Wednesday, February 22, 2012

August 2-8, 1940

Regimental Quartermaster, Sergeant B.L.L. Carter made a trip up to London this week in 1940 where he received an MBE from the King at Buckingham Palace.

Sergeant Carter of the 4th Wilts Regiment was believed to have the longest service record of any Territorial in the Southern Command.

Mr Carter, who lived at 39 York Road, joined the ‘Terriers’ in May 1911 and served in India and Palestine during the Great War. Mentioned in despatches during his time in Palestine Sergt Carter had numerous medals, including two Territorial long service medals, one bearing a star.

And yet more local families received welcome news this week with the official notification that their missing men were prisoners of war.

Mrs F. Porter of 10 St Philip’s Road, Upper Stratton, who told an Advertiser reporter that she was certain her missing son, Private Edward Charles Porter, was alive, ‘probably in a prison camp somewhere,’ had her belief confirmed.

Bombadier George Vernal Pounder, the son of Mr & Mrs Tom Pounder of 40 Prior’s Hill, Wroughton, was reported to be a prisoner at Stalag Camp while the relieved family of Gunner A. Brown, RA of 6 The Pry, Purton thanked their neighbours for the kindness shown since their son was known to be missing.

Reported missing when HM Submarine Shark was lost early in July, Lt. Dennis H B Barrett, RN, son of Major F W Barrett, of Wroughton Hall, Wroughton, was also officially stated to be a prisoner of war.

One little 2 year old boy received the best birthday present ever when notification reached the family that his father, Rifleman John Hooper (pictured right) was a prisoner of war. Mrs Hooper, a voluntary air raid warden received the good news at 240 Whitworth Road where she was staying with her mother and her young son.

The Mayor of Swindon praised the work of the newly formed 19th Wilts Men’s Division of the British Red Cross at a dance held at the Bradford Hall, Swindon.

“I understand they would like new members, and you will agree this is a very necessary and a very worthy cause,” said the Mayor (Coun. H.R. Hustings.) “When anyone is ill or injured, first aid is often the means of saving someone’s life, and they are here to help you.”

Music was supplied by John Styles and his band, and refreshments by the ladies’ section of the 69th Wilts Division.

Madam Dockray donated a quantity of scrap metal to the war effort, including some treasured relics of the Great War, among them a piece of aluminium taken from L32, the first Zeppelin to be brought down over London.

“These were given me by the boys in the last war,” she said. “I value them very much but I think the Germans ought to have them back!”

Madam Dockray gave more than 1000 concerts for the troops on Salisbury Plain during the Great War.

Holy Rood schoolchildren were pictured digging for victory at their newly acquired allotment ground in Upham Road. The hard work proved well worth the effort and the youngsters were rewarded with a bumper crop of vegetables.

Photograph of Madam Dockray and her choir is published courtesy of B.Townsend and Swindon Central Library - visit

Sunday, February 19, 2012

July 26-August 1, 1940

Another local man, Private G.H. Edmonds, (pictured left) formerly a painter in the GWR Works, was reported missing this week in 1940.

Private Edmonds of the Oxford & Bucks’s Light Infantry was in the same unit as Sergt Major Thompson, recently confirmed to be a prisoner of war.

A married man with one daughter, Pte Edmonds lived at 77 Bullingdon Road, Oxford having left Swindon and the GWR Works for a job at the Morris Works in Oxford.

Mrs T.H. Davies of 5 Prior’s Hill, Wroughton received welcome news from the War Office that her husband had been taken prisoner of war.

Corporal Thomas Henry Davies of the Cheshire Regiment (pictured right) had previously served for seven years in the Welch Fusiliers and within a week of the outbreak of war had been called to the colours and immediately sent to France.

Mrs Davies had last heard from her husband seven weeks previously when he sent a field card to say that he was quite well.

And Lieutenant Martin Keith-Roach RN, (pictured below) son of the former Rector of Blunsdon, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Serving in the submarine Triad, Lieut. Keith-Roach received the award “in recognition of daring, endurance and resource in the conduct of hazardous and successful operations.”
Before being posted to the Triad, Lieut Keith-Roach was for two years attached to the China Station, and was well known at Blunsdon where he spent several holidays.

