Thursday, December 27, 2012

February 22 - 28, 1941

Passengers on Swindon’s buses continued to come under scrutiny following recent bad behaviour at a Regent Circus bus stop.

Dubbed as the most inconsiderate of all travellers, Swindon bus conductors and conductresses gave the ‘fur coated women of Old Town,’ a dressing down.

“They expect to be picked up and put down outside their own homes, regardless of the approved stopping places, take twice as long as the average passenger to leave the bus because they are too busily engaged in a conversation which almost monopolises the vehicle, and invariably need change for a half crown or a note,” reported the Advertiser.

Those who tried to travel without paying or crowded the gangway when there were seats on the top deck also scored high on the list of most annoying commuters.

But it wasn’t all bad news.  “Our job is far easier and more pleasant on the Rodbourne-Gorse Hill route than on the Old Town service,” said one conductor.

 Swindon magistrates heard how a dispute between two members of the Highworth Home Guard resulted in a bayonet attack during which one man was wounded.

The attack occurred following an argument as to who should do duty at a certain place and time.  In the absence of an officer and as the senior in service, Daniel Cobb of Eastrop, Highworth assumed charge.
Following a heated exchange of words, Mark Pope of Coleshill left the building.  When he later returned to collect his gas mask he drew his bayonet, wounding Cobb just below his left arm.

World War One veteran Pope told the court he was very ashamed that he had attacked a fellow countryman and Home Guard and realised he would have to control his temper.

Character references from Pope’s employer and the Platoon Commander persuaded magistrates to take a lenient view.  Pope would bound over for twelve months and fined £2 8s 6d.

 “When the history of 1940 comes to be written it would reveal that the British people have contributed the most glorious chapter in their whole history,” said Mr T. Reid, prospective parliamentary candidate at Swindon Labour Party’s Annual General Meeting.  As to the future, he told the audience, that with a capable Coalition Government, magnificent fighting and home security forces and the support of the British Empire and the United States, victory was assured.  “We should have to work hard and to fight hard, but we should win,” he said.

A resolution was passed at the meeting protesting against the action of the borough Education Committee in increasing Secondary School fees to parents whole wages had been supplemented by a war bonus.

“The resolution pointed out that such bonuses were granted to help meet the increased cost of living in war-time, and were not, in effect, an increase in income,” reported the Advertiser.

Sixteen year old Owen George Skane was the first boy to sign his application form for entry into the Air Training Corps No. 302 (Swindon) Squadron.  With Owen’s elder brother Harold already in the RAF training to be a flight mechanic, Swindon’s Air Cadet No 1 told an Advertiser reporter that he had ambitions to be a pilot.  His chief concern was that he wore glasses and hoped that this would not ‘plough’ him when it came to the pilot’s examination. 

But Owen said he wouldn’t be too disappointed as long as he could get in as a mechanic or on the ground staff.

“There is pluck and initiative for you,” reported the Advertiser.  “He intends to get into the RAF somehow – his heart is set on it.”

The death of two young RAF volunteers was reported in the Advertiser this week.  Sergeant Wireless Operator Air Gunner Alan Lloyd, 20 year old son of Mr and Mrs C. Lloyd of 48 Shrivenham Road, Swindon was killed on active service with 107 Squadron.

A former Commonweal School pupil, Sergeant Lloyd had volunteered for the RAF during the first week of the war and had flown in bombing raids over enemy territory, including the Ruhr area.

And aircraftman 2nd class and popular Swindon boxer Richard John (Jack) Marchant aged 20, was killed in a flying accident.

A butcher by trade, Jack had served his apprenticeship with Norman Thomas at Keylock’s in Wood Street. His last boxing contest in Swindon was an exhibition bout with Gipsy Daniels.

Supplies of national wholemeal flour were slow to reach Swindon shops and neither had the brown loaves made an appearance despite a Government announcement they were on their way.

“Wholemeal flour is very difficult stuff to keep,” a leading Swindon baker told the Advertiser.  “If it is left any length of time on the shelves it is liable to become infested with meal maggots.  The demand is very slow and stocks would have to be kept for some considerable time.”

With a tendency to ‘go dry’ the brown loaves were also less popular and bakers reported a limited demand and a large wastage.

In less than a month a second man with Swindon connections was awarded the George Medal.  Mr Owen Edward Parsloe, Works Superintendent to Bromley Corporation was described as having shown fearless courage on many occasions, and time after time had been the first man inside a wrecked house, regardless of the risk to himself.

The award came after Mr Parsloe was stated officially “to have worked for three hours in a tunnel under the debris of bombed houses rescuing a woman and a boy.”

Mr Parsloe was the eldest son of Mrs and Mrs Edward Parsloe of 143 Westcott Place.

