Friday, September 9, 2011

September 7-13, 1939

Poles stemming German Advance on South West - Berlin claims two towns captured - these were the headlines on September 7, four days after Britain and France declared war on Germany.

The official German News Agency announced that KiefIce, an important railway and road junction had been captured by German troops along with Ciechanow, a town 45 miles from Warsaw.

'Life has changed completely in a week. New values and new standards have been set up, every phase of our daily life has now to be viewed in a different perspective,' a staff reporter in the Advertiser wrote as the first shocking week of war drew to a close.

Meanwhile on the homefront Swindon women had been quickly mobilised into action with the setting up of the Women's Voluntary Service for Civil Defence, based at Regent Circus under the direction of Mrs Humphreys and Mrs Claridge.

'Opportunities are plentiful for women who want to do something,' the conscious raising report continued and Mrs Humphreys announced that the WVS intended to open a canteen at the Civic Offices for voluntary workers 'who are there at all hours of the day and night.'

Swindon mothers received instructions from two ARP workers, Mrs Milton and Mrs. B.O.D. Palmer, on how to use the baby respirators, protection for the very youngest against gas attacks.

During the first week of war, 1,700 mothers attended the demonstrations. 'Dolls were used in the respirators instead of babies and the women were keenly interested,' reported the Advertiser.

Notification was given of further demonstrations to be held at Haydon Wick, Wroughton and Stratton during the following week.

Swindon Trades Council met on Wednesday September 6 and top of the agenda was the subject of war-time profiteering. Councillor H.R. Hustings, chairman at the first meeting of the Swindon Food Control Committee, listened to members concerns.

"We must nip it in the bud," urged Mr. W.H. Collins who said profiteering was bound to take place. "It would be a good idea if a committee was elected from our members to act as guardians of the workers we represent," he added.

Mr. Hustings informed the committee that plans were already made for the registration of consumers and that within a week forms would be sent to every household to ascertain the number of persons in each house. Ration cards would be issued and it was hoped that food queues would be shorter than during the previous war.

It was suggested at the meeting that there would be rationing of butcher's meat, bacon, butter, margarine, lards, fat and sugar, and Mr Hustings commented that as far as he could see there would be little opportunity of profiteering in food stuffs.

Although the newly introduced National Service (Armed Forces) Act saw men aged 18-41 liable for conscription, there were exceptions. On Friday September 8 the Ministry of Labour issued a list of reserved occupations which exempted certain workers from full time military service. Complete with relevant age guidelines the list gave details of those jobs deemed essential to the war effort.

'A man who follows an occupation listed cannot be accepted for whole-time service in any of the Services of national defence if of or above the age stated/ reported the Advertiser.

This only applied to full time military service and workers were reminded that 'it does not prevent anyone from undertaking part time service in a branch of civil defence.'

Among the reserved occupations which had a particular significance to Swindon and the GWR Works were those of blacksmith, carpenter, joiner, coach trimmer and painter, professional engineer, fitter and foundry worker.

The daily bulletin from Swindon Isolation Hospital stated: Mrs Kilminster and Olive Gibbs improving, others doing well.

Blunsdon Women's Institute committee decided to suspend activities until November, owing to the fact their meeting place has been converted into a first aid post and ARP headquarters. Most of the Committee and some of the members were engaged on national service, and it was thought likely that the branch would undertake new forms of war work as occasion required.

It's an ill wind that blows nobody good and the war has involved numerous programme changes which will be welcomed in many quarters,' entertainment reviewer Tuner wrote in Radio Notes. 'Band Waggon is one of the popular shows to be revived now that Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch have no stage engagements. The full and original team will be on the air on Saturday of next week.'

Prices to be paid to householders on whom soldiers were billeted were set out in an order issued on Thursday night. Where lodgings with bed and attendance but no meals and no cooking facilities were provided, the price was sixpence a night. In cases where meals were furnished the price was tenpence a night for the first soldier and eightpence a night for each additional soldier. Other prices were - breakfast 8d each, dinner lid, tea 3d and supper 5d. Meals for Soldiers were those specified by the Army Act.

Evacuees Corner, a dedicated column in the Advertiser, posted messages from families separated during the evacuation exodus - Mrs Badham, 47 Hythe Road, Swindon evacuated from 271 Lillie Road, Fulham was anxious to trace the whereabouts of her two children Jean and Ronald who were scholars at Munster Road School, Fulham.

The response to the appeal for prams and push-chairs required to meet the needs of the many mothers and children evacuated to Swindon was very poor. Mr T.H. Fessey, secretary to Swindon Council of Social Service, explained that he had more than 50 applications for prams, and that at the time of publication only four had been made.

Harry Martin, the Swindon Town F.C. Trainer, terminated his employment with the club to take up a new emergency job with the GWR at Swindon.

William Henry Franklin, an erector of 33 Morris Street, became the first victim of the blackout. Mr Franklin, described as middle aged, was pushing a bicycle in the road near Rodbourne Cheney when he was hit by a Bristol bus just before 10.30 on Sunday night. He was taken to the Victoria Hospital but died early Monday morning.

photographs courtesy of Swindon Advertiser;
Baby gas mask demonstration
Councillor H.R. Hustings
1924 aerial view of Swindon Works
Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch
T.H. Fessey secretary to Swindon Council of Social Service

Frances Bevan

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