Shopkeeper Dewi Mervyn Davies of 133 Manchester Road appeared in court charged with employing a young person for more than 44 hours a week and failing to keep records.

Teenager Mabel Brown, who worked from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm except on Wednesdays when she left at 1 pm, received 7s 6d a week, said she had an interval for dinner from 12 – 1.30 but no tea hour. She used to take her tea with her, but never had time to eat it.

Mabel’s duties included the delivery of newspapers and periodicals and housework as well as assisting in the shop and sub Post Office.

Davies pleaded guilty, stating that he had never been in business before and was ignorant of the regulations.

During the week ending July 20, Swindon’s “lend to defend” effort realised £19,851 – nearly enough to buy four Spitfires. The town’s accumulated total is now £381,777.

In preparation for the start of the new football season two local teams announced they would be amalgamating.

Swindon Corinthians and the GWR Staff Association Rangers would in future be known as Swindon GWR Corinthians.

“This is not purely a wartime measure,” Harry Beattie, Corinthians secretary told the Evening Advertiser. “The GWR should have one of the best football clubs in the country, and we believe that the amalgamation will go a long way to making this possible.”

Mr E.A. Howe, Chairman of the Swindon Borough League, was appointed chairman of the new club and Mr S. Wallis, Secretary of the GWR Staff Association Rangers, Mr Beattie’s assistant.

All matches will be played on the GWR Ground, Shrivenham Road where the facilities are second to none in Wiltshire, reported the Advertiser.

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.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

July 12-18, 1940

The Women’s Voluntary Service reported that a formidable barrage of this valuable metal had poured in their Temple Street headquarters as Swindon residents were congratulated on their response to the appeal for aluminium donations.

Swindon Press joined the campaign with a window display at Newspaper House, Victoria Road, another collection point where housewives deposited anything that could be spared from their homes.

The WVS reported they had received offers of transport by residents in outlying rural areas and announced the first lorry load of reclaimed metal was ready for despatch by the end of this week in 1940.

'An amazing collection of articles ranging from vacuum cleaners to tiny vanity boxes from m’lady’s handbag’ had been received at the collection points, the Advertiser reported.

Mr W.E. Grey, 72 year old District Councillor is seen supervising the scrap metal dump at Hodson and (pictured.

German military artefacts from the 1914-18 war were donated to the war salvage effort by Nurse Peace of 66 Radnor Street, Swindon. Mrs Pearce said the items had been souvenirs collected by her husband who had served in the Welsh Guards during the war. Following the death of her husband last year, Mrs Pearce told the Advertiser that it would have been his wish that the trophies should be so used.

Two local families received welcome news this week when soldiers previously reported missing were confirmed to be prisoners of war.

Last heard of at the end of May, Mr & Mrs A.F. Thompson of 571 Ferndale Road, received official notification that their son, Platoon Sergt Major Vernon Thompson, was a prisoner of war. Sergt. Major Thompson of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, was taken prisoner during the mass evacuation of troops from Dunkirk.

And Mrs D.M. Coid of 80 Perry’s Lane, Wroughton, the wife of Corporal J. Coid of the Irish Guards, wrote to the Advertiser to announce her husband was also safe.

“The messages of encouragement I received after your reports helped me very much during the anxious weeks of waiting and I feel very grateful,” Mrs Coid wrote in a letter to the Editor.
“Should you think it of sufficient interest to report this latest news, I am sure it will give further hope to the relatives of those who are still on the ‘missing’ list.”

Charles O’Connor pleaded ‘quite guilty’ when he appeared at Swindon Borough Police Court charged with being drunk.

Special Constable Pearce told how he found O’Connor lying in Byron Street in a drunken condition and unable to stand.

When charged the following morning O’Connor admitted he had had a drop too much to drink. “I had a dog with me and it pulled me over,” he told the Court. “And held you down?” asked Mr J.W. Pooley, Deputy Clerk. “Yes,” replied O’Connor.

