Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Five

baconDinner tonight  – bacon turnovers with beetroot and roasted brussels sprouts – was delicious and so satisfying I could only manage one course. The pastry was simple – flour, fat and water – and the filling easy – fried bacon, leeks and mashed potato. Roll the pastry into a circle, put the filling in the centre, fold the pastry over, seal the edges, then put in a hot oven for 30 minutes along with the sprouts which were roasted in the left over bacon fat. This would be a great – and incredibly cheap – recipe for leftovers of any kind.

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On to more of Anne’s memories of being a child evacuee during the war.

anne2013Were there many evacuees in Kippen? The ‘under -11s’ from Hyndland School were all there or in other villages around Balfron. I was lucky and made two ‘best friends’ – one a village girl, and the other from Hyndland.

How often did you go back to Glasgow? I don’t remember clearly, but I think not often, especially not at the start or until more raids seemed unlikely. It was more a case of Glasgow family coming to see us than our going there.  John (Anne’s brother)  came during his leaves and he and I explored the countryside around – memories which are precious to me.

How long did the journey take to Glasgow?  Did you travel by bus or train? By bus, which we picked up at St George’s Cross at the east end of Great Western Road. It took a little over two hours as far as I remember, winding through village pick-up stops – like a puppy-dog and lamp-posts. In winter it was a dreary run because of the dark, and the dim blue lights were to dim to read by.

Did you remain in Kippen over the summer? Oh yes, it was an unbroken stay, except for the occasional trip to Glasgow.  Towards the end my Kippen best friend came to Byres Road with me for a week.


Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Three

One of my writing friends – Mahrie G. Reid – will be taking over my blog tomorrow to give the Canadian perspective on Wartime Rations.  Mahrie writes mysteries with a touch of romance.  Her first novel, set in Nova Scotia and titled Sheldon Harris Came Home Dead, will be available this spring.  You can follow Mahrie on her blog at: mahriegreid.blogspot.ca


A very simple meal for dinner this evening: soup, corned beef hash and pear crumble. The hash was very simple and tasted better than it probably looks in this picture. Next time I make it I think I might add some onions.  And my husband insists corned beef hash isn’t corned beef hash if you don’t add a splash of hot sauce!

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Continuing with Anne’s memories of being evacuated to Kippen with my mother Mary, I asked her about some of the houses they lived in. I remember my mum telling me that they lived in the attic in one of the homes and she had to haul buckets of cold water up to the top floor to wash my brother’s nappies. What were Anne’s memories?

anne2013We stayed in a total of 4 different houses in Kippen. The first was on the main street, with a woman and her child (maybe her husband was in the Forces). I can’t remember much about the cooking facilities there, but do remember the kettle and one large pot of black iron, both 10-12″ high which were used on trivets on the living-room fire. (As I said before, we had oil lamps and battery-run radio.)

The next house was also on the main road and that was the attic one. One large attic room was already occupied by a lady of Mary’s age, called Mary T, and the two Marys were friendly.  Mary T was an amusing companion and a great mimic, the sort of person who can keep you laughing , so it was sad to learn later that she died of TB when she was 28. Mary and your brother slept in the other large room, and I had a sort of cupboard on the landing with a skylight, and a little camp bed only inches off the floor.

House no. 3 was right on the edge of the village and more than a mile from the centre in an area or sub-village called ‘Cauldhame’, so I had a very long walk to reach the bus-stop to take me to school in Balfron, and in the winter suffered from chilblains. Living there was OK because I’d made a friend of one of the village girls nearby. Her father had worked for the railway company and on retirement had bought a railway coach for their retirement home. That was interesting. But I can’t remember much about the inside of the house – maybe we weren’t there for very long, though its setting just beside a little wood with a stream was very pretty, so games like ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood were believable.

The last house was the most modern – a block of 4 flats in pale coloured masonry. We had the upper flat on one side, so there was a big flight of stairs behind the ‘front door’.  The occupier was a Mr T, a big, bluffly cheerful man who was the local gravedigger and presumably acted as a general groundsman when there was no-one to bury. He was kind and always in a good mood. I think Mother had him to stay a few days at Byres Road at least once – to see the Big City. We shared the living room with him, and Mary and I were in a double bed in a bedroom.  It was the most spacious of our billets.

Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Two

Week Four – I’m in the homestretch.