Swansea came under attack by Nazi bombers this week in 1941.  Three successive nights of air raids saw local homes and businesses destroyed.

“High explosives and fire bombs caused severe damage and it is feared there are a number of fatal casualties,” reported the Advertiser.

Meanwhile RAF bombers attacked Wilhelmshaven, Emden and the invasion ports at Brest, the raid on Wilhelmshaven being the 43rd attack on the port.

“Industrial objectives in the Ruhr were also attacked, but bad visibility rendered it impossible to observe details of the results,” the report continued.  “None of our fighters is missing.”

Temporary accommodation for more than 1,400 people was available at various town locations in a scheme devised by Swindon Town Council in close collaboration with the Emergency Committee of the Wiltshire County Council, it was announced.

During November and December 1940, 575 people passed through Wiltshire rest centres including victims of the Southampton raids.

“The rest centre at the Sanford Street Congregational Church, Swindon has been open continuously and the average number of people maintained there has been 40 each day,” reported the Advertiser.

 At a talk to local Rotarians, Mr R.A. Berkeley, of Chesterton, Cirencester, said that about only one in a thousand women looked ‘reasonably nice’ in slacks but the 14 stone woman ‘all hips and side pockets’ was a sight to make the angels weep!  Mr Berkeley emphasised that he made no slanderous insinuations against ‘those splendid women who are working so hard for the national effort,’ but he still thought that women didn’t look their best in trousers.

Swindon’s 19 year olds registered for the armed forces this week with many of them expressing a preference for flying duties in the RAF or for service with the Royal Navy to be trained as pilots and observers of the Fleet Air Arm.

This was the first registration of men liable to be called up under the Royal Proclamation of January 29, which extended the operation of the National Service Acts to men aged 18-40.

The GWR Junction Station prepared to welcome females on the staff as vacancies were advertised for women ticket inspectors and porters.

“The employment of women, however, is regarded by the Stationmaster’s Office as something of an experiment,” reported the Advertiser, "and no statement on the number of women likely to be employed can yet be given.”

 Among those appearing at Corsham police court this week were Viscountess Chetwynd of Ivy House, Corsham who was fined 15s for failing to display a light on a stationery car and the Rev Alfred Antrobus of Hill Crest, Highworth who was fined 10s for ignoring a halt sign.

Able Seaman Charles McBeath from Dunfermline married local girl Elsie Rosa Bowles, eldest daughter of Mr & Mrs L. Bowles, 18 Morris Street, at St. Augustine’s Church.  The bride’s attendants included her three year old sister Mary while her brother John aged 5 was pageboy.

Champion jockey Gordon Richards’ ambition to serve in the RAF was shattered when he received a Grade 3 ranking.  Chest troubles which kept him out of the saddle in 1926 were thought to be the reason he was classified unfit for military service.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

February 15-21, 1941

The ‘disgusting exhibitions’ at a town centre bus stop saw Swindon Corporation agree to install queue railings. Following a complaint made by Stratton St Margaret Parish Council, the Bristol Bus Company confirmed that the queuing system frequently broke down at peak periods and during the blackout. In future bus queues in Regent Circus will be controlled to avoid the bush rushing incident in which an elderly woman was jostled when a delayed Stratton bus arrived late.

Captain Hector Vaughan Slade, elder son of Garrard’s Managing Director Mr H.V. Slade and his wife, married Marjorie Winifred Billington at St Mary’s Church, Reading this week in 1941.  A former Garrard employee, Captain Slade enlisted in the Territorial’s in September 1937 and transferred to the RAOC in May 1939.  He was promoted to Captain in December 1939.  Following a reception at the bride’s home the couple left for a honeymoon in Bournemouth.  The newlyweds made their temporary home at Totton near Southampton.

Swindon’s own Air Training Corps, to be known as 302 (Swindon) Squadron, was launched this week in 1941.  Applications to form flights had also been made by the Commonweal Secondary School, Pinehurst Old Boys and Ferndale Road Evening Institute and it was expected that another three or four other organisations were likely to apply.  About 50 people had offered their services as officers or instructions.  Selections would be made by a special sub committee consisting of the officers and Raymond Thompson, Stanley Hirst, H. Diment and G. Selman, it was reported.

Master tailor and old soldier John Henry Pakeman died aged 79 at his home at 20 High Street, Swindon.  Mr Pakeman had followed his father into the family tailoring business having served with the Wilts Yeomanry for 13 years.  He was one of the first members of the Swindon Town Council when the Borough was granted its charter of incorporation in 1900.  A Freemason, Mr Pakeman was one of the oldest members of the Royal Sussex Lodge in Swindon.  The funeral took place at Christ Church where a Masonic oration was given at the graveside by W. Bro. J.J. Gale.   

