Thursday, December 29, 2011

January 11-17, 1940

In a letter to the Advertiser, the Mayor yet again appealed to the people of Swindon to offer places to evacuated children.

"The total number of new billets required is comparatively small but the need is very pressing and relates particularly to the Old town district," wrote Coun. H.R. Hustings.

"The Local Authority have a responsibility under the Government Evacuation Scheme which they must discharge," he explained. "They are loath to use compulsory powers as the association of the child and the householder will obviously be a much happier one where the responsibility is voluntarily undertaken."

With a steady stream of children joining schools already evacuated to the town and the need to occasionally move evacuees from one billet to another, the need for volunteers to come forward was pressing.

"Billets must, however, be secured, and if a sufficient number of voluntary offers is not immediately forthcoming there will be no alternative but to use the compulsory powers with which the Local Authority are vested," warned the Mayor.

Ministry of Transport advice to drivers of horse drawn vehicles in the event of an air raid was announced. Drivers 'should unharness their horses, and if possible lead them to an open space, side street or stable. Horses should be tied by a halter lead and not by reins, bridle or bit.' In no cases should horses be tied to lampposts or railings.'

The first week of rationing saw local housewives and traders getting to grips with some complicated calculations. With a reported shortage of farthing coins, Advertiser readers were reminded that when buying a quarter of a pound of butter priced at fourpence three farthings, the shopkeeper was not allowed to charge 5d on a first purchase. 'By arrangement between yourselves he can charge you fourpence halfpenny on the first occasion and 5d next time,' the report concluded.


Mr Ray Hobbs (pictured right) branch chairman of the Swindon (No 2 Branch) of the NUR was presented with a gold watch chain to commemorate 21 years service. The chain, intended to match a gold watch given to him by the National Executive of the NUR, was presented by Mr J.A. Slade at a social event held at the ship Hotel where entertainment was provided by Mr George King's concert party.



Images - Evacuees from St John's School, Poplar. (top)

Monday, December 26, 2011

January 4-10, 1940

As Dr Dunstan Brewer announced his retirement as Medical Officer of Health in Swindon, he warned of the mental depression caused by the black-out.

In an address on "Psychology in connection with the War" at the Friends Meeting House, Dr. Brewer stated his opposition to the black-out declaring "the black-out is not worth it. As far as I am concerned it is no good." Claiming it had a severe effect upon people, Dr. Brewer told his audience the black-out was responsible for inducing mental depression.

Referring to the possibility of air raids, Dr. Brewer gave odds of 2,000 to one of being bombed and considered the risks quite negligible.

Meanwhile, in an effort to combat the "black-out blues" the Great Western Players staged a series of short plays at the Little Theatre, Bridge Street Institute, Swindon.

The new venture opened on Monday January 8 with two, one act plays - The Marrying Sort by Ronald Gow and The Friends of Valerie Lane by Dolland Parsons - produced by Mr Stanley Jarman.

A short 'broadcast' sketch called The Switch was performed by Mr Percy North, Miss Joan F. Thompson and James Ellison, while Mr Fred T. Murray acted as programme compère.

The work of several Swindon women received a special mention in the columns of the Advertiser in this week's newspaper.

Mrs A.L. Spackman received a thank you as one of the organisers of the annually held poor children's tea. The first poor children's tea was held 18 years earlier in the Ferndale Road Methodist School when Mrs Spackman entertained 50 children. Since then the event has grown bigger each year with the latest numbering 1,200.



A local family received welcome news this week in 1940. Petty Officer Cue 24, a crew member on HMS Exeter wrote to his mother, Mrs E.H. Lowe of 'Charlbury,' Stratton, that he was fit and well following the Battle of River Plate in December 1939 during which the German pocket battleship the Graf Spee was attacked. A former pupil at Clarence Street and Commonweal Schools, Petty Officer Cue had served on HMS Exeter for three years.

In answer to customer complaints of delays on the rail network, the GWR announced that since the outbreak of war the company had run 2,500 special trains 'for the conveyance of the forces and their stores and equipment' which they admitted had caused disruption to passenger services. The war was also responsible for a record number of freight engine miles operated with merchandise receipts up 51% and coal receipts 41% above the previous year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 28 1939 - January 3, 1940

Despite war time restrictions, Swindon Christmas festivities continued right up to twelfth night.

More than 1,000 children including boys and girls from Olive House and the Limes children's homes were entertained when Clarence Street Schools hosted the 18th Annual Tea for Poor Children. Every room in the school was needed to accommodate the young guests who between them consumed 144 2lb loaves, 170lbs of slab cake, 2,000 fancy cakes and one and half hundredweight of boiled sweets. "entertainments included numbers by Mr F. Fry's band, reported the Advertiser. "Nurses, ambulance men and police were present and every child had been insured against accident."

