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The War Years (1939-1945)

As Oxfordshire was perceived as a relatively safe place from German bombing, arrangements were made to evacuate children from London. In the early months of the war, Miss Deneke was appointed billeting officer for these children. They were prepared to receive five children. A group of Elsfield residents waited by the old tree (at Tree Cottage) prepared to take them to Mrs Chaulk, Mrs Brown and Mrs Webb, who had all agreed to take a child or two, depending on spare bedrooms.

They waited all afternoon, having been told that the children would arrive in the early afternoon. The bus did not come till six pm, driven by a surly driver. A biggish boy of 14 went to Mrs Webb, two little girls to Mrs Chaulk. Miss Deneke asked where the other three children were. The driver jerked his head in the direction of Church Farm. Miss Deneke hurried in that direction and was confronted by an outraged Mrs Brown guarding the gate. She had agreed to take two school age children but had been left with "a most unprepossessing little mother with one baby in her arms, another clinging to her skirts and in the advanced stages of expecting a third".

Mrs Brown refused to take them in, which Miss Deneke could understand, given the busy life led by a farmer’s wife. Miss Parsons agreed to take them in on a temporary basis. There was no antenatal clinic in Elsfield and no transport to get the mother to one, so she was eventually found a billet at Horspath and moved there. The mother had cried all the time – her unemployed husband had looked after the children and she didn’t know how. She didn’t understand why the lady had told her to leave London. She went home before long, but Miss Parsons had had a distressing time and her good spare room mattress was spoilt. The whole affair had shocked and outraged her.

Mrs Webb’s boy proved too much for her. He was too old for Elsfield school and was transferred to Horspath where his school was billeted along with his teacher. Mrs Chaulk cleaned the heads of the little girls and got them some extra clothes. She got fond of them and thought she had established a relationship with the parents, but they turned up one day and took the children back to London without even saying thank you.

Elsfield had received the wrong set of children and the reason was that Great Western Railways had muddled up the trains and sent the children destined for Oxfordshire to Bristol and the Bristol train to Oxford. The children they should have had landed in Weston Super Mare.

Food rationing became an all important feature of life in wartime. It was introduce in January 1940 and gave equal shares of eggs, milk, bacon, ham, butter and sugar to everyone. Meat was rationed from March 1940 and in July tea, margerine and cooking fats were added to the list. In 1941, cheese and preserves were added and dried fruit, tinned goods and cerealswere also rationed. Food parcels, often from Canada, provided welcome additional food. Agricultural workers were allowed extra cheese and other foodstuffs at harvest and hay-making time and milk and eggs, being produced in the village, were more easily come by for Elsfield residents than for townsfolk.

The WI was asked to co-operate with the Government. Food Advice Service. Mrs Bartlett, the treasurer, undertook to distribute recipes. Mrs Phipps became secretary of the WI Produce Guild and when a government scheme made 4d meat pies available in the countryside outside rations,  she distributed them over a period of four and a half years.

The government gave extra sugar to the WI so they could preserve fruit. This was done in Miss Parsons’ kitchen at Home Farm. In 1940, they made 1,193 and a half jars of jam and bottled 380 jars of fruit. In 1941, they made 399 lbs of jam and 105 bottles of fruit. The jam was collected by the Co-op for sale to their registered customers.

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