Nita and Jim House



JC  Nita, can you just give me your date of birth and tell me when and where you were born?

NS  7/7/28 in East Street.

JC  And Jim?

JH  11/4/30 

JC  And where were you born?

JH  Same place, East Street.

JC  So, Nita, could we start with you.  Could you tell me perhaps some of your earliest memories of living in Beaminster?

NS  I think the earliest really was this time when I went missing.  After Jim was born I couldn’t have been much more than two, well, two and a half I suppose at the outside, and I went missing and my grandparents lived at the bottom of St. Mary Well Street and our mother went frantic because I went missing and she had this new baby, and the milkman, Mr. Tuck, was coming up the street and he said ‘Are you looking for your little maiden Mrs. House?’  And she said ‘Yes I am, have you seen her?’  ‘Yes, she’s going on down Bridport Road.’  So I must have gone down Bridport Road and up through Hams Lane and got to my grandparents before mother got down there.

JC  So, you talk about your grandparents living here, and your family’s been here for a long time?

NS  Yes, They were Mr. and Mrs. Watts.  My grandmother died when I was four.  She had a haemorrhage and I can just remember her because we used to have to go to Sunday School and so on, even at that early age.  I fell in Luggs River once at the top of, by Trinity Church, and was wet through so I went down my grandparents to dry off before I went home.

JC  What did your grandfather do?

NS  He had a little wood round.  He had a field almost next door he went to, a pony, and used to do these logs and go round selling logs.

JC  Jim, what about you.  What are your earliest memories of Beaminster?

JH  I can’t say really, because I don’t know very much about pre-war I don’t believe.  I remember going up when war broke out, going up the street  and Bob Green had his door open.  He always did have his door open – he was a newsagent at the top of the street – and on the 1 o’clock news I heard Chamberlain say that war had been declared with the Germans.

JC  How old were you then?

JH  Nine, I suppose.  But as for much before the war I can’t remember much.

NS  Well, it was so tranquil in Beaminster at that time.  I mean, we could go in the fields and stay all day.  We’d take picnics up to the fields stay more or less all day until we were hungry and came back again. 

JC  So your parents lived in East Street but what did your father do?

NS  We lived in East Street until we were about five?  Something like that?

JH  Well, I was two.

NS  Well, 1939 we came down to St. Mary Well Street.

JH  No, 1939 we came down here.  1932 we came up there.

NS  Yes, 1932 we came up to St. Mary Well Street.

JH  Well, Clampits wasn’t it then.

NS  That’s a thing that’s not known now that the lane going from the bottom of St. Mary Well Street up past the old gasworks was called Clampits.  If you mention nowadays that ‘So and so lived in Clampits,’ no-one would know what you were talking about.

JC  Oh, well that’s something we’ve not got any records about.

JH  Well I suppose it was probably something to do with where the gasworks was sited.  All that was then, all that Foxmould, and they used to use that years ago for building didn’t they.   Mix it up and do daub, wattle and daub walls.

JC  Is that what they used?  I didn’t realise that.  So when you moved down your dad was doing what?


JH  Well, father was a postman then wasn’t he?

NS  Yes, first of all, when we were tiny he was a postman.

JH  Well, he came here when he took the job over here.

NS  Yes, he worked in Hams Plot as a gardener.  The Tennants were very good really to us.  Mr. Tennant bought the house for father to pay off, that’s how he got on the…… (unclear)

JH  (Speaks but unclear sentence)

NS  They were really gentry and, we knew our place sort of thing.  Every Christmas the five of us, there were five of us in the family, the five of us had to go over into the Drawing Room and we were in a row and each one of us was given Half-a-Crown for Christmas which was quite a bit of money then really.  But I don’t know quite what happened to that Half Crown, I expect mother had to have it to feed us.  (Laughter)

JH  Well, he used to put on a puppet show didn’t he over the stables which we all had to go over, all the street I suppose.

NS  Mr. Tennant’s father was organist at Salisbury Cathedral.  His name was Stainer I think and she was quite a talented lady and I don’t know if you’ve heard that she was killed up on the way, just before D-Day.

JC  That’s right.  Somebody told me on a horse……………….?