Over at Westcott Street Schools 200 evacuee children from Bow were entertained where "multi coloured decorations, paper hats and a Christmas tree enhanced the atmosphere."

Arrangements had been made by Westcott Street School headmaster Mr H. Atkins along with Miss Holliday, headmistress at Westcott Infants, Clifton Street School headmaster Mr T. Merrick and Mr A.S. Williams, the headmaster from Single Street School in Bow. Mr Williams had organised the entertainment which included a conjurer, a ventriloquist and a film show given by Mr Deane.

At Pinehurst School it was the turn of the evacuee children to entertain their foster families. Pupils from Park Modern School in Barking said a big thank you to the families who had looked after them during the Christmas holidays. This was the second party the school had held during the Christmas period, having already entertained people from Barking living in Swindon.

Father Christmas also paid a visit to Victoria Hospital where he distributed presents to women and children patients at the Christmas Party held on the Women's Ward. All the presents and the Christmas fare were provided by the voluntary fund raised by the matron.

Sadly New Year's Eve celebrations were rather low key as the country entered the new decade at war. There was no ringing of church bells, no sounding of sirens and no blowing of engine whistles to welcome in 1940.

Evacuees were guests of the ARP in a hall at the Cattle Market, Swindon (top) while Father Christmas made a visit to the Rink Cinema (bottom)

December 21-27, 1939

Warfare took to the skies with the first reported sightings of enemy aircraft over Britain. Sounds of gunfire were heard when a plane passed over a Suffolk coastal town. Residents flocked into the streets but no air raid warning was sounded.

And across the estuary at the Firth of Forth, a Heinkel 111, a Luftwaffe aircraft capable of carrying 1700 kg of bombs, was intercepted on Friday, December 22. 'On being engaged, the Heinkel dived into clouds, the enemy was re-engaged and after a further attack by a fighter, continued its dive and was lost in the lower cloud level,' reported the Advertiser.

More than 70 aircraft were involved in a major air battle fought over the North Sea, west of Karmoey, Norway while the German High Command announced that reconnaissance flights had been made over Northern France and Southern England.

The week before Christmas 1939 saw 20,000 Australian troops prepare to leave for Europe. In a radio broadcast from Sydney, Australian Minister for External Affairs, Sir Henry Gullett told listeners that the second Australian Expeditionary Force consisted in the majority of the sons and nephews of men who fought in the Great War.

Miss Phyllis Joan Leonard, a member of Garrard's girls' cricket team, and her new husband Mr Sydney Frank Nicholls, left St. Paul's Church beneath an archway of cricket bats and stumps after their Boxing Day wedding.

For another couple, their wedding day was only their sixth time of meeting during a four and a half year courtship. They first met in the summer of 1935 when Corporal Walter Wallace, on leave before sailing for Palestine, met Marie Coughlin, a nurse at a Cardiff hospital, during a day trip to Barry Island.

Herbert Parker, 64, of Springfield Road, Swindon, retired after 50 years service in the Great Western Railway Works. Born in Handsworth, Staffordshire, Mr Parker entered the Works as an apprentice smith in 1889. He became a foreman in 1907 and later foreman-in-charge of the blacksmith forge and stamping shops.

December 14-20, 1939

Described as a garrulous Irish man, Frank Cosgrove caused a stir in Swindon when he performed an impromptu striptease in Drove Road on Thursday December 14.

Smelling of alcohol, Cosgrove arrived in Swindon from Devizes and promptly made a nuisance of himself, begging for money for Christmas in Cricklade Street.

"I never begged in my life," Cosgrove exclaimed when he appeared before Swindon magistrates. "The constable called me an Irish **** and that caused me to take off my clothes."

"As Frank didn't know where he was going to sleep, the magistrates arranged a night's accommodation for him at the police station," reported the Advertiser.

"Have a good night's rest," advised Mr Withy, the magistrate's clerk. "Tomorrow morning at nine o'clock you must march - out of Swindon."

Two thousand gas helmets designed for babies under the age of fourteen months were due for distribution in Swindon on December 19 & 20 under the supervision of Mrs B.O.D. Palmer and Mrs Milton.

Carol singers were warned that their lanterns must conform with the regulations concerning hand lamps. Handbell ringing out of doors was prohibited under the Control of Noise Order.

Gorse Hill footballer, D. Edwards 17, gave 'a good account of himself' during a trial with Wolverhampton Wanderers when the first division team played Bromsgrove Rangers on Saturday December 16. Edwards had played for Swindon Boys in the English Schools Shield Competition on several occasions and, prior to the outbreak of war, was a member of the GWR Staff Association team.

December 7-13, 1939

Douglas Fairbanks Dead - Famous Star of Silent Days announced the headlines of a Late Special edition of the Advertiser published Tuesday December 12.

