Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Home Front

There is a discussion on a forum that I'm on at the moment about diaries and books from and about WW2 which are centred on The Home Front. This has been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember and I have a huge collection of original magazines and books from the period along with modern publications on the subject too. I also have the two series that were on TV on video - The 1940s House which is the official version and The Wartime Kitchen and Garden which is my favourite of the two and which I had the foresight to video week by week thank goodness as it was never issued as a video or DVD. Heaven knows why not as there is a great deal of interest in the period as is obvious from all the re-enactment groups and railway 'wartime weekends'.
I thought it might be quite interesting to share some of my collection on here, I'm not sure where this is going so it might be long or short:) Most of the photos are a bit faint and fuzzy so clicking on them will make them clearer especially where there is writing.

This is where it all started, in 1975 we were living in Saffron Walden in Essex and on a visit to a rather nice secondhand shop(looking for a high chair I think)I came across a large cardboard box full of wartime Woman's Illustrated magazines, about 250 altogether, I parted with £5 and DH staggered out carrying the box. The magazines dated from 1939 to early 1946 and apart from a few gaps it's a complete run of the wartime issues and absolutely fascinating stuff it is too. The further into the war they go the more inventive are the recipes and the make do and mend articles. There never seems to be any doubt about the final outcome even in the darkest days.

Once I had these collector's fever bit and I acquired more and more over the years. This photo shows the inside pages of three others - Everywoman April 1943, Mother & Home August 1941 and Woman's Friend & Ladies Companion for Nov 16th 1940.

Food was an ever present challenge to the ingenuity of housewives, ration quantities varied slightly during the war but an average per person was

4oz/100g ham or bacon
1s/2d worth of meat(this is in the old money before decimal currency came in) - the cheaper cuts of meat provided more, sausages weren't rationed but the contents were a mystery to everyone which was probably just as well!
2oz/50g butter
2oz/50g cheese
4oz/100g margerine
2oz/100g cooking fat
80z/225g sugar (this had to cover baking, jam making etc as well as general table use)
3 pints milk
1 egg
2oz/50g tea
12oz/350g sweets every 4 weeks

This, you understand,was per week! Other foods, including tinned meat and fruit, dried fruit, dried pulses, were available on a points system. Everyone had 16 points per month. The photo shows the identity cards and ration books belonging to my husband and mother-in-law, rationing didn't end until 1954 and I remember quite clearly going to Mrs Connor's corner shop with our ration books. When rationing began in 1940 everyone had to register with a butcher, a grocer and a milkman and that was the only shop/deliveryman you could use for these items.

Some of my cookery and other household books - stewed tripe with celery anyone?

I like this little set of leaflets issued by the Women's Electrical Association, they combine my interest in the Home Front with my passion for anything set out in seasons.Each of these cards gives several recipes, a make do and mend item and various other hints to do with fuel/electricity and food production .

I particularly like this rather battered looking book. It obviously had a good deal of use and inside....

...were all these handwritten bits and pieces that are a really personal contact with someone's life. Especially the note:) Do click on it and read it.

These are some of the wartime diaries, all are well worth reading. They are all written by women who come from various backgrounds and the insight into their daily lives is fascinating. Mrs Milburn is a well to do middleclass housewife with a POW son, Nella Last is from Barrow-in-Furness which was once had a great shipbuilding industry, she is the wife of a self-employed carpenter. This is the book that Victoria Wood's TV drama 'Housewife, 49' was based on. Betty is a widowed, ex- theatrical dresser living in East Anglia and a practical, down to earth, let's get on with it type. Katharine Moore is married teacher and a pacifist. These books give a wide variety of experiences of the war but the one thing they all have in common is the complete confidence that we would eventually win.

The photo at the top some of you may have seen before, it's one of me at a Millenium New Year party where we had to come dressed in period costume of some sort. My suit, fox fur and handbag are all genuine. The gas mask case is my own bit of 'make do and mend'. Johnny came as 'One of the Few' so we had to have this photo taken together:)


Janet said...

What a fascinating collection you have! I remember my mom talking about rationing but sadly I don't have any ration cards or anything like that. I just love seeing all these items....the note was cute! I think it would have been very difficult to come up with meals under such strict rules.

Mary said...

