COO, what a bloody place! Where's the pop shop? Those were the words of youngsters evacuated from London and arriving at the Purbeck town of Wareham at the start of the Second World War, recalled in a new book.

By November 1939, just two months into the war, Wareham had received 1,642 children, according to Wareham's War, the latest book by Terence Davis that takes a fascinating look at how the war affected people living in the Dorset town.

And the culture shock worked two ways. The author quotes Wareham resident Ray Herridge recalling the arrival of the evacuees.

"They were a strange lot in some respects," he said, "but they didn't know where milk came from!"

Davis, the author of Wareham, a Gateway to Purbeck" and "Arne, A Purbeck Parish in Peace and War", follows up those early works with a look at life in the town between the 1920s and 1945.

They included those post-First World War days when Wareham streets were lit by gaslamps, many houses had paraffin lamps and Friday-night baths were taken in tubs filled with hot water ladled from buckets.

Wareham didn't even have a sewage system until 1925.

"Before this, and for a long time afterwards, most houses had a bucket in an outside shed."

For those not keen to empty it themselves, George Cox, the sanitaryman, would empty the bucket into his cart, so long as a tanner (2.5p) had been left on the toilet seat.

Terence Davis, who now lives in Stafford, takes a look at everything from housing to shops and service and from work to leisure, packing in the facts and anecdotes from an age that seems a world away from the bustling town of today.

To pass the time, youngsters would play hide-and-seek in the graveyard, swim and fish in the river, sing in the choir, play musical instruments, go to the flicks at the Empire (now the Rex) or the Regent in Poole, box at the local Monday club, play football in their hob-nailed boots and go to dances at the Drill Hall or Corn Exchange.

Those were the days before the war when you could get a pint for 4d (2p) and five Woodbines and 2d (1p).

For most people, you went out to work at 14 if you were lucky. Jobs were hard to find.

The author quotes Marjorie Jeffries, who recalled: " You had to go through a little passage where you had to go to get the dole, about halfway up West Street by Roses, the butchers.

"I remember seeing the dole queue right down that road and round the corner. Unemployment was that bad."

On September 3, 1939, when war broke out, the town crier alerted the town that the king was going to speak on radio... and a wireless was rigged up at Burt's radios in West Street to give everyone the chance to listen.

Within a month 30,000 civilian gas masks had been distributed in Swanage and Wareham.

As air raid shelters were rigged up by residents in their gardens - though some chose to seek refuge on a mattress under the kitchen table or stairs - the town crier was also called into action to urge local folk to help dig shored-up trenches at the school.

The first time the sirens sounded for real several children fainted, Terence Davis records.

The Home Guard, immortalised on television by Dad's Army, played a key role in the nation's defence but Wareham men Percy Best and Herbie Elmes remembered the real thing as being a good deal funnier.

One night, for example, Percy and Walter Rose, a real old town character, were returning from night duty down the Worgret Road when they heard odd spluttering noises from the other side of the road.

"Come out of there whoever you are with your hands up!" yelled Walter, brandishing his gun.

Who was it?

It turned out to be a sergeant who had been into Wareham, had a skinful, popped behind the bushes to relieve himself, slipped, fell... and couldn't get out.

Rationing, of course, hit the residents of Wareham hard.

"On 23rd February 1942, one person was allowed 2oz of tea, 6oz butter, 8oz sugar, 4oz bacon, 3oz cheese, three pints of milk, 2oz fat and 1s2d's (6p) worth of meat each week, writes Davis.

"Jam was rationed at 1lb and eggs at three per month."

And, of course, they used to catch rabbits, illegally, for the pot... though if the bobby stopped you and found you with two, you'd be wise to hand one over to him.

The pubs, too, were rationed on the drink they were allowed and often it meant just two days a week trading.

When supplies did come in, the locals regarded the beer as very watered down... and at 1s 3d (just over 6p) a pint, three times the cost of a pre-war


But, as well as for the locals, the pubs proved popular haunts for the many American GIs stationed around the town from 1943.

Wareham's War focuses on many reminiscences of how the conflict affected everyday life in the town.

Few brides could afford a white wedding, for example, with all clothes rationed, And there was little chance of having a wedding cake.

"During the war you accepted it," recalled Joan (nee Anderson), who married Jim Brien in 1941. "You couldn't get the fruit. Instead we had paste sandwiches."

Many women worked on the land but most of the local girls did their war work at the cordite factory in Holton Heath where many recalled it was often bitterly cold.

Some of the girls would work in the factory's Teryl department, which used a particular substance.

"Girls could get more money working here but it used to turn them yellow," one recalled.

Although nearby Arne was hit by German bombers trying to knock out the cordite factory, Wareham itself suffered just the one raid.

But the attack on December 16 1942 by a lone raider in a Dormer left four dead and several houses destroyed.

The effect of the war was still apparent even after some areas of conflict had ceased.

After Italy gave up fighting a new problem arose. The Italian prisoners were allowed into the town where the local young lads would jeer at them.

"Us youngsters used to get up by the church (St Martin's) and throw stones at them," recalled one. "Once or twice we got them cornered in Trinity Lane and let them have it."

One day the Italians came to the big school where their leader went up on the stage with the Headmaster.

"He said, 'We are no longer enemies. We are your friends.'

"And I tell you what. We threw everything at them - chairs - whatever we could find!"

The day the war against Germany ended in 1945, the pent-up emotions of the past years were released as Wareham folk went wild dancing joyously around the cross, followed by street parties everywhere. And they went crazy with joy again after Japan surrendered a few months later.

The war was over, but, like everywhere else, it would take many years for normality to return to life in the Purbeck town.

Wareham's War by Terence Davis, 2 The Oaks, Kitlings Lane, Stafford, ST17 0LE. £12.99.