One of the most famous stars in the history of silent films, Douglas Fairbanks senior, died from a heart attack at his home in Santa Monica, California, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The first on screen swash buckling, romantic hero of the movie era, Fairbanks was famous for his roles in 'Three Musketeers,' 'Robin Hood,' and 'The Black Pirate.'

In 1920 Fairbanks delighted fans when he married Hollywood sweetheart Mary Pickford. The 'perfect' marriage ended in 1935 when Pickford was granted a divorce on the grounds of her husband's 'cruelty, indifference and neglect,' but even this did little to dent Fairbanks' popularity.

'That a man of Fairbanks' apparent fitness should have died from heart trouble is surprising,' commented a Press Association correspondent on the sudden death of the 56 year old actor, recalling the actors daring leaps and breathless duels that demanded the physique of a first rate athlete.

Sharing the front page with the news of the film star’s death was an account of the funeral of Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen Victoria, who was buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor.

In what was described as a simple service, special mention was made of Mary, Princess Royal, King George VI's sister, who wore the khaki uniform of a Commandant of the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service.

'No glitter of orders marked the Royal procession as it entered the Chapel,' the report continued. 'The khaki and blue of serving officers only were sprinkled among the black morning coats and black dresses.'

It was announced that the appeal for funds for the Mayoress of Swindon's Association for Comforts for Swindon Men Serving Overseas had so far realised £73 17s 1d and £87 5s 3d had been spent. Twenty pounds of wool had been bought and many articles had already been knitted, with some women turning out three pairs of socks a week.

The fund for the Servicemen's Club in Faringdon Road, Swindon totalled £220 0s 7d following donations of £4 11s from the Baptist Church, Upper Stratton, and £3 3s from Messrs R.J. Leighfield & Sons, Swindon. An appeal for further donations was made by Mr C.C. Lambourn, honorary secretary, at Barclays Bank, Regent Street.

Soldiers billeted in Swindon were guests of ARP wardens at D Group headquarters where refreshments were provided and the soldiers beat the wardens at darts by four games to three.

November 30-December 6, 1939

Swindon's Fire Brigade took delivery of a top of the range Leyland motor pump, this week in 1939, amid concerns as to where the new vehicle would stand.

With three fire engines, a large trailer pump, two tenders, 20 trailer pumps for the AFS and sundry cars and vans, the Fire brigade headquarters in Cromwell Street had become so congested that a steam roller shed in an adjoining Corporation yard had been commandeered.

Pre-war plans for extensive new premises on the site of Gillings Wharf near the County Ground were delayed by the outbreak of war, however 'the position is so serious that efforts may soon have to be made to secure permission to proceed with the developments,' reported the Advertiser.

Equipped with a 55ft Bailey Fire Escape, the Leyland 'is capable of carrying at high speed, ten firemen, all of whom will be protected against the weather,' the report continued.

The Leyland reached a speed of 60 miles per hour during at trial run to Lechlade where water was obtained form a height of 20 ft from one of the bridges during a test of the 600 to 800 gallon capacity pump.


A popular new feature began this week in the Advertiser when the editor asked for photographs of fathers and sons serving in the forces and was inundated with entries.

First to appear were photographs submitted by Mrs E. Hayes, 93 Beatrice Street of her husband J.C.W. (Jack) Hayes, a footballer with five international caps and 14 medals to his name, and their son, an employee at the GWR Rolling Mills.

Next to be published were photographs of sailor father and son J.H. and Alan Hogden of 73 Radnor Street. Mrs Gibbons of 71 Pinehurst Road also sent in photographs of her husband and son.

Arthur Gibbons, a Storeman at the GWR Works had been called up as a reservist and was with the BEF in France. The couple's son, who belonged to the Territorial Army before the outbreak of war, was serving in an anti aircraft unit.

Three brothers serving in the same regiment in India were the sons of Mr & Mrs J. Simpkins of 20 Ermin Street Villas, Blunsdon. Formerly employed in the Highworth mat factory, the brothers were stationed at the same fort in Madras. 'They write home twice a week,' reported the Advertiser, 'but Mrs Simpkins isn't able to reply so frequently as formerly as air mail to India costs 1s 3d for half an ounce.'


About 130 local children and evacuees living in the Albion Street area were treated to a trip to the theatre to see a Malcolm McIntosh production 'The Empire on Parade - Modern Moment.' Every child received an apple and orange from C. Baxter of Commercial Road and a picture book from T.H. Beavis of the Market Bookstall. The trip was paid for by Miss Marcia Kiddle, well known for her local charitable events.

Boys at the Limes Home, Stratton St. Margaret were busy sewing and knitting for the troops. Under the supervision of the matron, Mrs Small, the boys had made bedsocks and scarves for the troops at the front as well as hospital garments such as operation stockings, and it was reported 'they rarely drop a stitch!'


