Tuesday 3 September 2019

World War 2 Eighty Years On - Sunday, September 3rd. 11.15 a.m.

The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, broadcasting to the nation announced that Great Britain was at war with Germany.  There being no electric supply to the village, those residents having radios required a large multi-cell dry battery together with an acid accumulator to power the receivers. The acid accumulators required charging weekly and one business able to do this was that of Frank Paintin in the Eton High Street; the cost for recharging, depending on the size of the accumulator, was 3d. or 5d.  As the war progressed the main dry cell wireless batteries became more difficult to obtain. One recourse, when the battery output became weak, was to warm the battery in the kitchen oven to invigorate the cells.  National security required that any news of the war was subject to censorship by the Ministry of Information.  Government pamphlets, the cinema newsreel, national and local newspapers, were the main outlets of information which was subject to censorship. The business of village newsagent was run by Bill Sibley, from his shop  in Moores Lane. To warn people to be on their guard against loose talk and the spreading of rumours the Ministry of Home Security produced posters bearing the catch phrase       

Upon the declaration of war, national emergency powers came into effect. Having commenced on September 1st., the blackout was now strictly enforced with ARP wardens and police patrols constantly on the lookout for householders infringing the regulations by carelessly showing lights.  Suitable cheap blackout material was not easily found but one of the best sources of material was a stout re-enforced tarred brown paper, obtained by factory workers on the Trading Estate. This paper found in crates of equipment imported from the U.S. and Canada made a satisfactory blackout when covering a suitable wooden frame.  Although gas lighting, oil lamps and candles lighting the village homes during the dark evenings was not brilliant by today's standards, "Put that light out ", was the shouted warning for showing the smallest chink of light.  Patrolling Wardens and Special Constables being very quick to exert their authority on the culprits.  Lack of blackout facilities stopped all evening meetings and other activities held in the village hall during the remaining months of 1939.  Eton College also had difficulties with blackout regulations.  The numerous windows within the college buildings were always a problem to the large number of staff and students and the infringements of the regulations resulted in several fines.  A small number of householders in Eton and Eton Wick were also summoned for blackout infringements which generally brought a fine of £1 imposed by the Court. 

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham. 

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