Thursday, May 24, 2012

December 6-12, 1940

The scarcity of turkeys this Christmas saw those sold at Swindon market reaching a top price of £3 6s as Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, announced a price control on this yuletide favourite.

Prices for turkeys bred and reared in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and English counties other than Norfolk, not exceeding 18lbs were to cost 2s 8d per pound, and those over 18lb were fixed at 2s 6d, Swindon shoppers were informed.

“In 11 out of 18 areas in this country people have not taken notice of the guidance we gave,” said Lord Woolton, “therefore the price of turkeys will be controlled.

But if turkeys were in short supply, mutton certainly wasn’t, as indicated by a photograph taken at Swindon’s Christmas market.

Meanwhile a Food Education Week was planned to help Swindon housewives make the best use of available foods and to avoid ill health as a consequence of a wartime diet.

A meeting at the Town Hall organised by the local Education Committee in conjunction with the Ministry of Food was well attended with February 3 chosen for the week long campaign.

Mr Stanley Hirst, Swindon’s Director of Education, said that the wartime cookery classes held at various town centre venues had proved successful and that it was felt the time was appropriate for a more intensified campaign.

Mr H.C. Asterley, a representative of the Food Ministry, said the food campaign had a direct bearing on the war effort. He estimated that during the ensuing year the campaign would save the importation of nearly 300 tons of food locally.

The East Street Co-operative Industrial Society’s bank in Fleet Street saw long queues as customers arrived to draw their dividends.  During the peak period 760 people withdrew £1,130 in an hour.

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.

November 22-28, 1940

Winter woollies and boots by the baleful made a timely arrival in Swindon this week courtesy of the Red Cross Society of the USA for the relief of evacuees.

“Our American friends are far seeing and organise well ahead,” Mr T.H. Fessey, secretary of the Swindon Council of Social Service told an Advertiser reporter as he showed him a consignment of more than a thousand summer cotton dresses.

All the clothing was reserved for issue to children and adults evacuated to Swindon and further stocks were expected.

A door to door collection made by volunteers led by Mr & Mrs Fred Kiddle had resulted in close on 30 motor car loads of stuff, most of it as good as new.  These items would be distributed among the old and needy of Swindon.

“This phase of voluntary relief work has now reached to comparatively huge dimensions,” reported the Advertiser.  “In one month alone an average of 2,000 articles are issued.”

Mr H.C.W. Ludgate, manager of Swindon Corporation buses, announced an increase in passengers of between 18-20% on last year’s figures.  The recently recruited bus conductresses also received a pat on the back as Mr Ludgate congratulated the twelve women who had been employed to take over the jobs of men called up for military service.  Most of them were engaged on the single decker service but two had been moved to the double deckers where they worked two or three days a week.

And at a meeting of the Town Council, Coun. W.G. Green confirmed that buses would continue to run during an alert until such time as danger was considered imminent.

Mr and Mrs Edward Sloper of 29 Granville Street who celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary this week in 1940 began married life in 1890 in two rooms at number 3 Dean Street.

Mr Sloper, who was born at Rushall near Pewsey, left school at the age of ten to work on a local farm.  In his twenties he got a job at the GWR Works but his love for the open country forced him to leave and return to farm work after just 18 months inside.

Mrs Sloper, born Emily Cox in Chiseldon in 1866, had also been employed as an agricultural labourer before her marriage.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill celebrated his 66th birthday this week in 1940.  Among his birthday presents was a donation of £35,000 from the Netherland East Indies and a further £11,500 from Malaya, enough to buy nine Spitfires.  Number 10 Downing Street announced that Mr Churchill would spend his birthday ‘getting on with the war.’

Thursday, May 17, 2012

November 14-21, 1940

Housewives were asked to save stale bread, vegetable and fruit peelings and table scraps in an old bucket beside their other rubbish as the Borough Council announced the latest of their recycling schemes.  The first collection of the food scraps or pig swill would be made on November 25.

Meanwhile employees of the Great Western Railway became official “salvage spotters,” on the alert for every single disused nail, nut or bolt.

“Under the inspiration of local salvage leaders and as part of their ordinary duties, they will constitute a large salvage corps,” reported the Advertiser. 

A number of special salvage vans would collect from across the GWR network delivery the scrap to one of five depots.

Military uniform was the order of dress at four Swindon weddings this week.  Private Donald Stanley King married Laura Gladys Hill at the Bath Road Register Office while Able Seaman Gunner Arthur William Gobey, wore naval uniform for his wedding to Dorothy Musto at St. Barnabas’ Church.  And at Christ Church Private Raymond Orpwood married Margaret Tewkesbury and Aircraftman Leslie Boughton Knight married Mabel Dorothy Trueman.