Images - Swindon's new fire engine,fathers and sons serving in the Armed Forces and children on a visit to the theatre.

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

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

November 9-15, 1939

Across the country people gathered to remember those who had fallen in the Great War on the 21st commemoration of Armistice Day.

In Swindon the Mayor (Coun. H.R. Hustings) placed a wreath from the People of Swindon on the Cenotaph which read 'In hallowed memory of their loyal sons who made the supreme sacrifice.'

'Although no hooters were sounded to mark the time of two minutes silence, as usual on Armistice Day, when the Town Hall struck eleven everyone stood in dead silence,' reported the Advertiser. 'Faintly, but distinctly, one could hear the sobbing of individuals, mostly women, who perhaps, lost their sons or husbands during the last war.'

The annual Remembrance Day Service at Swindon's parish church was attended by members of the British Legion and ex-Servicemen, local units of the British Red Cross Society, members of the Urban Council and other public bodies.

'We are getting more drunks in Swindon than we ought to do. We are breaking the record altogether,' declared magistrates clerk Mr A.E. Withy, imposing a fine of 7s 6d on labourer William Petrie of 131 Chapel Street, Swindon. Petrie was found by the police fast asleep on the pavement at 12.20 am on October 22, during a very cold night with a white frost. Escorted home by a policeman, Petrie said, 'I must have had a few drinks and laid down thinking I was at home.'

As men aged 20-22 who registered for military service on October 21 were informed they would receive their call up papers during November, more than 30,000 railway men were released for military service.

After a 5-2 thrashing by home team Stratton Villa, a team of soldiers were treated to an evening's entertainment at the White Hart Inn. The football match was described as 'interesting' during which the soldiers made a rousing start, scoring twice in the first 20 minutes. Villa players C. Woolford and D. Woolford delivered four of the goals while Martin scored with a header from a corner kick. Mrs Butler and her helpers provided a good spread and the game was followed by a darts match and a sing song.

Lieutenant Colonel B.H.D. Hurst, formerly manager of the Government Vocational Training Centre at Chiseldon, was fined £13 3s at Swindon County Police Court for illegally storing petrol. Three tanks containing 68 gallons of petrol were found in a garage near the Colonel's home in Chiseldon.

Colonel Hurst did not appear in court but sent a letter in which he admitted to storing petrol without a licence but denied any intent to hoard, explaining the petrol was bought at a time when his mother was ill and he was engaged in moving to his new posting.

Mr W. Ireland, prosecuting, described it as a case of hoarding and all the more reprehensible because of the Colonel's position.

Swindon Scouts were actively engaged in the war effort. Local troops had collected about 4 tons of waste paper for the governments salvage campaign. Local boys, joined by evacuees, also distributed Ministry of Information posters in and around Swindon.

Father Christmas arrived early in Swindon when McIlroys opened the Nursery Rhyme Castle at their Regent Street store. Joining Santa in his Castle were 'Aladdin and his Lamp, Mary had a Little Lamb and last but not least Thom Thumb.' Among the toys on offer for Christmas 1939 were 'every kind of modern warfare toy' along with traditional tricycles, Teddy Bears, prams and dolls.

Image - Swindon Mayor H.R. Hustings laying a wreath at the cenotaph

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)

Friday, December 16, 2011

October 26 - November 1, 1939

Swindon theatre-goers were obviously enjoying the Playhouse performance of Jack's the Lad, starring Jack Mayo, advertised as 'a bright and lively show with scarcely a dull moment.'

"Jack's particular brand of humour goes down well in Swindon and his fund of stories and quips is limitless," enthused the Advertiser theatre critic.

Supporting artists included singer Pauline Belmore and 'personality girl' Jean Collins while 'neat dancing' by the Northern Lights dance troupe helped to make up the programme.

Meanwhile, The Importance of being Earnest by Oscar Wilde was playing at neighbouring New Theatre, Oxford. A star-studded cast list included John Gielgud, Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft and Margaret Rutherford.

Swindon's cinemas were busy too, with something to suit all tastes. Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado showed at the Regent while at the Palace in Gorse Hill, Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney starred in Boys' Town.

Cinema-goers at the Arcadia Palace were on the edge of their seats when James Mason was revealed as the killer in I Met a Murderer.

Regulars at the Palladium, Rodbourne Road, watched Frederic March and Virginia Bruce in the romantic comedy There Goes My Heart while John Loder and Rex Harrison appeared in The Silent Battle, a mystery thriller set aboard the Orient Express bound for Istanbul at the Empire.

'Ladies, keep a pair of slacks at your bedside to slip on easily. Cosy warmth, reassuring dressiness, better than a skirt' - Ladies outfitters Hope & Co. of 21/23 Faringdon Road, seized on the air raid as a new advertising ploy.

