You are in [Events] [Second World War]
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This section includes a selection of topics relating to the Second World War:
- General Eisenhower on Hungerford Common 10th August 1944, pictured pinning the Distinguished Service Cross on 1st Lieutenant Walter G Amerman of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment for bravery during action in Normandy.
- "Morale - How to Play your Part" - printed by the Constable, Mr Munford in 1940.
- The postcard to be returned to Mrs Munford by those prepared to offer a bath to soldiers.
- The Hungerford Auxiliary Fire Service with their Ford V8 in Barr's Yard, 1936.
- "Wings for Victory" parade, 2 May 1943
- Propaganda postcard showing Hungerford High Street.
- RAF group (?Air Cadets) at the Council School Fairview Road. (Kindly sent by Kathleen Shears).
In 1940 the Constable, Mr. Ernest Munford, who ran the printing works, printed an advice sheet for the citizens of Hungerford on how to behave during the war. It was headed "Morale - How to Play your Part", and was closely based on similar sheets issued in reading and Newbury. On 1 Feb 1940 he also sent out the following missive to all homes in Hungerford:
Dear Sir or Madam,
We are all cold and uncomfortable. The soldiers in our Town are much worse than we are. Can you help by offering one or more hot baths a week? A cup of tea afterwards would make it a grand treat.
Please return the enclosed post card as soon as possible.
The AFS is shown here in 1936, just before the war. This picture, taken in Barr's Yard (behind 5 High Street), shows the A.F.S. in their latest fast-response vehicle – a Ford V8. The driver is Tom Cox; Officer in Charge Jack Brewer; in the rear seat are Jack Sadler and Bert Wyatt; standing is Tup Lambourne, and in the rear seat is Charles Williams. For more see Fire Service since 1924.
Fighting wars is a very expensive business. In addition to massive loans from the United States, the government devised many ways to encourage the average person in the street to invest their money in Savings Bonds, Savings Certificates, Savings Stamps, Post Office and Trustee Savings Banks. The scheme worked, and by 1945 savings bonds had raised £1,745 million for the war effort. Campaigns included 'War Weapons Week', 'Warship Week', 'Wings for Victory' and 'Salute the Soldier'. Follow this link for more on the National Savings Campaigns in Hungerford 1939-45.
The photograph (in the Photo Gallery) shows WAAFs from Ramsbury taking part in the Grand Procession on Sunday 2nd May 1943, during Hungerford's 'Wings for Victory' week. Air Marshall Sir Arthur S Barret KCB CMG MC is seen here taking the Salute. The Marlborough Times reported the order of procession to be: Bren Gun Carrier; Banner (RAF); Chief Marshall; Band of Bomber Command; Contingent of RAF; Contingent of RAF Regiment; Contingent of WAAFS; Royal Observer Corp; Band of ATC; Contingent of ATC; Contingent of Royal Marine Engineers; Band of Border Regiment; Contingent of Royal Ulster Rifles; New Zealand Forces; Pioneer Corps; Band of Home Guard; Contingent of Home Guard; British Legion. The banner on the bridge reads "OUR SPITS TO BEAT FRITZ. £50,000 FOR TEN SPITFIRES".
Artie, in Chain Mail Issue 106 (2010), recalls the earlier similar parade associated with War Weapons Week for the Hungerford Rural District, on Sunday 20th April 1941:
"The parade through the Town, was not to be forgotten by those who were there. The procession assembled in "Dog Lane" near the Regent Cinema at 2.00pm. (prompt), it moved off at 2.30pm. The one and a half mile route was to go from the cinema down Atherton Road, High Street, Bridge Street, Charnham Street, (East) Oxford Street, Wantage Road (South) then back up to the top of the High Street, passing the saluting base that had been erected outside Bodmans the outfitters shop.