Mr H. Byett of Ferndale Road donated to the town’s museum a collection of documents belonging to Swindon’s Hammerman poet, Alfred Williams.

Included in the family archive were Alfred Williams’ birth, baptismal and marriage certificates, a letter from the Prime Minister’s secretary notifying him of a grant from the Crown, further correspondence notifying him of the King’s approval of a civil pension in recognition of his literary work and also a letter from the Poet Laureate Dr Robert Bridges.

Mr Byett, a close personal friend of Alfred Williams, had previously written an account of the writers’ life, first published as a serial in the Advertiser.

 A mobile canteen, one of six to make the long journey from the US to the South West arrived in Swindon this week.

The canteen vans would be put to use in heavily bombed areas to feed both the homeless and civil defence workers.  Other proposals for the mobile canteens included feeding evacuees, meeting trains and helping with communal feeding programmes.

Presented to Swindon by the London headquarters of the WVS, the canteen from Newport, Rhode Island was opened by the Mayoress, Mrs. F.E. Allen.

Friday, May 11, 2012

November 7-13, 1940

Father Christmas arrived at McIlroys, Regent Street this week but sadly without the spectacular procession of previous years.  However McIlroys maintained the “Fairyland” grotto tradition with working models of Cinderella cleaning the hearth and Dick Whittington with his cat.

Although Christmas 1940 saw a scarcity of metal and wooden toys there was no shortage of indoor games and cuddly toys.  Juvenile size uniforms representative of the fighting forces, the Auxiliary Fire Service and the ARP wardens also proved a big success.

Meanwhile as Swindon’s postal service geared up for the Christmas rush, Mr A.T. Warren, Swindon’s Postmaster, announced temporary job opportunities.  With many postal workers on active service there was a shortage of postmen, sorters and porters.  In some parts of the town, women have already been enrolled and assist in the delivery of mails and in sorting, reported the Advertiser.

Monday’s proceedings at Swindon Borough Police Court involved the attendance of five magistrates, the magistrates’ clerk and his clerk, two probation officers, a police inspector, a sergeant and 16 constables.  However, just three of the 22 defendants managed to put in an appearance.

 “I’ve been rationed all my life,” 78 year old Mrs Sarah Ann Hunt told an Advertiser reporter who interviewed an elderly Stratton St Margaret couple when they celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary this week in 1940.  Married on November 20, 1880 the couple had raised their eight children in Hunter’s Grove.

“I can’t say we’ve had a particularly eventful life, but we’ve known happiness and that counts for a lot,” said Henry Hunt who started work at the age of eight minding the cows on a Wootton Bassett farm for one shilling a week.  Aged fourteen he took a job in Swindon as a horse driver before starting work on the railways on the construction of the Highworth branch line and after that on the Swindon to Marlborough line.  He later moved ‘inside’ and spent 43 years in the GWR Works boilershop.

A keen gardener, Mr Hunt, 80, was described by his wife as never happier than when he’s on that allotment.
“I should think something was wrong if I couldn’t grow enough potatoes and greenstuff to last us the year round,” he declared.

Mrs Hunt, 78, who was born in a thatched cottage at Stratton Green said she was unimpressed by the modern girl who smokes and ‘makes up’ and admitted she was a bit old fashioned.  “Please don’t say I’m running them down,” she told the Advertiser.  “That would never do.”

Aircraftman Sidney Frank Garraway, a volunteer attached to the Balloon Barrage Section was killed during an air raid.  A former messenger at the GWR Works Aircraftman Garraway of 71 Prospect Place, was given a military funeral at Christ Church.  He left a widow and two young sons.

A local member of the Salvation Army was doing her bit in London’s bombed out East End.  Lieut Doris Draper, the daughter of Mr & Mrs. A Draper of 23 Gordon Road, left Swindon to enter the William Booth Memorial Training College, Denmark Hill, London in 1939.  Since receiving her commission Lieut Draper had worked as a slum officer in the East End.

During her first air raid it was reported that Lieut Draper had been one of the first on the scene, before the ARP workers, and had helped remove four bombed out people to the officer’s home.

Having taken part in several dangerous rescues, Lieut Draper was described as being under medical care for nerves and waited another appointment.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

October 24-30, 1940

“Keep him tied to the bed post,” was the only solution one parent could suggest following his son’s recent jaunt.

Three Swindon boys appeared at a special Juvenile Court hearing after four days spent on the run, travelling by train and spending the nights on railway stations.  They were eventually caught on Tuesday night alighting from a train in Bath, where they yet again attempted an escape only to be recaptured.

