Friday, October 28, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (5)

By now, there was a "coastal ban" in force. It stretched for more than ten miles inland, and included the whole of the Rural District of Dorchester, in which Cerne was. Once you were lawfully within the area you could move about freely - so from Cerne you could go to Dorchester or Weymouth, but could not if you wanted to have any visitors from outside the area. You could not go to Bournemouth for instance, because it was in another area.

It was now the end of March 1944, the weather was warmer, and we had lunch in the garden one weekend and tea under the Giant.

Despite her dislike of the wartime years in Cerne, there must surely have been times when my mother appreciated the advantages of life in the country at that time. Coal was scarce, and one had to have a licence to obtain it - but wood seems to have been readily available. Full cream milk too, from Lord Digby's herd of cows, was delivered to the village by Lord and Lady Digby themselves. I remember watching Miss Kendall (Kay) skimming the cream off milk which had been left to settle in a wide shallow dish, in the traditional manner.

Unlike most of my later London school friends, I was no stranger to rich cream - but they used to turn up their noses at the small amount of thin stuff which passed as cream, which topped the tiny bottles of school milk that we were supposed to drink during our mid-morning break.

My parents grew their own vegetables, as everyone was supposed to do - not potatoes, as they did not have enough room, but most other things including fruit.

Surprisingly, scabies was reported to have broken out in some parts of Dorset in 1944.

On to April and Easter. My father reported that we had
"...started the day without an egg in the house, and by bed-time we had been given no fewer than seventeen by three different people. As you can imagine, we celebrated Easter with boiled eggs for breakfast!"

He had also noticed a great improvement in the quality of bread during the last few days, and there were quite a lot of oranges about.

My grandfather Squibb sent me some chocolate and a book for Easter with which I was very pleased, and thought Easter was almost as nice as Christmas. My father told him that I was well and very happy, and he was glad that I was spending my first few years in such healthy surroundings. He could not believe that I would like it when I had to spend part of my time in London.

It was now five years since my parents had decided to take the Pitchmarket. They had spent that Easter in an hotel in Wyke Regis, which had later been requisitioned at the outbreak of war. He remembered that the weather that weekend in 1939 had been beautiful the whole time.

Early May, and the apple trees were in bloom in the garden. They still had a few of the previous year's crop left, but the next weekend's heavy frost and a hailstorm knocked off a lot of the blossom, and there were fears for the strawberry crop too, which was in full flower. There were the first of the home-grown radishes for tea, and I watched the aircraft flying over the house.

My father was always afraid that I might inherit his poor eyesight, so he was delighted that I could see the tow-ropes on the gliders (which I called "ciders") and could also read the letters on low-flying aeroplanes. The year before I had been calling planes "cuckoos" and had seemed a bit scared of them, running indoors when I saw one - but now I was taking a great interest in them and included airmen, along with soldiers and sailors, in my bed-time prayers. It must have been about this time that I remember being greatly taken by the photograph of a pilot in a magazine, which I used to gaze at with great devotion!

Weymouth and Portland were among the major loading ports for the invasion of Normandy, and from 6th June 1944 to 7th May 1945, over 500,000 troops and over 144,000 vehicles embarked across the Channel from these harbours. For weeks before sailing, the troops were encamped in the Dorset countryside, waiting to be shipped across to France. According to my father, one of the chief objects of the coastal ban was to prevent women following the troops!

Certainly the ban seems to have made travelling by train between Waterloo and Weymouth much easier, for my father had no difficulty in finding a seat. This was in sharp contrast to a journey he had made between Cambridge and Liverpool Street that June, which he described as being one of the most uncomfortable he had ever had. He had been lucky even to get onto the train, as a good many people had been left behind, but he just managed to squeeze into the corridor. The journey to Cambridge had been rather a waste of time anyway: his case had been due to come before the magistrates that day, a Saturday too, but the defendant had paid up that morning.

Meanwhile my poor mother was going through the ordeal of gradually having all her teeth extracted. Her troubles had started in the January with the abcess, and her gums had now become very septic. By 1st June all her bottom teeth had been removed and a denture fitted.

My father had a mid-week appeal at Salisbury Quarter Sessions, and as she had never been to Salisbury, he took her with him, hoping a little change beforehand would help her with the ordeal of having the remaining teeth out on her return. They stayed at the White Hart Hotel, which was noisy with all the U.S. Army traffic passing by, but my mother seems to have enjoyed her visit, despite the early heraldic glass in the Cathedral having been moved to safety and some of the early tombs also being covered over. They went there and back by the Wilts and Dorset bus, and I was left in the care of Kay.

More teeth were extracted on their return, and the last not until June 18th. The last extraction had caused the poison from her septic gums to spread, and the entire trauma left her feeling very ill. The dentist told her she should feel a lot better after three months!

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