Christmas 1942 – Somewhere In England

152nd Station Hospital -1942

I found this tiny program in some of my great-aunt Wylly’s things when I went to see my cousin, McKenzie last summer. I had a whirlwind trip where I scanned photos and documents for most the time I was there. It was a quick overnight visit with me quietly scanning through the night while the rest of the house snoozed. Aunt Wylly was my writer aunt that I’ve mentioned before and sweet to me like a dear old grandma. She was McKenzie’s great-grandma and after McKenzie’s mother died suddenly a few years ago, she’s been the one to keep the family history safe.

Going through things quickly, I learned a lot about my family I hadn’t known. This Christmas menu and program from 70 years ago was tucked in a box, no doubt saved by Aunt Wylly who left a serious paper trail. I knew my Uncle Tom had been in the army, practically everyone called him Sarge when I was growing up so it would have been hard to miss, but I did not know that he’d been in England during WWII. Finding this little treasure from 70 years ago left me with loads of questions with no answers. I gleaned a bit online, but I’m hoping a older relative or adult child of someone who might have served with my uncle will see this post and get touch with me.

Thanks to the internet I was able to learn where the 152nd Station Hospital was located, and found that my uncle was in Bristol, about a 14o miles from where I live now. Frenchay Hospital was much smaller before the Americans arrived in 1942 and they added more buildings to make a medical complex that is still in use today.

I wish I knew more about his life and his time in England during the war. My husband, John was less than three months old when Uncle Tom sat down to the Christmas dinner you see on the program below. Given the shortage of food and rationing going on in England at that time, Uncle Tom’s Christmas dinner was likely much better than what the English were having that year.

Christmas Menu 1942 152nd Station Hospital

Since I’m talking about food and family, I thought I’d share a bit of our Christmas day with you.

Christmas 2012

Our Christmas dinner, the American version … no roast potatoes, sprouts or parsnips. I like them, but I wanted a more familiar taste of Christmas and John was fine skipping them this year. He cooked the turkey and made the gravy, I made the rest from handed down family recipes. We did have the English version of pigs in a blanket which were wrapped in bacon versus biscuit dough.

Christmas 2012

That pink mass before you is a cranberry congealed salad. It stuck a bit in my jello mold so it’s not very pretty, but it was tasty. This traditional Christmas salad has been the subject of a great deal of ridicule from John. I get that congealed isn’t a very appetizing name for it, and that it tends to look like something that has already been eaten once, but it reminds me of my step-mom, Cullene and it’s very special to me. John thinks it is very similar to what they call a blancmange (sounds like bla-monge) which does sound a bit more grand. He had a decent sized portion with his dinner so I think he may be getting used to it.


Here’s a shot of John waiting patiently for our present opening to begin. I’ll be back with another post on gift-giving as I received something very special from him.


Since we’re talking about food in this post, here’s a shot of me with one of the carrots I took on our walk to the pub for our traditional Christmas drink. The couple that own our village pub offer everyone in the village a free drink on Christmas day if they come in on regular basis. I was carrying carrots hoping we might come across a moorland pony or two, but we stayed in the lanes on our walk making it less muddy and we bypassed the moor and the ponies. I did get lucky though as you can see below.


This sweet horse was having a Christmas walk and had the benefit of the carrots in my pocket. Murphy munched them down pretty quickly and we went on to the pub.

Thomas Franklin St John

Thomas Franklin St John

I’ll leave you with this photo of my great-uncle Tom taken in uniform. I don’t share any of his DNA as he’s my uncle through marriage, but it’s kind of nice to feel a connection through both our military (Army) ties and our Christmas dinners in England.

If you’re visiting older relatives this Christmas … ask them about their life or you may be sorry later when they’re gone. 

22 thoughts on “Christmas 1942 – Somewhere In England

  1. This is wonderful. I’m a bit of an Anglophile as I’m first generation American. My family was originally from Southeast England, near Kent. I love the family history documents and photos. Have a happy new year!

    • Thanks for commenting, Michelle. I think it’s pretty cool that you’re a first generation American with parents from the UK. I tend not to imagine Brits moving across to the US these days although I’m not sure why exactly.

      I’ve been meaning to leave you a comment or two. Your blog is very entertaining and thought provoking and your ‘About’ page completely pulled me in. I must admit that being ‘Ex-Army’ myself, I was pretty much all in when I read that. My last duty assignment was Ft Ord and I saw you were there too. We must compare notes sometime.

      I went on to read a post about your family of origin and thought, ” Uh oh, another member of the club that no one would choose to be in” I picked up the first of my family disfunction badges at a very young age and accumulated quite the handful before saying, “Enough!”