The boys were found to have in their possession a service revolver, reported missing from Didcot, a torch, an electric lamp, £2 8s 6½d in cash and a 2s postal order.

They told how they had left Swindon on Saturday, taking a train to Oxford.  Returning to town, they spent Sunday in Swindon before walking to Wootton Bassett and then on to Lyneham before taking the train to Chippenham and finally Bath.  They said they obtained a lift for part of the journey.

“One parent expressed the opinion that the escapade of the boys had been planned a week before,” reported the Advertiser.  “Another parent said that her son had been free from trouble until he came to Swindon.”

Sporting fixtures this week saw two local firms go head to head when Compton’s First Netball team played Wills’s Senior team at Gorse Hill school ground.

And just ½ inch separated the personal best jumps of two school girl athletes.  Josephine Saunders of Poughcombe Farm, Ogbourne St Andrew cleared 3ft 10ins at Colville House School sports but was beaten into second place by Thelma Gantlett who skimmed the bar at 3ft 10½ inches.

The Advertiser photographer captured all the action and a line up of the teams along with high jump competitors Thelma 15 and Josephine 14.

As local firms considered moving their pay day forward to Thursday instead of Friday the GWR revealed some amazing facts and figures about pay day at the Swindon works.

On Friday morning a large, four wheeled iron safe, drawn by a mechanical tractor and escorted by ‘picked men’ made the short journey from the bank to the factory.  According to the report ‘others precede and follow it, mingling inconspicuously with the ordinary pedestrians.’  The likelihood of a successful hold up was described as being extremely small.

“In the brief space of five minutes – from 12.25 to 12.30 each Friday afternoon, about a ton of money, totalling sometimes close on £50,000, is paid out to the 12,000 employees at the Great Western Railway Works, Swindon,” reported the Advertiser.

October 31 - November 6, 1940

War Weapons Week kicked off with a procession through the town and Swindon announced the savings target had been raised to a whopping £400,000.

By Tuesday the Town Hall indictor stood at £92,316.  Three heavy weights had got the fund going with both the Midland Bank and the Pearl Assurance Co. Ltd each donating £25,000 and the Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd. £20,000.  Local builder E.W. Beard contributed £1,000 while Gorse Hill boys’ school added £26 1s 10d to the effort.  Individual donations included those of Mrs F.M. Bays, £37 10s, Mrs R.E. Kent £98 and Mr A. Kent £37.

“Your money can be converted into bombers and bombs, and should soon be the means of knocking the Blitzkreig right out of business,” the Advertiser reminded readers.

On Wednesday the total had risen to £170,950 putting Swindon well within reach of its £200,000 original objective.  Among the latest to step up to the plate was the GWR with a mighty £20,000 followed by the National Provincial Bank with £10,000.  Builder A.J. Colborne gave £1,000 as did JP Mr A.A. Drongoole.

Garrard employees invested £663 10s and not to be out done the New Swindon Industrial Co-operative Society contributed more than £900 to the town’s mid week total.

“Tremendous interest has been created by the exhibition at the Town Hall, and the showing of the fine programme of propaganda, Service and Empire films has attracted crowd audiences,” reported the Advertiser.

Talk Victory, Sing Victory, Say It With Music said Duck, Son & Pinker during an intense advertising campaign in the Advertiser.  Freedom Is Worth Your Last Penny urged the Swindon National Savings Committee in an advert paid for by Mills & Merricks of Swindon.  McIlroys reminded their customers The British Empire will never fall if you put your shoulder to the wheel and buy National Savings Certificates.

By Thursday the town’s original target of £200,000 had been left behind.  “Today three more bombers were placed in position over the target area, making a total of 11, and a goodly number of wicked looking bombs,” reported the Advertiser referring to the Berlin scene on the Town Hall indicator.

With just two days left the total stood at £252,630.  Swindon savers were looking at a massive daily investment of almost £74,000 to reach the ambitious £400,000.

Saturday’s headline announced the running total had reached £326,006.  In a tremendous final effort Swindonians set the Town Hall indicator ablaze with £349,154.  As promised a new picture was displayed with bombs raining down on a burning Berlin.

Meanwhile the Spitfire Fund closed and it was revealed that Swindon had not only achieved, but exceeded the £5,000 total.

This remarkable feat was due in no small measure to the work of Fire Chief Mr W.R. Howells and his section officers and men.

To spur on Swindon savers the fire fighters paraded the streets pushing a barrel organ bearing the words ‘We have Musso’s organ – we will have Rome next.’  And outside the Brigade headquarters was displayed an effigy of Lord Haw Haw complete with liar’s medal, two Iron Crosses, and a yard and a half long sword loaned by Mr F. Cleverly.

