Work on the farm for Second World War evacuee Dennis Johnson and his brother was never ending. In part two of his memoirs, DAVID MILLS hears how life for the 10-year-old was set to become even harder.
Dorset was supposed to be a safe area, although I don’t think there was any part of Britain in those days that could be called safe.
The sky was criss-crossed with vapour and smoke trails from crashing aircraft.
A bomb from one of these fell into a herd of cows on a nearby farm - it was a scene of utter carnage.
The shattered remains of cows were everywhere.
Hanging in the hedge was the body of an unborn calf that had been blown out of its mother’s body.
All around the field lay bodies of cows that had been injured and put out their misery.
There must have been plenty of fresh beef that week before the Ministry of Food got hold of it.
My brother John suffered worse than I did during the winters.
He had chilblains so bad that they bled, but he never received any treatment at all for them from the farmer or his wife.
I usually had large cold sores around my mouth that cracked and bled.
I think the cold sores and chilblains were caused by a lack of vitamins.
We were always hungry.
When we worked among the root crops out in the fields we pulled up turnips and carrots to eat.
Dennis, now 80, holding a picture of himself when he was an evacuee.
And on cold winter mornings while we were milking we squirted warm milk straight from the teat into our mouths.
These clandestine supplements to our meagre meals with the farmer and his family gave us a bit more nourishment than we got from the continuous rabbit with the usual boiled spuds and cabbage.
We never expected a dessert because we were never offered one.
But one time I went back into the kitchen for something I had forgotten and saw, to my great surprise, the farmer and his family tucking into what looked like homebaked apple pie and cream.
I didn’t say a word, I just turned around and walked out again.
One morning when we were milking the cows, I noticed one cow didn’t look well.
She suddenly dropped to the ground and died.
We told the farmer and he went to take a look.
That evening the dead cow was still lying where she had fallen that morning.
The farmer said: “Get yourselves a couple of spades and go dig a hole to put that dead cow in.”
The hole we dug wasn’t deep enough as the cow had become bloated with gas.
The farmer decided to get rid of the gas by jumping up and down on the dead cow’s stomach.
As he did so the gas belched out of its mouth.
I moved out of the way, one whiff of that terrible stench was enough for me.
-Don’t miss the final part of Dennis’s ordeal on the farm next week, when his brother falls seriously ill.