 “Potatoes help to protect you from illness.  Potatoes give you warmth and energy.  Potatoes are cheap and home produced.  So why stop at serving them once a day? Have them twice, or even three times – for breakfast, dinner and supper.”
Potatoes received the hard sell as the Ministry of Food promoted Potato Pete in this week’s Food Facts advertisement.

Among the suggested recipes were Surprise Potato Balls, oven baked mashed potato balls.  The surprise was a teaspoon of sweet pickle inserted in the middle before baking.  Or how about Coffee Potato Scones?  Combine a traditional scone mixture with mashed potato.  Rub in 2oz of fat and then blend to a soft dough with ½ a teacupful of strong, milky, sweetened coffee.  Cut into rounds and bake.  And if that wasn’t enough potato for one day the Ministry suggested a breakfast dish of Parsley Potato Cakes covered in brown breadcrumbs and pan fried.

And Swindon marmalade making came to a halt as finding Seville oranges proved impossible for local housewives.  Despite a ban on extra sugar rations, Swindon women were keen to get going on their marmalade manufacture, but apparently there was not a bitter Seville orange in the town.  “Major Frost, of King’s Ltd., explains that he has more than 400 orders on his books and they are still coming in,” reported the Advertiser.  “Last year he disposed of 200 cases, or chests, each containing some 300 or 400 bitter oranges.”

January 18-24, 1941

Photographs released by the censor show Lawn Cottages and children enjoying snowball fights in the first snowfall of 1941. 

Swindon jewellers called time on all watch repairs as they struggled to keep up with demand as under staffed businesses reported a back log of jobs in local workshops.  With Switzerland cut off from trade it had become increasingly difficult to obtain spare parts and new watch movements, Mr P.F. Stevens, manager of a Swindon firm of jewellers told the Advertiser, and bombing in Birmingham, London and Manchester had wiped out other sources of supply.

Mr and Mrs Hillier Lack celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary this week.  Mr Lack was born in 1866 and grew up at addresses in Havelock and Henry Streets.  His wife, the former Hannah Maria Horsington, was the daughter of James Horsington, a brass finisher at the GWR Works where Mr Lack also worked as an engine fitter.

A keen sportsman, Mr Lack played football and cricket for St Mark’s Church.  “Tactics were not quite so gentle as they are today,” he told an Advertiser reporter, “and as shin guards were not in fashion one had many painful reminders of rousing games.”

The couple celebrated their anniversary at their home in The Mall with their two grandchildren.

Swindon boasted a growing number of moustaches according to an impromptu rush hour census taken at a town bus stop by an intrepid Advertiser reporter.  Out of 18 men who boarded the bus, seven of them were sporting the latest fashion in facial hair - three young officers, an airman, a clerk and two middle aged workmen.

“Today the young Lieutenant likes to hide the fact that he has recently been gazetted,” a local hairdresser told the reporter, “and there is little doubt that certain other young men have an idea that a well kept moustache adds to their charm in the eyes of the fair sex.”

News of the death of aircraftman Ronald Charles Alexander was reported this week in 1941.  His parents, Mr & Mrs T.H. Alexander of 39 Farnsby Street were informed that their youngest son had been accidentally drowned on December 15.  A former Clarence Street schoolboy, 23 year old Alexander had been employed in both the GWR Works and Garrard’s before volunteering for the RAF soon after the outbreak of war.

Tommy Godfrey, star of Garrison Theatre playing at the London Palladium, and radio favourite Band Waggon, made a surprise stop off in town this week in 1941.  Tommy was snapped by the Advertiser photographer when his car broke down in Swindon.

Swindon weddings this week included that of Colin Campbell Clark and Doris Joyce Powell who were married at Faringdon Road Wesleyan Church while Alex Iles of Whiteman Street and Joan Sutton from Broad Street were married at St. Barnabas’ Church, Gorse Hill.

Bridesmaids Joan Hewer and Shirley Sutton at the wedding of Alex Iles and Joan Sutton
Swindon girls were helping to brighten the lives of soldiers billeted at an undisclosed isolated mansion, where they attended regular Friday night dances.

The girls, all Garrard employees, were escorted by Mr T.A. Kemble, the unofficial chaperon.  When asked by an Advertiser reporter of there were any budding romances, Mr Kemble was suitably non committal.  “You never can tell,” he said.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

January 11-17, 1941

Swindon housewives saved more than 22 tons of kitchen waste since the collection scheme began in December.  But critics who felt that this was a poor show for a town with an estimated population of 70,000 were reminded that some households had very little ‘waste.’ 

And as the government announced a price reducing subsidy, Advertiser readers were reminded of the nutritional value of loose oatmeal and oat flakes.

“There are 3 good reasons why you should eat plenty of oatmeal,” The Ministry of Food advised.  “First for fitness; oatmeal gives you energy, helps protect you from illness, and makes strong bones and healthy blood.  Secondly, it is home produced.  Thirdly, it is economical; you can add it to almost every kind of dish to make it go further and increase its food value.”