Announcing that he would be fined 5s, the Mayor, Coun H.R. Hustings, told O’Connor not to have so much to drink. “Not at 10d a pint,” he replied, referring to the recently announced price increase on beer.

And one Swindon resident made an unusual find in his garden this week in 1940. Mr Edmonds discovered some ancient bones and pottery, pictured, while he was digging an air raid shelter in the garden of his home at Wood Street, Swindon.

July 5-11, 1940

Private Joseph Henry Page (pictured left) of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry was reported drowned during the Dunkirk evacuation. A reservist with seven years service, Private Page had been recalled to the colours on the outbreak of war.

Pte. Page, the son of Mrs Beatrice Page of 146 Croft Road, was one of 17 children, three of whom were also serving in the Forces.

Another local man reported missing this week was Private E. Garnham of 106 Tydeman Street. Pte. Garnham, a reservist at the beginning of the War, was recalled to the Suffolk Regiment.

Derek Middleton, the son of Advertiser cartoonist, was also reported missing. Flying Officer Middleton specialised in flying boats and had been on constant patrol since the outbreak of war. No details were known of the engagement from which he failed to return.

Britain’s favourite beverage came under attack this week in 1940 as Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, announced that tea would join the list of rationed foodstuffs.

And according to Charles E. Hecht, Honorary Secretary of the Food Education Society, tea should not be taken more than twice daily, and never late in the evening. It should be freshly made, never strong and preferably China, according to Mr Hecht, who advised against the ‘hot’ cuppa, and stated that tea should never be given to children.

Don’t panic! Advertiser readers were reminded of a few basic air raid precautions as reports of German bombing missions continued to make the news.

“Streets, thoroughfares and open spaces must be kept clear for military and civilian defence services,” reported the Advertiser. “People caught in the streets and who are more than five minutes walk from their homes should at once take cover in public shelters and remain there until the ‘raiders passed’ signal.”

Those at home should go immediately to their pre-arranged place of shelter and were reminded not to stand at the window watching. Every household should have a bucket of water or sand in the porch to assist the AFS and the Wardens’ in dealing promptly with incendiary bombs.

“Remember, that in the event of enemy action it is the duty of every member of the public to ‘stay put’ unless ordered to act different by someone in authority,” the report continued.

Schoolchildren were also told to remain where they were in a statement released by the Board of Education. “Schoolchildren are to take up the safest positions in the building if the enemy drop bombs near a school without warning. If necessary they should lie on the floor,” said the Education Board. “They must not be allowed to leave the school building to go into shelters.”

With supplies of hot water, tea and blankets for those suffering from shock and bandages for the injured, housewives across the country proved they were pulling their weight as they co-ordinated their efforts with the ARP services to deal with the after effects of air raids.

A small leather case proved a piece of life saving equipment for one lucky sailor. Dai Hughes had an astonishing escape from death when a case containing a hair brush and shaving equipment took the full impact of a stray bullet.

Swindon boxer Dai was part of a naval landing party at Narvik when he was hit by a British weapon. The bullet penetrated the leather case and split the hairbrush in which it became lodged, saving the young sailor’s life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

June 28 - July 4, 1940

German air attacks dominated the news this week in 1940 as the country entered what would become known as the Battle of Britain.

The Advertiser at first undermined the success of Goering’s mighty Luftwaffe describing a raid on Eastern England as ‘desultory.’ During the last weekend in June other raids resulted in no casualties and only minimal damage.

However, on Monday July 1, twelve people were killed and 18 injured when a lone bomber attacked over north east Scotland while a raid on the Bristol Channel caused little damage but four people were slightly injured.

By the end of the week Nazi bombers were engaged in further daylight raids. Eyewitness accounts in the South West reported a battle between six Spitfires and 20 Nazi bombers.

“In two areas in the South East raiders were chased off by British machines,” reported the Advertiser. “No casualties have been reported.”

Meanwhile in Swindon Lieut Col B.L. Birley made an appeal for more recruits for the Local Defence Volunteer Battalion. Col Birley reminded readers that the LDV, or Home Guard, would be the first line of defence for Swindon and called upon ex-servicemen who were not already engaged upon National Defence Service and young men waiting to be called up.

