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BBC WW2 People’s War

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BBC People's War website

The BBC asked the public to contribute their memories of World War 2 to a website between June 2003 and January 2006. An archive of 47,000 stories and 15,000 images is the result. Learn More >

People's Memories

The following was taken from BBC WW2 People’s War – An archive of people’s memories
People in story: Joyce Marson (nee Stringer)
Article ID: A7083362
Contributed on: 18 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Dorothy MacKenzie for Three Counties Action on behalf of Joyce Marson and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

We lived on the Isle of Wight and during the war every night my mother used to fill all the saucepans and bath with water ready for the incendiaries. We eventually moved beds downstairs to the dining room and we would change into a separate set of clothes (not night clothes) to go to bed in. We always had a bucket and stirrup-pump handy. On Sunday morning when we listened to Neville Chamberlain saying we were at war, we were cutting up stockings to fill the cracks in the floorboards to keep the gas out. We also taped the windows.

We would take the cream off the top of the milk to make butter; my stepfather had made a churn. We were sent parcels of tea and sugar from India by my step-grandmother. We kept chickens for eggs and an allotment for vegetables. My stepfather preserved tomatoes, beans and fruit. My mother was with the WRVS to help with National Savings.

We attended a sewing party in the afternoon making long stockings with oiled wool for seamen. We knitted woollens from unpicked wool. Old saucepans went for the making of Spitfires. Living on the Isle of Wight we were the recipient of bombs that didn’t reach Southampton or Portsmouth.

At age sixteen I worked as an assistant in the local county library. I had to do one night a week on fire watch in the building. We had stirrup-pumps and buckets at the ready. We used to go out of the library and watch the ‘dogfights’ and we cheered ‘ours’ on during the day.

When I was eighteen there was conscription. I had the choice of working in a factory — I wanted to be a land girl but this was not available, so I went into nursing in the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital.

The food was poor and there was a shortage of domestic staff as women were in munitions and war work. We made the tea for our breakfast. Lack of plates for our meals was a problem and we had to wash up the plates before being given our pudding. There were weevils in the rice pudding. Matron oversaw rationing. We each had one week’s ration of cheese, butter, — all on one plate and a pot for sugar — and it went everywhere with you!

On night duty we cooked our own food from a supply of thinly sliced meat with gravy and potatoes. Fried bread in liquid paraffin came up well - very crisp. Our parents subsidised us with eggs etc.

On nights, just before D-Day the Solent was jam-packed with ships of all descriptions. One almost felt that one could walk from the Isle of Wight to Portsmouth on them. We saw the development of the Mulberry Harbour, which was used for D-Day. These weird concrete caissons — we didn’t know what they were for until they were used on D-Day. On the morning of 6th of June, the Solent was empty, and then we knew that something was underway. We had orders to clear a ward to take casualties, mainly merchant seamen.