Saturday, February 18, 2012

July 19-25, 1940.

Soldiers reported missing this week included 19 year old Dennis Vickery of 17 King William Street, Swindon. Vickery, (pictured left) a private in the Oxford & Bucks Regiment, took part in the advance into Belgium following the German invasion of the country. The last news his parents received was a letter written in France.

Two former Upper Stratton schoolmates, who joined up together and were posted to France together, were also among those reported missing this week.

Nothing had been heard of Pte Albert James Page, son of Mrs H.A. Williams, 35 Dores Road and Pte Edward Charles Porter, son of Mrs F. Porter, 10 St Philip’s Road, since the Dunkirk evacuation.
“Both mothers believe their sons are prisoners of war,” reported the Advertiser, “and with each post expect to receive the card which will tell them they are safe.”

Purton born local hero E.O. Bickford was reported lost when the submarine Salmon was believed sunk by a mine. Awarded the DSO following action in the Heligoland Bight earlier in the war, Commander Bickford was the son of Mr & Mrs Oscar Bickford who formerly lived at The Croft, Purton.

Another lost member of the Salmon’s crew was Able Seaman and torpedo man, John H. Burgess, son in law of Mr & Mrs Ball of 80 Caulfield Road, Swindon.

The Salmon, sister ship of the Spearfish and the Snapper, was the eleventh British submarine to be lost in the war to date.

But other families received more encouraging news. It was confirmed that Bombadier Arthur J. Barker of the Royal Artillery, the son of Mrs S Barker of 1, Kent Road, reported missing on May 29, was a German prisoner of war.

Corporal George Henry Ball, attached to the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, previously listed as “wounded and missing,” was also reported to be a prisoner of war. His wife Eileen received the welcome news at the couple’s home in Haydon Street.

And Mrs A Silk of 12 Broad Town, Wootton Bassett, mother of Private Ernest Silk (pictured right) of the Wilts Regiment, also received news that her son was a prisoner of war in Germany.

Several cases of large scale pilfering at the Swindon Council of Social Service Allotments at Pinehurst were described as “the meanest of thefts.”

One old aged pensioner told how his peas had been stripped and others reported that potatoes had been dug up and stolen during the night.

Mr T.H. Fessey, secretary to the Council, told a reporter there were plans to arrange a watch over the gardens throughout the day time.


While the Allies continued to wait for the US to enter the war, hundreds of young Americans were apparently already serving in the RAF.

Dodging red tape, scores of them had travelled to Britain and enlisted in London while others had crossed the frontier into Canada and enrolled at Ottawa.

Experienced pilots entered advanced training units with the others drafted into the initial training wings in Britain or under the Empire training scheme in Canada.

It was anticipated that the formation of American squadrons would soon be a real possibility.

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