Dorothy Mary Cox



JC  Mary you’ve got something to tell me about the wartime so can you let me know what you remember about the period.

MC  Yes, during the 1939/1945 war my mother had a depot for a Bridport net firm.  I presume they must have advertised for outworkers and so she agreed to take on this job and the villagers made an assortment of nets for the Army and also ‘pull throughs’ for their guns.  On her book, of where she had to take account of what people gave, there were 29 names.  She was responsible for giving out the work every week and for paying the workers.  Thursday was delivery day and collection day so mid-week our house was choc-a-block with balls of string, and some of that was in skeins, and all the nets that had been made during the week.

I don’t think she actually…………. I don’t remember her handling cash for the wages so I think she must have sent details of each person’s work and then the factory sent pay packets a week in arrears.  Two men usually used to come, that was Fred Peat and Len (?) Eveleigh.  Pay for one kind of net was 4s. 11d. according to the book and another lot was 5s. 5d.   

Several hours of work was involved starting with one mesh then increasing every line until sixty or seventy meshes, or whatever size they wanted, was across then decreasing back to one mesh.  The needles had to be refilled, one would not make many meshes along the line.  One could make more money making the ‘pull throughs’ – they were 5s. a hundred.   It was easier work and the pay was better and not so hard on the hands.  The Backboard was called a lathe, some were round and smaller depending on the size of mesh wanted, and the needle holds the string.

In 1942 we had a letter that the Managing Director of Hounsell’s firm sent to my mother, a letter of thanks,with a £1 enclosed which was a lot of money in those days.

JC  So what were the nets used for, do you know?

MC  Camouflage nets, well some of them were anyway.  I don’t know about the others.

JC  And what was the purpose of the thing called a ‘pull through’?

MC  That was to clean the guns as far as I know.

JC  How old were you during the war period Mary?

MC  I was 10, well the year…………….. in September 1939 having to go to Beaminster School then, having to cycle every day in those days.  

JC  That must have been quite difficult in the winter months after the blackout started?

MC  Oh yes, and there was clothing, I mean clothes were on ration.  Coupons you see.  I think we were allowed 10 extra coupons if we lived more than two miles away from the school.  

JC  Right, now that’s fascinating.  So when you were at school during the day how did your time at school……………how was that different during the war years to perhaps beforehand or afterwards?

What effect did it have on your school?

MC  Well, I suppose……. I don’t really know.  

JC  Were the teachers all the same people?

MC  Well no.  No, we had all……. well quite a few different teachers.  French teachers seemed to be the ones who came and went you know because obviously they were called up during the war.  We did have  quite a variety of teachers for some lessons you know.  Just how it happened I suppose.

JC  And did you have to have any Air Raid precautions in school?

MC  I suppose we were given – I don’t remember – but I suppose we had sort of a drill should…………… I don’t think we had to rush off every time the siren went.

JC  You just carried on?

MC  Well, I think so, yes.

JC  Did you have to carry a gas mask with you?

MC  Oh yes, you had to carry that with you.

JC  So you brought that in on your bike every day……………………  Gosh that sounds quite intriguing.  And also, when you were at school, did you meet any evacuated children who came to Beaminster or to Mosterton. 

MC  Well some of them, of course they came from all around, but some of them were evacuees.  But I never got to really know the ones in Mosterton because I’d just left this school you see and was going to Beaminster.  And the…… there’d be convoys of lorries going by when we were cycling.  I remembe once, we came through the tunnel and, well there was another girl with me, and we were showered with some beans and I believe my father kept them and grew them you know?  Put them in to see what they’d come to.

JC  So during the war years obviously your mum was working on these nets as an outworker and organising other outworkers.  Did you ever do any of the netting work as well?

MC  Yes, I did some of the nets, you know.  I don’t think I did much in the way of ‘pull throughs’ because they were……….. you had to splice them with this piece of……. well……. rope I suppose, about six inches long and it had to be spliced into this other rope.  You’d sort of put it round a metal top that was on a board and then it all had to be spliced into this one ………………….

JC  So it was quite a complicated thing to make?

MC  Well yes.  But I used to have a little bit of pocket money I suppose but it was quite well,  not all that good pay really when you think of it.  The time that it took to do.


JC  And how did rationing affect you out here in Mosterton?

MC  Well I remember having to go to the Food Office with people’s books when certain things – like if they had chicken they were allowed to have a quantity of………… they gave up their egg ration and had a quantity of chicken feed and then when it came to Ration Book issue although there was arrangement in the village quite a few people would ask me to go, take it down to the Food Office which was in the Square, there.

JC  Where was it in the Square?  What’s there now?

MC  Where Country Style is, on………… that building, and sometimes I’d go in the dinner hour and they’d say ‘well you’ve got to come back, we can’t do it now’, and then it meant having to go back down there before you came back from school.  So you didn’t get you know, unless a friend came with you, you had to come home on your own.  Well I’ve since learnt – I joined the Civil Service and got sent to Bridport Food Office and then I got transferred back to Beaminster……………..

JC  So you worked in the Food Office?

