Saturday, December 24, 2011

November 16-22, 1939

Two Swindon sisters were among those saved when the Dutch liner the Simon Bolivar sunk in the North Sea, 16 miles off Harwich.

Pamela, 12 and Erica Cresswell 10, were on their way to join their parents in Trinidad when the ship hit two mines, killing 140 of the 400 passengers and crew on board.

'A wave of horror has swept the world at the news of the sinking of the Simon Bolivar,' the Advertiser reported. 'Survivors stories revealed nightmare scenes aboard the vessel, with shrieking women and children plunged into a sea of thick oil.'

Recovering with their aunt and uncle, Mr & Mrs V.L. Vernon at 21 Okus Road, the girls told how they managed to get into a lifeboat but it was overcrowded and also in danger of sinking.

Travelling with them, the girls' guardians, Mr & Mrs Short who were by that time in the water, called to the sisters to jump into the sea. After an hour and a half the group was picked up by a lifeboat and transferred to a trawler.

'In spite of the terrible ordeal through which they passed they never at any time displayed any fear,' the report continued.

Cows were making the news in Swindon this week. On Wednesday one parted company with its drover to do a bit of window shopping in Wood Street. The animal entered Shawyer and Blake's chemist before barging head first through the shop front, smashing two large panes of plate glass.

Meanwhile at Malmesbury Police Court cowman Frederick White of Barnes Green was fined 5s for driving 25 cows on the highway without having a dimmed light at the back and front. His employer, John Hathway of Church Farm, Brinkworth was also fined £1 for permitting the offence.
The incident occurred on October 19 when the herd was being driven during the black-out, 200 yards along a stretch of road from a field to the farm in Brinkworth. Harold Henry Mills of Churchdown was travelling through Brinkworth on his way to Swindon when he collided with one of the cows.

Chairman Mr Hugh Baker emphasised that farmers who find it necessary to drive cows on the road during the black-out must see that a light is carried at both ends of the herd. Not to do so was in breach of the Defence of the Realm Act.

Homesick evacuee Catherine Brudenell, 12, was discovered in Chippenham on Sunday night where she asked Mrs Cogan Parry for directions to the train station. Billeted in Box village, Catherine had already walked seven miles and intended following the railway line to her home in Ealing.

A census of the number of elementary school children in London was taken as grave concern at the large number of evacuees returning to the city was expressed in an Emergency Committee report.
A shortage of clothing and boots for the evacuated children was reported as one of the major problems experienced in reception areas such as Swindon. Appeals had been made locally and some London boroughs had introduced instruction in boot repairing in the senior boys' schools.

In a report on the rat situation in Swindon following a regular vermin cull, sanitary inspector Mr B. Hoddinott said that, owing to the war, the public generally had not taken so much interest in rat week.


Lady Mabel Hamilton-Stubber, president of the Women's Auxiliary branch of the YMCA, made an appeal for magazines, books, picture papers and table games through the letters page of the Advertiser to be sent to the newly opened YMCA canteen in Fleet Street.

Images - Pamela and Erica Cresswell (top) and the YMCA canteen

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