NS  On a horse, yes.  But she shouldn’t have been really out on a horse with all the tanks and things.  Because the tanks were roaring through Beaminster.   You’ve never seen anything like it.

JC  She was involved in the Girls Training Corps wasn’t she?

NS  She was yes.  Her and Mrs. Hurst, and I was in the Girls Training Corps.

JC  Oh were you?

NS  Yes.  Haven’t anybody shown you photographs of the ………………..

JC  I’ve been given now a photograph, Jean Clemow gave me a photograph and Audrey Welsford has given me the words of the song.  But I was aware of the name Tennant in connection with the Girls Training Corps but I didn’t know obviously about …………..

NS Well, my sister and I were in the Girls Training Corps.

JC  So obviously that was part of the wartime thing in Beaminster.  You were both at school during this time.  Which school did you go to Jim?

JH Beaminster Boys which is up at East Street.  And then, of course, I suppose the amount of Beaminster boys I would say about, perhaps 40 – 50 probably.  Course, suddenly evacuees came and it shot up to over 100.  We had evacuees from Acton, evacuees from Swaythling (one) in Southampton.  Acton, London and Swaythling in Southampton.  

JC  That must have made a tremendous difference to the school?

JH  Yes.  We used to go up to Tindall’s, had a hall up there we used to go for lessons.

NS  Tindall Hall yes………..

JH  No, no.  That was after the war Tindall Hall, wasn’t it?  Up at the manor, he had a room up there I think. We used to have to march up there and go to lessons.  You know, the overspill sort of thing.

JC  How did you find the evacuee children.  Were they very different coming from London compared to Beaminster boys?

JH  Oh they all fitted in pretty well after a while, you know.  A lot of them was at Pattle and we was Duck Street and we had Duck Street Gang and Pattle Gang and we used to go up on top of the hill and have fights, clock fights.  (Laughter) It really got serious at times.

NS  Girls made the ammunition for the boys to throw. (Laughter)

JC  Did you have to do any sort of air raid precaution drills when you were at school?

NS  We did at school, we had to always carry a gas mask of course.

JH  We dug two trenches at the boys school either side of the school gardens which, left hand side going in was King’s trench which is one part of the school and over the other side was the Queen’s so we dug the trenches there and after we’d done that we had to go up to where, what’s the site where you live isn’t it?  Up Tunnel Road on the bank wasn’t it where you had your trenches.  Can’t  you remember them?  We went up there and dug them?

JC  Oh I think I saw something in the Beaminster & Netherbury Grammar School magazine about digging trenches.

JH  If there…… you know, in an air raid, you were supposed to go up these trenches and wait until the air raid was finished.  ‘Course that was something that didn’t happen really wasn’t it.

NS  Well we had two lots of air raids here, well bombs dropping.  That was all.  We all trooped up the next day and see these cows that were injured in the field.

JC  Whereabouts was that?

NS  In Tunnel Road.


JH  What was the name of that lane up there where The Beeches is to now?  Because on the right hand side of that lane was a high bank and your trenches was dug into that.

NS  I can’t remember the name now.   By the side of Sar Lodge wasn’t it?  By the side of Sar Lodge which is now Beaminster House.

JC  Oh that’s a different name for it?

NS  Sar Lodge it used to be called.

JC  Gosh, they make life difficult don’t they?  (Laughter)  So, it must have been quite a hard time for all the families with food rationing going on?  And, if there were five of you, it must have been pretty tough to get the food on the table for you.

JH  Well Lesley joined up in 1938 didn’t he?

NS  Yes, my eldest brother went in the RAF and then my………the next brother went into the navy

JH  It was ’42 Ted went wasn’t it?

NS  Yes, Ted.  Well the war was nearly over.  We did have a cousin that was,….. his mother died when….. of TB after he was born.   Well I think he was one when his mother died, which was my mother’s brother’s wife, so Billy was in between my two brothers age-wise so he was like an elder brother to us for a long, long time because, like all children they accept more children and so on and my mother being who she was sort of took him under her wing anyway until she married again.  But he was killed during the war in Burma.

JH  You didn’t say who he was.