“Let us fight Hitlerism with all the means in our power,” said Col Birley. “Everyone from 17 upwards who wants a chance to help to kill this the foulest form of government the world has ever known, here is your chance, take it!”

Leading Aircraftman Ronald Wallace Hunter of the RAF (Volunteer Reserve) was reported missing and believed drowned as a result of enemy action at sea on June 17.

A former Euclid Street Secondary School pupil, Hunter had studied at the Colwyn Bay Wireless College before joining the Merchant Service as a wireless operator.

He later returned to Swindon to work in the family furniture business in Regent Street before joining the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He was called up just before the outbreak of war and sent to France.

Leading Aircraftman Hunter, 21, was the only son of Mr & Mrs R Hunter of 87 Marlborough Road, Swindon. It was believed he was on his way home to England when he was killed.

Drunken Charles Bobs Collier told police officers that he suffered from malaria when arrested for being in charge of a car while under the influence of drink.

Collier led police in a brisk walk from the incident in Fleet Street to the Police Station, announcing on his arrival, “I’ve beaten your man all the way.”

When asked his height, joker Collier replied “eight feet seven and three quarter inches.” It was subsequently found that his real height was only 5 feet 6¾ inches.

The justices at the Wiltshire Quarter Sessions heard how in the knee jerk test Collier kicked before he was touched. Although ‘shaking in his legs,’ Collier’s temperature was normal. He was not suffering from malaria.

Fast approaching the £300,000 mark, Swindon war savings had completely dwarfed those of the previous war. “In 26 weeks from 1st January last the amount realised for the sale of savings certificates and defence bonds and in Post Office savings, has more than doubled the figure for the full year in 1916,” reported the Advertiser.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

June 21-27, 1940

Sadly three more local men were reported missing this week. Platoon Sergt Major Vernon Thompson, 26 of 571 Ferndale Road, Swindon (pictured left) was reported missing following the evacuation from Dunkirk. PSM Thompson of the Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry had served for seven years before the outbreak of war. As a Reservist he was recalled to the colours and had been in France since January.

Private Frederick Arthur Andrews, also of Ferndale Road, the adopted son of Mr & Mrs C.W. Spackman, was reported as missing since May 20. Sent to France on his 21st birthday, private Andrews was in the Queen’s Royal Regiment.

Aircraftman Wilfred Greenman, 20 the son of Mr & Mrs T. Greenman of 44 Eastcott Road, was reported missing since June 17. A previous employee at the GWR Rolling Mills, Aircraftman Greenman volunteered for service with the RAF at the outbreak of war.

The number of Swindon residents stepping forward to become blood donors increased during a weeklong promotion in the town. Organisers were hopeful that if the trend continued the target of 5,000 new donors could be reached. Col. L. Whitly, director of the Army Blood Transfusion Service is pictured admiring a display in a window of Newspaper House.

The annual Swindon Schools Athletic Association Sports Day had a themed obstacle race. In keeping with the Dig for Victory campaign, boys had to race from the starting line and change from running shoes into heavy gardening boots. They then had to throw off their jackets, pick up a sack of soil and carry it on a wheelbarrow. Next the boys had to pot and water a plant and sprint with it to the finishing tape.

In their obstacle race the girls had to change into a nurse’s uniform, dose a ‘patient’ with medicine, completing the race after rolling up a long bandage.
Children from both local and evacuated schools took part in the Sports Day held at the County Ground.

‘Six perpetual shields were competed for by all the schools and Sanford Street Boys and Ferndale Road Girls each had the satisfaction of earning the right to have their names inscribed on two of them,’ reported the Advertiser.

Dinah Olliver from Commonweal School is pictured winning the 100 yards race for 15-16 year old girls while W. Devenay of East Ham won the event for boys aged 16-17.

June 14-20, 1940

In a special edition published on Friday June 14 the Advertiser announced that French troops had withdrawn from Paris and that the city was in German occupation.

As fires burned across the city skyline the civilian population of Paris escaped in an endless procession of cars and carts. “Free men everywhere on the earth must know what they owe to France,” French Premier Paul Reynaud said in a radio broadcast following the capitulation. “The time has come for them to pay their debts,” he pleaded.

