Thursday, May 16, 2013

April 26 - May 2, 1941

Housewives were encouraged to shop early as 26,000 cases of oranges arrived at Covent Garden, London for distribution nationwide.  But in Swindon complaints about food vultures made the news with tourist or snap shoppers causing resentment among the general public.
People with time on their hands proved they were prepared to queue indefinitely to get their hands on unrationed, hard to get food items.  Although not illegal, this practise was condemned as unpatriotic and was unpopular with Advertiser readers.
“I am far too busy looking after my household of four children, including two evacuees and putting in a weekly round of voluntary work,” wrote one Swindon housewife who signed herself ‘disgusted.’
“Is it not possible to discourage this queuing up and to introduce a more complete system of control so that everyone will have equal opportunity of sharing all the ‘extras’ that are made available,” she asked.
And Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, boasted a pie named in his honour and let housewives in on the secret. Take 1lb each of diced potatoes, cauliflower, Swedes and carrots, 3 or 4 spring onions if possible, one teaspoon of vegetable extract and one teaspoonful of oatmeal.  Cook all together for ten minutes with just enough water to cover.  Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking.  Allow to cool, put in a pie dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and cover with a crust of potato or wheat meal pastry.  Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely browned and serve hot with a brown gravy.

The Swindon Education Committee confirmed that several designated Swindon schools would be used as gas decontamination centres in the event of an emergency.
Only schools with a domestic hot water supply would be considered for use.  The Air Raid Precautions Committee agreed to foot the bill for any subsequent repairs arising out of the fixing of curtains and the erection of stripping sheds on playgrounds, the Advertiser reported, and no structural alterations were to take place without the consent of the Education Committee.
Meanwhile shortage of accommodation was causing concern at Lethbridge Road Infants School.  The Education Committee announced there would be no further admissions of children under five years of age and if the situation became worse five year olds already at the school might have to be excluded.
A review of the situation at Even Swindon and Ferndale Road schools was addressed at this week’s meeting of the Education Committee and additional classes with the appointment of extra staff was referred to the Teaching Staff sub-committee.

Sergt Wireless Operator Air Gunner Leslie Joseph George Lockwood, elder son of Mr & Mrs J.W. Lockwood of Tugela Road, Chippenham was reported killed while flying on active service.
Sergt Lockwood, 24 volunteered for the RAF at the outbreak of war.  He qualified as a gunner in July 1940 and was posted to the Coastal Command.
In Swindon the family of Able Seaman Leonard Wilkins received the news that he was safe after his ship Bonaventure was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Ambra while escorting Convoy GA-8 from Greece to Alexandria.  Leonard was one of 310 survivors; 139 members of the crew were lost. This was the second time Leonard 19, had escaped unhurt during the war at sea.  He had been onboard HMS Exeter during the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939.

Olive Monica Quirk, a clerk at the Swindon branch of the Inland Revenue, married Leading Aircraftman Eric Hughesdon at Christ Church, Swindon this week in 1941.  The couple left for a honeymoon in Cornwall following a reception at the Park View Hotel.  Christ Church was also the setting for the wedding of Doris Margaret Smith of 14 Wootton Bassett Road and William Edward Mann from Bexley Heath, Kent.  And Jack George Besant of 50 Salisbury Street married Phyllis May Southall of 15 Liddington Street at St. Barnabas’ Church.

The death of one of Swindon’s early Mayors took place this week in 1941 when Francis Stook Coleman, 79, Mayor in 1906-7 died at his home 39 Devizes Road.
Originally from Bridgwater, Somerset, Mr Coleman moved to Swindon in 1880 where he worked as a clerk for Townsend Solicitors. 
A former deputy clerk to the Old Swindon Urban District Council he was later elected representative of the South Ward.
Mr Coleman was a member of the Royal Sussex Lodge of Emulation and the Gooch Lodge.

Two Swindon mothers were congratulated for their actions in Swindon’s Juvenile Court this week. When their sons came home with new electric torches and refused to say how they had acquired them, the mothers took them to the police station where the boys confessed to having stolen them from Woolworths.
The two lads were given a serious warning but their mother’s received praise from Mr F.E. Eyres, chairman of the bench.  “If all mothers would act in that way our work would be much lighter,” he said.

Fire watcher Joseph Cox of Hawthorn Road, Chippenham was fined £1 for falling asleep on the job.
Seventy three year old Mr Cox was found fast asleep during an alert in a malthouse adjoining the Avon Vale Laundry where he was paid 8s a night to fire watch.
Mr Cox told Chippenham Police Court that he went into the malthouse to have some food.  The fire was very warm and he went to sleep.  He had been in the garden all day digging for victory, he said.

Nearly 29,000 people had been killed and 40,000 injured nationwide during bombing raids up to the end of March 1941, Ernest Brown, Minister of Health announced.
While several hospitals had been bombed during recent raids, Mr Brown was quick to reassure the public that going to hospital did not place them at any greater risk.

Detective Sergeant H.G. Toop of the Swindon Division announced his promotion to Detective Inspector following eighteen years in the Wiltshire Constabulary.
D.I. Toop joined the police force in Trowbridge and moved to Swindon in 1928.  He became the first officer to hold the rank of Inspector in the Swindon CID.

The King and Queen visited the East End of London to see recent raid damage and talk to people whose homes had suffered.
“We can still smile, your Majesty,” said the old lady holding a flag bearing the words “God Save the King,” a picture which tells the spirit of the people, reported the Advertiser.

Do you recognise any faces among these two classes of ’41 – pictured are pupils at the electrical instrument mounting and inspection classes and the bench fitting classes held at the Ministry of Labour training courses ‘Somewhere in England.’

Friday, May 3, 2013

April 19 - 25, 1941

The Advertiser included the stories of five servicemen lost and killed on active service this week in 1941.
Pilot Officer Peter Hogarth, 26, was reported killed during air operations in Greece.  A former bank clerk in the High Street branch of Lloyds, Pilot Officer Hogarth was the son of Mrs G.D. Hogarth of 13 Devizes Road and her late husband.

