In 2020 the VE Day anniversary celebrations were necessarily muted or cancelled, the blog below was written In May 2020 and began by looking at the new regulations we were facing. On 14th & 15th August 2021 Alford’s 1940s Weekend will finally take place. As this fantastic event approaches it seems like a good time to look back to life in and around Alford during those war years …
As we approach the 75 Year anniversary of Germany’s Surrender we find ourselves in strange times. Original plans for VE Day Memorial Celebrations have been cancelled across the Country as our Government tells us we are at war once more. This time the enemy is invisible, we are fighting on the Home Front, and our hospitals are all too frequently the theatres of war. Once again community spirit is strong , connected in a primarily virtual world, people have come together to sing, to play, to offer advice for the garden and to organise tangible help for those in need.
For the first time in generations we have been subject to strict Government orders controlling our movements, the campaign slogan, has become the rallying cry of the daily briefings from Westminster.
Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives
If we are forced to venture out instructions are ever present as we are led through different working practices, enter medical establishments with trepidation, or warily face the food queues. Posters have been a key element of this campaign, stark, concise and emphatic in their message. They provide a swift insight into what is happening and what is expected of us, as we have moved through the last few weeks they have changed to reflect the latest requirements.
Similarly the posters of World War II provide an insight into the key campaigns throughout the six long years of war. Over 75 years later the success of the slogans is confirmed by our familiarity with them today.
Among the campaigns to promote the good health of the Country, botanists pharmacists and doctors worked alongside ministry officials on the Vegetable Drugs Committee to ensure the active ingredients for important medicines were available.
70 County Herb Committees were created along with 250 drying centres . Volunteers were recruited via institutions such as the Scouts, Girl Guides and the WI to forage for the required plants.
In May 1944 the Skegness Standard included a brief paragraph at the end of a WI report relaying information from the Lincolnshire County Herb Committee:
Stinging nettles are among the plants asked for in abundance this year to help Britain’s home produced medical supplies. Urgently needed are foxglove leaves and seeds for the heart. Autumn crocus seeds for rheumatism and deadly nightshade for the nerves.
Humour was widely used to engage the public although this approach was understandably measured against the issue being addressed. The importance of moving children to safer rural areas, and allowing them to stay there, was approached with a mixture of encouragement and a suggestion of fear.
Children from the towns were moved to safety at the outbreak of war but, as the first few months remained quiet in the skies, problems were widely encountered as mothers sought the return of their children to the family home. Children from Grimsby began arriving in Skegness at the outbreak of hostilities, with over 300 arriving by bus on Friday 1st December 1939. Ladies of the WVS, councillors and other volunteers were on hand at the Tower Pavilion Distribution Centre to welcome the children and see them settled. In 1944 Alford councillors called for additional help at the school which was trying to cope with an additional 60 school meals due the accomodating evacuee children.
The evacuation of children from the towns and the blackout were among the earliest major changes to life on the homefront. Plans had been place for months with the local press reporting on Blackout preparations in April 1939. Alongside the report was confirmation that the evacuation census was virtually complete. Fifty six thousand from Leeds and 21,000 from Hull , mostly children, would be evacuated into the Lindsey area in the event of war. A warning …
… that isolated Lincolnshire villages could not regard themselves as being perfectly safe from the effects of air raids was given by Major James Henry Hadfield, of Alford, secretary of the North Lincolnshire branch of the Red Cross, this week. A great number of aerial battles would take place over Lincolnshire in war time because of the network of aerodromes, he said, and the probability would be that enemy bombers, en route for the densely populated areas, would, when attacked by fighter aircraft, discard their bombs in a hurry before reaching their objective. No one could foretell where a bomb might drop, and it was necessary, therefore that first-aid measures should be perfected both in the villages and in the towns. Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian – Sat. 15 April 1939
In the event the Blackout led to a large rise in accidents and personal injuries safety campaigns were extensive to encourage people to wear elements of white to help them to be seen.
The Punch Cartoonist Fougrasse designed The Blackout (below) free of charge for the Ministry of Information posters, he went on to do many more.