In just seven days generous Swindonians had donated £1,352 to complete the project inaugurated by the town’s late Mayor, who had died within a week of the end of his mayoral year.

October 17-23, 1940

Swindon was rocked this week when two bombs fell during an air raid on Sunday October 20, killing ten and injuring several others.

Houses in Rosebery Street took a direct hit while a second bomb dropped in the middle of an adjoining road.

Gas from a fractured mains caught alight but was swiftly dealt with by the fire fighting services.

“The situation provided a severe test for the various ARP services and police, but they all acquitted themselves remarkably well,” reported the Advertiser.  “Demolition and rescue squads, as well as first aid parties and medical men were at hand extricating residents trapped deep down in the wreckage and attending to the injured.”

Local residents were commended for their great fortitude and the calm way in which they responded to the emergency.

Neighbours told of lucky escapes and coincidences such as the elderly couple who were discovered uninjured asleep in their armchairs in a downstairs room.  Another couple had gone to visit their son and daughter in law who lived across the other side of town so were not at home when the bombs dropped. And two young girls were rescued from beneath a wrecked house, saved from certain death by fallen beams which had supported the debris.

Those who died were named as Olivia Annie Thorne 47 and her twelve year old son Maurice of 115 Rosebery Street; William James Pinnock 62 and his wife Sarah 60 of number 116 and James Brooks 47, a GWR ARP warden, his wife Beatrice 45 and their son Norman 17 who lived at 117 Rosebery Street.  Mrs Nellie Page of nearby Graham Street was also killed while visiting friends.

Twenty two year old Lance Bombardier Allan Wood of the Royal Artillery was killed while serving in South West England, it was reported.

The eldest son of Mr John Wood of Emery Lane, Chippenham, Lance Bombardier Wood had married the former Miss Norris of 73 Redcliffe Street, Swindon earlier in the year.

Merlin Jones, aged 21, a Stoker 1st Class on HMS Chasseur 06, was officially reported as missing.  Jones, of 26 Reading Street was formerly employed as a carpenter at the GWR Works.  His mother said she had not given up hope that her son may be alive and well.

October 10-16, 1940

Tips to help the hard pressed housewife were regularly published in the Advertiser and this week’s recipe was for a fish and celery casserole.  Cooked with potatoes and milk the dish was described as a light nourishing meal.

To save fuel housewives were also given instructions on how to make a hay box, the war time equivalent of the slow cooker.  Soups and stews should first be brought to the boil on the stove before being placed in the saucepan in the hay box, a hinged wooden box lined with newspaper and stuffed full of hay.

Allowing at least twice as long as usual to cook, the pan was then returned to the stove again before serving.

But the humble onion was proving too expensive for many as Swindon housewives welcomed the decision made by the Minister of Food to introduce a maximum price for this basic ingredient of so many meals.

An advertiser journalist went shopping in both Old and New Town and reported prices between 8d and 1s a pound.  “There is undoubtedly a shortage of onions, due to the cutting off of supplies from the Continent,” the report read, “but there is no getting away from the fact that big profits are being made by somebody.”

Swindon Wheelers Cycling Club vice president Arthur Edington motored into lead position in the club’s annual mileage competition this week in 1940.  Seventy eight year old Arthur had already clocked up 8,000 miles with three months left in the competition.

A keen cyclist for more than 65 years, Arthur had pedalled no fewer than 513,409 miles in his career, recording each journey in his vast collection of diaries.

“In 1884 he astonished local club cyclists by winning a 50 mile road race on a penny farthing cycle in three hours, at a time when the national record stood at two hours forty nine minutes,” reported the Advertiser.  “Between then and 1905 he specialised in one mile track races and won many prizes.

But this wasn’t the extent of Arthur’s physical endeavours.  A keen swimmer, track runner and rugby player, Arthur also engaged in some long distance walking.  Between 1912 and 1928 he walked more than 10,000 miles.

Arthur joined the Swindon Amateur Bicycle Club in 1891 and became a founder member of the Swindon Wheelers in 1923.

Audrey Godsell, a nineteen year old Swindon born nurse was reported killed when the Surrey hospital to which she had been evacuated was bombed.

The daughter of Mr & Mrs H.B. Godsell of 29 County Road, Audrey was a former pupil of Clifton Street Schools and later studied commercial classes at Swindon College.

She began her nursing career as a probationer at a children’s orthopaedic hospital at Thorp Arch, Boston Spa, Yorkshire and moved to St. Mary Abbott’s General Hospital in South Kensington when she qualified.

Staff and patients had been evacuated to the Sutton Emergency Hospital where Miss Godsell died when the ward on which she was working received a direct hit during a bombing raid on October 7.