Mr Hogarth volunteered for the RAF in June 1939 and went to the Middle East in September 1940.

Edward Herbert Henly, aged 19, was the son of Albert Henly of Derry Hill, Chippenham.  A young despatch rider in the London Auxiliary Fire Service he was killed during Saturday night’s air raids on the capital.

Bombed out of their London home at Christmas, Albert and his wife had moved in with relatives at Derry Hill.  Edward remained in London because he was ‘keen on his job’ as a motorcycle despatch rider.

‘He had been in a number of raids and had been commended for his services,’ reported the Advertiser.

In Wootton Bassett the funeral took place of 26 year old Herbert Charles Page who died in Yorkshire as a result of enemy action.

The third son of Mr & Mrs J.T. Page of 15 Springfield Crescent, Wootton Bassett, Mr Page had been in the Pioneer Corps for nearly twelve months.

And Able Seaman Francis Townsend aged 22, was reported missing after his ship HMS Rajputana was torpedoed and sunk off Iceland after escorting a convoy across the North Atlantic.

A former milkman with Balch’s dairies, Able Seaman Townsend lived at 17 South Street. ‘Francis was a good swimmer,’ reported the Advertiser, ‘and his friends have every hope that they will shortly have news of his safety.’

Engineroom Artificer J.T. Singer of 30 St Margaret’s Road was among those reported missing following the loss of the destroyer Mohawk.  The destroyer was torpedoed during an attack on an Italian convoy on April 16 near the Kerkennah Islands off the Tunisian coast. 

Able Seaman Francis Townsend

Swindon courts were busy this week with magistrates looking kindly on some minor offences.
“I couldn’t find my way in the black out, so I laid down,” Edward Crossley, a labourer of no fixed abode told the court.  “I hope you will give me a chance.”
Charged with being drunk and disorderly, the magistrates freed him without fine or cost as he had been kept in custody for several days.
Albert George Ayres of Wharf Farm, Uffington wasn’t quite so lucky when he was stopped by the mobile police for driving a motor lorry at speeds varying between 40 and 43 mph.
“I have to milk 30 cows when I get back home, and feed 100 head of cattle,” he told magistrates who fined him £2 for speeding and a further 10s for failing to produce a record of his driving hours.  Farmer Ayres also had his driving licence endorsed.
And John Myland of 1 Cambria Cottages went back to prison just six weeks after being released following a six months sentence.
Arrested for being drunk and disorderly and smashing a pane of glass in a telephone kiosk, Myland was said to be ‘shouting and waving his arms about.’  He fell down in the road and bumped into pedestrians.
Myland pleaded guilty to being drunk and disorderly and went back to prison for another three months.

“With British and Imperial Forces beating off waves of German infantry and hitting back hard on land, on sea and in the air, the titanic battle of Greece is raging non stop,” reported the Advertiser this week in 1941.
Violent assaults on the 150 mile front held by Empire and Greek forces saw the Allies under extreme pressure in a situation described as serious.

The Nazi army continued to advance despite very heavy losses attributed to the brilliant delaying actions fought by Australian and New Zealand troops.

As the Imperial Forces were forced to withdraw the Greek Epirus Forces buckled under the Nazi onslaught and capitulated to the Germans on April 21.

And in the US Bishop Henry Hobson, Chairman of the Southern Ohio ‘Fight for Freedom Committee’ sent a strongly worded ‘Wake up Call’ telegram to members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

“Unless we throw our full support into the fight the present war will be lost, and a more serious and more devastating war will have to be fought in the future,” he warned.

Deanna Durbin, star of Three Smart Girls married film director Vaughn Paul in Hollywood on April 18.  But there were no big stars among the 800 guests as the invitations went mostly to studio workers.
The 19 year old actress wore an ivory duchess satin gown with long sleeves and a wide sweeping train.
And showing at the Regent this week was the teenage actresses’ latest film, Spring Parade in which she starred alongside Robert Cummings.
Joan Blondel and Dick Powell were the stars of ‘I Want a Divorce,’ at the Empire while Wallace Beery was the ‘Bad Man of Wyoming’ screened at the Savoy.
For those who preferred to stay at home radio programmes on the Home Service included ‘The Old Familiar Things’ with Jack Melford and Betty Astell as the young couple who recalled ‘some of the things we did before the war.’

Deanna Durbin

Two London evacuees who were married at Islington Register Office in 1881, celebrated their Diamond Jubilee in Swindon this week.
A former labourer in the East India Docks, Mr Ward took an active role in the six week long London Dock Strike of 1889 alongside Labour leaders Jack Burns, Ben Tillett and Tom Mann which led to the establishment of a trade union presence on the docks.

The couple from Bow, billeted with Mrs Sinclair at 15 Jennings Street, had just learned that their home of 45 years had been severely damaged in recent raids on London.

“Well it can’t be helped,” Mr Ward told an Advertiser reporter.  “We’ll keep smiling.  We are going to win.”

Mr and Mrs Ward lost two sons in the Great War.

Mr and Mrs Ward

Plymouth suffered a third successive night of air raids as Nazi bombers dropped large flares and incendiaries followed by a wave of high explosives.
Two enemy planes were shot down in a fierce antic aircraft barrage but the attack was described as not on the scale of previous ones.

Earlier raids had seen a communal shelter receive a direct hit and in another part of the city a shopping centre was destroyed.

Weddings at Christ Church, Swindon this week included that of Donald Stanley George Smith of 25 Buller Street, Swindon who married Daisy May Barnes of 89 Shrivenham Road.
And Private Douglas Ivor Webb of 4 King John Street married Eveleen Grace Bristow of 31 Cambria Place.  Private Webb had been a compositor at Newspaper House before he enlisted with the Somerset Light Infantry.

Private Webb and Eveleen Bristow

More than 300,000 young women were expected to sign up for war work this week as those born in 1920 were required to register at Labour Exchanges.
“Many of them were already doing important work, but, unless they were in one of the Services open to women, they had to sign on the dotted line,” reported the Advertiser.