Time Flies was connected to the push for being productive in all areas of life. The Careless Talk Costs Lives poster is one of eight by the popular artist related to the anti-gossip campaign for the ministry of information.
The British Government mobilised the civilian population for work desperately needed to support the war. The co-ordinated campaigns prescribed a way of life which lasted for many years beyond the war, elements of which remain ingrained within the fabric of our society today, allbeit diminishing down the generations. The Ministry of Information was created on 4th September 1939, the day following the outbreak of war, the control of information at home was a key responsibility, both in promoting campaigns and support for war work while suppressing news and censoring the press.
The civilian population must be kept fed and healthy in order to provide the labour for the huge war machine the Country had to become. Food rationing began in January of 1940, followed by clothing in June of 1941. Campaigns to Grow your Own , Dig for Victory and Make Do and Mend were presented throughout Britain at a local level through institutions such as the Women’s Institute, the Scout Movement and local Horticultural Societies and gardening Clubs.
Funding the war effort was the basis of more campaigns, the public were encouraged to save their money and buy war bonds to support the war, squandering cash on unrequired goods was frowned upon and recycling became the order of the day. At a local level the campaigns are reflected in snippets of news from the War years.
In 1939 Britain was reliant on food imports, lessons learned from the the blockades of WW1 ensured that rationing was quickly introduced and families were encouraged to grow their own produce to supplement their diet with produce which was not on ration. Imported fruits and vegetables disappeared from the nation’s diet for some years. In December 1945 a Fyffe ship docked at Avonmouth with a consignment of 10 million bananas from Jamaica. They were the first bananas to reach Britain since 1940.
One relative who grew up in Skendleby recalls vividly her first sight of this strange fruit. One of four children, all of the siblings were very reluctant to try this new addition to their diet.
In January 1940 everyone received a ration book with coupons, including children. Sugar, meat and cheese purchases needed a coupon, other items worked on a points system that altered according to availability. Children and expectant mothers were a priority, from 1942 they received an increased milk ration. The provision of free milk to school children continued until 1971.
Local newspapers carried the declarations from the Ministry of Food explaining the food rationing system, registrations required with local butchers and grocers and, inevitably, the fines issued to both traders and housewives when the system had been abused. As the system was updated new information advertisements appeared.
In April 1940 the Skegness Standard reported on the Lindsey Federation of Women’s Institutes recent meeting in Louth: The produce guild had enrolled 175 members whose … first task was to distribute the remarkably good collections of vegetable seeds purchased co-operatively the National Federation. They had had the help of Mr. Murray with their gardening, and he had drawn up a vegetable chart for them. In June it is proposed to hold several day conferences on ‘From Garden to Kitchen,’’ where they could learn in the morning how to grow their vegetables, and in the afternoon see how they could be cooked to the best advantage. Fruit preservation was perhaps the best side of the guild, which appeals to most members, and the County was prepared to arrange half-day schools in jam-making and fruit bottling or canning. Initially, to allow members to see the concrete results of this season’s work, a series of small produce exhibitions are to be held in September at some twelve different centres. Skegness Standard Wednesday 17th April 1940
Victory Garden Shows and competitions took place across the Lindsey district throughout the war years, as well as promoting the food campaign they raised also funds. In 1943 a series of shows across Lindsey raised over £5,700 for the Red Cross.
In June 1941 clothes rationing was introduced, manufacturing had been moved over to the production of weapons. The Make Do and Mend campaign was launched by the Board of Trade in 1942. At a local level the WI picked up the baton for this campaign organising series of exhibitions on thrift craft. One such exhibition in Spilsby in 1944 was opened by Mrs P Godsmark who commended the thought, skill and ingenuity involved. The make and mend exhibits also received a special mention with dressmaking, renovations, gloves, slippers and household jobbery included.
The war on waste continued with a series of recycling campaigns. Rags were recycled for use in the creation of soldiers blankets and uniforms. Salvage campaigns for scrap metal large and small were also tremendously successful across the County.
