Monday, February 13, 2012

May 24-31, 1940

Events in Belgium dominated the news this week as King Leopold declared an unconditional surrender to the Germans on May 28, 1940.

Described as one of the gravest events of the war, the announcement was made at 8.30 am by M. Reynaud, the French Prime Minister, in a broadcast to his people.

“Without consideration, without a word for the French and British soldiers who, at his urgent appeal, came to the aid of his country, King Leopold has given up the fight,” he said.

The Belgian army had been at the forefront of a ferocious fourteen day long German attack during which an estimated 500,000 Belgian soldiers had fallen. The armistice, signed the following day, met with condemnation.

While fierce fighting continued on the Northern Front, the situation remained unclear. With Allied defences fractured by the Belgian withdrawal, German troops pressed forward, although observers reported that German losses were extremely heavy.

The British Expeditionary Force was reported to be ‘still intact’ but the Wednesday edition of the Advertiser revealed the situation was still unclear.

The situation of Allied troops, left in positions ‘untenable from almost every point of view,’ was described as very grave.

“They have withdrawn some miles towards the coast, and it is impossible to say exactly where they are at the moment. They have not lost cohesion and are being admirably supported by the French troops in the region,” reported the Advertiser.

Headlines on Thursday May 30 announced - BEF’s Grim Struggle to Escape Goes on in Flanders. The escape towards the coast continued.

A cat was blamed for switching on the lights at 13 Regent Street according to shopkeeper John Combe. Combe told magistrates at Swindon Borough Police Court that the main electricity switch was near the ground, with a small space between it and the wall. The cat must have tried to squeeze through, and knocked up the switch, said Combe who was fined 7s 6d.

Meanwhile Mrs Ethel Pearson admitted assaulting two schoolgirls outside her home in Percy Street. “I smacked both under great provocation,” she said, “they will not leave my baby alone.”

The girls, both aged twelve, told how Mrs Pearson had bumped Barbara Rose’s head against a wall, knocking off her glasses and had sworn at Peggy Witts, kneeing her in the stomach. Barbara Rose said the girls were trying to soothe the crying baby.

Mrs Pearson of Percy Street, Swindon agreed she had lost her temper and was fined 8s and bound over for a year. However Mr A.E. Withy magistrates clerk, warned the two girls that they must not go near the baby in future “even if it cries, and cries, and cries.”

Wilfred Ernest Dawes of 143 Kingsdown Road, Stratton and his bride Miss Kathleen Edith Whythe of 91 William Street pictured leaving the Parish Church, Swindon following their wedding on Saturday.

And Miss E. Carter explains the best way to cook potatoes at the war time gas cookery demonstration organised by the Swindon United Gas Company at the Temple Street Hall, Swindon.

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