Saturday, March 31, 2012

September 12-18, 1940

It was decided to begin the despatch of the winter parcels in October at the September meeting of the Mayoress’s Association. These would contain a scarf, a helmet and a pair of gloves or mittens. An appeal was made for the details of all non GWR men serving in the Forces. Families of GWR employees were reassured that their men would receive parcels through the railway scheme.

Miss M.E. Slade, who had worked tirelessly throughout the Great War, organising Red Cross parcels for Swindon men detained as prisoners of war, was again co-ordinating operations from her home in Avenue Road.

The Swindon Federation of Trade Unions launched ‘a penny per week’ scheme at the GWR Works to provide funds to purchase comforts for employees in the Forces, a share of which was set aside for non-railway employees.

“Already a number other firms have followed this example and it is hoped that more and more will join in until the scheme extends to all parts of the Borough,” reported the Advertiser.
Meanwhile, letters were arriving from men who had received parcels from Swindon.

“I feel I must say how much I appreciated the parcel I received. It made me feel proud of my home town to think they are doing such fine work,” wrote E.S. Hillier RE.

“I am sending my deepest and sincerest thanks for the very welcome parcel I received yesterday from your Comforts Association,” W. Walker of the Royal Navy wrote. “I can assure you it is just what one needs here at present during this spell of bad weather.”

Weddings at Christ Church this week included John Herbert Palphramand who married Iris Rosaline Mapson and solicitor’s daughter Daphne Audrey Lemon who wed Alan Gilbert of Gerrards Cross. RAF Sergt George White of Torquay married local girl Ellen Richards of 22 Gordon Gardens at St. Pauls’ Church, Swindon.

And Hollywood came to Huish this week when movie heartthrob David Niven married Miss Primula Rollo. Captain Niven, a former lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry, had returned to Britain to fight for his country. Following his rejection by the RAF on account of his age, Niven 31, had joined the Rifle Brigade. The star of the 1939 production of Raffles, Niven had also played the part of Edgar Linton in Wuthering Heights acting alongside Laurence Oliver as Heathcliffe and Merle Oberon as Cathy.

Well known animal trainer Marcus La Touche brought his dog Viscount to the Playhouse this week to demonstrate that animals could make a valuable contribution to wartime communications.

“Any dog, whatever its breed, can, up to the ages of six years, be schooled to carry messages from any given place up to a distance of two miles,” said Mr La Touche. To prove his point, Mr La Touche called upon Viscount (pictured) a Labrador-Bull Terrier cross, to convey a message of 200 yards.

A Special Constable tried the patience of fire fighter Walter Langton riding his bicycle home following a day of collecting for the Swindon Spitfire Fund.

Langton was stopped for riding down Richmond Road without a red rear light at 9.40 pm on August 31. Swindon magistrates were told that when asked for an explanation, Langton allegedly replied, “Mind your own **** business.”

“Special police are a **** nuisance to the town,” he said, “and are only in it to dodge the Army.”

Langton told the magistrates that he had informed the Special that he was on national service and complained that the constable had spoken to him in a sarcastic manner.

“It seems as if the word spitfire got into your body,” said magistrate’s clerk, Mr A.E. Withy.
Langton was fined 10s and was told that the penalty might have been more severe.

Weddings - top Mr and Mrs Palphramand; middle Mr and Mrs White; bottom Mr and Mrs Gilbert

Friday, March 30, 2012

September 5-11, 1940

The Advertiser continued to report updates on Servicemen previously believed to be missing. Ending a long, three month wait for news, Mrs Williams of 111 Kingshill Road heard at last that her husband was a prisoner of war in Germany. Gunner Edwin John Williams was serving with the Royal Artillery (Anti Aircraft) in France when he was captured.

GWR employee Private Albert George Henry Pearce of 139 Albion Road was also reported safe as was Sergt John Herbert Allen of 2 Manton Street.

Welsh Guardsman John Gregory Clarke, grandson of Mrs John Gregory, 3 Alms Houses, Cricklade Street, was confirmed a prisoner of war and Mrs Edmonds of Westcott Place received news that her son, George Henry Edmonds, a private in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry was also a prisoner but slightly wounded.

Swindon received a new intake of evacuees as bombed out East Enders began arriving in the town. One young mother told how her baby had been sleeping outside in its pram just minutes before a bomb dropped. Debris was thrown over the house and a street lamp crashed onto the pram, smashing it to pieces.

Moved by the plight of two homeless women, a soldier’s wife from Faringdon took the initiative and approached the Council of Social Service with an offer of accommodation.