I love this post Rowan - I'm so interested in the home front during WW2. Born in '43 I don't remember much, however my Mum always told me stories of our life during the war. The only vintage items I still have are a few of those Stork margarine recipe leaflets which arrived in the mail - I guess Mum subscribed to a service. All recipes seemed so simple then - guess with the ingredients rationed so tightly they had to be!
I have a wonderful book (found at Past Times when home) Marguerite Patten's Post-War Kitchen ~ Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1945-1953 - have you seen it? Fabulous photos, food facts, recipes etc. Another book found at that shop is The Best of Times ~ Growing up in Britain in the 1950's by Alison Pressley. I've love this one - so many childhood memories, I get such a lump in my throat reading it because I loved my childhood in Devon!
Thanks for sharing all your interesting things - and you certainly looked the perfect forties gal in that party photo!
By the way - we've just watched the TV series "Wish me Luck" - loved it but can't get the final episodes here which was frustrating.

Hope this is a great year for you Rowan - looking forward to reading more about your forays into the the British countryside.

Greentwinsmummy said...

Lovely entry Rowan! I have a few old magazines that were my nans,also a lot of of American film mags,altho from across the pond they are still fascinating,I love the adverts the best!
x x x x

Leanne said...

what a fab post! I too have several genuine recipe books from the period, I love them as well, such an insight into life then (my parents were born 1938 so real war toddlers!

Leanne x

Breezy said...

I vaguely remember the tv series. This is a really interesting post

Remiman said...

Comment I did. Word verification I did not...poof! Comment lost forever to the blogsphere.
To recap: A wonderful collection from a memorable era. It does us well to see the resolve and fortitude of our countrymen and renew our faith in the humann spirit.
My mom saved all her ration books etc. from that period which coincided with her marriage to my dad. (Interesting scrap books!)

Rosie said...

Oh, rowan, you have inspired me this morning - I've been searching through old tins of stuff that came from my mother's house and I've photographed some of the things I've found for a post on my blog - I've really enjoyed myself - thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I too have a fascination with that era. I have a wonderful book written by a lady and probably published on a very small scale about the WW2 era in my area. It is called Mrs. GI Joe and is an account of the way the women married to soldiers lived while they were away in the war. I am from NC, USA, where there was a large military presence due to the many bases here at the time. And this book is about a couple with a not very big house, and how they turned their home into boarding for the wives of the soldiers. So very many women, leaving their homes to follow their men and living in small spaces carved out of attics and back hallways.. often having their first children in such a place, and celebrating holidays and occasions without their loved one. It amazes me. I think of how cramped our own small house with one bathroom feels with 5 in it, and then realize these people took in up to 10 people in a house the same size.. shared a kitchen, had crying babies, etc. Anyway, I enjoy reading about that era... whether from Ms. Read and her accounts of buttons put in the Christmas pudding during a wartime cooperative pudding bake.. or watching as we did get 1940s House here. I enjoy sewing patterns from the era, as well as Red Cross patterns for knitting soldier socks and balaclavas. Your post was a joy to read.

sheoflittlebrain said...

Another wonderful post, Rowan. I've always been interested in this period of history, and fascinated by the every day courage of people who endured deprivation and loss in the midst of falling bombs.

I've tried to find Mrs. Milbourn's diaries, but no luck so far.

I have the old movie, Mrs. Miniver, and although it's a hokey old American film, each time the fleet of little boats braves the sea to assist in the rescue of the men stranded at Dunkirk, tears roll down my cheeks.

Amy said...

I love your collection of goodies! I'm with you too, I adore old magazines, books etc especially those from wartime. Although I wasn't alive back then the literature really gives us a glimpse into what it was like back then.

Jenny said...

What a wonderful post. I too find that tine period fascinating, and what a treasure trove the box from the secondhand shop turned out to be! I found the list of rations amazing- I don't know how so many people got by for so long on what look more like daily rations to me. Thank you for sharing your collection- I had a lovely time looking at it this morning.

Anonymous said...

How fascinating, Rowan! I love looking through vintage magazines, cook books and best of all, journals, to see how women coped in the past. I can't imagine cooking for a WEEK with those rations! Those hats in your previous post are gorgeous! ~ ♥ Lynda

Gypsy Quilter said...

Thank you so much for sharing your photos. I too enjoy reading about WWII history, coupon rationing, and cooking. Have you read, "Once Upon A Town" by Bob Green? If your library cannot locate it, perhaps you can get it off of the internet. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Ragged Roses said...