The disadvantage of words like ‘rations’ or ‘diet’ is the assumption it immediately creates of privation and hunger. Rationing in Britain was introduced to prevent both those circumstances. It was essential to the war effort that the civilian population was well fed so they could work in the factories and take on extra duties (eg. Air Raid Wardens) if Britain was going to win the war. And it was so successful that by the end of the war people were consuming approximately 3,000 calories per day!

But – I have to confess – when I weighed myself this morning, I discovered I’ve lost a total of 7 lbs in the 3 weeks I’ve been eating wartime rations! Seven pound weight-loss eating pudding every night and never feeling hungry!

Another confession.  I wobbled on my rations this afternoon. I was out for lunch and had a ham/lettuce/tomato and cucumber sandwich, even though the last three ingredients weren’t available in wartime Scotland in January. Next Monday – I can’t believe I’m saying this! – I’m looking forward to enjoying a tomato, cucumber, red pepper, celery and broccoli salad.  With a fresh orange to finish!

But for tonight, dinner was genuine January wartime rations: homemade vegetable soup, cheese dumplings with coleslaw and brussels sprouts, and apple crumble.


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Anne, my mother and brother moved to Kippen from Glasgow to avoid the bombing and this week she’ll be answering my questions on her experiences as an evacuee.

anne2013When were you evacuated and how long did you stay in Kippen? Shortly after Clydebank*, and I was there for about 2 years 6 months. To begin with I was in the village school for a few months until the ‘Qualifying Exam’ (like the later ’11+’); a nice overstretched headmaster  had to cope with all these extra pupils because Glasgow’s Hyndland School was moved ‘en bloc’ (teachers as well) to the village around Balfron, which was the secondary school centre.

What was the village like? Kippen was isolated on a loop road off the main Glasgow-Stirling road, so it was quiet with no passing traffic. It formed a cross with houses along three of the roads, and there was a stone cross at the centre. No side-roads – the fields began behind the little houses. I was surprised when I went back, out of nostalgia, in the early 1990s to see that little had changed – in fact the only change in the centre was that the Post Office had moved from one side of the main street to the other, and that was all except for a sort row of houses which had been built since I’d last seen it in the 40s.

*Clydebank Blitz – March 13/14 1941

Kippen – A village 20 miles north-west of Glasgow. Scotland.

Wartime Rations – Day Eighteen

Dinner tonight was two very simple courses.

mince slicesMain course:  Mince slices, from a recipe in We’ll Eat Again, using the last of the mince I cooked the other day. Mix together the mince (or any cooked meat) with mashed potatoes and breadcrumbs, turn onto a floured board, cut into slices and either fry or grill for about 8 minutes. Comfort food on a cold day.

Dessert: Fresh pear.

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What was it like being evacuated to a new school and then going back to your ‘old’ one?

anne2013For the first few months I went to the Kippen village school and sat the ‘Qualifying’ exam. It was fun, though the poor headmaster didn’t know what had hit him with all these new pupils that he could hardly accommodate. No wonder he appeared so distracted. Then he got another blow: pupils MUST have PE twice a week. He couldn’t accommodate that either and told us it would have to take place in the playground – weather permitting. As for gym shoes – “Dinna’ bother. Any old bachles will do.” I can still hear his voice.

As you already know, I almost hated Hillhead School and found Balfron with its many teachers from Hyndland much easier going, and I did well there. Back in Glasgow, it was back to Hillhead but this time the Secondary School which was just as bad as the Junior one. Then my parents gave me a choice: two more years at Hillhead or one year at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Commercial College in Pitt Street. Of course I opted for a year at the College – so here you see a woman with no school certificates whatever – not even the Lower Leaving one. (Partly because I’d had to repeat a year in junior school because illness had kept me away for nearly 4 or 5 months.) Still, I got by.

Wartime Rations – Day Seventeen

Tonight was an evening of leftovers, and struggling to not make them look like leftovers! Also, I’m trying to eke out our meat ration – one pound between the two of us for the week – over three meals.

Main course, cottage pie (mince topped with mashed potatoes, heated in the oven, then sprinkled with cheese and browned under the grill) with carrots and beetroot.


For pudding, the remains of the syrup cake I made the other day, with stewed apples and apple juice (liquid left over from stewing the apples) on top. My husband poked it with his spoon a few times, not too sure about the combination, but we both really enjoyed it.

