WWII The Home Front


WWII The Home Front


The changes the War bought to the community were many and sometimes profound. But, in reality, it seems that daily life went on relatively unchanged. People got used to sending their coupons to stores in Stroud which delivered the next day. The sound of air-raid sirens became common and people could glimpse the sky lit up by fires from bombing over Bristol and Bath. But, daily living, tough as it became, maintained many of the traditional patterns.


WII Touches Oakridge
Luckily this area escaped quite lightly with comparatively few casualties.

But there was some excitement; local incidents during the war included four bombs that fell around Tunley in January 1941 which fortunately there were no casualties from these.

A training plane also crashed near the Pest House, killing the pilot. For local children it was a source of fascination, as was the Gladiator from Aston Down training centre that landed nearby to carry out an inspection of this wreck.

Another incident was observed by the young Robin Gardiner playing on the recreation ground when four Blenheims approached to land at Aston Down. But the last one was clearly in trouble and went into a spiral, crashing in a sheet of flames in Hattons orchard.

Robin tells how William Simmonds encouraged local lads to join the 'Aircraft Spotters Club' that Mr Simmonds ran in his studio once a week, teaching them recognition points on all the German and British aircraft: 'We had tests and Tony Court was the ace at this. l think later he joined the Observer Corps which was appropriate!

Evacuees from Birmingham, Clacton and London came to the village. Irene Hunt and Iris Hunt recollected a story told by their father Thomas Henry Restall who was a ganger on the railway. His job entailed walking through the long and short Sapperton railway tunnels inspecting the line each day. One day he was amazed to find a small lad who had walked some distance into the long tunnel trying to get back home. He wus an evacuee staying in Chalford and had become so homesick that he thought, as he had come down the line a few days before, he might find his way back home. An upsetting experience, when one thought what might have happened, the boy having no light.

However, many evacuees settled within the community, mixing and playing with local children. A whole class of thirty children from Clacton were taught at Oakridge school. One villager remembers that when they all played down Strawberry Banks, they used to run very, very fast. The children were billeted in houses round the village where there was room.

Miss Hill, who ran a smallholding from the house now known as Winsley Cottage, had six boys at a time and used to get them working hard helping her with the chores when they were not in school.

Miss Long, who lived in Piper's Cottage, had the Baker family to stay. In this case the mother came with her four children and all were accommodated in the one-up-one-down cottage.

When the danger was past. some families were sorry to see the evacuees leave. Evacuees have returned to visit Oakridge since the war years. For example, Queenie Gardiner, who was postman for Sapperton during the war years, had two evacuees from London, one a distant relation and both kept in sporadic contact with her. Robin Gardiner also kept in touch with people who were evacuated here.

Prisoners of War and the Land Army
A few German POWs were detailed to do farm work. It is remembered that two Land Army girls came to Waterlane and both married locals. 

The ARP and the Home Guard
Sally Hornby recalled: 'During the war, my father was head ARP Warden for the village. There were a number of wardens, and a group of hoys who acted as 'runners'. One of the latter slept at Iles Green each night, but none of them ever had to run with a message.' Robin Gardiner was one of these messenger boys. along with his brother George, Gordon Smith and Douglas Hunt. He confirmed that, for one week a month, each boy slept in the library at the Hornby's home where there was one of the very few phones, so that they could answer the phone if it rang, give the message to Mr Hornby and then run to the other wardens in the village with details if required. He thought it was a great treat to be able to read books from the library and go to sleep late, though it was not so easy then to wake the next morning.

The Home Guard kept their equipment in the tallet over the stables at Fairview Farm. They did rifle training at the bottom of Strawberry Banks, setting up a temporary range there. Local lads would scavenge for spent bullets afterwards to keep.

Ken Bucknell says that his father, Alfred Arthur Bucknell, who fought in France in the First World War in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, worked as chauffeur and aide to William Rothenstein during the Second World War and was a member of the Home Guard.

Food Production Went Into Overdrive, Rations & The Black Market
When interviewed about his memories of the war years, Frank Finch, who worked for his father on his farm during the war, recalled how farmers were ordered to plough up pasture to produce food. More tractors were needed to accomplish the work previously done by horses, but the first one his father ordered from America for their farm was sunk on the way by German submarines. Days were long and hard, with never a spare moment and Frank reckoned that they worked a minimum of 80 hours a week. After finishing their shifts, factory workers came to help on farms on summer evenings to help with hay-making and harvesting.