Meanwhile women’s war work came under scrutiny as recently released figures revealed there were 276,889 wholly unemployed women and girls.  However Mr W. Blacklock, Principal of the College, praised women who were volunteering for special short training classes.  Speaking to members of the Swindon Women’s Gas Council, Mr Blacklock told how the newly instituted courses qualified women for work of real national importance as fitters and electrical instrument workers.

Instructor Mr F. Hathaway, pictured with members of the women’s Electrical Instrument Fitting Class at the Swindon College.

And Mrs Minnie Lawrence of 13 Lethbridge Road told the Advertiser she thought her house had been hit by a bomb when a cart horse burst through her front door.

The horse had bolted with a load of coal, knocking down iron railings at the front of the house and ripping the door from its hinges.

Once inside Mrs Lawrence’s home it had kicked down a grandfather clock and a hat stand before coming to a halt halfway down the hall.  The horse escaped with only slight injuries, it was reported.

Patriotic Swindonians notched up war savings of more that £1,100,000 during 1940.
  Figures released in January revealed that the thrifty town residents had invested £5,570 in National Savings Certificates; £2,640 in Defence Bonds; £2,095 in savings bonds with Post Office savings deposits amounting to £6,350.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

February 8-14, 1941

A bus ploughed through front gardens on Oxford Road and demolished a bread van when the driver lost control.  Faulty steering was blamed for the accident in which a Kingshill Co-operative Society bread van was wrecked and property at number 41 and 42 Oxford Road damaged.

The Bristol Bus Company vehicle mounted the verge before swerving across the road.  It crashed into the van, lifting it and turning it on its side.  A handcart belonging to painter and decorators Hayward bros was also damaged as the bus ploughed its way through two front gardens, destroying a front wall before smashing into the door of one house and the window of another.

Mrs J.E. Mortimer was coming down the stairs with a baby in her arms when she heard a grinding noise as the front room window crashed in and a pile of bricks and debris fell on the floor.

“I thought it was the Germans who had dropped a bomb,” she told an Advertiser reporter.

Next door Mrs Tuckwell was ill in bed when the crash occurred.  “Her daughter, Mr J. Frierly, rushed upstairs to reassure her, for the front door had been smashed in by the cloud of bricks, coping stone and fencing thrown up by the bus in its career,” reported the Advertiser.  “Mrs Tuckwell soon recovered, sufficiently however to get up and have a look at the damage.”

Although shocked, passengers on the Stratton bound bus were uninjured.  The driver of the bread van was delivering at a house further up the road when the accident occurred.

Romance was most definitely in the air this week, but Swindon sweethearts reported yet another shortage, this time, Valentine cards.  One of Swindon’s leading stationers reported they had sold their entire stock.  “If we had had them we could have sold dozens more,” a shop assistant told the Advertiser.  And it was a quiet week for weddings in Swindon.  

Local girl Sylvia Bond of Moredon Road braved the wintry weather to marry Airman Ronald Burt of Mildenhall near Marlborough at St. Mary’s, Rodbourne Cheney.

Wearing a dress of white taffeta and carrying red carnations, the bride was given away by her father.  Bridesmaid Dorothy Martin wore blue taffeta while the other attendants, Ivy Deacon and Dorothy Gleed wore dresses of mauve taffeta.

February 1-7, 1941

Speakers at the opening ceremony were engaged in some political banter as Swindon’s Food Week was launched at the Town Hall.  A heavy hint from Sir Arthur Strickland, Divisional Food Officer for the need of local authority funded community feeding kitchens was answered by Councillor R.G. Cripps who said he hoped Swindon, with its large number of visitors, would be allocated more food.

The Mayor & Mayoress launch Swindon Food Week
A display of advertising posters produced by local schoolchildren was on display in the main hall while leaflets on ideal menus and saving fuel and waste, written by Swindon Domestic Science teachers could be purchased from the propaganda stall.

As Swindon looked forward to a busy week of activities, talks and film shows, the cookery demonstrations soon caused a wholesale furore.

Farcical Food Demonstrations – Ministry Out of Touch with ordinary Housewife were the headlines as Swindon’s eagerly anticipated Food Week received harsh criticism.  Councillors asked some pertinent questions when the local Food Control Committee met in the middle of the weeks programme of events.
Cookery demonstrations intended to help the housewife stretch her meagre rations were dismissed as little better than useless.

Miss Carter shows Swindon housewives how it's done at a cookery demonstration  at the Swindon United Gas Company's Hall in Temple Street

Councillor Mrs E.M. Simpkins wanted to know how the average housewife was expected to make recipes using hard to get ingredients.

