Welcome to the New Year 2008 On-Line Edition of
Waterlooville's Parish Magazine
St George's News

Ruby's Memoirs

Chapter 2. The Great War

Life, during the 14-18 war, was very simple. Food of course was short and little choice, there was no doubt about that. Sugar was always in demand, no sugar in tea, it had to go for jam making, in those days coffee was not drunk very much and never by children. There were no sweet sugary cakes, cream was unheard of. Home made soda cake was a weekly ration, which started on Saturday, and a piece every day. It quickly went stale as it was made without eggs, if the hens weren't laying there were no eggs. In more plentiful times of the year they could be preserved in a jar full of some glutinous liquid but they were not very fresh when used. Porridge for breakfast, sometimes with golden syrup. There always seemed to be enough milk which was delivered by a milk man in little pint or two pint cans with a lid. I don't know when bottles were first used, I think it must have been after the war. People had allotments but for most it was the 'digging up' of a former well cut lawn that was used to grow the vegetables. There were money raising efforts at fetes where prizes were given for the largest marrow or straightest bean. A pig was sometimes kept in the garden if it was big enough to be away from the house. Chickens were more popular as all scraps from the house could be used and potato peelings were kept and boiled, then mixed with bran and Karswood Poultry Spice for the hot meal in the evening. I don't think anything was wasted when you kept chickens.

So the war continued with all its ups and downs, cheers and excitement when somebody was coming home, very often wounded wearing the well known light blue suit of the Hospital, but at least alive, or a telegram which told the worst. We saw a Zeppelin in the sky coming down in flames during an air-raid and there was a search light operating on the common where the earlier camp used to be, so we knew when a raid was expected as these lights were switched on but the beam covered until the raid was nearly overhead and then it was everyone downstairs crammed into a small space under the stairs. Whether it would have saved us I never found out. I don't remember any of us being ill during these nocturnal adventures or at any time during the war for that matter, except for a bad flu epidemic which did kill quite a few civilians. I don't think the doctors could do much about it apart from telling you to stay in bed and keep warm. Doctors then were quite old and I expect very overworked as the younger ones were either with the troops or working in the many hospitals which had been opened. We lived quite near the now famous Roehampton Hospital for the Limbless, and the Star and Garter Hospital at Richmond which looked after the permanently injured. It was here that The Earl Haig Poppy Fund was inaugurated. There were many amateur shows staged at these hospitals for entertainment to help break the monotony of the life there. The dancing class I attended was always being called upon to produce some display which the men seemed to enjoy greatly. Money was also raised in this way to help the refugees, the homeless, and for many other reasons, so life was pretty full for all children, and passed very quickly.

Then the great day arrived and the Armistice was signed and the war stopped, at 11 o'clock on the 11th November 1918. We were all assembled in the Hall, told the news and given the rest of the day off. The celebrations went on for weeks and there was great excitement at the de-mobbing of the Services and the re-uniting of many families. No one thought much about the future and the 1920's became a time of new ideas, cars became very popular, £25 would buy an Austin Seven, a baby car. £100 was the price of a new Ford car but even at these prices the masses couldn't afford one as the workers were still badly paid, so along came discontent and troubles.

I did not know very much about all this as by now I had passed the entrance to the Godolphin and Latymer Girls school at Hammersmith and enjoyed every minute I was there. It had a long history which started as far back as Elizabeth 1st reign, before there was any compulsory schooling for the poor at all. Edward Latymer was a wealthy man at that time, and dying in 1628 his bequest included the instruction to clothe and feed eight poor boys from Hammersmith between the ages of 7-13 years old who had to attend a primary school where they were taught to read English, be instructed in religion and kept from idle and vagrant courses. On reaching the age of 13 they were equipped with a bible and prayer book, allowed to keep their school clothes and bought an apprenticeship but had to wear the Latymer Cross on their sleeve. This type of endowment for schools was gradually spreading through the larger English cities, but nothing was done about educating girls. There was another of these bequests left in 1696 by Sir William Godolphin also in Hammersmith and eventually one of the schools there suffered competition from St. Pauls Boys School recently opened in the same area, so the Latymer Foundation joined with The Godolphin Foundation, took over the school and eventually it was opened as a Girls Secondary School in 1906 known a The Godolphin and Latymer Girls School. History has always fascinated me and here I was at the age of 11 well established in a school with such a history. It is amazing to think how girls were treated in those early days of education for all children. Clever girls, of which here were many, were not encouraged for further education. If they did go on they were known as blue stockings and were looked upon as being somewhat odd. Little did people realise what a change there was going to be in the 1920's with women encouraged by suffragettes. There came the realisation that they could do other things besides making puddings, pies and tapestry. The war had lifted a curtain for them at last.

Ruby Bullock

to be continued.

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