View Full Version : Half Navy Christmas 1940 !!

21-12-2009, 10:59
My son asked about wartime Christmas (while we were agreeing no Christmas Tree, the cats would try to climb it)

In 1940 my father was at Ganges as an instructor, and all sorts of 'activities' were taking place there; apart from the piggery (unofficial) run by one of the instructors in his off duty time, there was also a 'hen pen', run by another instructor, where birds were fattened up for Christmas (?also unofficial?) and those participating contributed in whatever way - and there were eggs, of course, the shells fed back as grit to strengthen the laying-hen diet and make sure shells were strong, not weakened by a diet of waste from the canteen.

Our butcher in Portsmouth was not doing well for poultry, the 'specimens' were (my mother's words) scrawny. Father said, don't worry, I've got Christmas leave, I'll bring something down.

The 'something' turned out to be 'Cardinal Wolsey', a very large red cockerell with very long legs - and a very loud voice. The neighbours commented ........

Somehow my father brought him from Shotley to Portsmouth in a large cardboard box and we fed him up for few days before Christmas. My father (a countryman at heart) did the dirty deed, cutting off head and feet, my mother stripped off the feathers (made me sneeze) and my father removed the 'innards' and hung the bird in the outside wash-house (over the old laundry copper, to catch the drips .. ) for 24 hours to settle.

My job was to mix the stuffing, mother stuffed the bird and cooked the 'respectable' innards to make a good gravy, my father stitched it up (sailmaker's small needle) and tied the bird for cooking. He put the week's bacon ration over the breast to keep it moist. I remember it now (even as a vegetarian!)

Nowadays I have nut-roast, and my son makes his own arrangements !! Christmas is very quiet, always was for us, in those days it was the neighbour over the road, with piano, who led all the Christmas sing-song.

Good memories !!!

All the best, Edna

Dave Hutson
21-12-2009, 11:39
Hi Edna, There you go again with the memory jogger.

We kept rabbits and chickens at our house in Brighton and it was always a wrench when it came to which ones were going to get the chop. But Grandad on one side used to do the dirty deeds and his choice coupled with his homegrown veg [no sprouts until the first frost was on 'em].

My other grandad had a smallholding on the land which is now occupied by the Sussex University and he grew everything ... supplying as many as he could for Xmas Day / Boxing Day including the German Prisoner of War Camp nearby ....... a couple of them used to work on the Smallholding and I remember a German POW butcher [of meat] who worked in the town and after the war stayed on and opened a string of butchers shops under the name Major.

Happy Memories of growing up in Hard Times.

All the best to you and yours once again and keep them memories coming.

Dave H

22-12-2009, 12:34
Thanks Dave,

Glad you enjoyed it!!

The pudding was the less-navy bit; my mother usually mixed enough for three puddings, which had to be made on 'Stir Up Sunday' - first in advent, 'Stir up, O Lord, the hearts and minds of thy people...'; we all four (when at home) had to have a stir and a wish............ The kitchen was full of steam for days!

When my brother and I were little, we had custard with brandy essence, graduating year by year to cream (we lived opposite a dairy!) with brandy essence, then, after my father left the service, cream with (navy) rum, which Dad obtained from 'a mate in the D'yard....' -- we didn't ask for details, but he always knew someone who knew someone..........

Merry Christmas !