Southall during the war was a very busy place. With the large H.M.V. works and several more factories on war work, and a large shell-filling arsenal at Hayes, a great many workers – a big percentage of whom were women – were drafted into the town. It was thus only to be expected that, with around 800 Australian patients and staff at the Australian Hospital ( St Marylebone School ) in the town, a great deal of fraternization took place and much open love-making was to be seen, much to the disgust of the local gentry. Some kids used to earn themselves money by keeping a lookout for couples so that they should not be disturbed.
The wages at the Arsenal were good but the work very dangerous. In September 1917 an explosion killed 28 women. Also, the nature of the work turned the skin a shade of yellow. Those working under these conditions had a free allowance of milk per day.
Rationing of food became very strict, but, as always, a black market existed. All sorts of things could be bought, some made at the factories, toys petrol lighters, bracelets, lamp standards. I have to this day a ring made from part of the Zeppelin brought down at Cuffley. Every piece of ground, including part of the Park and Recreation Ground, the golf links and Ealing Common were turned into allotments and the Council placed swill bins at various places to collect scrap food for pig-feeding. We used to collect acorns and sell them to Mr. Ewer at Dormers Wells Farm. As I mentioned previously, for my part with a five-rod allotment next to my father’s in 1916 I earned quite a lot by by growing all sorts of plants for sale, and also lettuce and wallflowers. I got a great deal of helpful knowledge from my father which has also stood me in good stead. My grandfather Fuell had reverted back to his old trade from the brickfields. This was that of a Tinker. He was well known in the town as “Tinker Fuell”. He had a portable grinding machine, with a board on the front which read “Tinker-Grinder-Umbrella Mender”. He was a very good tradesman and could do wonders with a soldering iron. People used to bring him things to mend or grind and us grandsons got roped in to take them back and get the money charged for doing the job.