Uckfield District

ICON: The Second World War made heroes of sometimes the most unlikely people, who came out of anonymity to teach us their skills. That principle applied to men and women alike and so we had a tiny (under five foot tall) cook with a big personality and the confidence to demonstrate her skills to an entire nation, who showed us how to manage on the diminished rations we all shared in those six years 1939-45 and beyond. Her name was Marguerite Patten and she has just died aged 99, an example to all of us of ‘we are what we eat’. Not only did she criss-cross the country for the Ministry of Food throughout the war, demonstrating how to cook nourishing meals with restricted ingredients but she wrote cookery books and broadcast to the nation’s women with advice to help them keep their children and themselves fit and healthy. After the war, she continued with her cooking career, with a copy of her Cookery in Colour having an honoured place in every new bride’s kitchen well into the ‘60s and even ‘70s. (I’ve still got mine). Waldron has a particularly soft spot for Marguerite, for when we were rehearsing our play Waldron at War in 2004 we asked her to be our Patron. She was generous with her time, advised us about the wartime diet and came to a performance. I shan’t forget the evening she came to the village when we arranged a pre-performance with Marguerite arriving in a wartime Rolls Royce, driven by Peter Cameron as uniformed chauffeur and Rob Skelton as the village policeman (wartime uniform of course) opening the door for her to climb out with due ceremony. Marguerite loved every moment and we loved her. What’s more we were able to arrange a visit to our WI for a wartime lunch (Woolton Pie, if my memory serves me correctly) when she gave us a riveting talk for almost an hour without a note and 50 members absolutely gripped by her fascinating reminiscences. She was then nearly 90. What a woman.
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