In August 1940 the Lindsey Women’s Volunteer Services reported on their work in relation to the National Salvage Campaign to a correspondent from the Standard:
First all she said she was very pleased to be able to say that after one and a half years’ work there were now 3,300 members of the W.V.S. in Lindsey. She is full of admiration for not only the amount of work the women have done, but the way they stick to it, sometimes in the face of great difficulties. … Regarding salvage, the work has increased enormously in the last two months. For instance. W.V.S. has agreed to do all the collecting, sorting and baling of paper for the Caistor R.D.C. Quite recently the Horncastle Rural area was organised to assist the Council with their salvage scheme, and the W.V.S. Organiser visited 70 villages and organised a salvage scheme in each one of them in under three weeks. The Sanitary Inspector is very pleased at the clean and tidy way in which the paper is coming in from the majority of the villages. In Skegness, the organiser had sets of pots and pans on the doorstep her office within ten minutes of the radio broadcast, and within an hour she had an appeal on at one of the local cinemas from that afternoon. Another got permission to disply the wreckage of a German plane to explain to the public what the aluminium was needed for. All of this work is in addition to all the usual Civil Defence work —A.R.P., Hospital Services, Evacuation, and Transport. National Savings groups, canteens for the Forces, and many jobs that cannot be classified. For instance, apart from doing thousands of ration cards for the Food Controller, the women in one big coastal town have been disinfecting gas masks. Seventy women are working, and the greatest achievement was the disinfecting of 112 in one evening and the dismantling of 60 babies’ gas masks in the afternoon. Regarding the Civil Nursing Reserve,- 300 nursing auxiliaries have been interviewed by the W.V.S. Apart from endless work connected with evacuation all over the county, the Communal and Social Centre at ‘The Woodlands,” Woodhall Spa, has now been run by W.V.S. since September 11th. All the cooking, waiting, etc., has been entirely voluntary. W.V.S. have also been helping with the hostels for unbilletable children at Gainsborough and Linwood Rectory and Caistor.
Skegness Standard -Wednesday 14th August 1940
The National Salvage Campaigns included the scheduled requisition of iron railings across the Nation. Compensation of 25s / ton was available but people were urged to donate their railings to the war effort. All railings were scheduled for removal unless their retenion was essential for reasons of safety; the enclosure of cattle or were deemed to be of historic or artistic merit. The last option provided the basis of an appeal for the owner but the local authority decision was final.
In February of 1944 the Standard reported ” much dissatisfaction” in Alford regarding those railings which were not removed. The Parish Council was keen to underline that railings preventing cattle from accessing the poisonous yew trees and hedges were kept in place but the decisions were not theirs.
Along with details of the scheduled removals, notices explained that the steel merchants and contractors were not benefiting from the metal removals.
In May of 1943 the Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guradian reported that the Ministry of Work team had completed their scheduling in Lincolnshire.
As a result this comprehensive undertaking, some thousands tons of scrap metal have been scheduled, collected, trucked and dispatched to foundries to be transformed into ships, planes, tanks and guns. Although the locators’ task is over the work recovery of the scrap metal will continue in Lincolnshire for some weeks. [ they were still discussing the issues in Alford in 1944 ! ] In addition to the lifting of much heavy metal, and the dismantling of various buildings, there are still thousands of tons of light scrap and tins from destructor yards in different areas. The business of sorting, pressing and trucking this is difficult, and the percentage of tins collected in Lincolnshire has been abnormally high, three or four times higher than that usually encountered. Over 700 tons tins and light scrap have been removed from Lincoln destructor yard alone and a correspondingly heavy tonnage, also of tins and light scrap, have come from Caistor. Louth RDC, Alford Urban, Barton-on-Humber, Horncastle, Spilsby and Woodhall Spa.
In addition to the salvage campaigns National Savings Campaigns were relentless …
The Squanderbug was created by artist Phillip Boydell, an employee of the National Savings Committee. The Committee raised funds by urging the public to save their own money and invest it in the war effort. The cartoon bug appeared in press adverts and poster campaigns as a menace who encouraged shoppers to waste money rather than buy war savings certificates.
