This is my aunts story ( Joan Punter, nee Toller )- as she wrote it- March 2005.
I was born in 1940 so war was a normal state of affairs for me and my sister. The family ( grannie, aunts, uncles and cousin ) all lived in Oxford Road Cambridge. My father was away fighting the war in France, in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Uncle Bill was in the Fire Service and Uncle George was in the R.A.F. so men in uniform was normal. Uncle Russ and Uncle Arthur worked away some of the time in munitions, so ours was a world of women.
We grew our own veg and salad, kept the allotment going to help Bill, with chickens and pigs to feed. We made our own clothes often and baked cakes and pies.
Nights were spent sleeping under the air-raid metal ) table, surrounded by wire mesh on a red cross blanket. We had an Anderson shelter in the garden, which was cosy but cold and damp. We also went in the cupboard under the stairs when the siren went, and took it in turns to sit on the gas meter! Luckily for us the bombers which came over Cambridge usually headed up north to bomb our factories which made munitions, but I remember the sickening siren sound, followed by bombs exploding. My daddy was driving these baddies away, and he later told us how he came back from Dunkirk with bombs dropping all around and near their boat. He kept saying " Please God get me home to my wife and children."
I was five when it ended, and all I remember then was red, white and blue everywhere, street parties, and best of all a new baby brother! ( Sadly I had friends whose daddy never came home as ours did.)
Joan ( nee Toller )
These letters belong to my aunt Joan Punter ( nee Toller ). These contain interesting home front information and political views of the war. They were written by my Great Aunt Marie to her husband George Cruden. ( both now deceased. )
In several of these letter Marie refers to George as Peter Precious- as she was a Catholic from Ireland and didn't want to introduce him to her family as George ( the English kings name ) she called him Peter.
Boxing Day [ Cambridge ]
My Own Dearest & Best x
Well, here we are — another Xmas passed & we have had a most happy day but one & all were sorry that you were not with us- & of course theres no need to add what I felt & for you to say what you felt- but the fact was that we all had our drinks at 1.30 sharp- in the middle of cutting up the turkey & we one & all drank to you first & we hope that you were able to get a quite minute to do the same with us. We had plenty of drink & the turkey was just lovely. 15lbs. & the plum pudding mum was delighted with the rum you sent. Thanks were so for your Xmas card darling, it was lovely. By the way we had a large size egg flip & guzzled the lot in 2 sittings you boy.
Con [ Georges sister ] had her Xmas tree & it was larger that she has had other years, but the trouble was to get stuff to put on it anyway we didn’t do so bad. Your number was 6 & mine 10. I got a little old parcel tied up with a bootlace, no bigger than a finger nail- & caused some shrieks by its very size anyway, I opened it & what? A blinkin’ penny & two back studs!! Well I couldn’t resist seeing what you had & found three toffees & 2 cigs. Bill [ George’s brother] got a beautiful pink cushion cover, Ivy a brooch, Con some stocking mending silk, others got some bars of chocolate. Con had some candles on the tree & we outed the light & lit it up & Val [ Con’s daughter ] gave us the prizes she was terribly thrilled with that while we all sat round eyes & mouths wide open in anticipation we then played Newmarket & Brown Anchor& Con won 10/- after 2 hrs play. Then we had some music & my heavens what a row!! We just took it out of the piano me- but old Ivy & Russ had a few drinks & were a proper couple of coons- I laughed ( with the rest of course )- till I felt really sappy but you’d have laughed “fit to kill” if you’d have heard ‘em anyway, we turned in at 2o/c am. I got that song called “Yours” so we have had our bobsworth out of that already. Well, darling x have just had a Guiness & wished you everything of the best & only wishing with all my heart you were with us. X Have you been busy helping the other blokes to drinks? Did you have a party after all? Its bitterly cold today but we are warm & comfortable & my word thanks to mother, you wouldn’t think there was a war on. But theres simply no drink to be brought. Well sweetheart, its now dinnertime, good old roast beef of old England & horseradish! Lovely! Well cheerio sweetheart this is just to let you see I’m thinking of you in spite of all this pleasure & noise. Russel [George’s brother] is not going back until Sunday, so if you get this in time you will know he is not about until then. I shall D.V. be going back on that 5.15…. Russel didn’t get in until 9.30 when he left you, so you see how late trains are. Well, cheerio sweetheart all love xxxx love & always xxx Marie xxx
These letters belong to my aunt Joan Punter ( nee Toller ). These contain interesting home front information and political views of the war. This letter is one from George Cruden's mother Ada Broom, who lived in Cambridge.
95 Oxford Road
August 1st 1945
My dear George,
Thanks for letter glad to hear you are keeping well, & trust something will soon turn up for you either a nice shop or a nice house... Bill [ brother ]said he has not heard any more about that house at Harston , there, that big shop for sale & to let the corner of Glouster Street that said to be a cycle shop and another the corner of Parkers Piece that said to be another house. no doubt there will be lots soon as there are a lot of people going away. Glad you have got yourself a watch for you will get over that, sorry I am not able to send you a cheque to help you on a bit, it is very nice when a fellow & parent are well off though to give help now and again in stead of the other half about. Well dear Marie will be here after Friday or Saturaday & it will be rather nice if you turned up to.
your loving mother
As written by my aunt Val Burroughs ( nee Toller ) March 2005.