NS  Oh, Billy Watts his name was.  His stepmother and father, they had a smallholding and, of course, being a boy he wanted to be off with the boys but he had to do his jobs before he went but my younger brother was very close to him and he wouldn’t do anything without Billy.  And for a long, long time, in fact until he died not long ago, if ever he got a little bit worse for drink he’d always get upset over Billy being killed.  

JC  Oh, it stayed with him all those years.

NS  Yes, he was very close to him.

JC  With your dad being a gardener, was your father called  up during the war?

NS  He had to go to the milk factory.

JC  Oh, so he had to do war work?

JH  He was a Sergeant in the Home Guard.

NS  Oh he was in the Home Guard as well yes.

JH  There’s a photograph somewhere of father in the middle and Lesley and Ted either side, the Navy, Army and Air Force.  Well, Home Guard, and air force.

JC  So, where did the Home Guard meet when they had to go for their training?

NS  Up in the Drill Hall (sound of dog barking)

JC  Where?

NS  In Half Acre, you know, towards Mrs. Welsford’s at the bottom of that hill on the bend.  A lot of troops were billeted there during the war as well.

JC  But that’s where the Home Guard used to train?

NS  I can remember going up there as a Girls Training Corps with shooting, but I was no good at shooting because I don’t like bangs anyway.  (Laughter)

JC  But you were ready and willing….. (unclear)   As far as, I don’t know, young boys were concerned it must have been pretty exciting …… (unclear) ?

JH  Exciting times wasn’t it.  I mean the Home Guard Sunday mornings they used to go up in the Grammar School field where it’s now St. Mary’s School.  There was no buildings up there and they used to set up their mortar things at one end of the field and aim at a white sheet up in the hedge, you know, and see if they could hit it.  But they didn’t score many hits I don’t believe.  They were trying.  (Laughter)

JC  Was there just one Home Guard unit in Beaminster?

JH  Yes, EOR1 Beaminster lot was, I don’t know if Bridport was the same number or not but you could tell in here I expect there’s……… well we’ve got a photograph somewhere isn’t there, I expect, and they’re not all on that are they.

NS  No.

JH  Some didn’t attend at the time the photograph was taken I suppose.  Same as always isn’t it.

NS  They’ve probably got one in the museum?  Photograph of the……….

JC   I don’t know if we have or not to be quite honest.

JH  I think Robin’s got a copy because I let him copy mine.

JC  Yes, that’s probably………………………I don’t know that we’ve got one.  I know that we’ve got a large black……(unclear)

JH  That’s something else I can look out for you if you want it.

JC  Yes, that would be absolutely splendid.  Because, presumably, the Home Guard in a way was quite important to everywhere during the war period and the kind of work that they were doing.  On top of their normal jobs.  


JH  Yes, it’s like George Raymond we said about earlier on, he was in that Secret Army sort of thing, Auxilliary Unit, and he was telling us how they’d go out on an exercise all night then come back next morning and had to start milking the cows when he got back.  Straight from Home Guard, no sleep all night.

JC  And with your dad being a sort of, or knowing about gardening, before he went into the milk factory did he grow a lot of your food.  Was ‘Dig for Victory’ something that happened here in Beaminster?

NS  All of the garden was full of …………………

JH  Early part of the war we started digging an air raid shelter under the apple tree wasn’t it.  And ‘course we dug down about three foot and there’s a river running by there which, the bedrock is the bottom of the river.  Well we got down to the bedrock and course the water started seeping in so we never had an air raid shelter.

JC  But lots of good vegetables.

JH  Oh yes father did all that garden and this one as well because this was all, well biggest part of that was his, but there’s another cottage on the end where the garage is that was a separate cottage and they had a little bit of garden but not much.  It wasn’t enough for us to cultivate there ……..(unclear)

NS  The privies were at the bottom of the garden as well. 

JC  Yes well, that’s something that today people wouldn’t even think about.

NS  It was during the war, or just after the war that we had the electric light and the water indoors.  We had to fetch our water everywhere.  Had standpipes along the streets.  You had a key to it to go and fetch your water and of course that was an event to be able to switch on a light and not have candles to go to bed with and so on.  