What a wonderful collection Rowan. I was reading in the paper recently about somebody who collects Ration Books and I remember my mum's old one that she use to keep in a box under the stairs (not sure where it ended up though). Some of the recipes are certainly inventive! It does make me realise just how wasteful a society we are now though.

Tara said...

I've enjoyed looking at your collecction so much. Thanks for sharing it.

tash said...

I read the Wartime Kitchen and Garden book cover-to-cover and found it so interesting. I am really interested in the Dig for Victory campaign and how it made variety of diet possible and also gave some amount of control to the average person, as to what they could eat. Whereas the Ministry of Food were very controlling (for good reason). It also makes one wonder how feasible something like that would be today - everyone growing a good portion of their own food - I know our neighbours had a pig during the war and everyone fed into the slop-bucket and got a share of the meat back at the end. Now that is a fantastic idea!

solsticedreamer said...

Oh I love this post rowan!
when my nan visits i always get her to tell me tales of the war as my family on my mums side all lived in one long street in Portsmouth so there are lots of stories to hear, even if i have heard them before! stories about the blitz, how their street was never bombed, the sound of the 'doodle bugs' and going off hop picking...a frightening time but amazing

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Great post Rowan! I've still got my 'identity card' somewhere amongst the photos in the biscuit tin, under the stairs.
Have you read 'diary of a provincial lady'? One of my favourites.

Andylynne said...

What a wonderful post, I love to hear stories about WW2. And from other parts of the world gives such different insight. I have caugut up on your last post as well. I love the hats and you look fetching in the Edwardian hat, it is beautiful. But of course I love hats, that would have been a fun lecture!

Kelli said...

What an amazing collection you have, Rowan. I enjoyed looking at all the photos and the personal note is too funny!

PAT said...

I'm just now getting here, Rowan. I love this post. What wonderful treasures you have. That photo of you and Johnny is priceless, too!


Sheila said...

I am fascinated with that whole era. I enjoy nothing more than the British films made during the war, with their not so subtle flag waving and stiff upper lips.
Some years ago all the war brides in the small town where we lived, published a cook book, from old recipes they had used. It was excellent. I still make a very moist chocolate cake from one of them..

Kim said...

What a fascinating entry, Rowan, thank you for sharing it. I loved the Wartime Kitchen and Garden series and would love to see it again. This is a great collection and you look so lovely in that outfit, the style really suits you.

Kim x

Claudia said...

What a wonderful post! It reminded me of the exhibition at the Museum of London, the WWII part!
I love vintage things, especially from the 50's. I have been collecting knitting pattern magazines from then and I also have some clothing.

Julie Marie said...


I wonder how we spoiled modern people - especially us Americans, would handle rationing? Not well, I'm thinking. Or maybe we would rise to the occasion.

I think women's diaries - be they your WWII diaries or those of our pioneer women - are excellent tools in revealing the histories of their times.

Thanks so much for sharing your collection.


kate said...

Hi Rowan,

I read this post and thought I had commented on it, but it looks now as if I didn't. I did send a link to this post to a friend who I knew would be interested. I found the rationing info fascinating - these are wonderful bits of history ...

Have a good weekend. I hope you are going to keep blogging!!

Mrs Rosemary said...

I loved your post as I have a great interest in this period,I was born in 1947 and can remember the end of rationing.My Mother,who is still alive aged 88 years gave me the ration books to play with but unfortunately they were not saved.Mrs Milburn's diary is fascinating and I hope to aquire some more of the diaries you mention.I have several Women's magazines from the period as I collect old magazines from as far back as I can get them as domestic history is one of my main interests.

Jacran Cottage said...

I'm really interested in this era as well, but more from a British perspective than a North American one (where I currently live). Most wartime stuff here that I find is related to the American experience, not what I'm interested in.

I watched the 1940s House and really enjoyed it, in fact I wish I had it on video. The books you mention look really interesting.

I frequently get a British magazine, Best of British, and they have a lot of information there on 1940s weekends and events and I often think that if I still lived at home I'd get involved in those. The books and leaflets you show would make fascinating reading!

I can't imagine what it must have been like to live rationing. The 1940s House covered that well.

Thanks for sharing, it's a wonderful collection!