Emergency rest centres were set up including one at Sanford Street Congregational Hall and another at Stratton. Mattresses had been provided by Swindon’s Council of Social Service and blankets by the Public Assistance Committee, which had also organised food for the new arrivals.

“There has been a certain amount of confusion and, not being organised, these arrivals have found themselves more or less stranded,” reported the Advertiser.

And two Swindon evacuees were killed in the London bombings this week when their Woolwich home was hit during a raid on September 7.

Doreen Dearsley 10 and her eight year old sister Joan had returned to London for a short holiday. Billeted at Botany Farm, Highworth for a year, their foster mother Mrs James Eddolls told an Advertiser reporter that the children had been removed by their mother against advice.

The children’s’ father, Alfred Dearsley, had expressed misgivings about taking them back to London and the girls themselves didn’t want to go, said Mrs Eddolls.

Describing their return to London as unnecessary, Mrs Eddolls told how the parents had been in the habit of visiting the girls at Highworth every two weeks.

The two sisters and their mother, Rose 33, were killed when their home and family fruiterer’s shop at 96 Albert Road, Woolwich was destroyed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

August 29 - September 4, 1940

The Swindon Spitfire Fund topped the £1,000 mark with donations of more than £300 from Swindon’s fire fighters.

At the Town Hall collectors did brisk business and a trailer pump and tender drew a crowd outside the Victoria Road Post Office. Eye catching slogans included ‘Help to put the fire into Spitfire’ and ‘All For Spitfires.’

The workers of Southern Laundry also contributed £100 to the Spitfire Fund while the Swindon ARP casualty services donated £30.

With the issue of collection boxes to ‘responsible’ people, Swindonians were reminded they still had a long way to go to achieve their target.

The Air Ministry announced that a Hurricane pilot was killed by Messerschmitt fighter pilots after he had baled out.

“The British pilot had jumped by parachute from 15,000 ft,” reported the Advertiser. “As he was floating down three Messerschmitts swooped on him and opened fire on his swaying figure. His body was riddled with bullets.”

The pilot was later identified as Swindon born Squadron Leader Harold Morley Starr.

Looking back on a year of war the Advertiser celebrated “a magnificent story of abounding determination and grit in the face of almost incredible and repeated reverses.” Now it was time to ‘Go Foward.’

And an editorial on September 4 promised readers “Hitler is assured of defeat. The Britzkrieg has failed.” With the Battle of Britain still raging, “the fortitude of the civil population under the ordeal of air attack has never wavered,” wrote the editor, who called upon parliament to address its financial and economic policies to ensure a properly equipped fighting force.

“Victory must be seized,” he said, “It cannot be ours merely by beating off the invaders and waiting.”

Heavily censored, covered in swastikas and written in German, postcards from serving men taken prisoners of war, made their way home to relieved families in Swindon.

Private Dennis Vickery of 17 King William Street, reported missing since May 20 signed a card written in German. Translated it read “I am in good health - a prisoner of war in Germany, and getting on well.”

Private Vickery was taken prisoner in Belgium during the German invasion. His parents, Mr & Mrs W.V. Vickery said they had never given up hope.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

August 22-28, 1940

The death of two young Swindon soldiers was announced this week. Previously reported missing, 21 year old Private Frederick Arthur Andrews of the Queen’s Royal Regiment, was officially declared dead. Formerly employed in the GWR Rolling Mills, Private Andrews had only been in France three weeks when he was killed.

Eighteen year old Richard Anthony Haynes, of 78 Commerical Road, son of Frederick and Florence Haynes, died following a head on collision whilst on despatch riding duties in the South East of England. A member of the Territorial Army, Gunner Haynes was given a military funeral at Whitworth Road Cemetery.

And one kind hearted Swindonian answered the plea of a grieving mother. Mrs Annie Turner of Manchester had appealed through the pages of the Advertiser for the return of her son’s gold watch lost when he was stationed in Swindon. Her son, Lieut Thomas Buckley Turner had later been killed in action.

Mr W.T. Brooks, Deputy Chief Constable of Wiltshire, informed readers that the watch had been sent anonymously to the Swindon Police Station.

‘So far the harvest has been one of the easiest since 1921,’ reported the Advertiser with a predicted bumper haul of oats and barley following the increase in cultivated land. The harvest proceeded without a hitch and with no need to call on voluntary help.

Tractors were already out in the fields ploughing up the stubble to avoid the possibility of hostile aircraft attempting to land and to prepare for the crops of 1941.

