Saturday, December 24, 2011

November 2-8, 1939

Swindon women volunteers were in action across the town as various wartime initiatives got off the ground this week in November 1939.

Guest of Honour, Lady Mabel Hamilton Stubber, president of the Swindon branch of the YMCA, officially opened a canteen for servicemen at the association’s Fleet Street premises. Open weekdays from 5pm – 9.30pm, the canteen provided teas and hot suppers at reasonable prices for men in the Armed Forces. Other facilities included a special writing room with materials provided free of charge and a billiards room. A programme of entertainments kicked off with a performance by Garrard employees of their revue show which had prove ‘a great success’ at the Playhouse earlier in the year.

The recently opened Immanuel Congregational Church in Upham Road invited women evacuees to attend a Women's Social Club which ran every Thursday afternoon, while a newly inaugurated committee chaired by the wife of the outgoing Mayor (Coun. R.G. Cripps) set about co-ordinating various efforts in the town already engaged in providing comforts for Swindon men serving in the forces. With Christmas in their sights, committee members representing the principal organisation in the town, discussed plans for fundraising.

Meanwhile the Conservation Association (women's branch) had already established their own 'Sister Susies' group, pictured making gifts for the Army, Navy, Social Service and Evacuees, at their sewing and knitting class.

Another group meeting for the first time at the Swindon Labour Party Offices in Milton Road was the Swindon Women's War Group. The aims of the organisation were to deal with problems confronting the working class people brought about by the war. Speaker Mrs D. Cook gave a talk on the war time cost of living and evacuee problems.

Still with no official start date for the full implementation of rationing, more than 70,000 ration books had been processed and were ready for delivery in Swindon and the surrounding district during the second week of November 1939.

Under the supervision of the local food officer, relays of volunteer workers, including secondary school children, had date stamped and addressed the books. With butter, bacon and ham the only items on the list of rationed foods, a Government announcement was expected that a modified scheme delayed until the middle of December was all that the situation demanded. Householders were instructed to register for the items, including sugar, with their chosen retailers as soon as they received their ration books.

Criticism mounted concerning what some saw as the overzealous pursuit by the police of those in breach of the new black-out regulations.

'I wish to congratulate the police on being so careful about such an important matter,' wrote Richard Priceman Evans of 55 Eastcott Hill, summoned before Swindon Magistrates for not screening his house lights. Evans was fined 10s along with Donald Samuel Smith, 310 Marlborough Road and Mrs Winifred Parker, 29 Prospect Place, for similar offences.

Albert Ball, Toothill Farm, Lydiard Tregoze, Charles Ody, Southleaze Farm, Wroughton and Jack Nelson Slade, 102 Commercial Road, Swindon were each fined 7s 6d for using a bicycle without red lights.

With bonfires prohibited between the hours of sunset and sunrise under the Lighting (Restrictions) Order and fireworks restricted to indoor use (sparklers) only under Control of Noise (Defence) (No 2) Order, defence regulations saw Guy Fawkes 1939 celebrations pass with a whimper rather than a bang.

Images - Sister Susies (top) Lady Mabel Hamilton-Stubber at the opening of the YMCA canteen in Fleet Street (bottom)

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