Monday, August 27, 2012

War Weapons Week

Despite the growing deprivations on the home front, hard pressed Swindonians were asked to dig deeper into their pockets as Britain entered a second year at war - and the response was phenomenal.

"It does not matter how much we women detest war, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in this war women and children are in the front line," May George, Swindon's first Lady Mayor 1935-36 wrote in a letter to the Evening Advertiser.  "Let the women of Swindon show what they can do to help in the defeat of the enemies of everything that we hold dear."

Just days before the town's War Weapons Week was to begin, ten people were killed and several others injured during an air raid on October 20, 1940.  Houses in Rosebery Street took a direct hit while a second bomb dropped in the middle of an adjoining road.  Local residents were commended for their great fortitude and the calm way in which they responded to the emergency.

If ever the people of Swindon needed an incentive to get behind the fund raising initiative that Sunday night air raid provided one.  The initial target of £200,000 had been doubled to an ambitious £400,000 before the week had even begun and by Tuesday the Town Hall indicator already 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 local employer 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 and JP Mr A.A. Drongoole both gave £1,000.  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.

"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 in Thursday's edition of the paper, referring to the Berlin industrial scene pictured on the Town Hall Indicator.

Saturday's newspaper 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.

The launch of Swindon's War Weapons Week watched by the newly inaugurated Mayor Alderman F.E. Allen accompanied by W.W. Walkefield MP and other local dignitaries.  Brig. General M.A. Studd DSO, MC takes the salute as the procession sets off from Regent Circus.

A Nazi Dornier bomber, on loan from the Air Ministry, was on display at the Town Hall car park.

A reference to houses bombed in the recent air raid.

A patriotically decorated number 22 Corporation bus travelled around town advertising the week's events and serving as a mobile information point.

Crowds gather to watch promotional films shown from a cinema van outside the Victoria Road post office.

The final total on the Town Hall Indicator.

But it wasn't over yet.  In mid December Mayoress Mrs F.E. Allen presented the mothers of eighteen babies born during War Weapons Week with a Post Office Savings Bank Book containing an initial deposit of ten shillings.

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