And two days later Monday’s headlines in the Advertiser declared that it was all over – France Gives Up the Fight. “It is with a broken heart that I tell you today that fighting must cease,” said Philippe Petain, the 80 year old recently appointed Prime Minister following Reynaud’s resignation.

In just 39 days the German army had conquered and occupied Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and finally France. The Advertiser published a diary of events from the beginning of the Nazi offensive on May 10 and the Battle on the Meuse on the 16 to the heavy fighting at Boulogne on the 23. On June 4 Churchill revealed that 335,000 Allied troops had been rescued from Dunkirk with the German occupation of Paris following on the 12.

As Petain made his surrender the German High Command claimed that troops had reached the Swiss frontier and had captured the much contested Alsace and Lorraine. Although the BEF remained in Normandy there were no details to say exactly what they were doing and in an official statement from the French side the situation was described as ‘extremely grave.’

Meanwhile, reports continued to be published of local men lost or reported missing following the Dunkirk evacuation.

Private Joseph Bonner of 48 Bright Street was reported killed while serving in the BEF. Pte Bonner of the Seaforth Highlanders, a reservist with eight and a half years service, was called up on the outbreak of war.

Engineer Lieutenant Thomas Graham aged 58 and married to the former Uffington born Ellen Norris, was reported missing following the loss of his ship HMS Grive during the Dunkirk evacuation. Another reservist, Engineer Lieutenant Graham had previously served on a destroyer during the Great War. His elder son was serving with the Royal Corps of Signals. Also reported missing was former Chippenham Rovers footballer, Pte Arthur Farmer.

Recovering in hospital from his wounds, Driver Walter Crofts RASC wrote of his dramatic swim for life during the Dunkirk rescue in a letter to his parents Mr & Mrs Joe Crofts of The Butts, Chippenham. Driver Crofts wrote how following the sinking of his ship, “we had to swim about until a French destroyer picked us up. I think it was only the fact that I am a good swimmer that I managed it, for there were only a few lifebelts and I didn’t have one, and swam all the way, bar a few moments, when I had hold of a piece of wood.”

Carnival week in Swindon kicked off on Sunday June 16 with a parade led by the Swindon Prospect Silver Band.

Members of the Auxiliary Fire Brigade, St John Ambulance, Red Cross, ARP Services, Sea Cadets and Boy Scouts joined ex Servicemen in a parade from the Town Hall to the Town Gardens and a service led by the Bishop of Malmesbury.

Eileen Gordon, the 18 year old daughter of Mr & Mrs J Gordon, 87 Tydeman Street was crowned Carnival Queen at the Playhouse. Presented with the Evening Advertiser rose bowl, a surprised Eileen told how she had not entered the competition and she did not know who had put forward her name. The first she know about it was when she was invited to appear before a preliminary selection committee, she told the Advertiser.

The four finalists, Rose Ward, Dorothy J. Johnson, Edith Fuller and Gladys Smart were appointed ladies in waiting to the new crowned Queen with Mrs Norman Thomas acting as chaperone to the girls during their reign of office.

One of the first engagements for the newly crowned Carnival Queen was the Concert Talent Competition held at the Playhouse on Wednesday June 19 where Eileen presented the prizes. Sponsored by the Swindon Press Alliance, organiser Mr Sutton said the event had met with encouraging success and had served to reveal a lot of talent in the town. He expressed the hope that it would become an annual event in the Carnival Week programme.

The Mayor of Swindon’s Cup was won by the Nom-de-Plume Dance Band beating the Children’s String Quintette conducted by Dorothy E. Sprittles into second place. Gladys, May, Joan and Violet Dewe, ‘Fours Sisters in Harmony,’ came third.

And against all odds the annual Carnival Week Parade took place as hundreds of people turned up at the Town Hall to watch the procession set off. The Advertiser reported that although there was none of the brilliance of a peacetime carnival, there was a smart turn out and ‘a few children turned up in carnival dress, thus adding at least a little of the carnival spirit.’