“The demonstrations are more or less a farce when such things as these are rationed,” she said, referring to a flapjack demonstration using margarine, sugar, honey and syrup.

Councillor Calderwood accused the Ministry of Food as being out of touch with the normal housewife while Mrs Simpkins declared that the ideal food controller would be a married woman, preferably one with a large family and a limited income.

And councillors proved they were not dragging their feet when they met this week.  Following comments made by Sir Arthur Strickland, the General Purposes and Emergency Committee elected a special subcommittee to establish one or more communal kitchens in the town.  The Ministry of Labour offered to place premises in Maxwell Street at the disposal of the Corporation for use as a midday communal kitchen.

Miss Weedon gives a demonstration at the Swindon Corporation Electricity Show Rooms in Regent Circus

And Swindon ARP wardens were getting hot under the collar – but it was all good news.  While the ladies of the Women’s Voluntary Service were busy knitting woollen comforts for members of the Civil Defence services, the Town Council heard that slow combustion stoves and electric radiators were to be installed at the wardens’ group headquarters.  A further 36 electric heaters had also been acquired for the wardens’ town posts.

Swindon Cage Bird Society
“The Swindon Cage Bird Society members’ show held at the Town Hall on Saturday, in aid of the Red Cross was a big success and exceeded all expectations,” reported the Advertiser.  “Some of the finest birds in the country were on show, and considering that breeders have had to improvise substitute feeding stuffs owing to the difficulty in obtaining seed, the standard generally was exceedingly high.”

The cup for the most points gained with three birds was won by R.E. Hyde.  Awards were presented by the Mayoress Mrs Allen who spoke about the good work being done by the local branch of the Red Cross Society.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

January 25-31, 1941

Swindon celebrated a first this week when William John Watkins was awarded the newly created George Medal.  The recently promoted Sergeant Watkins received the award in recognition of the extreme courage he had shown in rescuing one of his colleagues, badly injured when a torpedo struck their troopship.  Watkins was the son of Mr & Mrs E.C. Watkins of 17 The Circle, Pinehurst.  

Three sisters from Bermondsey were among thirteen elderly women accommodated at the Friends Meeting House in Eastcott Hill.  Bombed out of their London homes, the women were cared for by the Society of Friends as part of the nationwide Friends’ War Victims Relief work.

The women adapted to communal living under the care of Mrs E. Wallis, described as one of Swindon’s unknown war heroines, who was occupied seven days a week at the temporary hostel.

The three Bermondsey sisters had helped create a family atmosphere, Mrs Wallis explained, with Nellie undertaking various household duties, Louie as chief stove stoker and Jenny cooking.

The thirteen women paid 7s 6d out of their 10s pension for their board and lodging and also received an additional 5s billeting allowance which went to the Friends’ for coal and light and the upkeep of the building.

Swindon should have its first squadron of the Air Training Corps by the first week in February, Swindon’s airman MP Mr W.W. Wakefield told a packed meeting at the Town Hall.

The idea was to prepare young men who wished to enter the RAF so that they would be better able to carry out their duties when called up for service.

This new Government initiative aimed at recruiting 200 16-18 year old boys per 20,000 of the population.  Swindon looked set to easily meet its 600 target from the attendance at the Town Hall meeting where every seat was taken and boys stood around the speaker’s rostrum.

Mr Wakefield said he was confident that Swindon would be able to train at least three full squadrons with the first one up and running by February.

Forces Favourite, Anne Shelton made a guest appearance in Swindon this week.  Miss Shelton travelled down from London following a radio broadcast to join the sell out “Out of the Blue” Concert at the Savoy Cinema, held in aid of the RAF Welfare and Comforts Fund.

“The RAF Dance Orchestra, composed exclusively of stars from the country’s ‘Ace’ bands, deservedly drew hurricanes of applause by their masterly playing,” reported the Advertiser.

Also appearing were the RAF Dixie Minstrels who ‘rendered a programme of plantation and minstrel songs.’

Sunday, June 24, 2012

January 4-10, 1941

The first week of 1941 saw Swindon couples keen to tie the knot.  Velvet dresses, muffs and bonnets were worn by the bridesmaids of Annie Amelia Lawrence at her marriage to Gunner William John Cole.  A reception at the bridegroom’s home in Pinehurst Road followed the wedding at St. Barnabas’ Church. 

Meanwhile Barbara Jones had four bridesmaids and two page boys in attendance when she married Gunner Albert Edgington at Christ Church, Swindon.

As the Food Ministry announced a rise in the price of chocolate, women and children queued outside an Old Town sweetshop for twopenny bars of chocolate while retailers warned they might be forced to close if they were denied supplies of sweets.

