Charlotte: Did you once say you had parties on the ships?
Bertha: Oh yes, you brought me back to that, Charlotte. Well, the men got to know the minister and his wife. The manse was further along, the church and the manse were together. And they were very friendly and the minister and his wife were putting on the Christmas party for the Sunday School children and the schoolchildren, which they had every year in the manse. And of course I was a bit older than the rest of them, I was maybe about 17 then and the minister's wife always wanted me to come and help with the parties. Well, I was there and we had a lovely party and then afterwards everybody who had been there was invited to come off to the tanker and they would give us a party afterwards.
Charlotte: Another party?
Bertha: The men in the ship invited us back to the ship, all the children and the minister and his wife and us who had been working, you see? I can’t remember, maybe one or two of the officers had been to see us at the party, I forget. But anyway, I remember going off in the little boats, they had these small boats which serviced the ships and they come up to the pier. So we all went quite happily aboard the tanker and we had a marvellous day because they had chutes for the bairns to slide on and games. They’d made enormous jellies and cakes and they were so kind! I remember they took the older ones, me included, around the ship and down to see them fuelling the big furnaces, where the firemen were down in the bottom of the ship. And we had a lovely time. But it wouldn’t have been very fine if the Germans had come across! That was before the bombing started.
Charlotte: Did you have enough food to eat?
Bertha: Well, we just had the normal rations. My mother and I stopped taking sugar in our tea and we saved it. We had hens so we had our own hens’ eggs, cattle and sheep, butter and milk and things, you know. And there was plenty of flour at that time and oatmeal, but later on that was all rationed as well which made it more difficult. But the minister and his wife were marvellous bakers, they could both bake.
Charlotte: The man as well as the woman?
Bertha: Yes, he used to do pastry. She always had these meat pastry pies you know, and she baked a great big Christmas cake with sponges and layers with cream between it. It likely wasn’t as usual as the normal ones in peace time, but we always were there every Christmas.
Charlotte: Did you make your own butter?
Bertha: Yes, we had a churn for the cream to be made into butter. But I learned as a child to bake, with my mother. Anyway, to get back to the war time, the first bombs had been dropped and the Germans had been lost in the sea, poor boys.
Keep reading: Part Four - Gunnister School and the Home Guard