June 7-13, 1940

Photographs of local men, victims of the fierce fighting leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation, appeared in the Advertiser this week.

Former policeman, Corporal James Coid of the Irish Guards (pictured left) was one of those reported missing. Corporal Coid had married local girl Iris Bullock of 80 Perry’s Lane, Wroughton in September 1939. Also reported missing was Rifleman Sidney David Sinnett of the King’s Royal Rifles, only son of Mr & Mrs D.T. Sinnett, 55 Corby Avenue, Swindon. Aged 21, Rifleman Sinnett had only been in France since May 22.

Private Raymond Norton from East Challow, Wantage was in hospital suffering from shrapnel wounds in the leg received while serving with the Royal Berks Regiment. Another soldier returned safely from Dunkirk was Military Policeman Corporal Reg Hale, the son of Mr & Mrs C. Hale of Cheney Manor Road, Swindon.

An appeal for 5,000 blood donors was made in Swindon this week when volunteers from the general public proved slow to step forward.

So far the GWR Works topped the list with nearly 4,000 volunteers. Garrards had 504 registered blood donors with 208 from the Wills’ Tobacco factory and 85 from Comptons and just over 270 from the general public.

“So small has the response been from the public that there is to be a great drive from 24-29 June to get 5,000 more volunteers in Swindon,” reported the Advertiser, and the Mayor promised to be one of the first to have a test taken during that week.

Volunteers would be able to take a blood test at any time of the day or night at any of the first aid posts or hospitals in Swindon as well as at the ARP headquarters at the old Congregational chapel.

The week end of June 8-9 saw North Wiltshire hit by storms, causing considerable damage to property and crops.

Thousands of day trippers at Coate Water were caught unawares when the storm broke following a day of blazing sunshine and a chimney on the sheds of a goods yard in Old town was struck and several windows shattered.

At Liddington the ancient church of All Saints was struck by lightning causing huge fragments of masonry from the tower battlements to crash through the roof.

While Swindon escaped relatively lightly elsewhere it was reported that crops were almost washed out of the ground.

More than 40 entries had been received for the Concert Talent Competitions organised by the Swindon Press Alliance in connection with the 1940 Victoria Hospital Carnival effort. Among the entrants were three bands, a ‘swing quintette,’ a children’s string quartet and ‘The Four Sisters,’ a musical quartet. Following an eliminating contest at Sanford Street School, three entrants from each of the four classes would qualify to take the stage at the Playhouse on Wednesday June 19 for the final competition.

Weddings in Swindon this week included Leading Stoker Percy Jack RN of Falkirk, Scotland who married Miss Emily Hacker of 83 Salisbury Street and AB Thomas McLeod RN of Hawick, Scotland who married Miss Aimee Renee Harper of Abbey Wood, College Street, Swindon. Both couples are pictured following their wedding at the Register Office, Swindon on Wednesday June 12.

Monday, February 13, 2012

June 1-6, 1940

‘Thousands of British Troops Landing in England – Bitter Fighting Around Dunkirk’ were the headlines on Friday May 31 as allied troops maintained their positions along a wide front, despite the progress of German armoured units reinforced by an additional one million men.

Dunkirk was one of the most critical events of the Second World War and day by day the Advertiser reported the proceedings as they happened.

Following more than three weeks of fierce fighting, British, French and Belgian troops were evacuated in a mass exodus from Northern France.

Rescued men told how the German Luftwaffe attacked the flotilla of rescue ships in waves every 10 to 15 minutes, raining down salvos of bombs on troops assembled on the quayside.
“The German planes machine gunned us as we were getting into the boats, bullets splashing all around,” one survivor was quoted as saying.

“I never expected to get back to England alive,” said another.

All night long, under cover of darkness, the Navy carried on its brilliant work of rescue and today the procession of warships, transports and craft of all kinds, went on to and fro across the Channel,” the Advertiser reported on Saturday June 1 as an estimated 100,000 men were evacuated.

“The spirit of the troops was an inspiration to the nation. They had come out of an inferno with their morale unbroken and their faith in their cause undimmed,” the report continued.