JH  This part of the house was just a shed wasn’t it, where father used to keep his tools and that there.  Mother was bringing on some chicken, wasn’t it, small ones.  Well pullets I suppose you’d call it and Christmas time she thought, give them a treat, she gave them gravy and, from the tongue, what she boiled the tongue, no it wasn’t the tongue I don’t suppose, it would be the ham wouldn’t it because it’s salty isn’t it.  And all the salt killed the chicken.  (Laughter)  Well, they died, a lot of them died.  I think it was the fact they’d had this salt, they drank all the water they had and made it worse, and they just didn’t have any water left to drink probably the salt killed them like that somehow or other.

JC  And what about the blackouts in Beaminster.  I mean was that very strictly …..?

NS  Oh that was fun too because my sister was 18 months older than me and she was that little bit, well I was more of a tomboy than she was.  She was always wanting make up and so on and she put this mirror in the window sill and it had to be blacked out you see.  Of course there was the policeman came round and knocked the door and said the light was showing and I’d forgotten the mirror was in the window so I pulled the curtains back and saw my own face there and screamed because I thought somebody had come on in.  (Laughter)  But you couldn’t have a crack of light showing anywhere.

JC  Well, it would be quite difficult being out and about with no light.

NS  Oh yes, it was.  Cars only had about that much light to see through.  Headlights and so on.  But going back to the evacuees when they came, I can remember that as though it was yesterday.  All these evacuees were in the playground at school.  We weren’t at school then, they must have come either weekend or sometime.  And they were all there and I can remember this girl, she stood out where I was concerned because her hair was so curly, and such a mop of it, and of course mine was as straight as……. and this turned out to be Kath Pomeroy – Kath McClaren – and course we’ve been quite friendly ever since.  She was in my class at school because we’re much the same age and it was quite funny.  My school friend………

JH  They were evacuated inTennants, weren’t they?

NS  They were evacuated in Tennants where father worked to start with but, we started school when we were three, day school this was, and my friend started at the same time and we’re still friends now.  About 74 years we’ve been friends.  We still, when we get together because we went hairdressing together afterwards so when we left school we went for apprentice hairdressing and the troops were in the flat above where we worked and it was the medics up there 

JC  Where was that?

NS  Down Prout Bridge, you know where the Chinese place is, it was right opposite there, underneath the arch.  It was a garage there and the hairdresser’s was just in under the arch there.

JC      And were you able to get the things you needed for hairdressing? How was the ……….(unclear)

NS   The shampoo we had to make up which was soap powder.  We boiled some water to mix it all up and we’d take a scoop out to heat it up each time to wash your hair.  It was quite fun really because these were only young boys before they went off to war and we were 14 and we thought that was marvellous really.

JC  I’m not suprised.

JH  You were 16 I expect, ’44.

NS  No, this was…………………

JH  I was coming up 14 in ’44.

NS  I was 14 in ’42

JH  Oh you’re talking about English.

NS  No, the Americans.

JH  Well, they came in ’43.

NS  Well I remember I was only 14, 15 when I was going with this chap.  This American.  That was another thing……

JH  Always one for her food.  She had a cook.  (Laughter)

NS  Oh yes.  He was in the cookhouse.  Had darned great steaks at times.

JC  Were you able to get some things from them because apparently they were very generous?

NS  Oh yes. We went up there and they’d cook a steak and slap it between two pieces of bread.  

JH  Course, there again, going back to rationing, Pines we were always registered with weren’t we, and Jimmy Hanson the sort of foreman up there, or whatever, he seemed to be in charge didn’t he? Mother used to say ‘go and see Jimmy Hanson and ask him if you could have so and so, and so and so……………………’

NS  Two pennyworth of broken biscuits…………………………..

JH  Usually above your rations because I suppose they must have had a surplus for a reason………..(very unclear) but he would look after the needy he would.  Jimmy Hanson would look after a family.  ‘Course, when I left school at 14 I had an allowance for taking sandwiches for work.  If you worked on the building line or if you had to carry sandwiches for dinners, you had extra cheese allowance and things like that.


JC  So what did you do because you obviously went into hairdressing when you left school……

JH  I went as a carpenter up at George Symes that was in Fleet Street……………

NS  He was a funeral director as well.