Food and Clothing
My uncle Bill had allotments where he kept pigs and poultry ( chickens and turkeys ). We therefore had veg and eggs. Chickens was a treat. Sometimes Uncle Bill would kill a hen that had stopped laying and it was cooked in a saucepan as a "broiler".
We brought rationed fish from the MacFisheries and rationed meat from Roses the butcher in Petty Cury [Cambridge].
At Richmond Road School, I was one of the children who was selected to recive cod liver oil of malt, administered daily by the spoonful to each child as we queued. A crateful of sm bottles of milk stood warming in the hearth in Miss Chandlers classroom.
At the end of the war we relished the idea of fruits we hadn't had before, like bananas. At our Victory party in Richmond Road we were given ice-cream for the first time, although a neighbour who worked in a hotel did used to bring home small bars of yellow 'ice cream'.
A neighbour, Mrs Kidman, used to spend some of her sweet coupons on me and would give me turkish delight. At the end of the war, the first influx of sweets included 'wrapped soft-centered fruit sweets from Poland-an inch and a half long with pictures of fruits on the paper wrappers.
At Easter my mother would make me an Easter egg. She would melt chocolate and pour it into two bakelite egg cups. I remember sitting by the radio, watching these set, placed in front of the radio. They would be stuck together when set.
We would go to the clinic at the Methodist Church on Castle Street where we recived concentrated orange juice that you would mix with water.
Clothing rationing, combined with low income meant that families were glad of second hand and refashioned garments and bedding. We were thrilled when the Red Cross gave my sister and me a cardigan each because our father was a solider, ( my mother recived a bedspread ). Our wardrobes were never full like they are now. Our blankets had to do for several years and would be passed from one generation to the next. Some of them were thin with no fluff left and often bore the utility mark. Overcoats would be piled on top of bedding to add extra warmth.
Coal was rationed. We would awake to frosty fern patterns on the inside of the bedroom windows. When I was confined to the front bedroom for weeks with Scarlet Fever, I remember Miss Chandler bringing some of my class-mates to wave to me from the other side of the road. Mrs Fletcher, the milkmans wife, gave me some jelly- an unobtainable treat!
All scraps of food like vegtable peelings were collected in the pigswill bins that were found at intervals along the kerb-side, ours was next to the telegraph pole outside 112 Oxford Road. As Uncle Bill kept his own pigs and chickens, scraps also went to them. I remember the smell of potato peelings boiling on the gas cooker and then they would be mashed into chicken food that looked and smelled like bran. My auntie would carry it to the allotments each afternoon in buckets.
A well provided water and I warned to stay away from it. Horses and carts delivered milk, vegtables etc. The milk came in bottles with cardboard tops. If you pressed out the centre you had a ring on which to wind wool to make a pom-pom to decorate clothes or to play with. I remember watching the greengrocers horse eating from its nose-bag outside our house and then tossing its head to reach the remains at the bottom of the bag.
Val Burroughs ( nee Toller )
As written by my aunt Val Burroughs, March 2005.
Living with the horrors of war
Very early on in the war my father [Ed Toller] nearly lost his life. He was running across the battlefield with German planes overhead. Apparantly he could see a pilot shaking his fist. He dropped his mouth-organ and his prayer book, but, prayed "Lord, let me get home to my wife and children." He did.
I remember my mother [Connie Toller] and auntie watching the distant sky to the south of my back bedroom window. My auntie was crying as she dreaded the bombs were hitting Linton ( her home village ) as the sky was lit up in that direction. During night-time air raids the wardens would tell my mother to get inside my granny's house as she would look out of the front door to look out for planes. During day time raids, I remember my gran and mum heaping furniture as a shelter over me e.g. the settee tipped back to reach the piano with me underneath. At night we sometimes slept under the " shelter table" a heavy duty metal table in the living room, with caged sides. Sometimes we would shelter in the cuboard under the stairs where my toys were kept, I don't recall being frightened.
One day my mother was taking us out for a walk, pushing the pram along Madingly Road, when a truck driver asked her the way to the American cemetery, he told us he had a "load of guys on board."
One of my friends, who lived at the back of our house, in Richmond Road, Eileen, lost her father when he became ill with beriberi through deficiencies in his diet out in a foreign country where he was in active service.
Uncle Bill was in the fire service, so was in the front line when it came to dealing withbombing raids. Once, when driving fast he was convicted of speeding! Even fire engines had restrictions put upon them.
Of course, it was damaging to family life to have husbands and fathers away for six years. We hardly knew our fathers when they came back. I remember my mother cleaning and polishing the house and making herself look pretty when my father was coming home on leave. Then when his leave came to an end, there was always the sadness of parting. I would stand at the door with my nanna, my fathers mother, and watch mum and dad walk up Oxford Road. We never knew if he would return, of course. The telegraph boy, on his motorbike, was an unwelcome visitor to our road. He might be delivering a telegram of congratulation or good wishes, on the other hand, he might be on a sinister errand with the news that a loved one had died in active service.
I remember the day men arrived to remove our house railings from the front garden. I watched them at their devastating work of taking every bit of iron to build tanks or amunition. Those railings were never replaced.
Val Burroughs ( nee Toller )
About Michelle's Cambs History
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