      • I was actually stationed at the Presidio across the bay for language training, but when they decided to renovate the barracks, they moved us to temporary quarters at Ft. Ord. Every place I got stationed in the Army, I ended up in temporary quarters for renovations! Maybe it was me.

        Thanks for reading some of the posts on my blog. I’m happy to say that when I write about family of origin issues, I’ve already dealt with the fallout and come out on the other side better for it. That’s about the best any of us can hope for, I think!

        • Ohhh …you were one of the smart ones at the language school.:-) I met a nice female Marine who was studying Russian while I was at Ft Ord. I was with Organizational Effectiveness Center & Schools. It was cushy duty after being with an artillery unit in Germany. What year were you there?

  2. Enjoyed reading about the cross-crountry connections both concerning your uncle and food traditions. Good sugg. to ask those questions of the “senior generation” now. Cute pony photo.Happy Holidays to you.

    • Happy Holidays to you too, Carol and thanks for commenting. There are so many questions I wish I asked some members of my family. The problem is that we don’t always know what to ask when we’re young and by the time we have a bit of life experience, the folks we want more from are no longer alive to tell us.

  3. So much history dies with a person—-I hope you get some answers to your questions. And I agree—I think the word “congealed” is the issue!

    • I agree that congealed is not a nice sounding word. I tend to associate it with blood which is fine if we’re talking to a blood splatter expert like my favorite BSE, Dexter Morgan, but not so nice when talking about Christmas dinner. I think the fact the it’s pink is off putting to John as well.

  4. How great that your uncle tom was here in the UK, and Bristol not far from you. The Americans were so well looked after when they were here, and the men looked after our women !! 😉 😉 , so to speak, you know with rations etc ..when they stayed in B and B’s ..

    I cannot believe you never had a roast potato until you came to the UK ,,, I do eat them .. but not often, as not a huge potato fan.. BUT you can never have a roast dinner, or turkey christmas dinner without Roast Potatoes… and no way would they sacrifice sprouts LOL my family would go mad ,, I could live without Turkey too …. I would rather have a bowl of spaghetti with prawns etc, ..

    Congealed mess .. Ha ha ha ..Now Blamange is a dessert we used to have at school ..not the best … Lets put it another way .. you are fitting in so well to the UK .. that you are more an Anglophile than me … you feel right at home …

    take care xx

    • I can usually skip potatoes altogether, Anne except for good chips. I do enjoy those. Mmm … for spaghetti & prawns. I’ve seen pictures of Blancmange and my cranberry salad doesn’t look a thing like it to me. 😀

  5. Blancmange (‘Blamange’) with home-made strawberry jam and and Cornish clotted cream! You don’t know what you’ve missed!

  6. CLOTTED – Accepted. But what other word could possibly describe that glorious crusty Cornish, golden, semisolid additiion to any fruit pie,.tart, desert, treacle pie, etc., etc. or even blancmange, or rice pudding, It can go on for ever but NOT without clotted cream. Some even like it in a pasty. Very slimming! I rest my Kernow case.

  7. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the picture of my grandfather, Sarge! I’m glad my niece has taken an interest in the St. John side of the family history. One of my favorite hobbies is to research my grandparents and their friends. I was afraid I was the only one with the treasures from the past. I imagine she has the big fat dictionary on a stand and of course the family Bible. I sure hope so. The dictionary may be 8″ wide, or at least it seemed that way from a child’s point of view.
    I have months of love letters between them that are so sweet. But the one written from a french woman to Sarge (Tom) I’m considering translating with my smart phone.
    We had a small group of family for christmas. My nephew, Kyle, was able to join us. He leaves for Afghanistan soon.
    I love the above comments on the food and family gatherings that everyone enjoyed.

    • McKenzie’s doing a good job of protecting the family history that she has, Jenny … so no worries there. 🙂 I photographed some of the family bible so it’s safe in her keeping as well. If you need help with the love letter in French, John could translate it for you’d like to email me a copy of it. I’m glad you had a bit of family around you for Christmas. John and I were on our own this year. Happy New Year to you, cousin. xo

  8. After working on my family tree this evening, on a whim, I searched “Wylly St. John”. I landed here on your blog and have so enjoyed reading all that you have written about her, as well as Thomas St. John. Your Aunt Wylly seemed like the aunt that everyone would absolutely treasure. I remembered seeing her books in my elementary school library and always wondered what the connection might be. In my world, my father and brother were the only St. John family I was acquainted with. Your Uncle Tom was my first cousin 2x removed as they say; his father and my great grandfather were brothers. I have so enjoyed your blog as well as the pictures…it has been a joyful detour for sure.

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