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History & CommunityDerek Stevens 08/10

Derek Stevens 08/10

With the end of the U-Boat threat exotic fruits, like bananas and oranges, began to reappear in the shops. Bananas were distributed on an area by area rotation system announced in the local press. A shipment of Seville oranges arrived but most had to be dumped because of the unavailability of sugar for the making of marmalade.The Board of Trade announced a special importation of children’s Wellington boots from Canada. The Board decided that they must first go to smaller retailers in villages and market towns as country children were to have priority.

‘Less Black-out More Eggs’, claimed one press item. With the lifting of black-out restrictions egg producers were able to lengthen periods of artificial light in poultry houses thereby increasing the yield of eggs during the winter months.

To the great delight of us kids ice cream became available again, unseen since the start of the war outside of parties given for children by the American GIs, and that only with permission of the British food authorities. I remember whilst queuing for tickets in the foyer of the Regent cinema in Lyme Regis, news came that a delivery of ice cream was on its way. We switched across to another queue forming to await its arrival and in doing so missed the beginning of the film we had come to see.

As the end of the war began to be seen as only a matter of time, attention began to focus on matters at home. Calls appeared in the press for the closure of Dartmoor Prison, it being considered too ancient to serve as a modern prison. Recently, over sixty years later, the calls for the prison’s closure are being made again.

Also being called into question was the statue of King George III on Weymouth sea front. A letter from the Weymouth Ratepayers Association suggested that the statue had outlived its purpose, had become an eyesore and was a nuisance to the traffic of the town.

“It isn’t an eyesore to everyone.” replied the Town Council. “George III had a lot to do with putting Weymouth on the map as a health resort, and when can it be said that a statue has outlived its purpose?”

“This is a memorial – it is not merely a statue.” said the deputy mayor, who urged that anything to do with Weymouth’s Georgian character should be preserved. It was also pointed out that “The late Thomas Hardy had described the inscription on the statue as a wonderful relic.”

Today it still stands serving as a bus stop.

A fascinating court action reported at the time was that taken by Miss Dora Isabel Sneezum of Lyme Regis against her sisters, Misses Mable, Gladys and Olive Sneezum, all of them in their sixties. She was claiming that reasonable provision for her maintenance should be made out of the estate of her father, formerly a butcher of Bury St Edmonds. The estate being estimated to be about £40,000. Dora had been left an annuity of £50 at the discretion of the trustees, two of her sisters. The discretion allowed them to withhold the annuity if Dora annoyed them. After the death of her mother Dora had been turned out of the Bury St Edmonds home in 1933 and had been given a small allowance by her father who, she claimed, was under the influence of her sisters.

The court was told that Dora did not conform to her family’s habits. She did little in the way of church work and went to art classes. She did not take her father out in the pony trap and did not come down to breakfast at the same time as the others. The gas used to be turned off at 8pm and the family went to bed by candlelight, so if Dora came in after 8 o’clock she could not cook a meal.

“It all reads more like a story by Dickens”, said council. Miss Dora Sneezum told the court she certainly did have scraps with her sisters in younger days when they baited her but had not done anything to justify her father cutting her out of his will.

Hearing that the combined income of the three Sneezum sisters was £2,800 gross Mr Justice Cohen said that unless it was satisfactorily explained, it seemed to him unreasonable to leave the applicant with £50 per year. The hearing was adjourned.

When the court next sat the judge was informed that the parties had come to an accommodation. A satisfied Miss Dora Sneezum thereafter returned to her home in Woodmead Road, Lyme Regis.

In the June issue I wrote about Mr Clifford Fowler, a British POW, and his experience in 1945. It was the time when over 80,000 allied POWs were released from camps and force marched for three months through Germany on the orders of Hitler. Many of them died in the subzero temperatures. I was delighted to receive the following letter from his widow, an edited version of which we reproduce below.

I always read the Marshwood Vale Magazine. What a surprise when read about Cliff Fowler returning home after five years as a POW. He was my husband, he died 8 years ago aged 82. I met him when he came home and was working at the Yonder Hill saw mills near Chard. I was in our small shop one day when some men came in. The shop manager said to one of them “Good to see you again Cliff’” he answered “Good to be home”. I never thought I would marry him one day. He had 5 brothers in the forces and they all came home, but unhappily their mother never lived long enough to see any of them marry.

In Germany Cliff had worked on a farm driving 4 horses. Summers were hot and winters very cold. They used to pinch eggs and milk as they never got any Red Cross parcels and were only given black bread and potato soup, but he said that was better than being in the crowded prison camp.

When he was captured in 1940 he was in a cattle truck for 11 days, nothing to eat and no stops. When they reached the camp they had to spend so much time queuing for food that when he came home he vowed never to queue again. On the long march they found a dead horse. Cliff had been a butcher so he cut out the liver which they ate raw. They knew what it was to be hungry. He became a butcher again back in civvy street and when customers moaned about the meat ration he would tell them he didn’t have meat for five years, except for a raw piece of dead horse.

We had over 50 years of happy marriage, 2 children, 6 grandchildren and 1 great grandson . – Marjorie Fowler, Winsham, Nr Chard.

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