The salute was taken by The Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal KCB., DSO., MC. (as he was then). Vehicles dispersed on to Atherton Crescent, and those on foot right wheeled and marched back down the High Street to the saluting base to hear an address by Chief of the Air Staff, followed by three verses of the hymn Abide With Me, and then the National Anthem was sung. Dispersal was at 4.00pm.
I have a list of all those taking part, but will mention but a few: Leading was a Police Car, followed by a Bren Gun Carrier, the banner carried by Sergeants of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, a contingent of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, (the chief marshal was R.S.M. Downey Royal Berks. Regt.). The followed the Band of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, Armoured Vehicles (various), American Ambulance, Band of the Royal Marines, Royal Naval Guard, Contingent of the Royal Air Force, Drums of Royal Berkshire Regiment, followed by the Women's Royal Naval Service, Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, Women's Auxiliary Air Service, Women's Land Army, Observer Corps and the Home Guard.
Then all of the local Voluntary services, which included:- Decontamination Squad, Auxiliary Fire Service (1 trailer pump), Road Repair Lorry, W.V.S. (2 sitting case cars) and A.R.P messengers. Also included were contingents from the Old Contemptibles and South African War Veterans, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides (with trek carts), First Aid Parties. At the rear were the Kintbury Volunteer groups, A.F.S., Wardens, and a Bren Gun Carrier.
It was quite a big day locally for the war effort, and also for the young man who during the 30's, would roar his motor cycle from Eddington House, around the Bear Corner, and up the High Street at breakneck speed. He became Air Chief Marshal, (a mediator on tricky occasions between the P.M .and certain of the Military top brass), with a most distinguished war service indeed, the well liked, Lord Portal of Hungerford."
During the war a group of children was sent to Hungerford as evacuees (many from the Macklin School, Soho) in London. Jim Sluszny, one of those children, emailed from France (Nov 2010) with some information. "I came as an evacuee around February 1941 with an intake of other children, probably all from disparate schools/ areas in London.
The journey from London and arrival to Hungerford was a rather unhappy blur of which I have little memory other than waiting around in Church House with other children and eventually finding myself taken to a most elderly couple in Church Street. It was my good fortune that by early Spring I was moved to a far more receptive and caring couple, a few houses down that street, where I spent two very happy years.
It is so refreshing to be able to see them again [on the Virtual Museum]- so many decades later. I'm thinking of the railway station as it was in the early 40'ies and aspects of the high street, the Croft and especially Church House, which from the Station via Church St was the route our intake of evacuees, straight off the train that February 1941 was led to walk to and the first place to gather inside its hall. There we just waited for the the billeting arrangements and collection of us kids to proceed that seemed to drag on.
Of special interest is the shot of the Hungerford Council school as it was in 1910, which is pretty much as it looked when I first walked past it to enter the building just behind it. That was where, in 1941 and for part of 1942, the Macklin street school (St Joseph's) from Soho, London was housed. Then sometime in 1942 the London school vacated the premises ( which must have been part of the school complex) behind the main Council school building, to move way down the High street to a place I remember as a cross between a church and a chapel."
Margaret Williams (nee Cox), who was aged about 9 years at the time, remembers (Nov 2010) that the placing of the evacuees was arranged by the WVS, under Miss Steel. Margaret's own family had an evacuee living with them.
Jim also spoke of some memories of the Corn Exchange:
"They used to hold dances there on Saturday evenings in 1941/2, to the delight, no doubt, of the unattached girls and womenfolk population and abundance of military posted in the surrounding districts. What I remember mostly about the Town Hall was a 'comic sketch' theatrical presentation the school for evacuees I attended put on for the locals, circa 1941/2 - all about a family caught in the rain at a seaside resort like Brighton who popped in to the nearest photographer's studio for shelter and the French photographer proprietor doing his nut, trying to pin this family into some semblance of a photogenic group, not realising their ulterior agenda. Naturally they picked on me as the excitable photographer because I managed the accent. Heigh Ho..!"