JC  So coffin maker as well!  (Laughter)

JH  Yes, and that wasn’t very nice either because he almost forced me into it.  With the Stoke Water House, the Beaminster Union, where the poor people lived and the ‘roadies’ as they used to call them which walked from town to town and have a couple of nights in a place like Beaminster Union.  Well, when somebody died down there we had to make the coffins’ which was a Parish coffin you know, paid for by the Parish.  So it wasn’t very long before I was making these coffins and then George Symes got hold of me one day, well he didn’t get hold of me, but he said ‘come on’, he said, ‘bring on the coffin’ and we put it in his car.  He used to take the front seats out, it was an old Hillman Imp, and slide the coffin in and then go off down to Stoke Water House or wherever because we did several like this and I and Tom Crabb would be with him.  Tom Crabb was a carpenter, an apprentice. Tom would get hold of the shoulders and head of the chap or woman, whichever, and I’d have the feet.  (Laughter)  And I remember going up to Mythe once, that’s a hamlet I suppose only a couple of houses, down off of Mapperton, down in the valley near Mapperton and there was a stream running by and Tom lifted the head in and I lifted the feet in but this woman’s socks had a hole in them and that cold flesh made you squirm that did, you know.  Afterwards of course, Tom would stay there playing around with them, putting their arms right and their heads right and make them pretty as he could you know and I had to stay in the room until he’d finished and, of course, once you disturb a body very often you get the body smells coming out which wasn’t very nice anyhow and you had to stay there and sort of hold your nose as best you could.  And when we did go out we washed our hands off in the stream I remember.  We had to take the coffin from Mapperton down into Mythe on a horse and wagon, you know a horse-drawn wagon, which was a couple of fields down across from Mapperton House.  You go down to Mapperton House and across a couple of fields down to Mythe.  I think the cottages have probably gone now but they were there then.

JC  Clearly Beaminster must have been a very, very busy place then in the approach up to D Day.  Because presumably a lot of the men would have been away at war and all these other troops arriving?

NS  Of course there were lots of young married women whose husbands had gone to war and of course when the Americans came, and there was all these dances and things like that we had.  I remember once we had, there was a talent competition in the hall which the Americans were putting on  and I wanted to go and mother said  ‘You’re not going’.   I was only about 14 or 15 I suppose.  There was this talent competition and so I went up and sang.  White Cliffs of Dover or something like that, sentimental war thing, and I won the ten shillings 1st Prize.  (Laughter).  Course I had to come home and say that I’d been because I had this ten shillings.  I didn’t see much of the ten shillings, mother was so pleased to have that, because that was a lot of money.

JH  That was something else used to happen, Mrs.Carter used to get up concerts didn’t she.  With the schools.  Boys School, she very often came up Boys School and if you thought you could sing, you’d go out and sing, you know, and then you’d have to go on the stage and do it in the concert if she caught you.

NS  That was the wife of the grocer that is now the Co-op.  Carter’s.

JC  So she was very involved in getting performances going.  That must have been all very home grown, the entertainment during the war?

JH  You used to have social evenings didn’t we, with W.I. and Mother’s Union, all that sort of thing.

JC  Whereabouts did they have most of the entertainments?

NS  In the Public Hall.

JC  It really was a focus……for the town.

NC  Oh yes.  When the Americans was here we used to have the First Division Dance Band which was a really big band wasn’t it.  Have you seen Rachel Bowditch?  

JC  No, she’s on my list.

NS  She’s got some photographs I think of the band.

JH  I was talking to Rusty Newberry and he said that he played with the American band in theTown Hall on different occasions.  He was a local school teacher.  I don’t know about then, whether he was a school teacher or not.

JC  And what sort of things went on in the town in terms of….. did you have things like War Weapons Week and Support the Soldier, and collecting Salvage and all that going on?

NS  Oh yes, all that going on.  And everybody’s railings and iron gates were gone.  They did take the……. 

JC  I knew they did take the gun away…………

NS  There was railings and everything taken away as well.  For the war, for the munitions.

JH  Before the Americans the British were here, the Scots.  Used to have the pipes and drums didn’t they and they used to do sword dancing in the Square there.