“It is now no uncommon sight to find public houses with their doors closed during permitted hours and bearing a notice sold out,” reported the Advertiser as Swindon pubs recorded a shortage of beer.
With supplies of alcohol as plentiful as ever it appeared that demand had increased out of all proportion 

In the Advertiser’s ‘Today’s Smile’ feature a schoolteacher who was taking a class in literature quoted the well known line ‘Oh to be in England now that April’s there.’  ‘Who said that?’ he asked.  The small boy who was questioned thought it over carefully for a moment, and then replied ‘Hitler, sir.’

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 12 - 18, 1941

London suffered its heaviest raid yet when several hundred German bombers attacked the British capital dropping thousands of incendiaries and hundreds of high explosive bombs.
“Seen from the roof of a high City building the whole of London appeared involved in the raid,” wrote a Pres Association reporter.
The raid took place with good ground visibility and was directed, in the first instance, against harbour installations, reported the Advertiser.  Tilbury Docks and Chatham on the Thames Estuary were also extremely badly hit.
A Special German High Command communiqué stated that the raid on London was a reprisal for those made on Berlin and Potsdam on April 9 and 10.

And an elderly couple killed in a Bristol air raid were buried in Chippenham this week in 1941.  William John Rose and his wife Mary Ann, originally from Chippenham, had lived in Bristol for 50 years. 
Their home at 21 Birch Road was demolished during a raid on Good Friday, April 11.  The bodies of Mr and Mrs Rose were found, clasped in each other’s arms, in the wreckage of their kitchen the following day.

Swindon farmers braced themselves as the age of reservation for agricultural workers was raised to 25.
Farmers employing men aged 19-26 were instructed to apply at once to the county war agricultural executive committees for their retention.  However, it was anticipated that the great majority of the men concerned would be allowed to stay on the land, at least until after harvest.
While a warning was issued that no one would be allowed to ‘shelter’ in agriculture as an escape from military service, an assurance was given that key men with expertise would remain on the farms.
Most recruits for the Army would be found from among nurserymen, poultry and pig keepers and fruit farmers whose places would be filled by women as the demand for agricultural workers was being met by volunteers entering the Women’s Land Army.

“The Germans are using the same ruthless tactics in Greece as they employed in the Battle of France,” a British United Press war correspondent reported from Athens, this week in 1941.  “But they have the British Forces to reckon with now, and I know from my experience that these will not be daunted by their terrorist warfare,” the report continued.
Town and villages were razed by dive bombing Nazi planes before tanks and fast mechanised units moved in.  But the British Forces were ahead of the game and had already moved in columns of tanks, lorries, big guns and munitions.
“Rarely have I seen men so eager to get to grips with the enemy,” reported the correspondent.  “They smashed my home – I’ve got an account to settle,” one soldier newly arrived from London was quoted as saying.

Harry Higginson
Harry Higginson, sports editor of the Evening Advertiser and editor of the Football Pink for many years, died suddenly this week. Mr Higginson, 54, who was at his desk in the afternoon, collapsed in the works as he was about to leave at the end of shift.  He died later that night at his home in Marlborough Road.
Originally form Kendal in Westmorland, Harry Higginson had come to Swindon thirty years previously to a job on the North Wilts Herald.
During the First World War he served in the Royal Garrison Artillery in France but was invalided out with dysentery. An accomplished journalist, Harry joined the Advertiser in 1921, writing under a number of pen names.  He regularly reported on the fortunes of the Swindon Town Football Club and gave daily racing forecasts.

The audience at the popular Sunday afternoon series of concerts at the Savoy Cinema were entertained by the Southern Command Variety Orchestra at a Stag Party this week in 1941.
The 25 member strong orchestra opened the concert with an arrangement of potted overtures.  The highlight of the programme was, according to the Advertiser reviewer, ‘their rousing and colourful interpretation of music from the film King of Jazz’ which featured Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
The Swindon audience was entertained by comedy duo Dump Harris and his partner, described as the British Army’s Laurel and Hardy, and Canadian Herschel Henlere , billed as a popular pianist with a sense of humour.
Proceeds from the concert went to the Mayoress of Swindon’s fund for comforts for the troops.

Reports from Germany reveal that morale amongst the working class people was at an all time low.  At a time of national shortages, corruption and profiteering was rife with the Nazi party enjoying a monopoly on illegal products which they supplied to the rich.
Coffee sold for £2 a pound on the black market with butter costing £1 a pound.  However nobody dared say anything about it for fear of ending up in a concentration camp, the report continued.
“Germany has been drained almost dry by the war effort,” a factory manager told a British United Press journalist.  “There is a shortage of everything, but appearances are being kept up at all costs.”

About 20,000 parcels of comforts have been sent by Great Western Railway employees to their colleagues in the Forces.
Despatched by hundreds of volunteers from 24 packing centres at principal parts of the company’s system, the comforts ranged from pullovers and socks knitted by members of the staff to packs of cards and mouth organs.
Some 200,000 cigarettes, 40,000 safety razor blades, 21,000 packets of chewing gum, 15,000 handkerchiefs, 10,000 books and 8,000 sticks of shaving soap had also been despatched to former GWR employees.
Each parcel had been sent to a named colleague to maintain a personal link with the station or depot where the serviceman had worked before joining up.

Caroline Dewe and William Hillman
Caroline Ellen Dewe, one of the singing Four Harmony Sisters, married William Edward Hillman at the Wesleyan Church, Faringdon Road this week in 1941.  And Marjorie Langford married Arthur William Dowdeswell at Christ Church, Swindon.  The bride wore a white satin gown with a veil surmounted by orange blossom and was attended by six bridesmaids attired in pink and mauve.  Marjorie was the elder daughter of First World War hero Leonard Langford of the Royal Garrison Artillery who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for devotion to duty during the period October to November 1918.