Eighty one year old George Saunders from Primrose Cottage, Greenhill, Lydiard Millicent, pictured was asked by an Advertiser reporter how he had acquired the art of hurdle making. “L’arned un vrom m’vather.” Asked where his father had learned the secrets of his craft he replied, “Vrom iz vather, too, ‘spose.”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

August 15-21, 1940

An elderly couple had a lucky escape when a retreating enemy aircraft jettisoned its bombs whilst under attack from a Spitfire.

“Polly, the blue pencil Jerries have blown a piece off our house,” the indignant 80 year old hurdle maker told his daughter.

The man and his 84 year old wife took the whole incident in their stride as did cows in a field half a mile away where a heavy calibre bomb exploded close to a farmhouse.

“Not even a window was broken in the farm,” reported the Advertiser, “and even the grazing cattle soon calmed down after a mild stampede, though it is said that in the neighbourhood some cows jumped the fences into adjacent fields.”

In response to popular demand, Swindon Mayor (Coun H.R. Hustings) launched the town’s own Spitfire Fund.

‘Swindon home of world famous railway engines, kings of the iron road, is now going to strain every nerve to provide a monarch of the skies – A SPITFIRE,’ reported the Advertiser.

With a £5,000 target to aim for, the Mayor was confident that generous Swindonians would rush to support this fund.

And just a day later the Swindon Works announced that it would attempt to make the biggest contribution to the GWR All-Line Spitfire Club.

The GWR venture was set rolling with a £500 donation made by the directors as collections began at not only the Swindon works but at stations and railway works across the system.

‘Employees of the company are enthusiastic about the prospect of buying a fighter plane, which will be named Great Western,’ the report continued. ‘They hope soon to have sufficient money to buy the first. Later they intend to buy a second fighter – or perhaps a bomber if funds permit!’

Relieved parents, Mr & Mrs D.T. Sinnett of 55 Corby Avenue received the news they had waited to hear for more than ten weeks when the War Office confirmed their son was a prisoner of war in Germany. Rifleman Sidney David Sinnett, engaged in the defence of Calais, was reported missing on June 7.

In Lechlade, Kelmscott Manor, the former home of socialist, textile designer and leading member of the Arts and Crafts Movement William Morris, was up for rent on a seven year lease.

Bequeathed to Oxford University, the house contained furniture and artefacts of literary and artistic importance. Prospective tenants were reminded that a condition of the lease was that visitors would be allowed inside to inspect the house and its contents.

Monday, March 12, 2012

August 8-14, 1940

An Advertiser photographer captured fire fighters at work during a blaze which destroyed two properties at Hinton Parva.

The lack of an adequate water supply beat the efforts of Swindon fireman fighting to save the thatched cottages, owned by Mr J. W. Hill of Upper Farm.

Neighbours and farm workers rescued the contents of the cottages, home to two young families.

“When firemen found that they could not save the premises they protected the furniture and stood by as the whole of the roof became enveloped in flames and blazed furious,” reported the Advertiser.

“Soon after that the roof and later the upper floors caved in and the pair of cottages was a roaring inferno. It was not long before there was little more than a charred and blackened shell left.”

It was believed that a defective flue from the washing coppers had caused the outbreak.

Triplets were among the attendants at the wedding of their sister Miss Elsie Franklin of 31 Commercial Road, Swindon and Mr Archie Edward George Waldron, 56 Prospect Place at the Parish Church, Swindon.

Ten year old bridesmaids Barbara and Joan wore daffodil silk crepe dresses while their page boy brother Eric was dressed in pale blue velvet with a blue satin blouse.

Following a reception at the Park View Hotel the newlyweds left for a touring honeymoon before settling down to married life in Wolverhampton.

Members of the Blunsdon Women’s Institute took part in a marathon jam making exercise to ensure that none of the local fruit harvest went to waste.  Members made more than 1,000 pounds of plum jam ably assisted by a couple of young volunteers. Nita McLellan 14 and thirteen year old Tonie Bowly were chief jar washers at the event and were responsible for sealing down and labelling nearly one thousand pots of jam.

A daring thief smashed the window of a jewellers in Regent Street and made off with two trays of rings and several watches valued at approximately £80.

A police constable gave chase following the early morning smash and grab raid at Haywards Ltd., 56 Regent Street. Several rings were later found in a back street less than 50 years away but the thief ‘disappeared in the darkness.’

Swindon Wheelers’ member Charlie Poole entered the record books following a 12 hour, 103 mile long ride on his hand propelled tricycle. Charlie’s journey started at Common hill, Cricklade at 5am Sunday August 11, taking in Ashton Keynes, Minety, Somerford Keynes, Siddington, Cirencester, Stratton hill and back through Down Ampney to Cricklade – twice, eventually finishing at Latton where Charlie was described as ‘without being in the least distressed.’