.

In 1939, the number of acres of land used for food production was just under 12 million, in 1945 this had grown to just over 18 million acres.
Between 1939 and 1945, imports of food were halved.
Hyde Park had its own piggery and Kensington Gardens dug up its flowers and planted rows of cabbages.

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Posted Image

The country needed to save precious supplies and that meant that some foods, especially imported ones such as sugar and tea, would be in short supply. The government had a choice - let those with money buy what they wanted and the poor do without, or ration food fairly so that everybody got an equal share.

The government chose the second and in September 1939 ration books were introduced. Everybody had to register with a chosen shop or supplier from whom they could buy his or her rationed food. In Jan 1940 the first items were rationed. Each person was restricted to 4 ounces bacon or ham and 4 ounces of butter per week. As the war went on the list of rationed food got longer.

1940 Jan / Bacon
Jan /Sugar
March /Meat
July / Tea
July / Butter and Margarine
1941March / Jam
May /Cheese
June /Eggs
January42 /Rice and dried fruit
February /Canned tomatoes and peas
April /Breakfast cereals and condensed milk
July /Chocolate and sweets
August /Biscuits
December /Oat flakes

At its peak, in August 1942, the food ration for one person for a week was

One shilling and tuppence's worth of meat (perhaps a pork chop and four sausages)
Eight ounces of sugar
Eight ounces of butter, margarine or lard
Four ounces of bacon or ham (perhaps four rashers of bacon)
Two ounces of tea (half a packet or the equivalent of 15 teabags)
Two ounces of cheese
One egg

Apparently, even though Britain had a food shortage we never had eaten so healthly. Less fat, less meat and more vegetables the average calorie intake came down from 3000 to 2800 a day. People were thinner but they were much healthier, another interesting thing ive read is that infant mortality also dropped during the war, this is said to have been down to special food, drink and vitamin supplements for babies and pregnant mums. Well our government is predicting a terrible future for us with people being over weight and with not enough money in the kitty for future pensions, well perhaps Tony Blair is trying to get us into another world war, this will sort our over population and weight problems in one go :D just kidding.

Even with rationing and short supplies, some Londoners could still get hold of what they wanted, providing they had enough money and knew the right person. The 'right' person was usually some dealer who had rationed goods that had 'fallen off the back of a lorry'. These shady characters were known as 'spivs'.

To show that German bombs could not stop London or any part of Britain, this picture was used by The official Ministry of Information. it shows a young boy called Leslie putting the union jack on what is left of his home
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The infomation that went with this picture ended with " Leslie makes sure that what is left will be British"

Business as usual this is Oxford street February 1941
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Although other streets were not so lucky
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#37 homefront41



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Posted 23 November 2004 - 01:30 PM

Terrific post, Andy. I've seen that photo of little Leslie before. It's so hard to imagine the daily lives people conducted.

All those little plots of vegetables really helped out. Although, the hardy vegetables were the most plentiful. Once the Yanks came over, there were a lot more to feed. I've read in a few places that General Eisenhower was overheard saying to one of his staff that so much cabbage on all the menus was sure to produce "the fartingest war in history" or words to that effect. :D BK

#38 markone


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Posted 24 November 2004 - 04:31 AM

As a child I would often complain about the amount of vegetables (mainly sprouts yuk) I was made to eat. This outburst by me was always followed by the Rationing speech from my Mother or Step-father. It goes something like "You ought to feel lucky because during the war we had rationing and you had things like powdered egg and not many vegetables or meat etc."

Thanks Andy for the reminder of my parents and my youth.

Mk1 :D




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Posted 24 November 2004 - 12:18 PM

Dig, grow veg, grow potatoes, this is all people do in these parts.
During the war my wife`s grandad used to haul the best of British poatoes
and other "market garden" produce to the docks at Liverpool.
While he was there he used to haul away piles and piles of horse manure
from the working animals.He would return back to the farmers here and sell it
for good money. (he wasnt a spiv though).
To draw attention away from the docks during air raids - the farmers were
instructed to burn large piles of straw and waste to make it look like bombs
were going off and therefor detract the bombs from Liverpool.

cheers Gary.

#40 homefront41



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Posted 24 November 2004 - 01:36 PM

To draw attention away from the docks during air raids - the farmers were instructed to burn large piles of straw and waste to make it look like bombs were going off and therefor detract the bombs from Liverpool.

Don't think I've ever heard of that before. Pretty clever. And demonstrates truly how EVERYONE had a job in the war effort.

Little Leslie's job was to be a boy and a symbol of what needed to be preserved, what was at stake.