JC  They were exciting times………………………….. seeing people that perhaps you………………….

(Several very unclear sentences) 

NS  I think we’ve lived in one of the best areas and eras of….. well from 1928 until now so much has…..because I can remember my school friend used to live in South Gate and I was always down there or she was up here, I can remember when an aeroplane went over and I dropped the bananas and ran because I don’t like noise at all.  This aeroplane came over quite low, that was the beginning of the war, and I just ran back into her mother’s.

JC  And did you see any of the aircraft dog fights going on?

NS  Oh yes very early we stood out here which was a daft thing to do.

JC  We was up Dicky’s Field there, up Shorts Lane, with a couple of evacuee girls, chatting them up I suppose, and a couple of Focke-Wulf 190s came over.  They was really low.  They went over to Yeovil and bombed and machine-gunned Yeovil.  That was a hit and run thing thing they was doing after, you know, some time after the Battle of Britain I suppose.  But the soldiers and that, like we were saying about the British and that, they used to do their square bashing in the Square, didn’t they?  March up and down and all that sort of thing, rifle drill and whatever you know.   

JC  And do you remember V.E. Day and V.J. Day?  Were there celebrations in the town?

NS  Yes, a lot of things went on in the Manor House.  Not the Manor House itself but the field next to it that belonged to the Manor and they had fetes and things like that up there.  

JH  The Air Training Corps had a Gloster Gauntlet which was similar to the Gloster Gladiator and we used to wheel that up to the Manor from….. ‘cos we had it in the field opposite the ATC Headquarters which was in Whitcombe Road and we pushed the thing up there and reassembled it, put the wings on, and ‘course then they’d charge them like a penny a time to go and sit in the thing, something like that to raise funds for War Weapons Week or something like that.  And then eventually that one went back for scrap I suppose and we had a Hawker Hurricane then and we kept that for a time down, just inside where that road has gone in down at Parnham.  There was a road there when the Yanks was here and we……….. the Yanks put a road in and broke the hedge through to make an access for their tanks.  And we kept the Hurricane down there after the Yanks went that was I think.  After the Yanks went from Parnham we had the Italian prisoners didn’t we, then the German prisoners came……………

JC  And did you ever get to see any of these German or Italian prisoners?


JH  Oh yes, they’d walk around I mean they were all used on the farms.  They were all ‘honesty chappies’ I suppose, whatever, you know, no point in escaping because the war was won I suppose at the time and we had all the Germans wandering around anyway didn’t we?  Some of them had their jackboots on which didn’t go down very well.

NS   And Lenoy? Haggett married one didn’t she, and she lived at the top of the street. She married one of the Germans.

JC  Did that upset people or………..?

(unclear text)

JH  (unclear) He lives in Bridport doesn’t he?

NS  That family, one of them married a G.I. and she married a German.

JC  Did you take part in any celebrations at the end of the war?

NS  Oh yes, we joined in everything.  Any dances or anything we all went to.  

JC  Made the most of it?

NS  Oh yes.  And then the chap that I went with, Danny, he wanted to get engaged because my school friend she’d got engaged, and he wanted to get engaged.  And I said ‘My mother wont let me get engaged’ but he’d already bought the ring.  I was always very much for rings as a child, if I had any spare money I’d go to Woolworths and buy a ring rather than sweets or anything and so, I really wanted this ring and he said ‘Well have it as a parting gift because we shall be going soon’.  So I didn’t dare tell my mother about it.  We wore white coats for hairdressing to keep our tools and values, and I put this ring in and wore it when I was at work and put it in my pocket.  But, of course, when I came home I forgot all about the ring and just threw my white coat on the bed.  This ring fell out.  Well, the next day my mother found the ring – I didn’t know I’d lost it even – she found this ring and she did worry sick until I came home – she thought I’d stolen it from somebody ‘cos she knew what I was like for rings.(Laughter)  And I told her it was one Danny gave me as a going away present but she didn’t know he wanted to get engaged.  I never told her about that.


JC   Was all this sort of, young boys around in the town, did they all want to spend a lot of time looking at what the Americans had in terms of their equipment and their vehicles?

