Fishlake History Society

Recording historical information before it disappears

Fishlake History Society

Recording historical information before it disappears

The Home Front Kitchen – Rev. Eve Atherfold

Some time ago, my friend, Brenda Grafton, wrote down her wartime memories as a child and shared these with the Fishlake History Group. I have been doing the same for my family as both of us are aware that our personal memories are of value, we hope to our grandchildren, as well as groups such as this one. What I have to say is a mixture of Brenda’s and my reminiscences.

After the 1st world war people became fed up of warfare and stories of what had happened and were just ready for a period of peace and a way of getting on with their lives...... yet 21 yrs later there was the explosion of the 2nd world war. The Ministry of Food which had been created in the 1st WW was reborn and rationing was brought in after just over 3 months later in Jan 1940

In effect though a Food Defence Plan Dept.” had begun to operate and preparefor the supply of food to the country in the event of another war. These included plans for rationing and blank ration books were being printed in secret as early as 1938, together with instructions for evacuations, billeting, dealing with bombs and fires.

The Home and particularly “The Kitchen were to come to the forefront of life wherever one lived, be it town or city or countryside. If you weren’t particularly interested in food you were soon to be aware of its importance. People’s experience of the Home Front differed greatly ---- mainly regional and class variations as well as town and countryside ---- and this soon became apparent when children were evacuated from cities which were thought to be targets of air raids and bombings. Personal hygiene, lack of clothes, ways of eating and living all raised problems both for visitors and hosts.

Few of the country areas had the luxury of connections to amenities such as electricity, gas, running water or sewerage connections. Water from individual wells and pumps were the norm. Transport problems might become a headache in a town but were often a nightmare in the country. Buses did not always run to a set time table and rail links were often a few miles away from villages.

Friday 29th Sept. 1939 was designated as National Registration day. Every householder was required to register everyone resident in their house not only for national registration but also for food rationing purposes. This is now available online for access but quite a few names are still closed. With Brenda’s permission I looked up her family and found her grandfather living at Clough Farm, a widowed farmer born on the 2nd April 1883 and his housekeeper, a Mrs Gertrude Kitching nee Riley also widowed and born 13th July 1881.  Brenda’s father and mother lived in the brick cottages on Sour lane and Harold was described as being a mechanical engineer and metal production worker. Hannah, her mother was described as having unpaid domestic duties.

Now came the results of the pre-planning because ration books were issued in October 1939 followed 18mths later by clothing ration books and points ration books and 8mths on, “personal points” cards for sweets. All of these led to instructions and tips for saving or making the most of rationed goods or substitutes.  Advice was freely given by government, magazines, newspapers and books, including various organisations such as the W.I. and Domestic Science colleges – these were sometimes inventive, sometimes hilarious, sometimes even revolting but always interesting.

The Blackout caused difficulties in both town and country – brown paper, blackout curtains, and blankets over doors all played their part in preventing light passing from inside to out.  Car headlights, bicycle lamps had to be coveredTilly lamps were a problem because of fire risk but were needed in barns, cowsheds etc when dealing with farm animals. But all sorts of helpful hints were available – stitch a piece of elastic to the lining of your bag and attach your door key to the other end. In the blackout this will save you time and temper by preventing that desperate fumble in the dark in search of the door key. Many of these tips came from Ministries such as that of Fuel, Light and Power or Home Security.

Air raid sirens were in place by September 1939 – the rise and fall of the siren became known as “Moaning Minnie”. The siren was only heard in Fishlake when it was being tried out – it frightened the children to death. The welcome “All Clear” signal was a single steady note. Brenda tells me that the school windows were covered in adhesive mesh material so they wouldn’t splinter if during bombing. 


One Friday night in November 1940 a German bomber, returning from an aborted raid on Sheffield off loaded its remaining bombs on Fishlake. For many years there was a pond formed by the crater of one which fell in a field behind Weathercock Farm in Fosterhouses. The story goes that Alan Travis, who owned the farm went to Doncaster market on the weekly Saturday bus and was  amazed to hear about the bomb – he had slept through everything! Brenda kept a piece of shrapnel from the bomb and has kindly donated it to the Fishlake History Group.

So, Food!  In the years ahead, access to food became problematical, as rations and points systems kept changing, sometime more restrictive and then changing back to the original setting.  Although I remember rationing and points, as I read about these changes, I am astonished at how both shoppers and shopkeepers coped with all the variables.

One example is the allowance for milk – this was basically 3 pints per person per week but in 1941 there were 4 changes to this the Milk Distribution Schemes of April of that year, followed by changes in October and again in November (when dried milk was allowed in via the Lend Lease agreement with the USA). In March 1942 milk was put on pointsin May this was suspended and in August it was reintroduced.

A word about the points system:

Each person would have a certain number of points each month in a pink ration book. Items could in this way go quickly on or off point. Originally, we were given 16 points per month, then it went up to 24 and down again to 20 from 1stDec 1941.  The idea was to introduce an element of choice and from Jan 1942 there was choice in buying rice, sago, tapioca, dried fruit, canned peas and then canned fruit and tinned tomatoes. An example of this was a packet of shredded wheat took up 3 points of your allowance. In August biscuits, treacle, syrup wason points and later oat flakes were added. The points system came to an end in 1950.

The Food Allowance: basically, as the following but all had changes at various times.

Bacon/ham rinds - 4oz from end of January 1940, at the end of the year, 8oz and in June 1941 it was back to 4oz. It didn’t go off ration until June 1954.