Marjorie Langford and Arthur Dowdeswell

A memorial service was held at the parish church Clyffe Pypard for two young boys who died at sea during enemy action in March.
Naval Officer Lieutenant Commander Thomas Nevil Masterman showed incredible bravery when a ship on which he and his family were travelling was bombed.
In an attack which killed his two young sons, Patrick Nevil 9 and Anthony Maskelyne St John 6, Lt. Commander Masterman saw the lifeboats safely launched, rallied the crew and took over from the shell shocked captain to bring the damaged ship safely into harbour several days later.

The funeral took place this week of Special Constable Dennis George Constable who died suddenly outside his home at 29 Upham Road. A chargeman machinist in the GWR Works and secretary of the Wilts Working Men’s Conservative Benefit Society, Mr Constable was just 37 years old. Swindon policemen under Supt. W.T. Brooks, Deputy Chief Constable of Wiltshire, formed a guard of honour at Christ Church, Swindon. Mr Constable left a widow and a ten year old son.

Three tons of seed potato for the Swindon Council of Social Service’s allotment scheme arrived in the town and secretary Mr T.H. Fessey was anxious that members collected their quotas as quickly as possible.
It was pointed out that unless members took up their supplies without delay, the Council would have to foot the bill for demurrage – storage beyond a scheduled time – or railway truck rental.

Part of the Ashton Keynes Bruderhof community settlement looked likely to be taken over by the Home Office for the purpose of an Approved School for juvenile delinquents. The residence and portions of the farm have been the subject of negotiations which had reached a very advanced stage, reported the Advertiser.

A householder in Winifred Street placed his fire fighting appliances in his front garden for the use of anyone in need.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 5 - 11, 1941

Nearly 150,000 boys had enrolled in more than 1,200 squadrons of the ATC, W.W. Wakefield, Swindon MP and Parliamentary private Secretary to the Under Secretary of State for Air, told an audience at the Coliseum, Harrow.
Mr Wakefield spoke of how the Royal Air Force was writing history across the skies of Britain.
“One of the most important manifestations of this is in the formation of the Air Training Corps through which the boys of this country can be trained while they are still young, for the gallant experience of being pilots in the Royal Air Force,” he said.
The headquarters of the newly established Swindon Air Training Corps opened at 2 Emlyn Square in the GWR Engineering Society’s premises as arrangements were announced for grading examinations in which cadets would sit special English and Maths papers.
“On Wednesday 16th April, there is to be a combined meeting of all Swindon cadets in the large hall at Euclid Street School,” reported the Advertiser.  “Details of the various RAF trades and duties and rates of pay etc, will be given, and the boys will be asked to take notes so that they will be prepared to state their choice at a subsequent date.”
Pictured are members of the three flights of the Air Training Corps in Swindon who combined for foot drill instruction by an RAF warrant officer at Pinehurst School.

With wartime spending topping £13,000,000 a day MPs urged Sir Kingsley Wood, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to announce an ‘as you were’ budget.
Political pundits felt that any rise in taxation would create a bad psychological effect and would do little to reduce such colossal borrowings.
An increase of 6d in income tax would add £30,000,000 to the government war coffers but it was expected that the chancellor would seek to raise funds by a number of other ways.
Ideas under discussion were believed to include an ‘adjustment’ of allowances and the possible application of ‘a kind of Excess Profits Tax’ to incomes and taking a percentage of any increases in wages since 1940.  A penny on beer would bring £20,000,000 with increases on tobacco and cigarettes also predicted.
Sir Leonard Lyle, sugar magnate and Conservative MP for Bournemouth, was also looking into the contentious subject of food waste and the cost of Army Camps.
Compulsory saving, an increase in purchase tax and a new general tax on services such as hairdressers and hotel restaurants were some of the ideas being aired in government circles.

As Britain prepared itself for the miserly ‘mouse trap’ cheese ration due to come into force on May 5, an unexplained glut hit stores nationwide.
The sudden abundance of cheese was believed to have arisen as retailers got rid of stocks before the introduction of rationing when it would become an offence to buy or sell in excess of the stipulated amount.  But wartime consumer watchdogs wondered how the retail trade had managed to accumulate such stocks of cheese when already subject to 50% ration since January 1941.
‘In at least one Swindon store, however, a couple of whole cheeses came out into the open yesterday, and cast a magnetic spell over the shopping public,’ reported the Advertiser.
Although purchases were unofficially restricted to about a pound in weight per customer, this was more cheese than most people had seen since before the outbreak of war.

Jack Payne

There was something to suit all musical tastes in Swindon this week in 1941.  For the classical music lover Solomon Cutner, a former child prodigy, gave a recital at the Savoy Cinema while big band leader Jack Payne entertained fans at the Empire Theatre.‘Solomon’s brilliant technique and the profound sense of sympathy with which he interpreted the varying descriptive passages of his music was a revelation,’ enthused the Advertiser reviewer. Meanwhile Jack Payne served up a lively programme of musical entertainment including a comedy ‘skit in a celebrity concert.’First saxophone, Art Christmas played practically every instrument in the orchestra finishing with a rendition of ‘In the Mood’ played on the bagpipes.

Swindon Mayor, Alderman F.E. Allen lent his support to the announcement of a national flag day to be held on August 19 on behalf of the air raid distress fund.
“I have decided, so far as it is possible to decide in these uncertain times,” said the Mayor, “that this shall be the only appeal by me to the inhabitants of Swindon during my year of office, and I am sure everyone will support me in the decision I have made by contributing generously.”
Funds raised locally would be made available for local distribution should the need arise, the Mayor explained.

The pupils of Miss Wendy Plaister, the GWR Juvenile Players and Mrs Parson’s junior choir took part in a fund raising concert at the Playhouse.
“A crowded house, which included the Mayor of Swindon (Ald. F.E. Allen), who was accompanied by the Mayoress, saw a colourful and entertaining show,” reported the Advertiser.
The matinee concert was in aid of the Mayoress of Swindon’s and the GWR Staff Joint Comfort’s Fund.
Miss Plaister’s pupils gave a series of dancing specialities called ‘The Art of Dance.’ Pictured left to right are Audrey Selman, Jill Anthony, Barbara Hall, Barbara Foulds and Barbara Martin.