Leading Stoker Arthur James Davis was reported missing from HMS Iron Duke, deployed with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. Mr Davis joined the Navy in October 1923 and was due to retire in 1940. As a boy he worked at Buscot Park on the estate of the late Lord Faringdon.

Two local farming families were joined by the marriage of Miss Eileen Theresa Ody to Mr Richard Powell Sainsbury. The bride was the elder daughter of Mr and Mrs C.V. Ody, of Lower Snodshill Farm, Coate, and the groom was the son of Mr E.V. Sainsbury of Manor Farm, Kempsford. Carrying on the family farming tradition, the couple made their new home at Lyegrove Farm, Badminton.

Black-out regulations saw the introduction of a general closing time of 6pm for Swindon shops on four nights a week with one late night opening. Wednesday remained early closing.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced the Waste Not - Want Not campaign and invited people to write to 'a new bright ideas' department with suggestions on cutting waste.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

October 19-25, 1939


Swindon's youngest special constable, four year old Willie Dangerfield, twin son of Mr & Mrs W. Dangerfield, posed for a photo call outside his own camouflaged station in the garden of his home at Marlborough Road, Swindon.

Meanwhile two other youngsters made headline news when they appeared before Swindon Juvenile Courts this week in 1939.

A Stratton father took centre stage when his twelve year old son was ordered to pay for the damage caused to a workman's shed. Charges were dropped against his younger accomplice with the older boy ordered to pay 5s damages and 4s costs.

The father claimed that another boy had already vandalised the shed and objected having to foot the bill for all the damage.

'With present day education lads should know better than go about thinking they can treat other people's property with impunity,' said Mr F.A. Blake, Chairman, referring to reports of destructive acts by children in Stratton parish.

'I fought for my country and that man for four years. I took a gun and shot people for him,' the father told the courtroom. 'Now, I am fighting for my son.'

The court also heard from the mother of an eleven year old boy who asked that her son be sent to an approved school.

The woman described how the boy had thrown knives at her and kicked and bruised her. The problems extended over a four year period and she told how he slept out at nights and that they had received complaints about him beating other children.

'I do not want to see him go,' she told the court, 'but it is better he should go now than later on.' The boy was admitted to an approved school for three years.

Swindonians joined the campaign for higher old age pensions as volunteers launched a petition condemning the rate of payment.

A denial made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on September 26 that the cost of living was rising rapidly was challenged by Swindon Labour Party Agent Mr A.A. Johnson. 'We are now informed that there has been a ten point increase in the cost of living index figure,' said Mr Johnson. 'It must be realised that those unfortunate folk who are dependent upon their pensions are suffering great hardship.'

Addressed to 'the Right Hon. Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England,' the petition reads, 'Sir, we the undersigned citizens of Swindon and district, wish to express to you our profound and emphatic disapproval of the present scale of pensions now being paid to old aged pensions.' It was hoped that signatures on this hastily arranged petition would eventually number over 10,000.

Earlier in the year an old aged pensioner from Bradenstoke invited the Prime Minister's wife, Mrs Chamberlain, to spend a weekend with her in order that she might gain firsthand knowledge of the art of living on ten shillings a week. The invitation was declined.


E. Hill & Son of Kingshill, Swindon announced that their Trianco external gothic arched concrete air raid shelter had received Home Office approval. Confident of their product Messrs Hill took out a large advertisement in the Saturday October 21 edition of the Advertiser.

The standard six foot long shelter could accommodate from six to eight people and withstand a roof load of 400lb per square foot with adequate strength to resist a substantial fall of brickwork or similar debris.

The versatile unit structure made this shelter suitable for smaller homes or by grouping them together for flats, tenements, factories and hospitals, the manufacturers claimed.

The Trianco had to be sunk in the ground a recommended three feet or more, but the manufacturers assured the shelter seeking public that it could be erected at very short notice with little demand for skilled labour.


Lewin John Jones of 15 Westbrook Road, Swindon was killed when a bomb dropped near the ship on which he was serving. HMS Mohawk, a Tribal Class Destroyer was employed in the North Sea on convoy defence and patrol to intercept German warships and submarines. On October 16 while the fleet was at anchor below the Forth Bridge it came under attack from the Luftwaffe. A Ju88 dropped two bombs in the vicinity of the Mohawk causing extensive casualties to personnel on the bridge and upper decks. Mr Jones, 36, had seen active service during the First World War and had just four years to serve until his retirement. Mr Jones left a widow and a two year old child.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December, 13-19, 1940


“Five houses were demolished and others damaged, but there were few casualties when a lone raider dropped bombs on a town in the South,” reported the Advertiser, following a raid on Swindon during the evening of Thursday December 19.



Among those caught in the bombing was 57 year old Jane Hobbs of 167 Beatrice Street who sustained serious injuries and was taken to Victoria Hospital where she died the following day.

