Saturday, December 24, 2011

November 23-29, 1939

Two Swindon men were lost when the Rawalpindi, an armed merchant cruiser, was sunk by a German pocket battleship the Deutschland while on contraband control duties off the south east cost of Iceland.

Seventeen year old midshipman Wallace Middleton, only son of Mr & Mrs H.H. Middleton of 20 Devizes Road was killed in action and died at his post. Mrs Middleton told an Advertiser reporter that she had a feeling that when her boy left home on the last occasion she would not see him again.

Midshipman Middleton had joined the naval training ship Worcester aged just 12 and a half years old and was one of the guard of honour of cadets for the King at the Royal Naval review at Spithead following the Coronation in May 1937.

Also lost was Laurence Bevington, son of Mr & Mrs E.P. Bevington of 85 Northern Road, Swindon. Aged 23, Sub Lieut Bevington had moved to Swindon from Worcester with his parents where he served his apprenticeship in the Loco Department of the GWR. He had returned home on leave just two weeks previously and had been looking forward to spending Christmas with his family in Swindon.

Another of those with a Swindon connection lost on the Rawalpindi was Lt. Commander K. Morgan, nephew of Mr T. Read of the wine merchants, Brown and Plummers.

During the week November 19-25 eleven British ships and two French merchant ships were lost.

'Here is a change for YOU to do your bit in winning the war,' were the headlines this week in November 1939 at the launch of an appeal for blood donors in Swindon.

With thousands of blood donors urgently needed, the Army Blood Transfusion Service issued an appeal to those aged between 18 and 60. About 200 volunteers had come forward in Swindon but the Transfusion Service hoped to recruit a further 3,000.

Those interest in becoming a blood donor were asked to register at either the Town Hall or at the GWR Medical Fund Society.

'In addition, groups of 12 or more can be tested at their place of business, and it is hoped that managers of factories, shops etc will co-operative,' reported the Advertiser.

A special appeal went out to the women of Swindon 'because they are less likely to be called up for other services, and moreover, are available at all times during the day when menfolk are not always at liberty.'

A detachment of her fellow ARP ambulance drivers former a guard of honour for Swindon bride Miss Millicent Jean Kathleen Hickman and her new husband, Mr Frank Clifford Norton pictured leaving the Parish Church, Swindon. Miss Hickman, only daughter of Mr & Mrs F.H. Hickman of 20 Westlecott Road, Wore a blue frieze cloth dress and cape with hat to match. The couple exchanged gifts of a silver cigarette case, a silver and gold bangle and a fitted suitcase. Exeter will be the further home of Mr & Mrs Norton, the Advertiser reported.

'I hope there will not be repetitions of previous incidents of Londoners coming down for the day and expecting Swindon folk to entertain and feed them free of cost. Be firm this time.'

Evidence that the situation between host families and parents of evacuated children was still fraught was expressed in an Advertiser editorial when it was announced that special excursion trains with a cheap day fare of 10s 3d would operate on December 2.

Image - wedding of Miss Millicent Hickman and Mr Frank Norton

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