Alford frequently topped County tables for the various savings campaigns throughout the war.
In April 1940 the WI were counting up their collections for the War Finance Campaign, £63,000 was attributed to the Alford National Savings
In the War Weapons Week in June 1941 Alford raised a staggering £59,400 representing an average of £27 per person.
In 1942 they came top once again during Warship Week with a total of £31,427, raised by Whist Drives, Amateur Productions and Dances. In May 1944 the ” Salute the Soldier ” Campaign saw Alford receive the County Flag for their contribution of £6 16s 1d per head, in relation to £4 14s 5d for Market Rasen and £3 10s and 6d for Lincoln.
The pressure to feed the Country and protect shipping required more cultivation and women were encouraged to work on the land, enabling the men to join up. The Women’s Land Army was originally set up in 1917 but had disbanded at the end of the Great War. It was reformed in 1939 and volunteers were recruited, from December 1941 women could also be conscripted. As in the First World War the Land Girls undertook all aspects of work on the land and could be sent to any part of the Country.
In February 1943 The Standard reported on the the issues facing the Lincolnshire Farmers as discussed at the monthly NFU meeting. The labour shortage continued to be an issue;
The considerable help that had been given by school children was agreed, but it was felt that the boys from secondary schools might do more if the headmasters would permit it. Various instances were given of how readily offers of help had come from the masters of elementary senior schools, while too great stress was laid by the masters of secondary schools on the interference which land work had the boys’ preparations for examinations. It was felt that the Education Authorities might help in pointing out to the masters of secondary schools how helpful their boys could be.
It was also felt that the machinery for obtaining Italian Prisoners of war as land workers should be speeded up. At present it took from four to six weeks to get a prisoner for billeting on a farm. It was very necessary to procure them in this way to emable them to start work with the other men. To employ them in gangs meant that they did not arrive on the farm until 10am and they were away again shortly after 4 p.m.
One of the assembly also drew the attention of the Executive to the Ministry Labour order directing farm men to leave the land and seek employment in tin and coal mines. It had been suggested that woman could do land work, but this was not altogether his experience.
Skegness Standard – Wednesday 10th Feb 1943
The introduction of the Land Girls and Prisoners of War on the Farms did cause some problems. In November 1943 a young man was convicted of maliciously wounding a land girl at Market Rasen. Frederick Cross had taken offence at her friendliness towards the Italian Prisoners of War following her refusal to go out with him on several occasions. The young woman received knife wounds.
A brief notice to the Home Guard in the Skegness Standard, August of 1940 suggests that during the heightened tensions of war the absence of spoken English was understandably a problem.
Dont forget that French, Polish, and Czech airmen are flying with the Royal Air Force. A solitary parachutist may be one of these and unable to speak English. If you see five or less they may be our own men.
The work done by the various defence organisations on the ground is too vast a subject to adequately cover here. A brief overview of the subject has been provided below taken from information in the Alford Town books published by Cooke and Crome in 1988/90 .
Alford’s Royal Observer Corps opened in June 1936 and had been mobilised on 24th August 1939. A Civil Defense unit was formed in Alford in 1939 which comprised 4 sections; Air Raid Wardens; First Aid; Ant-Gas Squad and a Rescue Squad. Training was frequently in conjunction with local Army Units. The Home Guard were formed in 1940, training took place on a Wednesday and Thursday supplemented by night exercises and Sunday parades in the Market Place.
Servicemen responsible for coastal defences were housed in local camps or in in family homes. An Artillery Training Battery was set up at Bilsby Park.
The warnings issued by Major Hadfield in April of 1939 were of course correct and Alford was no exception In June 1940 a Heinkel flew along West St. firing randomly. The first enemy aircraft shotdown in Lincolnshire were three Dornier 17Zs in August 1940. One dropped into the North Sea, the other two crashed in Bilsby.
In June 1941 a Heinkell 111 was hit close to Alford, the pilot crash landed down at Reston. The aircraft was displayed in Alford Market Place.