Defending his title for the sixteenth time, heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis emerged victorious following a hard fought battle against contender Tony Musto when referee Arthur Donovan stopped the fight in the ninth round.
Musto had taken a battering during which it appeared ‘he would rather be slaughtered than give in,’ according to the Advertiser.
But Louis didn’t have it all his own way, and it was debated whether the champion had lost some of his deadliness as this was the second time within a month that an opponent was still standing after a few rounds.

Traditionally the most popular season in the year, Easter weddings were at an all time low in Swindon in 1941. Swindon Register Office blamed difficulties in obtaining leave as one of the reasons for the fall in Easter weddings this year. 
One couple who bucked the trend was Lance Corporal Raymond H. Gardiner of Broadway, Gloucestershire who married Iris Coker, elder daughter of Mr and Mrs Edward Coker of Long Brendon House, Kingshill Road at Clifton Street Methodist Church.  Following the ceremony a  reception was held in the adjoining schoolroom.

A Swindon man collapsed in the street on his way home from a shop in Kent Road after buying a newspaper.  Alfred Ernest Evans, 56 of 26 Ashford Road collapsed in the gutter.  Police Constable Stevens, who was in his front room at the time, heard the man fall and ran out to give assistance, but Mr Evans died in his arms.  Mr Evans was a bachelor and had been living with his sister.

Five little piggies had apparently lost their way home when Police Constable Carter found them in Portsmouth Street backsides.
John Singer of 29 Gordon Road told Swindon Borough Police Court that he had left the sow secured but she must have got away and opened the door.
When asked, Constable Carter confirmed that the sow and her five piglets had proved difficult to catch.  Mr Singer was fined 10s.

Mr W. Franklin, school manager and member of the Herring Trust, presented the Herring Trust Prize to Miss Pansy Crumpler of 106 Kingsdown Road at the Upper Stratton Senior School.  The Herring Trust award was presented annually for proficiency, good behaviour and attendance.  Along with Pansy, winners in 1941 included William Furze, Trevor Lancaster, Henry Iles, Barbara Scriven and Eunice Melsom.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

March 29 - April 4, 1941

Letters to the editor this week included a ‘sausage grumble’ and a tip on how to carry babies’ gas masks while Swindon’s air raid shelters were causing a bit of a stink.
‘I wonder when one is going to get a decent sausage,’ wrote a housewife of Medgbury Road.  ‘No matter where you get them they are all the same – simply soaked bread and fat.  It is disgusting.’
The resourceful Mrs B. Bates of Redcliffe Street had a DIY tip for the mum trying to juggle baby, pram and gas mask.
‘Fix two pieces of wood on the framework under the back of the perambulator.  Have them long enough so that they project far enough out to hold the box safely, then nail two small pieces of wood upright on the wood already fixed, to hold the box in place. This has already been carried out successfully,’ she wrote, ‘and does not interfere with the baby’s comfort.’
And Lionel Howse of 12 Wells Street wished he’d had his gas mask with him when he decided to have a quick look round one of Swindon’s street shelters.
‘Incidentally it is only a small shelter, but before I had explored all of it I was very glad to emerge,’ he wrote.  ‘The condensed effluvia of a sewer, pigsty, cow yard and dung heap would be as the pure essence of violets compared with the noxious emanation I found therein and one dreads to think what would happen should a blitz occur and people rushed there for shelter.’

Mr J. G. Mason
Following on from the success of the first Air Training Corps squadron, a second was officially sanctioned in Swindon this week in 1941 and would be known as No 1,244 Squadron.  Mr J.G. Mason, headmaster of Pinehurst Modern School was confirmed as Squadron Leader.
Although up and running for just a few weeks, the cadets in Swindon’s first squadron were already receiving coaching in specialised technical subjects, physical training, foot drill and general efficiency and discipline.  A plane had also been offered to the two squadrons for ground demonstrations.
Six flights had so far been formed with headquarters at Pinehurst Modern, Ferndale Road, Sanford Street, Commonweal and Euclid Street Schools.
The Rev C.F. Harman, Vicar of St Paul’s and the Rev Nigel Porter, Pastor of Immanuel Congregational Church, Upham Road were the honorary chaplains and Dr D.A. Cameron the honorary medical officer.
“It is hoped that before very long it will be found necessary to make application for consent to form a third squadron,” reported the Advertiser, “as with its wide sphere of activities, presents youths with just the opportunity they have been longing for to prepare themselves technically and physical for service in the RAF.”

The passing of the traditional English Sunday will be a calamity the nature and extent of which future history will reveal, wrote the Rev C.F. Harman, Vicar at St Paul’s, as the country prepared for a working Easter in 1941.
He questioned the government decision to order National Days of Prayer while at the same time making this year’s Good Friday an ordinary working day. 
Rev Harman criticised the motion to allow theatres and music halls to open on Sundays and felt that men in the services were being pandered to.  The drift towards the secularisation of Sunday cannot be concealed, he said.
And Swindon Town Council employees heard that they would not receive a day’s holiday in lieu of a Bank Holiday cancelled by the government.  However it wasn’t all bad news.
The question of compensation for cancelled Bank Holidays was the subject of debate at this week’s council meeting.  The finding was that council employees already enjoyed a generous holiday allowance compare to other workers, therefore they would receive a day’s pay plus any agreed special rate normally due in respect of work done on a Bank Holiday.