Steve McGarry emailed (Apr 2016) to say that his mother (then aged about 9 yrs) was housed with a family in The Breach, and her elder brother and younger sister were also housed in Hungerford.
[See also Correspondence regarding the use of the Methodist Church Sunday School for the evacuated Macklin Street Roman Catholic School 1939-1946. (Berks RO: D/MS3/1F/8)]
Also in 1941 a dozen or so formerly Spanish Republican soldiers were housed in Westfield House, Parsonage Lane. Jim Sluszny remembered:
"I came across them quite by chance not long after I arrived in Hungerford. I immediately recognised from their uniforms that they were Republican soldiers who, I guessed, had fled Spain after Franco's take over. Originally I had reached England (with my parents) as a French speaking war refugee from Belgium and these guys having a smattering of French between them, I managed to communicate with them. They seemed chuffed to have me around. Although I was not quite 11 years, I knew enough about the "Republican goodies and the Fascist baddies" in the Spanish civil war and the Republican cause to convey where my sympathies lay. What has intrigued me all these years is that - given the political context of that civil war and Britain's "non-intervention" policy prior to WW2 - I have always assumed that the refuge, hospitality and funding they were granted in Hungerford must have been decided at a higher administrative level than the Borough's level."
Some of them stayed and settled in Hungerford, marrying local girls. One such family is the Sanchez family in Hungerford.
One final thought: the NWN reported on 30 November 1939 that "Strong local opposition is growing to combat the Air Ministry's proposed scheme to make the Berkshire Downs near Hungerford into a bombing range". How different things could have been!
A stone memorial (see Photo Gallery) stands near the car park close to Combe Gibbet. It states "In the fields and woods below this hill in May 1944, the 9th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, commanded by Lt Col T B H Otway, DSO, rehearsed plans for their successful assault on the German Coastal Arillery Battery at Merville, France, before the Seaborne Troops landed in the invasion of Normandy on the 6th of June 1944."
The memorial stone was "Established by kind permission of Richard Astor, Esq. amnd unveiled on 22nd May 1993 by J R Henderson CVO, OBE, Esq. Lord Lieutenant, Royal County of Berkshire."
There was a huge build-up of American troops around Hungerford.
On 10 Aug 1944 about 18,000 gathered on Hungerford Common for a parade in front of General Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander. The entire 101st Airborne Division was present (13,000 men), as well as large representatives from nearby US air bases.
The following is an extract from a diary written by Barney Welton, a pilot with the 436th Troop Carrier Group stationed at Membury:
"We arose at 5:30am, August 10th, dressed in pinks and drove to Hungerford Park. There was a parade of 18,000 soldiers of Troop Carrier Command and 101st Airborne Division. General Eisenhower himself presented many with decorations and then made a short speech. He promised us big doings soon here and in the south Pacific and announced the formation of the 1st Airborne Command made up of us in Troop Carrier, the 101st Airborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division and 6th British Airborne, under the command of General Brereton".
This command was officially called The First Allied Airborne Army and its new commander had formerly been in charge of the US Ninth Air Force.
The street lights are turned on!
Hungerford first had electric lighting (in the High Street) in 1944 - they were first turned on on 21 Sep 1944 - to great local excitement.
This was only a few days after the Arnhem landings, and, although the tide was now running our way, there was a great deal of fighting before peace came with VE day in May 1945 and VJ day in August.
Presumably the blackout restrictions had been eased considerably by then to allow the switch-on to take place. The fact that Hungerford beat most of the local towns and villages to this event was because the parish council had prepared the installations directly before the war, and they were thus able to beat the rest!
"In accordance with the wish of the King that the Sunday following VE Day (8 May 1945) should be observed as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and the Government thinking that it was appropriate that victory parades should be organised, such parades to include as many aspects as possible of the national effort and members of the various youth organisations, at the very short notice that was available, the Hungerford Parish Council organised a parade that literally and effectively showed how the town had played its part on the Home front.
