World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                      Joyce Ambler 

Horsemeat, A Wedding Treat

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Joyce Ambler
Location of story: Sheffield
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Joyce Ambler.

My memories are basically those of a schoolgirl. The majority of schools were closed during the war, and so we had to go into people’s front rooms. My mum was one of those kind enough to open our home, but really, I don’t think we got much out of it, not as much as if we were actually at school. But another one of my memories is seeing these church doors and other halls with all the lists of names of people who had been killed in the blitz – the bombing etc.

On the first night of the Sheffield blitz, the Thursday, my sister had had a new baby. The blitz started about 7 o’clock, and we went into the cellars, which were re-enforced, and unfortunately, not too far away, a bomb dropped onto a pub. The fire from that blew out part of my sister’s home, set the house on fire, and the only way that we could get out, was by going through the cellars.

One of the lighter situations was - as you know, everything was rationed – my brother was coming home on leave to be married – he was in the 8th army – and of course, there was no food. He was bringing his friends to the wedding, and my mum wondered, “What are we going to do?” She decided that we would stand in the queue at the butcher’s shop and get some horse meat. So on Friday, my mum made this fantastic meat and potato pie for the guests who were coming to the wedding the following day. She bought this enormous piece of horsemeat which was roasted and used for the wedding buffet.

Y’know, we had to stand in queues for anything that was a bit different, such as rabbit or sausage, anything that was different. But I’ve got recollections; I did try this horsemeat. It cut like beef, but it had a different flavour, and I reckon one or two of the guests cottoned on that it was different, but nobody complained. It was edible, maybe a sort of sweeter flavour, but none of us complained. It was a luxury to get quite a lot of meat.

Of course there was rationing and each person in the household was allocated 1s 6d (one shilling and sixpence, 7 ½ p) worth of meat per week. So, if you bought a dearer piece of meat, you just got less, therefore we always had the cheaper cuts so that we could have a little bit more.

Of course, we had the blackouts, and being in my teens, I didn’t get to go out.

Interviewer: What did you do of an evening?

Joyce: We just stayed in, of course we had the radio, but it was more or less a gossip. Occasionally, we managed to get to the cinema. I can recall going to the cinema and the air raids sounding, so we had to come home.

Interviewer: Were you out and about on the blitz nights?

Joyce: On no love, on the blitz nights I was at my sister’s home, when she’d had this baby. The baby was born in September, the blitz was in December, so she was quite a tiny baby when the air raid came. That was when we had to go into the cellars.

Int: So when it was over, your house was totally destroyed was it?

Joyce: No, it was my sister’s; the fire had blown out all the windows and the roof was off, so the family, my sister, her husband and the very young baby came to live at my sister’s home. We did allsorts in those days, we’d move furniture to one side to get a bed in.

Int: Did you get any compensation for the loss of your home or anything?

Joyce: No, not a thing. But I suppose it was a difficult time for everybody really. The thing that pleased us was when loved ones went away to the war, we were over the moon if they came back. So, what we were suffering at home, didn’t compare to them who were fighting the war. We just wanted them back.

Int: Did any of your relatives go out to the war zone?

Joyce: Yes, the one who was married. He got back alright. His friend was in the airborne regiment and he had one bullet wound in his leg, but that was all he suffered all through the war, but his friend, a very nice chap, he died. He was in the airborne and they went over. He was presumed missing, he was never found.