Meat was valued at 1/6d (1lb mince or 2 small chops) but sausages, liver andtripe weren’t rationed. In September you could spend 2s 2d but this went back down in December to 1s 6d. Later some of the meat ration had to be taken in corned beef. June 1954 saw meat and bacon taken off ration and then it became in short supply so it was back to extolling the use of offal, rabbit and tinned meats.  Tongue cooked and pressed, liver, beef oxtail, kidney, skirt, cheek, sweetbreads and ox tripe were all pushed on leaflets put out by the Ministry of Food.

The amount of meat in sausages became a sore point. When is a sausage not a sausage? When its a bread pudding!

Fish prices rocketed to over 4 times its pre war price and it had to be brought under price control. By 1943 horse meat or horse flesh became commonly available. Whale meat and Australian Snoek, both considered inedible were on sale.

Butter - 2oz. This and margarine/lard had its variations and again butter didn’t come off ration until 1954.

Cheese - started off at 10z, then 20z then 3ozAgricultural workers and miners and other heavy workers were allowed 8oz which rose to 12 oz in December. Registered vegetarians and orthodox Jews were given extra cheese instead of meat if they were certified by a doctor or minister.

Margarine or lard   started off in 1939 at 2oz, then went up in 1941 to 3oz but dropped back to 2oz until May 1954 when it came off ration.

Milk3pts in 1940 under the National Milk Scheme. Under 5’s and nursing mothers were either free or paid 2d per pint. Registration was needed with a particular milkman. There was no ice cream or cream production and in 1940 condensed milk became controlled.

Sugar - 8oz

Preserves - 1lb every 2 monthsIn 1942 mincemeat and honey and fruit curd were included in this and in 1943 the preserve ration could be taken as weight of sugar.

Tea - 2oz but doubled at Xmas to 4oz for 1 week.  In 1942 this was withdrawn for children under 5yrs and extra was given for those over 70’s in December 1944. It went up to 2 1/2oz in ’45 and came off ration in 1952.

Eggs- 1 per week.  In 1941 Lord Wooton announced eggs and fish were to be rationed but that didn’t happen. Instead, a distribution scheme was introduced – 1egg per week if available and this led many people to keep hens in the garden. In 1942 dried egg from USA became available.

Sweets - 12oz every 4 weeks and were on personal points card. In August it went up to 16 oz per month and was abolished in 1953

Bread became the National Wholemeal variety and was not on ration until 1946 when only 9oz was allowed for each person.

Lots of recipes now included potatoes as part of the carbohydrate requirement in bread, pastry and pancakes.

Oatmeal was recommended not only for porridge but for biscuits and to thicken soups and stews.

The Ministry of Agriculture had a campaign “Dig for Victory” and recommended growing runner beans, winter greens, leeks, Brussel sprouts, parsley, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, turnips, cabbage, onions, radish, peas and potatoes.

People were encouraged to gather “Wild” food such as elderberries, mushrooms (with care), nettles, seaweed, nuts – walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts crabapples and rowan berries and of course rosehips (at 3d a 1ib we children went gathering apace even if we were prickled to death!), elderberry syrup and blackberry syrup, pickled beetroot, pickled red cabbage

Later there was cucumber in vinegar for Sunday tea!  All to give taste and flavour

The Minister of Fuel, Light and Power gave out advice on cooking, heating and lighting.  “Yorkshire Stoves/ranges were often found in country areas as well as ordinary fires with stands at the side. Paraffin stoves, smelly, but useful and hay boxes were tried. Primus stoves were useful but frightening, well they were to me!  They had to be pumped up every now and again to keep the pressure up and roared at you if they went to high. I can remember after the war my mother throwing ours out, still alight, in to the yard because she couldn’t control it!

Shortage of rubber meant few hot water bottles and both Brenda and I remember hot oven shelves being wrapped in a blanket to warm the bed.

No central heating usually meant only one room in the house was heated and that was where the cooker was. Coal fired of course, a Yorkshire stove which needed black leading once a week. Electricity if you were lucky but ours only came after the war and was for lighting only. BUT...... you could plug an electric iron in to a double light connection and get rid of flat irons which had had to be heated at the side of the fire.

In 1942 soap went on ration to divert fats and oils to food. The notice of this was referred to as “nutmegs” and leaked to the press on a Saturday afternoon and by Sunday the rush on nutmegs was unprecedented! 4oz of household soap was allowed, or 3oz and later 2oz for toilet soap. People were told that Borax softens water and so saves on soap and wood ash was a suggested scourer3oz of soap flakes or 6oz soap powder was available and WATER was to be measured at 5ins in the bath. Hair washing for children with long hair was uncomfortable with no modern shampoos for tangles and drying in front of the fire was usual. No hairdryers!

Make do and mend!  That was the way we lived. Hooky rugs or pegged rugs using an old sack from the farm. Sewing machines, undoing old jumpers to make new ones, passing on clothes from one family to another and clothes rationing continued until 1949 with the utility scheme for furniture continuing until May 1952.

I hope these memories have been of interest and reminded you of times past.  Perhaps those of you who have come to try out the food of times past will realise they are not much different to today’s food; more spices and flavourings now perhaps but combinations haven’t changed so much.

 These are notes from a presentation given by Brenda Grafton and Rev. Eve Atherfold on 08 February 2023 to the Fishlake History Society.