Nearly 2000 young men in the GWR Works were among those railway apprentices set to gain from a pay rise as negotiations continued on the national pay scale.
A cut made during the slump in the 1930s had seen apprentices wages remain at the revised lower rate.  This along with a rise in the cost of living and the likelihood of female workers being brought into railway workshops were factors in support of the claim to raise the apprentice’s rate of pay.
“This is the first time in the history of the railway trade union movement that apprentices, as such, have made any move of this nature,” reported the Advertiser.  “The AEU apprentices have since put their case to all their local branches and secured complete support.”

fire bomb snatcher
Mr A.J. Porter, travelling salesman and spare time member of the Auxiliary Fire Service turned inventor when he came up with an idea to help deal with fire bombs.
The 9ft long piece of cast iron tubing with a double prong at the end and a cast iron rod running inside with another prong, worked like a grab.  The bomb could be picked up between the two sets of prongs and carried to safety.
‘The implement has been seen by the Swindon Fire brigade, and confidence expressed in its being of use,’ reported the Advertiser.  ‘The only trouble at the moment is that the thing is rather weighty, but perhaps Mr Porter will be able to find a lighter metal soon with the same heat resisting properties.’

Mr and Mrs Charles Little 
Mr and Mrs Charles Little of 190 Cheney Manor Road celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary this week in 1941.
The couple were married at Hucclecote Parish Church, Gloucester on March 30, 1891 and moved to Swindon in 1896.  Mr Little worked in the Boiler Shop at the GWR Works for more than 30 years.
‘Mr and Mrs Little have two sons and a daughter living,’ reported the Advertiser. ‘One of the sons, Stanley, is a Quarter Master Sergeant.  He enlisted on his 45th birthday, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, and is now a prisoner of war.’

John William Jefferies 

John William Jefferies retired this week in 1941 having spent 50 years working in the same GWR Shop.
Mr Jefferies, who moved to Swindon from London as a boy in 1885 told the Advertiser he could remember when there were cowsheds where the Town Hall stands.
He began his work as an errand boy before moving to the GWR Works in 1891 in 15 Shop (wagon side) where he spent the rest of his working life.
Mr Jefferies planned to return to London to work with the London City Mission.

All male British subjects born between December 31, 1897 and before April 6, 1900, including members of the Home Guard, were to register for war work at the Ministry of Labour and National Service, it was announced in the Advertiser.
It was intended that this latest round of registration would reveal exactly what the men were doing and how many could be spared from their jobs for essential war work.

Sidney Andrew Smith
Petty Officer Sidney Andrew Smith aged 21 was reported killed in action when his ship HMS York was attacked by Italian explosive motorboats of the 10th Flotilla MAS at Suda Bay, Crete.  The ship was run aground to prevent her from sinking.
Petty Officer Smith was one of three brothers, sons of Mr and Mrs W.J. Smith of 42 Linslade Street, Swindon.

Swindon housewives learned that yet another staple food would soon be joining the list of rationed items.  From May 5 cheese would be rationed at just 1oz per person per week.
With grocers objecting to cutting cheese into such small amounts it was anticipated that the Ministry of Food would agree to shoppers ordering a month’s ration at a time.

Swindon police were making enquiries to track down those responsible for stamping anti-Semitic slogans on town centre shop fronts.
Phrase such as ‘Help your neighbour, stop this Jews’ war’ and ‘Blame the Jew, not England’ were stamped on the stone work of shop fronts and in other prominent positions on buildings in Regent Street and Regent Circus during the blackout.

Mr and Mrs Ehrmann
Among the weddings at St Mark’s Church this week was that of Rifleman Peter Ehrmann of London who married local girl Janet Harding of 2 Hunt Street. Douglas Mitchell of Whitby Grove, Swindon married Doris Mulraney of Station Road and following a reception at St John’s Church Hall the couple left for a honeymoon in Weymouth. 

Joe Loss
Popular band leader Joe Loss made a return visit to Swindon playing to a full house at the Savoy Cinema.  Vocalists included Monte Rey, a romantic tenor, Paula Green, Bob Arden and Bette Roberts.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

March 22 - 28, 1941

‘Shortly after two o’clock the first whiff of gas was detected,’ reported the Advertiser, when the ARP Services staged an imaginary air raid in Swindon town centre this week in 1941.  ‘During the course of the exercise there were five separate incidents, including one in proximity to the Town Hall. Ambulance and first aid parties, together with decontamination squads, were early on the scene, and a number of ‘casualties’ were dealt with.’
A mild concentration of tear gas was released to increase the authenticity of the exercise and passersby caught without their regulation gas mask suffered a slight smarting of the eyes, according to the report.
The conduct of the public was described as very satisfactory with those who failed to carry gas masks the exception rather than the rule.
Meanwhile the Swindon Information Committee made preparations in case the town should suffer a heavy air raid.
‘One of the main needs after a ‘blitz’ must be the dissemination of vital information and instructions to the public,’ reported the Advertiser, ‘so a fleet of loudspeaker vans is to be organised to tour the town.’
With loud speaker equipment ready and waiting, car owners were asked to volunteer to drive in an emergency.  A supply of petrol would be arranged and drivers were reassured that fitting the loudspeaker equipment would cause no damage to their vehicle.  A panel of ‘spare’ announcers was also called for.

In February Edwin and Caroline of Albion Street marked their Golden Wedding anniversary and this week it was the turn of their best man and bridesmaid to celebrate theirs. Joseph Pepler and Mary Jane Rawlings married just weeks after their friends in 1891. 
Originally from Corsham, Mr Pepler had spent eight years in the Army before moving to the GWR Works where he was employed for more than 30 years.  Mrs Pepler was a former nurse.  The couple had a son and two daughters and three grandchildren.
And another couple who celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary this week in 1941 was Arthur and Clara Woolford who had lived in the same Purton street all their lives.
Arthur, the son of a market gardener, was born at Pavenhill and his wife Clara the daughter of the landlord of the Live and Let Live Inn, just up the road.
The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary at their home, 3 The Homesteads, with their two surviving sons, seven daughters and 13 grandchildren.  Their eldest son, Joseph John was killed in action during the First World War, aged 19.  A driver in the Royal Field Artillery, he was buried at the Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery, France.