In addition Ken ran a sizeable poultry farm to augment the family income and provide food. This was a 24-hour operation at times and Ken and his mother had to help out. His mother, Evelyn Geraldine Bucknell (nee Halliday), plucked and dressed six to ten cockerels most weeks for local gentry. Food scraps were saved by these people which his mother would boil up in an old-fashioned copper then mix with poor-quality bran and barley meal. She managed to produce 8-10 lb table birds. Eggs had to be collected daily, washed and graded for collection by the Egg Marketing Board, although it did not receive them all.

Frank Finch revealed some of the rural black-market strategies. Pigs were apparently the most popular items as a sow that had a litter of ten or twelve piglets could simply be recorded as having five or six, thus 'releasing' five or six for the black market. Similarly, a cow, which usually had one calf, could be recorded as having a single calf, even if it had twins - another bonus!

The Bucknell family records apparently document the typical weekly ration for one person as follows:
Milk - 3 pints
Meat- ls and 2d
Sausages - not on ration, usually available by a barter system
Bacon- 4 oz
Butter- 2 oz
Cheese- 2 oz
Eggs - one every two weeks or packet or dried egg (however, the Bucknells had plenty because of their poultry farm)
Sugar- 8 oz
Margarine - 4 oz
Lard- 4 oz
Tea-2 oz
Jam - 1 lb per two months
Sweets- 3 oz

There were special rations for babies of rosehip syrup. The family, grandparents and cousins would meet on Saturday nights over home-made wine and exchange coupons, food stuffs and clothes that had been outgrown.

In addition to home-produced food, Ken's father shot rabbits, pigeons and pheasants for the table and occasionally poached venison. The family was lucky never to be short of food.
Christmases or birthday celebrations always included poached pheasant, rabbit pie or one of their own cockerels with sage and onion stuffing (ingredients from the garden).

On The Home Front
The 'Requisition of Unnecessary Iron Railings' became operational on 26 January 1942. Oakridge school lost its iron railings as a result of this.

Locals who were of secondary school age during the war recall that pupils from Handsworth Grammar School, Birmingham, joined children at Marling early in 1940 and shared facilities and hours for teaching.

Women were directed to war work in firms such as Tylers of Thrupp, which made 'Horsa' gliders used for air troop transport, and Sperry's at Stonehouse, which made gyroscopes for aircraft.

Ken Bucknell's mother and grandmother were good needlewomen and old cardigans and pullovers became socks, gloves, scarves and adult garments were recycled for the children. Car or tractor tyres were used to refurbish soles of shoes and boots. Another resident recalls that one of the Miss Peaceys was good at sewing and used to remake clothes on request.

All windows had to be blacked out and very soon after the outbreak of war Ken's mother and grandmother went off to Stroud for material purchased at Lewis and Godfrey and Mitchels. It was a ritual taking clown and replacing the black-out units each day.

The Bucknells did not have an air-raid shelter at home, though Ken remembers the ones at Marling School, outside the Subscription Rooms in Stroud and adjacent to the bus terminal in Chalforcl. He also recalls carrying his gas mask, together with his satchel, to school every day.

Like Ken, Grace Cooke reports that her family, living in Fairview Farm, were pretty self-sufficient. Her father, a tiler and plasterer, was a practical man and made the black-outs which were slotted and bolted into the window frames from outside. Her mother ran a smallholding so that there was no shortage of fresh food to augment the rations.

Robin Gardiner tells of going rabbiting on the common between Frampton Mansell and Sapperton, and the rabbits were then skinned (his job) and cooked hy his mother.

Not only did men from the village travel abroad in service to Europe and the Arctic, but there was contact with American and Canadian servicemen at Lypiatt Park, Fairford and Aston Down.

Village children came home from school for an hour for lunch, though those from Frampton Mansell brought packed lunches that they ate unsupervised on the green in fine weather or inside school if not. After school the children had jobs to do to help with house and garden before they could go out to play.

The above is taken from 'Oakridge a History' by Pat Carrick, Kay Rhodes and Juliet Shipman, available from Oakridge History Group, price £15 through the ‘Contact Us’ page or from the Oakridge Village Shop.


Oakridge History Group



“WWII The Home Front,” Oakridge Community Archives, accessed January 16, 2019, http://oakridgecommunityarchives.org/items/show/561.

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