MC  Yes, eventually I did.  And I learnt that they used to call me the ‘ten to one’er’ because I used to go down at five to one and of course they’d want to go for their dinner wouldn’t they?  They’d be shut for the dinner hour.  So apparently they recognised me from school days as having come in late you know, and then having to come back.  And of course I was annoyed at having to go back after school.  Yes I landed up in the Food Office eventually.

JC  So how long did you work in the Food Office for?

MC  Well when I left school I worked in the Post Office, Beaminster, which I wanted.  In those days you could train at Beaminser and then go to Bridport Food Office, I mean Post Office.

JC  Whereabouts was the Post Office in Beaminster during the war?

MC  Where (? unclear) Emmett’s place was.

JC  Ah Yes.

MC  And I’d taken exams so I was waiting the results and then that meant I was sent to Bridport Food Office

1947.  Then I came back to Beaminster for a little while, then I got back to part-time Bridport and part-time Beaminster.  Then Yeovil and, finally, from Yeovil Food Office I went with another girl with the orange juice and what have you, that department, up to the…………….. well it was under the Somerset County Council then, the (? unclear) Road Clinic.  And then the Health Authority took us over and I stayed at the Clinic for 33 years.  Something like that.

JC  So you must have seen enormous changes during that period?

MC  Oh yes.  

JC  That last year life must have changed significantly over the time.  What was the time you remember best?  Do you think…………. times were best for you?

MC  Oh I liked the sport at school for one thing you know.  That was….I was quite happy at school I suppose and enjoyed it, yes.

JC  Anything else that you can remember that comes to mind about either the war period or afterwards that you think ………………….

MC  My mother used to do knitting, well I think I did some, the scarves for the RAF Comforts Committee.  Of course they had to supply the wool because you couldn’t get wool because it was on coupons.  Well you could get it but it meant you had to give it up, not having clothing…………

JC So if you were knitting comforts for troops you could actually then get the supplies.

MC  Yes, that Comforts for the ……… that book……

JC  Oh there’s a book here……………

MC  Yes. You could send for it and there’s a badge that my mother had.

JC  Oh right.  Let’s have a look at this.  The Comforts Committee Voluntary Worker.   I see and they gave you all the patterns and things that you might need that you could do.

MC  I should think I did the scarf (? unclear) always keen on it.  And then you had to send for it you see and then send it back to obtain wool coupons free through a special form.  And I don’t know whether mother she’d be playing shops or something and all sorts with the coupons.  And then gloves I should think probably did them – something written up there on that page.  So that was another thing she did.

JC  So that was really a sort of voluntary work that took place.

MC  Yes, well really the nets………….  I know they were paid but not an awful lot.

JC  I see you’ve got some other things here from the wartime?  Wartime cookery books.

MC  Yes and clothing coupons.  (Lots of rustling noises)

JC  Oh I see, and these are stamped from Beaminster Food Office.  

MC  Yes.  Here’s my Clothing Coupons book.

JC  Oh for 1943/44.  

MC  And there’s the Ration Book.

JC  Oh right, and that’s dated July 1940 from Beaminster Food Office.  Goodness.  Ah, now this is interesting a list of names and addresses of retailers at the front.  Did you have to stick with the same retailers?

MC  Yes, you did.  Unless you had………….when you had to buy……….. you had emergency coupons.

JC  So you registered with these people……………?

MC  With lots of people yes.  And deposited the pages with the butcher there.  The grocer was a great aunt, she had the shop in Mosterton.

JC  And so she retailed your cooking fats and sugar, butter and margarine and the bacon retailer?

MC  Why we went to Cook’s in Crewkerne for bacon I don’t know, that was a mystery.

JC  Right I see, you had all the…………. and presumably all these were cut out by the retailer as you bought things that were on the ration.  How did you manage around here for things that were on the points system or off the ration completely?  Were there reasonable supplies during the war or was it difficult getting things.


MC  Well I suppose you could get certain things.  One of the jobs, my first job when going in the Food Office was counting sweet coupons.  (Laughter.)  

JC  That must have been quite a tedious job to do.

MC  And then if you got a retailer who hadn’t filled in the proper amount on his forms every…. we used to do so many every week and then of course if there were less, if they weren’t right with the number of coupons, they were given a warning and I suppose they would eventually have been fined for not giving their correct number of coupons when they sent in their forms.

JC  So that’s absolutely fascinating.  What I found interesting – that the covers of these Ration Books don’t seem to be a lot plainer than some I’ve seen so they really are quite interesting.

MC  Of course they were kept at the Police Station.

JC  Oh were they?  Was that just so that they couldn’t be used by anybody else.

MC  Oh yes.  That was another job when I went to Bridport.  The Police Station was near a bus stop and quite often I’d have to either go in the Police Station and collect the documents or else ………………… I don’t think I did it when I left work in the night.

JC   But during the war years what sort of entertainments were there for you.  What sort of things did you do for fun.

MC  Well not a lot really.  Because I never sort of joined in with…… there was some wartime dancing I suppose and that, but I never joined in that.  We had those weeks – certain War Weapons weeks, I don’t remember such a lot about that.

JC  Those are absolutely fascinating.  What I’ll do now……….. I’ll switch this off Mary.

End  of interview.