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.’

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