Several people were trapped in their house when the staircase under which they had sheltered collapsed, but one little boy was able to rely on his brother for help when their home was damaged during the raid.

The boys had just gone to bed when the bombs fell on Beatrice and Ipswich Streets, causing their bedroom to cave in around them.


Eleven year old Roy Miller led his nine year old brother Leo to safety down the wrecked staircase where the boys found the rest of their family trapped in the dining room.

“Don’t cry mammy, I’ve got him all right,” Roy called to his mother.

“He is a proper little hero, and we are proud of him,” Mrs Miller told the Advertiser. 



And in a week when Swindon suffered yet another devastating air raid, the Corporation reported that offers of advice and practical assistance in the event of further attacks were being rejected by local householders.

Local government officials had been met with ‘an almost hostile reception’ during house to house calls with some residents accused of taking no interest in their own safety and claiming they could see no danger. 

However, Swindon householders answered back, critical of the provision of public shelters and urging that the local authority should provide Anderson shelters in the more densely populated areas of the town.

Residents were advised to designate an internal refuge room and to erect exterior ‘blast’ walls to protect vulnerable points of their homes.  “And this is where, in certain circumstances, the Corporation may give professional advice, material and labour free of charge,” reported the Advertiser.  “All ratepayers earning £250 or less a year or who are compulsorily insured, and who live in densely populated areas or within 800 yards of a possible enemy target, qualify for the free service.

Householders were encouraged to take advantage of this help and advice, although Swindonians were reminded that ‘the authority is not blessed with unlimited manpower and resources.

Monday, December 12, 2011

October 12-18, 1939

Weddings continued to make the news and October saw no let up in the number of Swindon couples anxious to tie the knot. RAF Corporal Cecil Carter from Rodbourne Cheney was granted four days special leave to marry his sweetheart, Miss Daisy Royle at Swindon Register Office. The bride was employed at the Savoy Cinema and many of her friends and colleagues were present to congratulate her after the ceremony. Former Swindon Town FC captain, Wally Dickinson was also among the guests.

Another wedding to make the front page was that of widowed Alice Stapleford, 48 and her eighteen year old groom Edgar Harry Elliott. "Why should we worry about the difference in our ages if we are happy," the new Mrs Elliott told an Advertiser reporter after the wedding at Swindon Register Office on Saturday October 14. "We don't care what anybody thinks about it."

Both from the Common, Thornhill near Wootton Bassett the couple said they had met and fallen in love six months previously. Alice confirmed that farm labourer Edgar had his parent's consent to the marriage.

The bride wore an ankle length blue dress and was attended by matron of honour, Mrs Embling, bridesmaid were the groom's sister Violet Elliott and her friend Cecily Ball, also dressed in blue.

The newly married couple were not going to have a honeymoon as they could not afford it, but a reception was held at their home after the ceremony.

More than 10,800 fans crowded onto the terraces at the County Ground to watch third division Swindon Town play Arsenal in one of the first wartime friendly matches. With games temporarily suspended, by October 1939 the Football League had arranged a series of friendlies, which saw giant killers Arsenal visit Swindon, much to the delight of the town's football fans.

Although Swindon Town knew it was on a hiding to nothing, 'players put up a valiant display against their distinguished rivals and were in no way disgraced,' reported the Advertiser.

With tickets totalling £538 11s 3d, Swindon enjoyed the biggest gate of the afternoon in the British Isles.

Lesson for Swindon in Football Craft - Art of Goal Getting Made to Look Easy read the sports page headline which sadly said it all as Arsenal romped home to a seven goals to nil victory.

'Still it was a grand match,' reported the Advertiser, with Swindon magnanimous in defeat. 'It is a very long time since we have seen such a wealth of clever and entertaining football at the County Ground in successive weeks. And that, after all, is all that matters.'

'If the fine is over 5s will you let me pay in two instalments, as I really can't afford it?' pleaded an unnamed woman in a letter read out at Swindon Magistrates Court this week. 'But she lives in Goddard Avenue sir,' was the response from magistrate's clerk Mr Withy, as reported in the Advertiser.

A second major loss to Britain's navy came with the sinking of the battleship the HMS Royal Oak. With more than 1,000 on board, the ship was sunk at anchor by a U boat in Scapa Flow in the early hours of Saturday morning. At the time of going to press it was not known how many men had been saved.

One grateful father wrote to the Advertiser editor expressing his thanks to the people of Swindon who were caring for evacuees billeted in the town. Mr J. King of 44 Follett Street, Poplar gave a special thanks to Mr & Mrs Brett and Miss Bailey of Groundwell Road who between them had the care of his three daughters. "I was astonished at the way I was received and the way in which my kiddies were being cared for," wrote Mr King. He extended his thanks on behalf of all parents who had children staying in the town, and concluded his letter "Bravo, Swindon, for your British attitude, and God bless you for doing your bit."