JH   We used to go out Parnham.  Along the river there they had an assault course across with telegraph posts they’d just balance across and several rope bridges, weren’t there, and a swing.  Well, we spent time going across their assault course and, of course, once you’d got over the other side their cookhouse was along that track, that road from Bridport Road up through, and of course there were a lot of stores just stacked outside, things that wasn’t perishable you know.  And, of course, you could…………… I remember Robin Mason always used to get a tin of stew, American you know, like a can of beans would be, about that size, and get these tins of stew and then he’d open them somehow and eat this stew cold out in the fields.  (Laughter) It was all good stuff.  And their pay rations which was in a box about 10ins by 4ins. by 1 1/2 ins. which was a ration for a day in combat.  Of course they was always available and there was chocolate and five cigarettes and a nutty bar or a fruit bar which was just a mass of fruit.   

NS  ‘Hushy Bar’ wasn’t it?  ‘Hushy Bar’ they used to call it didn’t they?

JH  Well that was for energy I suppose wasn’t it?  It was good stuff.  And well, several other things, biscuits and whatever you know, different sorts.  They varied a bit, they weren’t all the same you know.  I think probably a number or something like that.  We used to get hold of them sometimes, that was worth having.

JC  And I have heard about the milk factory and something called milk sticks.  I haven’t found out yet what these milk sticks are.

NS  It was, my husband used to work there.  It was milk powder.  It was for……………. if it came off the rollers and if they put a (? unclear) on it would roll up and it would make these sticks.

JC  They were milk powder (unclear text) in solid form.  Somebody else said to me they’d managed to get hold of those in war time when sweets were rationed.

NS  Yes, but that was all ‘hush, hush.’

JH  What happened is that the rollers had a feed of milk dropping on them continuously, the rollers were heated and by the time the rollers had gone round there was a knife that scraped off the powder and that used to flake off and fall down in the bottom didn’t it.  And then, well, if they put a knife along that, you know an ordinary knife along that knife with the roller, that would start it rolling back and you’d make a stick.

NS  Bit like a flake you know?

JH  But it was always better when they was warm I thought,when you could get them straight off the roller. If you knew anybody down there you could go in round.  Uncle Jack used to be on night duty sometimes didn’t he?

JC  Well I’ve heard a lot about these milk sticks.  I think they must have been (Laughter) (unclear text) A lot of people have……………

NS  Egg powder.  There was powdered egg in those days.  I used to prefer that to an egg.  It was nice, scrambled egg powder, lovely.  ‘Course Spam was all the go then as well.

JC  And I presume everybody was doing……… busy doing ‘make do and mend’ as well.  And a lot of the other things that were………………….

NS  Oh yes.  Of course clothes were on ration as well.  

JH  Another thing with the Americans we used to (the boys – I don’t know about girls) used to vist their billets you know.  You’d get friendly with an American and used to visit the billet.  We had our purposes because we had to go down the fish shop and queue.  Well, there was no queue. just the place was full up and you had to get to the counter as best you could and buy this, sort of like, five shillingsworth of chips.  And it was a big packet of chips you’d finish up with and you’d take them back to the billet and ……………..


JC  So was the fish and chip shop where it is now?

JH  Yes, same one  The cooking part was up the far end then, wasn’t, it and it used to be half full of people trying to get fish and chips.  

JC  And whereabouts were the Americans billeted then?

JH  Well, where I used to go there was a summer house on the side of the Manor.   On the right hand side looking at it, there was a summer house there and that was full of – wasn’t much bigger than this – I suppose it had about 8 or 10 beds in there and then at the far end there was a coach house which was no longer used because coaches went out and they had billets one end and showers up the far end and I think there was more billets up on the top, on the first floor.  I don’t say how many there was up there but I suppose there was 20 or 30 probably.  And there was the Red House down opposite the milk factory, that red brick house, that was called Red House.  That was full up with Americans.  

NS  The Masonic Hall.

JH  The Masonic Hall and up over where you worked, medics.

NS  Medics, was above the hairdressers.