Fragments of glass removed from the toe of a soldier’s boot were produced as evidence at Swindon Borough Police Court this week in 1941.
Having missed his bus and look for a ‘doss’, Gunner McBride was directed to Vitti’s lodging house in Albert Street by Constable Wiltshire.  The soldier had been drinking but was not drunk, said PC Wiltshire.  Alexander Vitti, manager of the lodging house, was later woken by the sound of smashing glass.
Following his arrest one of McBride’s boots and a piece of glass from the lodging house window were sent to Edward Parkes of the Home Office Laboratory in Bristol for microscopic examination who confirmed that the glass removed from the boot matched with the window glass.
McBride, who said he had been drinking with some ‘Irish boys,’ claimed to have no memory of talking to Constable Wiltshire nor of smashing the window and causing £6 10s damage.
Gunner James McBride was found guilty of causing malicious damage to a plate glass window and sentenced to 28 days imprisonment.

Nearly 500 members of the Institution were in the Forces or engaged on work of national importance, members were told at the annual general meeting of the GWR Mechanics’ Institution.
With a credit of £44 it was reported that the dance hall had done extremely well and the Playhouse had exceeded all previous years.  Mr P.H. Phillips, librarian at the Institution, had also been busy and had issued no fewer than 228,871 books, but sadly one casualty of the war had been the annual Juvenile Fete held in the GWR Park on Faringdon Road.
The fete had been suspended for the duration of the war, the first break in its 75 year history.  ‘The considerable financial loss involved had been offset by the effective economies carried out by the committee,’ the meeting was told.

Swindon girls were pictured doing their bit in the ATS at an unidentified camp somewhere in the South of England.
“They come from all walks of life,” an Advertiser reported recorded in a special feature.  “I found three clerks from the GWR Works, two shop assistants from Boots, several girls from Garrard’s and Wills’s, but looking very much alike nowadays in their neat khaki uniforms.  And they have a former Swindon woman as their C.O. Junior Commander E.T. Vizard.”
Following an average eight hour day the girls received training in decontamination work, fire fighting and first aid.
Girls and women between the ages of 18 and 40 were encouraged to apply to the Recruiting Office in Swindon and to state that they wanted to be attached to the Wiltshire platoon.

Fashion tips in the weekly Advertiser included a distinctive frock for the matron, suggested by Madame Doreen.
‘Smartness does not necessarily depend upon slimness,’ advised Madam Doreen.  ‘On the contrary, the well developed figure can be very charmingly attired in a variety of styles which are inexpensive and quite easy to make up.’
With a cross over front described as, ‘kind to the figure,’ the pattern was available in bust sizes 36-48 inches for the cost of 9d in stamps.
‘The pattern takes three and three quarter yards of 36” to 38” wide material, a scrap of fabric for the vest and a nice brooch or clip.’

Despite petrol rationing the price of a second hand car was actually appreciating.  A sale in Swindon market in which four second hand cars were put up for auction proved quite an eye opener according to auctioneer Mr John M. Farrant. 
A 1933 Alvis fetched £37 10s with two Austin Sevens making £87 10s for a 1939 tourer and £57 10s for a 1936 two seater.
The main reason for the surge in second hand prices was the scarcity of available new vehicles.  With car production reduced, any new cars were earmarked for export to bring in much needed foreign exchange for the country’s war effort.

Peggy Field, a former London model, told the Advertiser how she gave up the high life to volunteer for the Women’s Land Army.  Following a short course at an Agricultural College, Peggy was posted to Kenneth Peploe’s farm at Walcot.
“During the past winter she has ploughed more than 100 acres,” the report continued.  “It has not all been easy going, and the weather was often trying, but Peggy was unperturbed.  Often she kept at it longer than the men, and on only three occasions has she slipped back to London for a few hours.”

 “Last night the Luftwaffe successfully attacked the port of Plymouth with strong bomber formations,” a communiqué from the German High Command announced.  “Particularly good visibility facilitated the aiming of bombs and resulted in excellent hits.  In the harbour and dock establishments, big fires resulted.  Several ships broke out in flames.  The Naval Supply Depot was seriously damaged.”
Three churches, a cinema, a store, commercial premises and many houses were among the properties damaged while casualties were estimated to be heavy.

Nineteen year old sergeant air gunner-wireless operator Desmond Cyril Morrison was killed in a flying accident while serving with the Coast Command.
Sergeant Morrison, a former Lethbridge Road School pupil and student at the College, Swindon, was the son of Cyril and Gladys Morrison, of 224 Marlborough Road.
Before joining the RAF, VR in July 1940, Sergeant Morrison was employed as a draughtsman-architect.  The funeral took place at Christ Church, Swindon.

Lance Sergeant Clarence Rabbetts and Miss Winifred Hayles
This week’s weddings included that of Winifred Lilian Hayles, cook at the Swindon Maternity Home, and Lance Sergeant Clarence D. Rabbetts of the Royal Corps of Signals who married at St Mary’s, Rodbourne Cheney.  Afterwards the couple entertained their guests at a reception at the Raymond Hall, Southbrook Street. And Sergeant George Haig Smith married Barbara Alice Brunt at Christ Church, Swindon.

Sergeant George Smith and Miss Barbara Brunt
 The Ministry of Food announced that the meat ration would be reduced from 1s 2d to 1s for the week beginning March 31.  The child ration would also be reduced from 7d to 6d.

Sergeant Pilot Douglas Spencer Matthews of 24 Shrivenham Road was promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer following his recent award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 15 - 21, 1941

Mr H.C.W. Ludgate, General Manager of the Swindon Corporation Passenger Transport Service announced record profits of £6,800 in the 1940-1 financial year.  Passenger numbers were up with more than 40,000 travelling on an average Saturday.
Mr Ludgate presented some interesting facts and figures to members of the Swindon Economic Society in an address at the College.  He pointed out some of the unique difficulties the town presented with its numerous bridges where the low headroom made it impossible to operate the more economical double decker buses across the entire system.
“February was the quietest month.  Trip Week was also, of course, a slack time, though even then with half the population away, receipts were only 20 per cent below normal,” reported the Advertiser.  “The daily receipts varied from £56 on a wet Sunday in winter to £150 on a fine summer Sunday.”
But for the war the undertaking would have been completely self supporting, Mr Ludgate told the meeting.

