One of our residents, Mary Brill, recently wrote about her second World War memories growing up in rural Lincolnshire. We would like to share her words and believe that many people who also grew up in the countryside in the 1930s and 40s will find something to identify with. Younger readers may be surprised by how different rural life was around 80 years ago.
What did you do in the war Granny?
When the 2nd World War broke out in September 1939. I was 14 years old and still attending school. In Lincoln. At the Girls High School on Linden Hill. This school was just below Lincoln Cathedral. This magnificent building stood just above us in all its glory, from some of the classroom windows you could look up and see it towering over us.
I loved my school years , It was such a good education for the years to come . I had two special friends. Who I kept in touch with for many years. My first recollections of the war was being issued with a Gas Mask which had that awful rubbery smell. We had to practice putting it on, I just hated it. But we always had to carry it around with us in a box hung over our shoulder. But that was in the early days of the War. During the first months we had evacuees billeted on us. At the time we were living in a large farmhouse, which had six bedrooms, so if you had spare rooms you were asked to take a family into your home to live with you. These were people who were evacuated away from the bombing of large cities, mostly Mothers and children. My Mother and Father were very shocked when two women arrived with three children. We all had to share one kitchen, bathroom and an outside toilet. No running water in the bathroom, all water had to be carried upstairs. Life was not easy out in the country, no electricity out in the country in those days. They soon got fed up with country life, no fish & chips around the corner. Shops and Cinema 10 miles away. After about two weeks they packed up and left to go back home to Leeds. Leaving their fleas, and two dirty rooms for my mother to clean up she was not pleased. After that we used to get R.A.F pilot’s wives coming to stay, this was a much better arrangement for us. We have wonderful memories. Of them all.
In 1941 my Father who was a Dental Surgeon, got called up into the Army. And went to Arborfield in Berkshire. To the Army boys school where he spent the rest of the war. My Mother was left with the Dental practice to run getting a locum in to take over the dental work. Mother took over the bookkeeping. I then had to leave school to look after six horses and two ponies, and the cooking. We also had a large orchard and garden to look after. We kept pigs and chickens for their eggs and the pigs would be fed up to be slaughtered for meat. We would cure sides of Bacon and Hams for later use. We had a large cellar and a bacon chamber, for hanging the sides of Bacon and Hams when cured with salt and saltpeter. The day after the pigs were slaughtered Mother and helpers would come along to help make sausages, haslet, brawn and pork pies. We had a very large kitchen to work in, and large table to work on. The pastry was made called hot water pastry, which was rolled out and then raised on wooden moulds to hold the minced pork. Only best meat for pies. It was my job to clean the intestines for use as skins for the sausages.the meat used was second best. Also leaf fat which was minced , the skins were then threaded onto a special tube attachment, which was fitted onto a large mincer. The best of the leaf fat was rendered down in a large pot to make lard which would be used for baking at a later date. The remains after the rendering was made into pork scratchings, very nice to eat later. My mother would make up plates of liver, kidney’s, and pork meat to give friends to fry up for supper. The rest of the pig which was the best meat, hams and the sides for bacon were then put in a large flat container and salted down this process took several months to complete, the hams and sides of bacon were then hung in a cold room, this being what we called a Bacon chamber, below that was the cellar. Wonderful for keeping food cool. We were so lucky to have all this extra food at a time of rationing of food. What a treat to have home made pork pie and sausages … all this food!! It would replenish our larder for months to come.
At the age of 18 I was called to do War Work. I chose the Land Army, most of the time I was able to work on farms near home. My first job was 5 weeks of potato picking, very hard on the back. When the farmer realized I was good with horses, I was then given the job of leading the horse and cart down the rows to pick up the baskets full of potatoes to be taken to a place to store them. I liked that much better. From then on given lots of jobs with the horses. After two years on an arable farm I was moved to a small mixed farm with chickens and ducks. I liked the work better and learned to drive a tractor, a little grey Massey Ferguson. I became part of the family, we stayed friends for many years. It was through the family that I met the man who I was to marry. He was working on the farm nearby. We married 4 years later the rest of my life was always connected to agriculture in some way.
Mary Brill. Dorset