Reg and Phyllis Bush






JC  So Reg can I talk to you first of all.  Can I ask you when you were born and where you were born?

RB  Powerstock I was born, 20th (?)  October, 1915 .

JC  And were your parents people who’d come from Powerstock originally?

RB  No they came from Sydenham (?) originally  (? unclear text)

JC  And what did your father do?

RB  Farm work.

JC  Right, and that’s what you carried on and did as well?  

RB  Well I started off doing it yes when I left school.

JC  So where did you go to school?

RB  Powerstock.

JC  Is it a little village school?

RB  Yes

JC  And how many people were there, how many children?

RB  I remember 130, 140.

JC  Right, so there was quite a lot of children in the school.  And then, after you went to primary school, where did you go then?

RB  That was the only school I went to.

JC  So you stayed for the lot then.

RB  I passed to secondary school but my parents couldn’t afford to pay you know.

JC  So you went straight into farming.

RB  14 yes.

JC  So, what year would that have been?  Someone do the maths for me.  1929.  So things must have been really quite hard then because we were going up towards the Depression then.  

RB  When I started work I started at 7 in the morning until 6 at night.  Six days a week and I told my grandson, last week how much did I get in today’s money would be 35p. (? unclear text)

JC  And what kind of farm work were you involved in?

RB  Everything, more or less.  You know you couldn’t do a lot when you went on first but you had to pick it up.  Even those days I could pack up a binder and things like that ‘cos we used to go with the carters you know, and one boy used to go with one cart and one used to go with another.  We knew exactly what to do.  We could put a binder together and take it apart easily at 14.

JC  And what kind of farm was it?  Was it …………………….

RB  Mixed.

JC  Oh you did both arable and animals.

RB  Used to have a flock of about 300 sheep.

JC  And how old were you when you finished farming?

RB  Well about ’46 I left, got a smallholding on my own then.

JC  You must have seen an enormous number of changes over the time.   I was particularly interested in what happened during wartime.  Do you remember when war broke out? 


RB  Well, more or less I can.  I wouldn’ say exactly to the minute you know.  You all knew when it happened.  It didn’t affect us much to start with, the first few months, apart from rationing when they started coming in.

JC  So presumably you got your gasmasks, you got your ration books and so forth.  Over the period of the war did that have a lot of changes then because I know there were things called the War Agricultural Committees which seemed to be able to tell you what to do.

RB  Yes, they used to come round you know, and when you had a calf born you sent it to market and that was the last you heard of it, you got 30s. back, didn’t matter what calf it was because it went through the government’s orders.

JC  So they actually arranged the buying of all things…………….

RB  Yes, we sent it to market and that was the last we heard.  Didn’t matter what size calf it was or what breed.  30s. 

JC  And did you have…………… how many workers were there on the farm you were on.  Did many of them go off to war or did most of them stay because it was reserved………..?

RB  Well, different factors started coming, started cutting down a bit.  (? unclear)  On the farm when I left probably 6 full time workers left.

JC  And did you have any Women’s Land Army workers during the war?

RB  Well a lot round here, I never worked with any of them that I remember.  I knew them don’t worry.  (Laughter).  There were two married chaps in Powerstock. 

JC  They really did make themselves at home.

RB  Oh yes.  They were stationed in Beaminster you see.

JC  So they were at the hostel?

RB  Right.  

JC  What about prisoners-of-war.  Did any prisoners-of-war work on the farms?

RB  Yes. Next door to where ………….. We went to the vicarage to live anyway, Powerstock, we had half the vicarage and I used to help the people next door.  I used to do the gardening and help the farmer next door.  Well, his son was in the Home Guard with me so we really knew each other you know, and I used to go with him to Burton Bradstock to pick up prisoners-of-war and bring them over when we wanted them for haymaking and things like that, extra jobs.  Burton Bradstock they used to be stationed.

JC  Oh, right.  What nationalities were they?

RB  German.

JC  They were German were they, POWs.  What were they like as workers?

RB  Very good.  The chaps we had – we always had the same two when we went – they were nice.  One of them, as long as you give him a pint of cider, would work his hands off.  The other one was a real………… he’d been a wine merchant, selling wine and that, in Germany before the war.  Always had a happy life you know, and then this come.  He was just as mad with Hitler as we were.  That’s life wasn’t it.

JC  Now, you said you were in the Home Guard.  When did you join up because I know it was started, the LDV was started……………….

RB  That’s right.  Local Defence Volunteers.  ‘Look, Duck and Vanish’!   (Laughter)

JC  Brilliant.  So you were a ‘Look, Duck and Vanish’?

RB  Yes, first day.  Within 24 hours of the appeal I was there.

JC  Really, because I know that ……………. I’ve read that there was a big surge of people wanting to join but I didn’t know if that was true in the country as well.


RB  Oh Yes.

JC  And did you get anything to shoot with?

RB  Not much to start with.  We got a couple, or three, rifles and few clips of ammunition but it wasn’t much to start with.  As it went on it soon built up.

PB  Nor any uniforms.

JC  And how many would have been in your …………. was it a Platoon you had?

