Verity Fincher wrote down reminiscences of her childhood in Abbot’s Salford and Salford Hall, around the time of the First World War. Her recollections of the war offer an insight into those times.
The war started
It was during the summer holidays that the war started. I suppose it was talked about beforehand, but I do not remember thinking about it, or anyone explaining to me what it could mean.
One afternoon at the beginning of August, my father was sitting in his deck chair when he saw the paper boy coming down the path. Unusually for him, he went to meet the boy and held out his hand for the paper. “My God” he said, “it has come at last”. I followed him into the house. He did not stop to close the door and he did not even see me, but called out, his voice not at all like his usual one, “Nell, Nell”. My mother was in the sitting room as the tea was being laid. She had only to look at his face to read the worst. They went into the room together and told me to go out and play until I was called.
I remember my father saying to my mother, “Tom will be very excited when he hears this, he has talked about nothing else all the week”, but mother said “Mrs. Pace will be very upset”. I said “Is Tom going to the war?” and my mother said “possibly, but it will not be just yet”. I thought to myself that I might be allowed to have his pony while he was away.
The war, it seemed to me, was going to spoil everything. This was not quite true; we were really a lucky family. My father was too old, my brother too young, and my cousin was working at the factory in a reserved occupation.
We did not feel the shortage of food as we had the large vegetable garden and milk, eggs and butter from the farm. The old hens were killed off and we had more boiled fowl and parsley sauce than usual. Mother had read about “hay boxes” in a magazine and she made two. This was a large box was packed with hay pressed down very hard. There was space left for a large stew pot and another for a pudding. They were started off as usual and then put in the hay box. A cushion, again stuffed with hay, was put on top and the lid closed it down. The stews and the puddings went on cooking and they were a great success.
When we came to stay at Salford Hall for the summer holidays, things were quite different to usual. Another family was coming to stay for the same time. They lived at Gravesend on the Kent coast where the bombing had been bad. There were three girls and a very much younger boy. I did not like what I thought of as sharing “our house”.
The eldest girl was called Celia and she was what my mother called “ladylike”. The next, Margaret, was my sister’s age; she was a “tom boy” and they got on well together. The third, Joan, was a little bit younger, and then the boy, whose name I have forgotten. I did not want to play with him, but my parents told me I must be kind to him as he had been badly frightened when the bombs fell on Gravesend. They only stayed until the end of the holidays and the next time we came there was another family; this was in the Easter holidays of 1916.
As the war dragged on we went less and less to Salford Hall and after I was nine we only went once more, in the summer holidays in 1917. Salford Hall was only one part of my life, but it was certainly the best part.
Verity’s full memories can be consulted at the Warwickshire County Record Office, reference DIG 195.