JH  And there were some in private billets because Donald Bowditch, Rachel’s husband, he told me he had to sleep with this American they had up there because all they…………………

NS   Well Aunt Lucy used to put up the Americans then and just as well she used to live where Holland’s live now and she only had one son and of course they used to confiscate………. if  you didn’t have evacuees you’d have troops of some sort and she had the airmen. 

JC  So everybody really, if they had space, they had to have somebody with them?

JH  They had an airman up there staying who was in charge of a beacon which was a homing device which was taken from different parts, like different hill tops for a period shall we say on Beaminster Downs and then it was moved to Batcombe Down or somewhere like, of course, because it was their navigational aid for homecoming bombers.  It used to turn, well like a lighthouse going round and round, you know.

JC  Did people in the town know about it when the Dornier came down……………?

NS  Oh yes, next day they were all………. (unclear text)……….. they were all trooping up to see it.

JH  We had several crashes. Some Seafires from Yeovilton were practising dogfighting and they collided and one landed in Corscombe.  I don’t know where the other one went.  Somewhere in the same area I take it.  There was one, a Spitfire, crashed on top of Lewesdon wasn’t it?  We had a (? unclear – sounds like airspeedopter) crash only about 50 yards from that Home Guard bunker thing up on Mintern Hill (they call it I think) and well it was up Stamford Lane in the copse off of Stamford Lane where they crashed and of course they burnt because that was a wooden aircraft.  It was when the fire brigade and whatever, and the Home Guard I suppose that got there they was all, they say they were all sat there you know, just burnt.  That was British, that was four British aircraft, two Seafires, a Spitfire and an Oxford.

JC  So the German plane that came down, as far as you know, was the only one locally.

JH  Somebody told me there was one at Bradpole but that was the first I heard about that, that was about a month or so back.

JC  And was the……………….

JH  Parts of one on the beach at West Bay too, where we used to go swimming wasn’t it.  Out near Table Rock.

JC  And was the Secret Army of the Home Guard really that secret?  Did nobody really know about it? 

NS  Nobody knew about it, no.

JC  Because I thought it was incredible that it could have been a secret in such a little town as this, that it could have been kept a true secret for so long.  Qute amazing.

JH  There were only 6 of them in it and why Beaminster Home Guard like father, and the rest of them, didn’t know anything about it I don’t know because, I mean, Jack (?) ……………………(unclear text)

JC  But it’s still amazing they could keep it a secret

JH  John Wakely was a Sergeant.  Of course we had horses as well didn’t they, a platoon of horses because they was in with Bridpot lot and I think with Doctor……………………..

JC  Was that like a mounted Home Guard?

NS  Yes.

JH  Dr. Lake wasn’t he.  He was in charge of that.  So probably there was that many little tiny units and people just didn’t bother about……………. only their own unit perhaps.

JC  So Dr. Lake and his mounted Home Guard were they working in the Beaminster area as well?

Yes.  I expect John Lake could tell you more about that.

JC  Well, that’s amazing.  I can’t thank you enough.

NS  ‘Cos after the war the fair started again coming yearly.   and that was a heyday for Beaminster, the Square full of stalls and switchbacks and swings

JH  Steam engines.  The old steam engines like a tractor engine used to draw them all.  Townsend’s Fair Ground.

NS  Our childhood was good I think.  They grumble now they haven’t got enough to do and we’ve got to turn over backwards to entertain them or give them something to do.  We didn’t have anything to do but we had our own entertainment.

JH  We were always out in the fields doing something or other.  Digging camps or making tree caves or playing soldiers.

JC  It certainly sounds like it was a good place to grow up.  What would you say was the best of that having spent virtually your whole life in Beaminster.  

JH  Well, there’s no better place is there?

NS  There’s a good advertisement.  Well I wouldn’t want anywhere else.  I went to New Zealand about 15 years ago and that’s a lovely place and, if I couldn’t live in Beaminster, that would be the only place I’d really want to go. But I wouldn’t want to leave Beaminster anyway.  Everything’s here and everyone’s friendly.  Everybody knows one another – well they did do at one time.

JC  Thank you very much for being recorded because this will now just go on to our archive.  Lots of people, I hope will listen to your memories of Beaminster and feel a little bit about what it might have been like at those times when it was so different to the way it is now.  That’s brilliant.  Thank you so much.