Mr J.G. Mathieson, president of the Manufacturing Confectionery Alliance reported that the demands of the Services were often in excess of their needs with stock remaining on NAAFI shelves for weeks.  He demanded a more equitable distribution of available supplies between priority orders and the demands of the public.

And Swindonians were advised to dig deep and get their gardens in order for 1941 as the ‘Food is a Munition of War’ campaign continued.

Lord Woolton reminded the British public that half their food supplies came from overseas on ships under attack by German U boats.

“Now, here is your part in the fight for Victory.  When a particular food is not available, cheerfully accept something else – home produced if possible.  Keep loyally to the rationing regulations,” advised the Minister of Food.  “Above all – whether you are shopping, cooking or eating – remember food is a munition of war.  Don’t waste it.”

With home grown veg set to play an increasingly important role on the menu, the Advertiser published tips for a better yield.  Success was all in the preparation, as gardeners were told to dig at least to the full depth of the spade and to make good use of their compost heap to ensure productive soil.  Householders were encouraged to plant fewer potatoes in 1941 and to concentrate on root crops, onions, leeks and particularly winter greens.  One third of a plot planted to potatoes should be the maximum, was the general advice.

“Efficient cultivation, combined with economy in the use of seed, will greatly assist in the national welfare and in the campaign for a greater quantity and better quality of home produced food,” reported the Advertiser with readers advised to visit a demonstration plot to see how it should be done and to pick up tips.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Information addressed the gardening topic in their regular cut out and keep newspaper item ‘What do I do…’

“I dig now and leave the ground rough so that the frost may act on it.  If I cannot get manure I dig in leaves or any vegetable or animal matter.   I give up any ground I can spare for the purpose, including flower beds and lawns.  If I have no land I can apply to my Local Authority for an allotment.  I do all I can now to make a start for the early spring campaign."

Signalman K.R. Bradford, only son of Mr & Mrs E. Bradford of 93 Lansdown Road, Swindon, was granted a commission as Second Lieutenant in the RAOC with the designation of Ordnance Mechanical Engineer following a course at an Officer Cadet Training Union.

A former student at Commonweal Secondary School and The College, Swindon, Signalman Bradford had also won the Little Fund Scholarship for an engineering degree at the City and Guilds College, London.

A GWR apprentice engineer, Mr Bradford had joined the Army on November 1, 1939 and had been posted to the Royal Corps of Signals.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

December 27 - January 3, 1941

The great and the good of Swindon sent New Year messages to Advertiser readers.  Sir Noel Arkell declared that he was proud to be born a Briton, adding ‘we strive for self preservation, but we also strive to save the world from barbarism, and God will not forget us.’

The Mayor of Swindon, Alderman F.E. Allen sent greetings to both long time and more recent residents evacuated to the town.  He urged the people of Swindon ‘to face the coming year with fortitude in the knowledge that the ultimate victory will bring with it not only peace for ourselves but the return of their countries to the peoples of the occupied territories.’

While rationed Swindon housewives struggled to feed their families, food wastage in British Army camps was attributed to the soldiers excessive meat allowance.

“At present the Army meat ration is about 4½lb a week, much more than the civilian can buy for his weekly allowances of 1s 10d,” reported the Advertiser.

Under increased criticism the War Office agreed that if a reduction in the civilian meat ration became necessary, the Army would accept a cut as well.

“The soldier in this country today is not working more strenuously nor under going greater hardship and danger than are hundreds of civilian war workers,” the report concluded.

Lord Woolton, wartime Minister for Food, appealed to the public to cut down on their meat consumption and eat more potatoes. 

In a radio broadcast Lord Woolton urged listeners to avoid imported foodstuffs in favour of home grown produce.

“We English people have given up making porridge, and have all sorts of imported breakfast foods instead,” he said.  “We cannot afford shipping space for breakfast foods when we have ample supplies of good oats in this country.”

Swindon’s MP Mr W.W. Wakefield handed over a cheque for £5,300 to Col J.J. Llewellin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aircraft Production, Swindon’s contribution to the Spitfire Fund started by the late Mayor Harry Hustings.

Children and friends, pictured at a Christmas tea at Olive House held at the end of December.

December 20-26, 1940

Swindon celebrated a low key Christmas following a year in which the war had bit hard.  But the town and district made sure that the most vulnerable citizens were catered for, especially the evacuees, so far from home for the festive period.

Frank Leigh produced and starred in Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s pantomime at the Playhouse.  Leigh scored a personal triumph in his role as Dame Durden according to the Advertiser reviewer who also commented on the ‘several pleasing specialities.’

And at Lethbridge Road School, children from the infant class put on a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for their mothers with Jean Hawkins in the lead role of Snow White.

But not everyone had the Christmas spirit and sadly some mean minded thieves were accused of pilfering parcels sent to troops in camp in the West of England.