St Patrick’s Day celebrations got out of hand when a group of drunken Irish men without tickets tried to force their way into a dance at the Town Hall.
More than 30 men tried to enter the Town Hall, but left when asked to by Sergeant Goodship.  However John Francis Greene, a 38 year old Irishman lodging in Deacon Street, appeared from an ante room with three or four others swinging his arms, swaying and shouting, “Let me get at them.”
This drunken behaviour started a fight among the others during which Sergeant Goodship received a broken nose and later received stitches to a cut on the back of his head.
“This was not an attack on the police as such.  It was a case of a man who was already hot resenting police interference,” reported the Advertiser.
Greene was sentenced to 28 days’ hard labour and fined £1 with £2 costs, for being drunk and disorderly.

Jack Lennon 

 Jack Lennon, a member of the Swindon GWR Social and Educational Union Silver Band and the Playhouse Theatre Orchestra notched up more than 100 medals for solo cornet playing in open competitions.
Mr Lennon of 17 Hunter’s Grove, Swindon topped the century mark at a contest in Abingdon this week in 1941 where he won the solo trumpet championship and came second in the best solo instrumentalist in the quartets section.  In addition he received an award as the best conductor at the competition.
Mr Lennon came from a musical family and began playing the cornet at the age of seven.  Aged just ten he had joined his father at band practise where he had to stand on the stove in order to be seen.  Mr Lennon had led the GWR Silver Bank to victory in open competition at the Crystal Palace on many occasions.

 “Swindon is in the list for some of the new Morrison table shelters,” Ellen Wilkinson, Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security told the Advertiser on a visit to the town this week in 1941.  “It is not included in the first priority towns, but it is definitely to get its supply.”
Miss Wilkinson called in on Swindon during the course of a tour of Wales and the south of England.  Accompanied by various town dignitaries, Miss Wilkinson made an inspection of the canal site shelters and offered a number of suggestions. 
Asked for a message for the people of Swindon, Miss Wilkinson said: “The best message I can give Swindon folk is to implore them to keep in touch with their wardens, to read the Government instructions published for their safety and to be ready for trouble even though trouble may not come.”

Miss Myrtle Sawyers

A group of young Swindonians established a weekly discussion group to air some topical opinions.  The Youth Discussion Group, founded by 18 year old Dennis Iles of 279 Cricklade Road, met at the Labour Party Offices in Milton Road but was quick to emphasise it had no political affiliation or allegiance.
“Last week’s discussion was on the BBC v artistes dispute over membership of the People’s Convention,” reported the Advertiser.  “The meeting decided against the BBC and sent letters of criticism to the London newspapers on the BBC’s attitude.”
The group, which numbered around seven or eight, were keen to welcome new members.  Those interested were invited to contact the group secretary Myrtle Sawyers at 356 Cricklade Road.

William Martin

 Former Skurray’s motor engineer, William Martin, was awarded a commission as a Sub Lieutenant in the RNVR.
William, the son of Mr & Mrs W.G. Martin of 16 Springfield Road, Swindon, had joined the Merchant Service in October 1939.
‘Taffy, as he was affectionately known to his colleagues, was recently home on four days leave after a long spell at sea,’ reported the Advertiser.  ‘During his seafaring career he has been to many parts of the world, including New Zealand, Trinidad, Gibraltar and Canada.’
And jockey Bruce Hobbs, son of Lambourn trainer, who was serving with the Army in the East, also received his commission.  Bruce won the Grand National on Battleship in 1938.

Lady Tweedsmuir was guest of honour at the opening ceremony of a YWCA centre at Watchfield this week in 1941.
The former village hall had been renovated and refurbished under the guidance of Miss R.E. Gurney of 18 Folly Crescent, Watchfield and would be open daily from 2.30 to 9.45 pm.  The girls would be able to relax and enjoy table tennis and parties while the centre would also be open for private study and social work.
‘In opening the centre, Lady Tweedsmuir said she was sure the girls would make this hut the happiest place in England,’ reported the Advertiser.

The regular Swindon Press Alliance Sunday afternoon concert at the Savoy scored another hit this week in 1941 when Swindon gave a rousing welcome to popular pianist Charlie Kunz.
Also on the bill was Horace King who had the distinction of being the first artiste in the world to appear in a television performance alongside inventor J.L. Baird.
This member of the Magic Circle ‘displayed uncanny cleverness in a large repertoire of tricks, leaving the audience baffled,’ reported the Advertiser.  ‘Undoubtedly Horace King will be in much demand as an entertainer as he is a rare find,’ the report continued.

The outbreak of war had seen proposed building work at Pinehurst put on hold for the duration and the 40 acre site ploughed up and put into food production.  With a £50 penalty, under Defence Regulations for trespass on agricultural land, local children would no longer be allowed to play on this area.  A path running alongside the brook had, however been preserved to provide a short cut to school.

The Swindon WVS announced that the Food Column would soon be in operation and called for a volunteer cook or messenger cyclist for this important national service.  The new, mobile scheme to feed the homeless was sponsored by the Ministry of Food.  Those interested in volunteering were advised to contact the organisers at 6 Temple Street.

Trooper Richens and Miss Edna Head
Weddings this week included that of Trooper Leslie Richens who married Edna Head at St Barnabas’ Church and RAF Sergeant Wilfred Thornhill of Manchester who married local girl Dorothy Joan Parsons at Christ Church.

RAF Sergeant Thonrhill and Miss Dorothy Parsons

First Class Stoker Albert Edward Thompson was reported killed while on active service aboard HMS Stag at Port Said.  Stoker Thompson was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Thompson of 43 Chester Street and was married with a child.  A naval reservist, Mr Thompson was recalled for active service at the outbreak of war.

Albert Edward Thompson