On 7th September 1941 an enemy bomber machine gunned Alford Station, dropping an bomb on a large goods shed there. Arthur Bush, a railway porter on firewatch was killed. Arthur and his wife Ellen had lived at 16 Commercial Road, he was 65 years of age, they had been married for over 40 years. the Civil Defense Rescue Squad worked through the night
In May 1942 Compulsory Enrolment in the Home Guard was announced in the Skegness Standard. All men in the County not already involved in the Civil Defense Service would be required to assist.
In July 1942 bombs were dropped on the lineside South of Willoughby Station. Around 500 tonnes of debris blocked the lines comprising of clay bricks, concrete, trees and hedging. The Stationmaster called in the gangers and the line to Grimsby was cleared in under three hours for the mail train. The permanent gang from Alford worked to clear the other line.
In 1945 the Lincolnshire Echo posted a series of extracts from a County Constabulary booklet : Air Raids in Lincolnshire. The reports reveal the extraordinary disruption caused by thousands of Butterfly Bombs dropped accross Lincolnshire during the war years. These anti-personnel bombs detonated when touched. In June 1943 Grimsby, Cleethropes and the outlying rural areas suffered a major air attack which included over three thousand Butterfly Bombs. The devices lay everywhere , fitted with clockwork fuse and a 30 minute delay mechanism. The large number of bombs required extensive searches in town and country by police, wardens and the Fire Service involving over 10,000 man hours in Grimsby alone. In August 1943 a further 750 of the devices were dropped in one raid on rural districts, close to Horncastle.
The disruption in rural areas was complicated by the importance of protecting the crops, harvest was suspended until extensive searches had been carried out the brunt of which fell onto the police service. Many areas of Corn, Barley , Peas Clover and Grassland were systematically searched before being declared safe. Some areas were left as the floiage was too dense. In three areas tanks were used to tow reapers to gather a crop which would otherwise have been lost.
Life on the Home front during WWII was one of deprivation and hard work. Shortages were widespread, the war effort demanded time, money and hard work. The poster campaigns of the 1940s were very clear staying at home was not an option.
By the end of WWII 384,000 soldiers had been killed in combat, the civilian civilian death toll was 70,000 largely due to German bombing raids during the Blitz: 40,000 civilians died in the seven-month period between September 1940 and May 1941, almost half of them in London.
On 6th December 1944 the Skegness Standard reported on the stand down of the Home Guarrd. The final parade of the 10th (Lindsey Battalion) took place in Alford, large crowds gathered to watch the march past and stand down. The men assembled at Alford Town Station and marched to the school grounds. A dais had been erected in front of the White Horse Hotel to be used as a salute base. Representations of 7 Companies, 27 Platoons, numbering 1300 officers, NCOsand men marched past headed by the band of the Louth British Legion. The stand down took place in the senior school playground. Following a service by the Rev. Draper the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers was sung. Field Marshall Sie AA Montgomery-Massingberd read a message from the King:
… for more than 4 years you have borne a heavy burden. Most of you have been engaged in long hours of work necessary to the prosecution of war or to maintaining the healthful life of the nation: and you have given a great portion of the time which should have been your own, to learning the skilled work of the soldier. By this patient and ungrudging effort you have built a force able to play an essential part in the defence of our threatened soil and liberty…
The National Anthem brought proceedings to a close, and as the battalion dispersed the British Legion band played Auld Lang Syne.
In December 1945 the Lincolnshire Echo reported that between June 5th 1940 and March 3rd 1945 116,384 bombs were dropped on Lincolnshire alone killing 408 people and injuring 1,233.
The Alford war memorial commemorates twenty two fallen in WWII, 8 of whom lost their lives in 1944, Sapper Stanley Wheatley died in Italy in October 1945 following the end of the War. railwayman Arthur Bush appears in the book of Civilian fallen.
Messrs Cooke and Crome inform us that on 8th May 1945 the Church bells were rung for an hour, following a short informal service of Thanksgiving.
Later in the day a public bonfire took place on Park Lane Field where an effigy of Hitler was burned.