One stroppy Swindon man received his comeuppance at Chippenham magistrate's court. Daniel Simpkins, 57 pleaded guilty to travelling on the GWR without a ticket, and it wasn't for the first time either. Simpkins had 31 previous convictions dating back to 1917. He told the magistrates he could get no work and was fed up. He had been sleeping out for a week in cold nights and said he was 'fairly sick of it.' Simpkins asked to be sent to prison and the magistrates duly obliged, sentencing him to 14 days.'

Images - wedding photographs of Cecil and Daisy Carter; Edgar and Alice Elliot and their bridesmaids

Saturday, December 10, 2011

October 5-11, 1939

In a boastful speech to the Reichstag, Hitler said the fate of Poland had been settled for ever and almost the whole of the 'irresponsibilities' of the Versailles Treaty removed. He offered Europe a 'peace conference' and suggested a measure of disarmament and the abolition of certain types of weapon.

But Hitler's peace proposals received short shrift from Swindon MP W.W. Wakefield (pictured right). A pilot in the RAF, Mr Wakefield issued a reply to constituents who urged that Hitler's peace proposals should not be rejected without careful examination.

'How can peace be made with a man without honour, who cannot be trusted, whose word is broke almost before the sound reaches the ears of his hearers and whose written word is torn up nearly as quickly as the ink dries on the paper on which it is written,' asked Wakefield.

William Wavell Wakefield was elected as Conservative MP for Swindon during the 1935 General Election. A former international rugby player, Wakefield captained England between 1923-1927, also playing for Cambridge University, the RAF, the Harlequins, Middlesex and Leicester. During the First World War he joined the Royal Naval Air Service.

'You will not save lives nor get peace so long as Hitler and his regime dominate Germany,' warned Wakefield. 'The quickest and surest way to peace is the overthrow of Hitler. All our energies and efforts must be devoted to that end.'

Mr Wakefield announced he would receive callers at the Advertiser premises, Newspaper House, Victoria Road between 4.30-5.30pm on Saturday October 7.

Housewives were beginning to feel the pinch as supplies of butter dropped by half. Government restrictions on the availability of butter were based on wholesale figures supplied during the eight weeks ending July 29.

If the restriction is to apply to the varying demands of different districts it will hit Swindon particularly hard, reported the Advertiser. TRIP week fell within the eight week period mentioned with about 23,000 Swindonians away from home on holiday.

Bacon was also in short supply and Swindon grocers were informed by the Ministry of Food that half the normal quantity would be reserved before it even left the processing factories.

Retailers were reminded that certain scheduled foods could only be sold under licence as of Saturday October 9. The long list published in the Advertiser on Wednesday October 4 included diet staples such as bread, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, as well as confectionery, cakes and chocolate.

Application forms for a licence under the Food Control Committee (Local Distribution) order were available from the Borough Treasurer's Department at the Civic Offices, Swindon.

Evacuee children and mothers enjoyed a tea time treat as guest of Swindon Division Labour Party. Mr A.A. Johnson, Labour party agent, assisted by a team of women party supporters, made the tea time treat a regular twice weekly event at the clubroom in Milton Road.


Being seen during the blackout became an essential safety precaution for pedestrians and road users alike. This Swindon cyclist made sure of being seen at night by having an all white bicycle.

Swindon experienced its own population explosion as more than 100 babies were born at the Maternity Hospital at Kingshill. The first five weeks of the war proved to be a busy period with births more than double the monthly average. More than 50 were evacuee cases, a large number of expectant mothers having been sent to Swindon.

Auctioneers Fielder & Jones reported an entry of 100 fat cattle at Swindon market on Monday October 9. Trade was brisk and prices steady, however the produced market saw a smaller entry of poultry with cockerels making between 3s 3d and 5s 4d. Eggs were also in short supply, hens eggs sold for 2s 2 2/2d while duck eggs averaged 2s 2d per dozen.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

September 28 - October 4, 1939

It was business as usual at Swindon Magistrates Courts this week. Oliver George William Isadore Turner was remanded in cutody for a week after breaking into the home of Reginald Frederick Beale at 14 Handel Street in the early hours of Tuesday September 26. Accused of breaking and entering the premises with intent to steal, Turner claimed that he was 'hungry and thirsty.'

"Beer is going to cost you more in the future and you will not be able to get so much," Mr A.E. Withy, magistrate's clerk at Swindon Borough Police Court warned Ernest William Scutts of 2 Avon Street. According to Constable Watchman, Scutts staggered and fell and was unable to rise without assistance when he was arrested in Newport Street. Scutts, who pleaded guilty to being drunk, said it was more than 20 years since he last appeared in court and he hoped it would be another 20 years before he came again.