I have endless admiration for the guts and determination of the people of that little island kingdom. BK

#41 Ronni



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Posted 25 November 2004 - 01:27 PM

Re the vegetables: Meat was not always such a problem for those who lived in the country. One of my mothers family of cats was so big that [no, they did NOT eat the cat....] - it regularly left a perfectly caught rabbit on the doorstep as a present!!! And... she remembers the first bananas coming to the village after the war - she had never seen one before. Today - she hates rabbit... but has a banana every day!!!

Edited by Ronni, 16 July 2005 - 09:28 AM.




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Posted 26 November 2004 - 06:59 AM

Funny you should mention about bananas because my father in law`s
first banana was off a ship load of food imports which came into Liverpool
docks. His father used to haul goods to and from Liverpool back to the countryside.
Apparently the barter value of a banana was high and quite a bit of farm produce that his father had hauled was used in its purchase.
Anyway back in the countryside at the farm no body EAT the banana - it was
left on the kitchen table to be admired and used to draw visits from
relatives who had not seen a banana for real before.
Eventually it went all over ripe and black. NO body got to eat it. !!

He also tells of American convoys coming through the village from the
dokcs at Liverpool - all going south for the build up for D-Day.
All the kids at the time would shout up to the mostly Negro soldiers driving and
ask for goodies - in return they got "gum" and chocolate the convoys
were really popular as you can imagine.


#43 ham and jam

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:31 AM

Some great stories by Joan Styan



The first featured on the BBC today and the peoples war website

Also another by a great man Ron Goldstein a regular and helper on the peoples war site


and one for VJ day


#44 ham and jam

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 05:17 PM

With permission from Peter Stockton

My D Day story took place in a small Cheshire village , ten miles from the city of Chester, called Tarporley. The date was approximately between September 1943-April 1944. Age eleven years I was a newspaper boy delivering paperes from the village newsagents managed by my Grandfmother. My newspaper round took me about two miles from the village. One morning I found there was a convoy of US army vehicles park alongside the road full of US troops. I was full of curiosity as this was the first time I had ever seen anyone from another country, more so a coloured person. As I stood staring some of them shouted out 'Hey paperboy sell us a paper.' I replyed that I couldn't let them have one as they were all ordered by customers and newspapers were in short supply due to 'The War'. After much pressure from the troops and bribes of sweets and chewing gum I couldn't help but be pursuaded to sell them some papers. They told me that they would be billeted close by in a large country house called Bowmere and asked if I could deliver some papers to the 'country house' barracks.next morning. On returning to the shop I had to tell my Grandmother what I had done, and as many customers had no papers that morning I received a good telling off. She promised she would order extra for the next day.

The following morning I delivered the papers to the troops at their barracks. This became a regular thing and soon I was recognised by the guards on the main gate, and had free access to come and go as I pleased, going in the evenings after school and at weekends. I was allowed to attend film shows and eat in the mess. My new friends gave me chewing gum, American comics and fresh fruit. These were the first oranges I had seen for years. That Christmas the troops gave me lots of presents which I took home to my parents and sister, cigarettes for my Dad and a huge catering tin of peaches for my mother. She was so excited with this gift. She managed to scrape together enough ingredients to bake a small cake, which I took to some of the troops which had befriended me. They were emotionally very grateful, as this was their first Christmas away from home.

I carried on my paper deliveries and social calls to the barracks during spring 1944. Troops sometimes went away for a few days and would return very tired and dirty but would still pay me for the papers. One morning, some time in late April, I called at the barracks as usual but no-one was there except two or three sentries on the gate. The place was empty and they wouldn't let me into the barracks. When I asked where the troops had gone they just said 'Away'. Very upset and with tears in my eyes turned back from the gates and cycled down the road to continue on my round. Then I saw dozens of army trucks in a nearby field. Going into the field I searched for my special friends and found them sitting in the rear of one of the trucks, fully kitted out complete with rifles etc. They lifted me into the truck and I spent about ten minutes asking them where they were going and when would they be back. They couldn't tell me where they were heading for. They all shook my hand and hugged me, then lowered me back to the ground. As I stood there watching orders went out and the vehicles fired up, and away they went down the road, out of my life for ever.

Some time later the news broke on the wireless that D Day had started and British and American troops had landed on French soil. As we sat listening to the wireless my dad said to me 'That's where those yanks of yours will be'. I followed the news about the fighting every day hoping that they were safe. I have never forgotten those American friends. I still have the autographs I collected from them and tried once, unsuccessfully, to contact them, which left me wondering if any of my 'friends' had ever made it back to their own homes.

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