Marion Clare’s Memories



BlackoutRationingAir-raidsWar workLove.


I lived in Bradford.  My earliest memory of the war years was before war started. We were on holiday in Portsmouth and decided to take a day-trip on the ferry to Boulogne. The French made us very welcome and we were swept along in a crowd to a champagne reception in the Town Hall – lots of speeches, all in French. In the evening, as the ferry was about to leave, the quayside was filled with French people and everyone rushed to the ferry rail. They sang the Marsellaise and our National Anthem (it was all very emotional and moving) – but all I could think of was that if anyone else rushes to this side of the boat it will tip over and we will all end up in the water – I was 13 at the time!


The Blackout

I lived in Bradford. At the start of the war, petrol was rationed and, because of the blackout, all car headlamps had to have special metal hoods with just three pencil-like slits. My father owned a garage and one of his customers asked him to collect his daughter and her friends from school in Hunmanby and bring them back to Bradford, because of the danger on the East coast. It was winter and foggy and he had to drive with these inadequate lights over the moors in the dark and the fog. He didn’t get home ‘till the early hours and we were very worried wondering what had happened to him.

      The blackout was a problem but until my sister was called up we could always go out together. I remember one night walking down our long road and we heard a man’s footsteps behind us, so we hurried – and he hurried, so we ran – and he ran after us. We crashed through our gate and got to the door to hear him coming through the gate after us – and found it was my boyfriend. He’d been trying to catch us up, so he could walk us home safely!



Food became an increasing problem. The meat ration was 8d per week each – as there were five of us mother had 3s 4d a week for meat for every day. Kidneys, liver, sausages etc. were not rationed but ‘under the counter’ and had to be queued for. Mothers did a great job of feeding us all. One day she couldn’t think what to have for pudding. On the wireless was a recipe for steamed pudding using potatoes (mashed) in place of flour. As mum had no flour she gave it a go. Having filled up on mashed potatoes in the first course we eagerly awaited our steamed pudding. It had blackcurrrant jam on top and looked good. Unfortunately it tasted like mashed potatoes with blackcurrant jam on top. We had a good laugh, if no pudding. 

      Lard was rationed, so it was very difficult to bake cakes or to make pastry – that was a special treat. I remember that once we went to a friend’s party, and when we walked into the room the table was full of cakes and pastry. We thought that the family must have been saving up their lard ration for months to provide such a spread. Her mother said, ‘Go on. Don’t hold back. Be greedy.’ So we were. We all tucked in and ate as much as we could. After we had all gorged ourselves, my mother asked how they had managed such a feast – ‘Oh it was easy,’ said the woman. ‘I heard on the wireless that you can use liquid paraffin in pastry instead of lard.’ Liquid Paraffin is a laxative! When we were all walking home, my sister started walking a little faster than the rest of us, then my mother passed her, walking faster still – then my father passed them, jogging. By the time we got home, we were all running as fast as we could, trying to get to the toilet first!

       It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We could always bring friends home for supper. Fish wasn’t rationed but was expensive so mother would always cut the fish and batter it to make sufficient portions. If there was nothing else we just had chips. Anyone who hasn’t tasted chips fried in beef dripping with the jelly making them tasty, hasn’t lived.

      Because we were in a comparatively quiet part of the country, we had a six year old evacuee. Sweet ration amounted to one Mars bar a week so we all gave up our sweet ration to her. One day she asked if she and her friends could have a picnic on the lawn. Mother said she could but it would just be jam and bread. Their faces fell – so she went inside and came out to tell them that she could make jam sandwiches. They whooped with joy, not realising it was the same thing.

    Clothing coupons were difficult. There were no nylon stockings; nylon hadn’t been invented. Silk stockings were a luxury for the well off or fortunate. My boss had to go to America on business and he brought me a pair back. Laddered stockings were a problem but in town there was a shop called Parisienne Pleating who did invisible mending for 1s 6d per run. Expensive but it saved coupons.

      Later on in the war I became Secretary to the Wool Controller and Bradford was visited by a very senior member of the Royal family. While going round one Mill she ordered yards and yards of flannelette to make several nighties. No one dared to ask her for her clothing coupons and we had a great amount of hassle trying to sort it out.



Fish and chip shops were open and fish was 2½d and chips were 1d per portion. One evening a friend home on leave came to visit and we bought fish and chips. Before we could eat them there was the high pitched whistle of a descending bomb. We went into the hall (the strongest part of the house) and waited . We heard the explosion and waited for more. My sister said, ‘blow the Germans – I’m not having cold fish and chips’, so we went and ate them. The bombs were from a stray German bomber who had missed his target. All his bombs went off in a wood about a mile away.

      Because ours was a mainly textile area we didn’t get much bombing. However we had to be alert and had to patrol the streets at night when they were dropping incendiary bombs. The bombs landed on rooftops, penetrating the tiles and starting fires in lofts. Mother and I did a night patrol (once a month, or week, I can’t remember). We got to know the difference between the engine noise of German bombers and our own, and if fires were started we had to alert the fire patrol who had buckets of water and stirrup pumps to take into people’s lofts to put the fires out. It was very successful. It wasn’t so bad in the summer because the hours of darkness allowed time for a sleep before or after patrolling, but in winter we went to work feeling decidedly tired.


War work

Women were brought in from all the area round about to work in the factories. Some of them were a bit rough. I remember that we threw a party for them one evening; we put on a dance. Halfway though the evening, one of the girls came over to us. ‘This is great!’ she said excitedly, and she threw her arms up to that we could see her armpits: ‘Look! I’m sweating under both arms!’

      Part of my war was spent as a nurse at the local hospital. When the wounded soldiers started to come in we all had to be vaccinated against smallpox. We only had one week’s holiday a year and they arranged our vaccinations to coincide with our holiday – so I spent my whole week in bed with a temperature of 103º. At the time I was pretty fed up and felt it was a mean trick but I realised later that they couldn’t cope with sick nurses and wounded soldiers – and their sacrifice made my lost week look a bit pathetic. Because of staff shortages the food in the hospital sometimes left a lot to be desired. I remember, when the nurses on my table found creepy-crawlies in our lettuce, we lined them up on the white cloth and laid bets on which one would win. Caterpillars were the best bet – not speedy, but they kept going the same way!


Love in the War

While I was at the hospital my boyfriend got a 22-hour pass from his RAF station but the hospital would not let me have time off to see him. However, 12 student nurses and a sister were to visit a sewage works as part of our training and they said that he could come with us. So we spent his short leave walking round a sewage works – how romantic!