I’m really interested in the war from a child’s point of view, so asked Anne some more questions about her schooldays. What was it like having to take her gas mask to school every day? Did they have air raid drills?

anne2013(Taking a gas mask to school was) a nuisance; it was on a string or tape over my shoulder. I never had a back satchel like many of the pupils; I always had to carry an attaché case – and over a mile to walk to get the school bus from Kippen to Balfron. But talking about the school bus: one day the bus didn’t arrive at 4 to take us home, and eventually we all started walking.

The two girls with me were all for getting to the front, but I encouraged them to hang back till we were the last of the crowd by quite a distance – I’d figured out that something would come up behind us to give us a lift! And so it turned out and we were able to wave to all the eager beavers ahead of us.

Air raid drills?  Oh yes, quite a lot to begin with, but they gradually tailed off.

Wartime Rations – Day Sixteen

Although I’m tending to have the same for breakfast and lunch every day – porridge, soup, sandwich/salad and fruit – I’m trying not to repeat evening meals.  At least the main course. So far I’ve been fairly successful.

beetrootThis evening (bracketed by soup and bread-and-butter-pudding) we enjoyed a homemade hamburger – 2 oz of minced beef from our 8 oz rations – mixed with breadcrumbs, chopped onion, seasoning and a little HP sauce to pull it all together. Along with that I made fresh beetroot and stoved potatoes (potatoes, onion, milk, seasoning, butter). I’ve never made the latter before, but they are almost identical to scalloped potatoes, only made in a pot on top of the stove instead of the oven. Fast, easy and tasted really good.

Following Anne’s mention yesterday of the Americans arriving in the UK, I received a question asking more about her memories of that time.

anne2013Can’t remember much about it. I suppose the main influx of US troops arrived sometime in 1942, but I would have been in Kippen, I think, for most of the time that forces were building up in Britain towards D-day. There were no US troops in Kippen! By the time I went back to Byres Road I was aware of them, of course, wandering in twos and threes around the city. I have the feeling they were mostly new arrivals or ‘on leave’. At least one of the big hotels, at Charing Cross, had been taken over as a residential US Army club, and most were to be seen around that area. I was still very young – about 13/15 – ages in those days still regarded as ‘children’* innocent of the world, and I gave them little thought.

*As somebody so rightly said, ‘The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there’. Certainly we were allowed to be children’ for much longer.

There had been severe warnings from Mother of course, but about soldiers in general, with US ones regarded as more dangerous because they had so much more money! So I was steered clear of them.

But I’ve found a BBC article which gives a lot of info, so try that. The article’s title is ‘How the GI influx shaped Britain’s view of Americans‘.

There’s also a great film called ‘Yanks’ which is worth checking out. This isn’t the best clip from it, but it’s the only one I could find on Youtube.

Wartime Rations – Day Ten

Tonight’s meal had the potential to be a disaster.

“We’re having minced beef pie, for dinner,” says I.

‘Hope it’s not like the pie my mother made,” my husband replies.  “I detested – detested – it.”

(To be honest, I never much liked my mum’s mince pie either.)

Strike one.

“I’d like to have something other than potatoes tonight,” says I. (I’m a bit sick of them.) “Is cauliflower with parsley sauce okay?”  What he hears is the second sentence, not the first, so when I served up a meal with no potatoes he produced a bit of a pouty lip.

Fortunately, the beef pie was goooood.

Mince Pie

For pudding I really wanted rice pudding, but according to Anne (see below) that wasn’t available.  I’ve been trying everywhere to get semolina instead, but couldn’t find what I needed. So, I don’t know if it was a cheat or not, but we had tapioca with a splodge of strawberry jam.   We also nibbled on a few fresh strawberries afterwards. At this time of year they are so sweet and juicy.


I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying having pudding every evening.  In ‘real life’ I rarely ever make them and was a bit anxious when I stood on the scales this morning.  Turns out I’ve lost 3 lbs since starting this eating regime. I can honestly – honestly – say I’ve never felt hungry once.

A few thoughts on pudding and fruit from Anne.

RICE pudding?  No, no.  You can only have semolina (unless you stocked up before September 39).  The best make of semolina was from the Marshall factories and was called Farola, but I don’t know when it came on to the shelves; a check on Wikipedia says Marshalls introduced their short-cut macaroni in 1935, but doesn’t give a date for the introduction of Farola.