But by Wednesday June 5 the situation in France had become even more desperate. A new German offensive extended along a 120 mile front from the sea to within 65 miles north east of Paris.
Enemy bombers launched an air attack on French lines at 4 am followed immediately by an advance of massed numbers of German infantry, it was reported.

Although Hitler had Paris firmly in his sights, it appeared things were not going entirely according to plan.

“It can be stated definitely that Hitler wrote to Mussolini telling him he expected to have crushed all French and British resistance within a fortnight after capturing Holland and Belgium,” said a member of the Dutch legation in Berlin who had recently arrived in London.

“Holland should have fallen within 24 hours and France and Britain should have capitulated not later than 24 May.”

Arriving at towns on the south coast, the soldiers, most of whom had scarcely slept for a fortnight, were exhausted and hungry. Local bakers worked overtime to supply canteens, where women volunteers cut mountains of sandwiches and served countless cups of tea.

Train loads of returning Tommies were cheered as they passed through the countryside where well wishers gathered at wayside crossings to fling chocolates and cigarettes at the soldiers.
Undeterred by their experience the men still had plenty of fight left in them. ‘Back to Blighty – but not for long,’ and ‘Look out Hitler, we haven’t started on you yet,’ were just some of the messages scrawled on railway carriage doors.

In Swindon members of the Women’s Auxiliary section of the YMCA were congratulated on their sterling work.

“Since the evacuation began, 35,000 men, including French and Belgian soldiers, have been given tea, pies, cakes, chocolate and cigarettes, when they stopped at Swindon station for 15 minutes on their way to other towns,” reported the Advertiser.

Pilot Officer Stanley William Ashton aged 28,(pictured right) son of Mr & Mrs W. Ashton of Draycott Road, Chiseldon, was reported killed in an aircraft accident. No indication was given as to how or where the accident had occurred. Pilot Officer Ashton had been in the RAF for just a year and had married Miss Josephine Loveday in December 1939.

Another local serviceman, Able Seaman William Ernest Toombs (pictured right) was also reported missing following the loss of his vessel the tug St Fagan during the Dunkirk evacuation.

“I can’t keep missing it like I have been, you must bear up mother, if I don’t come back,” twenty year old Toombs had told his mother when last home on leave.

A former Clifton Street School pupil, William Toombs left for naval school at Penarth when he was just thirteen years old. Earlier in the war he took part in an engagement in the Baltic. He had recently passed his examination as gun layer.

And two members of the British Expeditionary Force recently evacuated from France were engaged in a dramatic rescue at Coate Water.

Gunner W. Mears of the RA and Private W. Harris of the Northants Regiment dived fully clothed into the reservoir at Coate when teenager Charles Shirley of West End Road, Stratton got into difficulties while bathing.

Mr Lusher, superintendant at Coate, with boatman Mr H.J. Blackman and Mr W. Titcombe at once applied artificial respiration with speedy success.

Private Harris told an Evening Advertiser reported that he had lost 15s from his pocket and that both men had their cigarettes spoiled.

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.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

May 17-23, 1940

Swindon National Farmers’ Union appealed to the Government to allow boys under the age of 12 to assist with haymaking and harvest work after school and during the holidays. Union member Mr R.W. Horton said it was extraordinary that boys who wanted to work on farms in their spare time were not allowed to. Another suggestion to address the acute agricultural labour shortage was that townspeople might also be asked to volunteer for farm work.

Meanwhile Swindon’s answer to Covent Garden opened at the market repository, the first in a series of twice weekly produce sales conducted by Swindon auctioneers Fielder and Jones.

Growers included Plough Hill nurseries who sold more than half a ton of locally produced tomatoes at prices averaging 1s per pound. Best cucumbers fetched 7s 6d a dozen and lettuces sold at 3s a dozen.

Mr Fielder told the Advertiser that there had been a satisfactory response to the new venture. These markets will ensure that Swindon will have regular supplies of produce, fresh from market gardens, no matter how transport difficulties may restrict supplies from the bigger markets, the report continued.