At the twelfth hour, the Hungerford Town Band, which had been dormant all the war years, got out its uniforms and after a practice or two were able to rise to the auspicious occasion and lead the longest procession that had ever been held. Invitations had been issued to the following organisations to attend a United Service of Thanksgiving at the Parish Church: Hungerford Town Band, British legion and Standard, Returned Prisoners of War, Serving Members of HM Forces home on leave, and Discharged Service men of this war, Home Guard, Army Cadet Force, National Fire Service, Royal Observer Corps, Civil Defence, Women's Land Army, Women's Voluntary Services, British Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Rangers and Girl Guides, ATC Band, Personnel, Chairman of Parish Council and the Constable (headed by Town Crier with staff), members of Parish Council and Trustees, Justices of the Peace, Blood Donors, Fire Guard, National Savings Workers, Rest Centre Services, Public Utility Companies, War Factory Workers, Women's Institute, Co-operative Guild, Hungerford Knitting Guild, Hungerford Youth Centre, and practically every unit and organisation was represented.
The assembly was in the Market-place and here Mr H S Sharps, who was Marshall, created order out of chaos in a very comendable manner, which was no easy task seeing there were 600 or 700 on parade. The procession made a fine show with the uniformed units colours flying in the breeze, but the difficulty was in getting them into church, which was not possible, although its accommodation is normally 600 or more, and when the building had been packed, with many standing in all the aisles, a large number had to remain outside.
The service was in the form prescribed by the Archbishop, the officiating ministers being the Rev H Wardley King (vicar), the Rev RWA Dowds (curate), the Rev Irene Robbins (Congregationalist) and the Rev F Marlow (United Methodist).
On the arrival back at the Market-place, a unique ceremony of saluting the Colours took place. The procession having halted, all the colour-bearers with their escorts stepped forward and marched away up the street. Then, headed by the ATC Band, they marched down again and as they reached and passed the parade, each officer in turn down the line took the salute, which was held until the last colour had passed. It was a fine sight as the colours of the United Nations, the RAF Flag, and of the British Legion, Boy Scouts, and Rangers and Girl Guides fluttered in the wind, and was a fitting conclusion to a most memorable occasion."
Prisoners of war returned:
?Jul 1945: Colour-Sergt Henry Norris, of The Croft, has arrived in England, after being a prisoner-of-war for four years. He was captured in Crete. His wife, a daughter of the late Mr and Mrs W T Butler, of Reading, received a telegram on Tuesday night to say that her husband, wo is in the Royal Marines, had arrived safely in this country, that he was then in Bicester, and that on the following day he would be leaving for Portsmouth. Colour-Sergt Norris had been liberated from Stalag 18A. Letters to his wife showed that he had been on farm work and that he was treated fairly well. Previously, he had been in a hospital in Germany suffering from bronchitis. He served throughout the last war, and was in the Battle of Jutland. Before he was called up in July 1939, he had retired from the Service on pension, and was a postman in the town. He is a member of the Bowling Club, and was one of three to get the Triples Cup, not long before he went out once more to sea.
Warrant Officer Gordon John Waddington Allright, youngest son of Mr and Mrs S W Allright, of Wiltshire House, who has been a prisoner-of-war for three years, returned home on VE Day. He belongs to the RAFVR and is 26 years of age.
Flight Lt Maurice Orchard, of 12 The Croft, has also returned home.
Hungerford's memorial to the fallen of the 2nd World War included the provision of the Avenue of Remembrance, the sports ground and playing field. The memorial was officially opened on 1 Aug 1949. See "Monday's Ceremony at Hungerford - Opening of Memorial Playing Fields" and "Twelve Acres Playing Fields Opened as Memorial to Hungerford War Dead".
- Correspondence regarding the use of the Methodist Church Sunday School for the evacuated Macklin Street Roman Catholic School 1939-1946. (Berks RO: D/MS3/1F/8)
- Ramsbury At War, by Roger Day, 2004