Mrs Caroline Tylee was made the licensee of the Sun Inn at Coate in an unusual move by Swindon magistrates. Mrs Tylee's husband had been in the process of transferring from steward at the Bath Road (Swindon) Club to licensee at the Sun Inn when he was called up for military service.

Questioned about her experience, Mrs Tylee said she had assisted her husband at the Bath Road Club and gave the name of Mr J.W. Pooley as a reference. "You mustn't mention him," said Mr Withy, the Advertiser reported, "he happens to be the partner of the Clerk of the Court." Mrs Tylee was granted the licence on the condition it was transferred to her husband on his return.

And a heated discussion at the Stratton Parish Council Meeting followed matters arising over ARP provision at Upper Stratton. A decision was passed to write to Swindon Corporation asking them to expediate the erection of an ARP post. Councillor W. Townsend then brought up the issue of the ARP post at Lower Stratton.

"There are women stuck there doing their knitting, drawing £2 a week," he said. "It is an absolute disgrace. Someone has got to foot the bill. Their husbands are working in good jobs and drawing good pay. The whole scheme wants reorganising from top to bottom," the Advertiser reported.

Councillor s.C. Casson joined in the debate, stating that if having a post at Upper Stratton meant increasing the costs of ARP provision and 'particularly paying women wardens £2 a week,' he would strongly oppose it.


Friday September 29 was registration day in the UK. Around 65,000 enumerators were employed to collect the completed household schedules and issue the identity cards at the same time. All civilians, including children, were issued with an ID card and advised to carry them at all times. The buff coloured card (later issues were blue cards for adults and buff for children) included the holders name and address and crucially their registration number and was also used for food rationing purposes. 'If you neglect to register you may have difficulty in obtaining a ration book later,' Advertiser readers were advised.

September 21-27, 1939

Both on the streets and in their homes, the people of Swindon struggled to get to grips with the new blackout regulations.

Fifteen people appeared at Swindon Borough Police Court on Monday September 25 for failure to conceal lights. Supt. W.T. Brooks said the vast majority of persons in Swindon had faithfully complied with the regulations, but there were a few who regarded them as of no importance.

Embarrassingly ARP Warden James Murphy of 246 Whitworth Road was the first up before the magistrates. Pleading not guilty, Murphy agreed that ill fitting curtains in a bay window may have revealed a gap of an inch or two, but not a foot as suggested by the constable.
Imposing a fine of £1, the chairman Mr F. King said an air raid warden ought not to be caught in the wrong.

Two motor cyclists were involved in a fatal head on collision at Blunsdon on Saturday September 23. Both riders were taken to St. Margaret's Hospital, Stratton St. Margaret where John Howard Stevens, 22 of South Cerney, died shortly after admission.


While the outbreak of war saw a marked increase in the number of weddings taking place, two local couples celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Mary Emily Dixon wed Harry Weston and her brother Arthur William Dixon married Hannah L.J. Howse in a double wedding on September 21, 1889 at St Mary's Church, Rodbourne Cheney.

The two men, then retired, had notched up a combined 95 years service in the GWR Works. Arthur Dixon 69, had started work in the Rolling Mills aged 13 and described himself as a 'Jack of all trades.' Harry Weston, also 69, was first apprenticed to a blacksmith, later becoming a furnaceman.

Arthur and Harry were described as 'prominent members of the Swindon Labour Party while Mary Weston, 71 was not only president of the Women's Section of the West Ward Labour Party but vice president of the Rodbourne Road Methodist Bright Hour and represented the Co-operative Guild on the Swindon Maternity and Child Welfare Committee.

Both couples headed large families. Arthur and Hannah Dixon had four sons and four daughters, 16 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Harry and Mary Weston had three daughters, one son, six grandchildren and one great grandchild. At the time of their golden wedding celebrations the two couples were close neighbours in Rodbourne. Harry and Mary lived at 44 Montagu Street and Arthur and Hannah at 63 Morris Street.

On a mission to expose unscrupulous traders, one intrepid Advertiser reporter went undercover on a Shadow Shopping Tour of Swindon town centre.

The special investigator concluded that while tradesmen gave assurances that they were not profiteering, there was no denying that prices had risen and that the cost of living had increased by several shillings for the average household.

Housewives interviewed by the Advertiser's Shadow Shopper said they naturally expected to find some prices increasing. However, they were not satisfied that everything possible had been done to prevent unscrupulous traders breaking faith with the public by piling war costs on existing stocks.

Two Swindon brothers were among those lost when the Aircraft Carrier Courageous was sunk on September 17 off the Irish coast. Charles L. Brooks 52 and Harry Brooks 46, both engine room artificers, were called up as naval reservists. "I am going with a good heart. If I don't come back I have no regrets," Charles reportedly told his sister Mrs E. Newman of 30 Osborne Street when he left to rejoin the Navy.