Swindon savers were investing more than £8,000 a week in the ‘lend to defend’ campaign. The sale of National Savings Certificates and Defence Bonds averaged about £2.10s per head of population and the town looked set to reach its target of £500,000.

However, neighbouring Chippenham left Swindon in the shade and had already banked £120,000 since October 1, an average of £10 per person.

Much of the credit for this achievement was due to Mr H. Greenwood, headmaster of Ivy Lane School. When Mr Greenwood became National Savings secretary for Chippenham in June 1939 there were just 23 savings groups in the area. In less than four months he had increased the number to 28 and by May 1940 there were 86 groups.

A driver had a narrow escape when his car collided with a motor cycle at the junction of Devizes Road and Newport Street. While Mr A Holt of Swindon escaped injury, the report failed to mention what happened to the rider of the motor cycle, Mr Edgar Evans of Sherston.

May 10-16, 1940

It was business as usual at the GWR Works, Compton’s and Garrard’s on Whitsun Bank Holiday following a Government announcement in the wake of the Dutch invasion.

“The Government has cancelled the Whitsun holiday and the King’s Birthday holiday for all civil servants and workers in industrial establishments,” reported the Advertiser.

The President of the Chamber of Commerce issued a recommendation that all Swindon shopkeepers should open as usual and all factories with the exception of Wills’ who had already closed, should carry on with their normal Monday schedules.

Within a few hours of the Government’s announced decision, several of the larger pleasure transport companies in the West Country cancelled extensive programmes of Holiday tours, both local and long distance, which had been planned for the Whitsun weekend.

In Swindon, families playing hosts to evacuated children welcomed the news that billeting allowances were to be increased. For children aged 14-16 the rate increased from 10s 6d to 12s 6d while the allowance for the over 16’s rose to 15s a week.

Preliminary arrangements had been made for the evacuation of 1,158,000 school children nationwide, should the necessity arise, it was announced.

A local young artist from Badbury Wick celebrated having two pictures hung in the Royal Academy. A former Swindon Art School student, Ruth Hurle (pictured right) won a scholarship to the Royal Society of Arts. The two successful pictures were portraits of six months old Douglas Wakefield, Mrs Hurle’s maid’s baby son, and Chiseldon school girl Joan Fowler aged 12. A third picture of the Italian town of Sienna was also accepted but was not hung.

May 3-9, 1940

Well known Swindon photographer William Hooper and his wife Mary celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary this week in 1940.

Born at Windrush, Gloucestershire, Mr Hooper came to Swindon in 1882 and started work as a mechanics assistant in B Shop at the GWR Works. Aged just 22, Mr Hooper met with an accident in the factory which resulted in the amputation of one of his legs.

What first began as a hobby soon became a business venture when William Hooper opened his first photographic studio in Market Street. He later moved to premises in Cromwell Street.

Mr and Mrs Hooper, who were founder members of the Open Brethren Movement in Swindon, were married in the Baptist Tabernacle in 1890.

Pictured below are members of the gardening course class at work at Gorse Hill School. The boys laid out the garden partly for flowers and partly for vegetables on what was formerly a waste plot.

Swindon is earnestly in need of a young woman to become Carnival Queen, announced the Advertiser as the competition opened this week in May 1940.

Hopeful candidates were reminded that a Carnival Queen was not chosen for her beauty alone but that she must possess a charm and grace which will endear her to her subjects.

As the 1939 winner, Miss Olive Browning, prepared to hand over her crown, applications were invited from girls over the age of 16 living in the area served by the Swindon Victoria Hospital

A further 2½ million men would soon receive their call up papers it was announced with the registration of 19-37 year olds. The ratio of conscientious objectors had fallen on the occasion of each registration since the outbreak of war, the Advertiser reported. Meanwhile a bill providing for the imposition of the death penalty in grave cases of espionage and sabotage was introduced in the House of Commons. Sir John Anderson said regulations had been very carefully drawn, to avoid penalising mere expressions of opinions while giving full power to deal with mischievous activities directed toward impeding the war effort.

photograph of William and Mary Hooper is published courtesy of Paul Williams. For a collection of Hooper photographs visit Swindon Central Library's online photo archive on