Thursday, May 24, 2012

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.

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