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Christmas 1941. An extract from "With a bit of Luck" by Dennis Puffett

In December 1941 I completed my four years as a trainee with Edgar Saunders. The intervention of the war had caused a drastic change to the original training schedule.

The programme had been accelerated in many ways, such as learning to drive at an early age, and carrying out many adult tasks without the close supervision which peacetime training would have provided.

I was trained in the tradition of a business well known for the quality of its product and service to the community. In my training there was an emphasis on hygiene and presentation. This made coping with the Christmas of 1941 even more difficult.

Our own production of meat had been stopped when rationing was introduced and for a time we were supplied with English meat by a central wholesaler.

Imported frozen carcasses of beef from Argentina and Lamb from Australia and New Zealand were gradually introduced until this was the bulk of the supply.

Heavy losses of our ships in the Atlantic caused our stockpile to diminish to the point where we were getting supplies almost directly from ship to shop. Because of the losses and to make the best use of valuable shipping space, boneless meat was introduced. In the week before Christmas 1941, our shop was empty. On the morning of Christmas eve we received some, frozen solid, square blocks of meat. The blocks were wrapped in hessian. Somewhere along the way the meat had thawed a little and then refroze so that the hesian was frozen into the outer layer of the meat.

There was no indication of whether the blocks were fore quarters or hindquarters. In about a week they would thaw enough to unroll and be identified.

But the next day was Christmas.

We borrowed some electric heaters and some fans to blow warm air over the blocks, and it was soon apparent that this wouldn't work soon enough. All we could do, in order to get something out to the customers for Christmas, was to saw up the blocks into ration size portions, disregarding what had been ordered because we had no knowledge of what was in these unidentifiable chunks of meat.

The work of preparing the meat went on until late on Christmas Eve and the meat was delivered on Christmas day.

As a special Christmas treat we had been sent some five pound cans of corned beef, off the ration. The announcement of all this benevolence made it sound as though cans of corned beef were off the ration for Christmas. In reality it worked out at one and a half ounces per person.

This story about the desperate situation we were in as a nation is also a tribute to the people of Nailsworth.

For Christmas, our customers were getting a blob of unknown beef, often too late for the mid day meal. And I never heard a single complaint. Most were grateful to get something and all were sympathetic toward 'the boy' who worked on Christmas Day to get it to them.

Heavy losses of our ships in the Atlantic caused our stockpile to diminish to the point where we were getting supplies almost directly from ship to shop. Because of the losses and to make the best use of valuable shipping space, boneless meat was introduced. In the week before Christmas 1941, our shop was empty. On the morning of Christmas eve we received some, frozen solid, square blocks of meat. The blocks were wrapped in hessian. Somewhere along the way the meat had thawed a little and then refroze so that the hesian was frozen into the outer layer of the meat.

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