“Many parcels are being delivered with wrappers torn open, string removed, boxes broken, and some of the contents missing,” reported the Advertiser.  One camp post orderly told a reporter that the parcels were received in such a bad condition that it was impossible to tell to which parcel the loose items belonged.

“They have obviously been pilfered,” he said.

Weddings during the Christmas period included two Boxing Day matches at Christ Church between PC Alfred Stephens and Iris Jones (pictured above) and Albert Edgington and Barbara Jones.

And one local resident received a nasty surprise this week when her wardrobe burst into flames.
“Mrs Maundrell of 42 Whiteman Street, Swindon had a shock this morning when entering a bedroom, she found the wardrobe on fire,” reported the Advertiser.  The fire brigade was called but members of the household managed to extinguish the blaze before their arrival.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

December 6-12, 1940

The scarcity of turkeys this Christmas saw those sold at Swindon market reaching a top price of £3 6s as Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, announced a price control on this yuletide favourite.

Prices for turkeys bred and reared in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and English counties other than Norfolk, not exceeding 18lbs were to cost 2s 8d per pound, and those over 18lb were fixed at 2s 6d, Swindon shoppers were informed.

“In 11 out of 18 areas in this country people have not taken notice of the guidance we gave,” said Lord Woolton, “therefore the price of turkeys will be controlled.

But if turkeys were in short supply, mutton certainly wasn’t, as indicated by a photograph taken at Swindon’s Christmas market.

Meanwhile a Food Education Week was planned to help Swindon housewives make the best use of available foods and to avoid ill health as a consequence of a wartime diet.

A meeting at the Town Hall organised by the local Education Committee in conjunction with the Ministry of Food was well attended with February 3 chosen for the week long campaign.

Mr Stanley Hirst, Swindon’s Director of Education, said that the wartime cookery classes held at various town centre venues had proved successful and that it was felt the time was appropriate for a more intensified campaign.

Mr H.C. Asterley, a representative of the Food Ministry, said the food campaign had a direct bearing on the war effort. He estimated that during the ensuing year the campaign would save the importation of nearly 300 tons of food locally.

The East Street Co-operative Industrial Society’s bank in Fleet Street saw long queues as customers arrived to draw their dividends.  During the peak period 760 people withdrew £1,130 in an hour.

November 29-December 5, 1940

Appreciative letters from Swindon men and women serving in the forces went on display at the Town Hall vestibule as the Mayoresses Association for Comforts committee reported that 100 parcels were being dispatched every Monday.

Expenses incurred included £265 14s 2d spent on knitting yard and £30 15s 4d on postage.  Despite these heavy expenses committee members continued to come with innovative fund raising ideas.

And Swindon women were quick to respond to the pre-Christmas Post Office recruitment drive.  With a nationwide shortage of 50,000 postal workers, the Post Office appealed to staff to bring along their wives, sweethearts, sisters and girlfriends.

“Thousands of applications have been received from women between 18 – 60,” a Post Office spokesman reported just two days after the appeal was announced.  “Several hundreds have come forward on patriotic grounds and at considerable inconvenience to themselves, believing that their contribution will assist the department in tackling the biggest problem of its history.”

On Swindon’s streets the new postwomen sported both modern wartime fashion and the more traditional uniform while the youngest postwoman in England, 17 year old Mollie Hughes from Christian Malford, made her ten mile country round on horseback.

The Ministry of Transport appealed to Britain to make Christmas 1940 a stay-where-you-are event.  As essential war work continued throughout the festive period, people were encouraged to stay at home and free up the roads and railway.

With no extra train services on the timetable, the general public was advised not to travel unless it was absolutely necessary.

“Make this a stay-where-you-are Christmas,” reported the Advertiser, “and you will have the added satisfaction of knowing that by so doing you are helping indirectly to clear the rails and the roads for the munitions and war supplies so essential to victory.”

And to emphasis the point a front page advertisement declared ‘the Trains MUST go through.’  British railways boasted that 227,000,000 passengers and 8,100,000 wagon loads of freight, including the nation’s food, coal, mail and newspapers had been transported during the previous two months in the face of the greatest aerial bombardment the world had ever known.

Meanwhile Christmas shopping in Swindon had got off to a slow start, despite a comprehensive advertising campaign by local stores in the Advertiser.

Spencer & Co., of 49/50 Bridge Street advertised ‘A Large Variety of Useful and Inexpensive Gifts’ such as handkerchiefs, dainty undies and exquisite furs.

Teesdale & Jones, electrical and radio engineers of 28 Fleet Street urged Christmas shoppers to ‘Give Electrical’ with a British Made Fully Guaranteed Vacuum Cleaner on offer at just £5 16s 11d.

Not to be out done the Corporation Electricity Showrooms at Regent Circus claimed ‘everyone likes electric presents.’   Top of their Christmas list was an electric iron whose big selling point was that it could be used in any room where there was electricity.