Strawberries, yes – but I don’t know if they reached the whole of the UK.  In Kippen there was a huge fruit growers and I earned a lot of pocket money there.  Lots of children helped with that harvest and most went for the big fruits like strawberries because they were allowed to eat some while they picked!  I, on the other hand went for small ones – black and red currants, or jaggy ones – gooseberries, because the pay for those was six times that of strawberries.  Unlike you, I love gooseberries so did eat when I got to the big juicy dessert ones – red or yellow.   I suppose  you got these products in shops local to such nurseries – or as far as the petrol allocation let you take them.  

Wartime Rations – Day Five

Britain declared war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939.  Although that declaration was followed by fighting in Norway and U-boat attacks on British ships in the Atlantic, so little happened for the next few months, that people in the UK started referring to it as The Bore War.

That all changed on Friday, May 10th 1940.  At 2am, the Germans invaded the Low Countries.  Three weeks later their grip on mainland Europe became absolute when the last soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force – including my dad – were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.   It would be four long years before the British Army set foot on French soil again.

In 2009 I walked the 22 kilometre length of the Dunkirk beach with a friend. Unknowingly at the time, I took this photo of his dog tags very close to the spot where he actually stepped out on to the sands.

dunkirk beach

Getting back to my rations today.  No surprises when I tell you I had porridge for breakfast, eh?  Lunch was leftover Woolton Pie from last night with some Bubble and Squeak.  And then, treat of all treats – I had a piece of chocolate this afternoon.  My sweet ration is 3ozs of sweets/chocolate a week and I can’t tell you how wonderful that one single ounce of chocolate tasted.

Dinner was Beef Hot Pot and Beetroot (I’m really getting to like beetroot) followed by Apple and Rhubarb Crumble. Filling and tasty.

Rhubarb crumble Beef hotpot

A friend was telling me about how her father, who grew up in the countryside on the Isle of Wight during the war, was able to eat an egg for breakfast every day. When he got married and moved to the mainland, he was quite upset to discover his ration was now down to one egg per week – if they were even available.   When I mentioned this to Anne, she told me the following story.  I’ve never heard it before, and I think it’s a classic.

From Anne.

About the man from the IoW and his eggs – Yes, I’m sure that country folk fared better than us townies.  It isn’t easy to raise chickens in a city tenement, or to pot a rabbit or a pheasant with a shotgun.  Once when I was wandering alongside a stream in Kippen I came across a shot pheasant, dead but still warm, grabbed it and hid it under my coat till I got back to the house.  Mary (my mum) said she had no idea how to start preparing it so I’d better get on the bus to Glasgow and take it home.  Once there, I got the job of stripping off the feathers and then Mum, Dad & I had a good meal.  Took some of the best feathers back to Kippen to play cowboys and Indians.

Day One – Part One

Breakfast didn’t start off too well!  I got a bit distracted by my 21st Century e-mail and burned my porridge. However, in the spirit of ‘make do and mend’, I scraped the good stuff into another pan, added some water and heated it up.  Served with milk and sugar it tasted fine.

SoupOslo meal

Lunch was a bowl of homemade soup and an ‘Oslo’ meal.  During the war, this was used to described a wholemeal sandwich with a little cheese and salad filling, a glass of milk and piece of fruit in season.  I just went with the sandwich as I was having soup.  (Saving up my milk ration for a rice pudding at the weekend!)

For dinner tonight – ah, that delicacy has still to come.  My husband is eating out tonight, so for the first time since we got married (last century and then some!) I’m going to have cabbage and liver.  Cabbage and Liver!!  Wish me well.  But before then, here are some more memories from Anne.

Bread and potatoes were never rationed till after VE Day, but wartime bread was always tasteless and grey in colour, so looked unattractive.  When I was in Kippen (she was evacuated into the Scottish countryside ) we were several times taken out of school to help with the tattie-howking.

There were no choices, no brands on rationed goods – everything was put into the melting pot and labelled National Butter, National Cheese etc.  You had to sign up with one grocer, one butcher etc so you knew, for instance, that there was no point in joining a queue at any other butcher who showed a few kidneys (not rationed, neither was offal) in his window; he would turn you down flat because you were not one of his ‘registered customers’.  Other off-ration protein was tripe and we ate a lot of that – OK if you had onions.  Eggs were few and far between, sometimes none for weeks at a time – Eastertime of course, there were more around. Then there were dried  eggs: yellow powder in brown waxed cardboard boxes: only suitable for cooking with really, though if you weren’t too fussy and had spare milk you could concoct a sort of scrambled egg.