RB  Yes, a Platoon yes. What would have been there in Powerstock?  We were connected to Loders.  Head office was at Loders, Colonel le Breton I don’t know if you’ve heard the name, he used to have the Court there where Hoods are now you know?  He was our top man.  We had our own officer there, Mr. Sanctuary, Powerstock, he was a  Captain, been in the army.  

JC  So he’d presumably been in the First World War?

RB  That’s right.  Yes.  We had a bloke (? unclear) been in the……. he was 57 or 8 I think, so he used to drill us ‘cos he’d had some of it, so he knew what to do.

JC  So whereabouts did you used to meet up.

RB  Outside the church in the street there, under the wall, and the vicar used to come – because we were living in part of the vicarage and we knew the vicar – he used to come there and take a service before we went off every Sunday morning.


JC  So what kind of things did you have to do in the Home Guard.  What were you expected to do, apart from ‘Look, Duck and Vanish’?  (Laughter)

RB  Well, sometimes they used to take us, we had to go down to Seatown, that was one of the places we used to go by night in case of invasion, Swyre we went, that’s about the only places we went I think.  We had to go on a lot of manoevres and as the time went on we used live ammunition for that even.   Course we got more ammunition too and different things and SIP Grenades and all things like that.

JC  How did you get your training when it came to using things like grenades?

RB  Well we had to learn, occasionally we had a big one up on Beaminster Down and all the Home Guards around had to go up and use it.  I suppose it was (? unclear) some of it. you know.   ‘Twasn’t shooting live ammunition I know because one or two of them never had the faintest idea.  Didn’t matter how much you taught them you know.

JC  So you were in more danger from them………………. (Laughter)  The Home Guard, I know, was stood down in about 1944 just before the end of the war.  What happened to all the grenades and the ammunition.

RB  Oh they came round and collected it ‘cos I was in charge of that at Powerstock.

JC  So where was it stored?

RB  Living at the vicarage at the time I used the big, store of one of the stables there.  And the SIP Grenades were buried up in the garden.  They were like, exactly like a lemonade bottle with the same clip on top you know?  So they had to go up there in case the tops rusted.  After about 6 months they’d come and change them.  (? unclear text) 

of officers, just smash the bottle and whoof!  I’d imagine if the tops rusted what would happen.


JC  Now Phyllis, I will probably come back and talk to Reg in a minute but can you first of all tell me when you were born?

PB  16th January, 1921.

JC  And have you always lived in this area?  Because, you haven’t got a local accent…………………

PB  No, I’m a Cockney.  Within the Bow Bells.  

JC  Why did you come down to……………………

PB  We were bombed out in the East End of London and mum was a Dorset girl so we come to her people you see.

JC  So really you came as evacuees?

PB  Well, more or less, yes.  

JC  Private evacuees, rather than a scheme.

(? unclear text).  

And presumably, the war had obviously had a big impact on you because of the bombing in the East End.   It must have felt so different.  Were you used to a country life?  Had you visited very much?

PB  Well I used to come down with a friend to Bridport, to my aunt’s there, for a holiday for a few days that’s how I knew her.  Never thought ever going to have to stay there because it was a different life altogether than London.

JC  It must have come as  a bit of a shock in some ways?

PB  Oh yes, you imagine the shops – everywhere you look in London there’s a shop isn’t there.  But you come to a country……………….. walk three miles before you find something to eat.

JC  And talking of finding things to eat. With rationing, times were hard?

PB  Yes.  Well, if you had a big family you were all right.  There were 7 of us, we weren’t too bad off.  We got…………… and mum was a good cook.  My mother, she could make a meal out of nothing.  A bit of corned beef………… if she had a bit of corned beef she could make a lovely meal.  She did a sort of stew and put the corned beef in at the last minute, split peas, lentils and things like that.

JC  So she really could make the most of what was available.

PB  She could yes.

JC  Because clearly we have been looking at lots of old wartime recipes and when you see how little the ration was it’s amazing how people ever fed themselves.

RB  One of the chaps, George who I was friendly with, had a milk round and he used to (? unclear) the milk before the war started so naturally he (? unclear) and I used to help him quite often the empties (unclear) Thursday night for delivery Fridays.   (? unclear

JC  And was it possible to get things off the ration?

RB  Well you could, odd thing or two, but not much you couldn’t.

JC  And Phyllis, were you able to pick up things like rabbits and that kind of thing?

RB  Well that’s what I mean.  You could pick up plenty of turnips, right time of year, swedes……..

JC  But not the things shops would sell.  And I gather that you, at one stage, worked cooking for the Americans.   Can you tell us how that happened.  How did that come about.

PB  Well I used to work in a restaurant, well a sort of cafe they called them those days, mother and daughter ran it and she had to have so many Americans you see.

RB  Well it was a small hotel really wasn’t it?

PB  Yes, it was in………….. (? unclear) it was over the terraces.  You had to go down a side lane.  The side lane is still there in Bridport.  You’d go down and come to the back of the hotel.  That’s where the Americans were.  They were very, very nice I must say.  They weren’t brash like they say they were.  I didn’t think so.  No.  They knew how to treat a woman, or a girl rather.  

JC  Yes, I gather they weren’t quite so restrained in some ways?

PB  What I mean is they made you feel somebody.  I mean the chaps in those days they couldn’t care less about you but the Americans made you feel like  you were somebody.