A spokesman for an unnamed Swindon outfitter blamed the introduction of Purchase Tax for the decline in trade.

“This morning, as a matter of fact, has been the quietest Saturday morning I have had for months,” he told an Advertiser reporter.

Eighteen Swindon babies born during War Weapons Week were given their own Post Office Savings Bank Book by the Mayor and Mayoress (Alderman and Mrs F.E. Allen) at a special tea party held at the Town Hall.  Each baby began the saving habit with 10s deposited by the Mayor himself.

November 22-28, 1940

Winter woollies and boots by the baleful made a timely arrival in Swindon this week courtesy of the Red Cross Society of the USA for the relief of evacuees.

“Our American friends are far seeing and organise well ahead,” Mr T.H. Fessey, secretary of the Swindon Council of Social Service told an Advertiser reporter as he showed him a consignment of more than a thousand summer cotton dresses.

All the clothing was reserved for issue to children and adults evacuated to Swindon and further stocks were expected.

A door to door collection made by volunteers led by Mr & Mrs Fred Kiddle had resulted in close on 30 motor car loads of stuff, most of it as good as new.  These items would be distributed among the old and needy of Swindon.

“This phase of voluntary relief work has now reached to comparatively huge dimensions,” reported the Advertiser.  “In one month alone an average of 2,000 articles are issued.”

Mr H.C.W. Ludgate, manager of Swindon Corporation buses, announced an increase in passengers of between 18-20% on last year’s figures.  The recently recruited bus conductresses also received a pat on the back as Mr Ludgate congratulated the twelve women who had been employed to take over the jobs of men called up for military service.  Most of them were engaged on the single decker service but two had been moved to the double deckers where they worked two or three days a week.

And at a meeting of the Town Council, Coun. W.G. Green confirmed that buses would continue to run during an alert until such time as danger was considered imminent.

Mr and Mrs Edward Sloper of 29 Granville Street who celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary this week in 1940 began married life in 1890 in two rooms at number 3 Dean Street.

Mr Sloper, who was born at Rushall near Pewsey, left school at the age of ten to work on a local farm.  In his twenties he got a job at the GWR Works but his love for the open country forced him to leave and return to farm work after just 18 months inside.

Mrs Sloper, born Emily Cox in Chiseldon in 1866, had also been employed as an agricultural labourer before her marriage.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill celebrated his 66th birthday this week in 1940.  Among his birthday presents was a donation of £35,000 from the Netherland East Indies and a further £11,500 from Malaya, enough to buy nine Spitfires.  Number 10 Downing Street announced that Mr Churchill would spend his birthday ‘getting on with the war.’

Thursday, May 17, 2012

November 14-21, 1940

Housewives were asked to save stale bread, vegetable and fruit peelings and table scraps in an old bucket beside their other rubbish as the Borough Council announced the latest of their recycling schemes.  The first collection of the food scraps or pig swill would be made on November 25.

Meanwhile employees of the Great Western Railway became official “salvage spotters,” on the alert for every single disused nail, nut or bolt.

“Under the inspiration of local salvage leaders and as part of their ordinary duties, they will constitute a large salvage corps,” reported the Advertiser. 

A number of special salvage vans would collect from across the GWR network delivery the scrap to one of five depots.

Military uniform was the order of dress at four Swindon weddings this week.  Private Donald Stanley King married Laura Gladys Hill at the Bath Road Register Office while Able Seaman Gunner Arthur William Gobey, wore naval uniform for his wedding to Dorothy Musto at St. Barnabas’ Church.  And at Christ Church Private Raymond Orpwood married Margaret Tewkesbury and Aircraftman Leslie Boughton Knight married Mabel Dorothy Trueman.

Mr H. Byett of Ferndale Road donated to the town’s museum a collection of documents belonging to Swindon’s Hammerman poet, Alfred Williams.

Included in the family archive were Alfred Williams’ birth, baptismal and marriage certificates, a letter from the Prime Minister’s secretary notifying him of a grant from the Crown, further correspondence notifying him of the King’s approval of a civil pension in recognition of his literary work and also a letter from the Poet Laureate Dr Robert Bridges.

Mr Byett, a close personal friend of Alfred Williams, had previously written an account of the writers’ life, first published as a serial in the Advertiser.

 A mobile canteen, one of six to make the long journey from the US to the South West arrived in Swindon this week.

The canteen vans would be put to use in heavily bombed areas to feed both the homeless and civil defence workers.  Other proposals for the mobile canteens included feeding evacuees, meeting trains and helping with communal feeding programmes.

Presented to Swindon by the London headquarters of the WVS, the canteen from Newport, Rhode Island was opened by the Mayoress, Mrs. F.E. Allen.