Bitterly cold weather during the last days of December continued into the New Year. It was the coldest winter since 1894/95, with a recorded eleven degrees of frost in the Windsor area and snow, freezing rain and ice brought transport to a standstill. The intense cold and freezing conditions brought suffering to the wild life with swans becoming trapped in the ice as the River Thames froze over in many places. Reports of the frozen river brought day trippers from London in their hundreds for the pleasure of skating on the broad expanse of ice. These icy conditions were a joy to the skaters, but for many in Eton Wick it was distress and hardship. Householders had problems with frozen water pipes whilst farmers encountered difficulties tending their livestock. There was clamp down on the reporting of these bleak conditions for fear it may be of use to the German military. January had mainly mild weather but a snowstorm during the last week once more brought havoc.
By Royal Proclamation men aged twenty to twenty seven years were required to register for military service, those of 26 years registering on April 27th. This rapid expansion of the Armed Forces demanded even more output of munitions and equipment from the factories. To meet the ever increasing production requirement local engineering companies had to expand. Advertisements were placed in the local papers over a wide area for workers in non-essential jobs to go into the factories with the offer of training and good rates of pay. Many of those working in shops and offices were attracted by the prospect of higher earnings. To replace the lost staff, shop keepers and other service industry employers also advertised in the Windsor Express and Slough Observer for school leavers and for women who were willing to work part-time.
Monday January 8th.
|Ration Book courtesy of the Imperial war Museum.|
The early introduction of food rationing to avoid the chaotic food distribution that occurred in the 1914 -18 war allowed a ration of 4oz of bacon or ham, 4oz of butter and 12oz of sugar for each person per week. Ration books, which had been distributed in November of 1939, were brought into use with maximum food prices being set by the Ministry of Food. Grocers were required to furnish weekly returns of sales and stock of rationed foods. The system ensured a regular supply of rationed goods. Other supplies to the grocer also depended upon his number of registered customers to ensure a fair distribution. Some commodities came pre-packed in set amounts, such as sugar distributed in 1 and 2 lb. bags. Mr Chantler recalled the need to open a pre-packed bag for a single 12ozs ration was inconvenient and was not readily acceptable by some customers whom often tried to purchase the 2lb bag. At first coupons were cut out from the ration book but later the appropriate sections were just marked off on the book with indelible pencil or similar.
From September 1939 to the end of January 1940 there were accidents and casualties due to the blackout. To improve road safety during the hours of darkness the speed limit for all motor vehicles was reduced to twenty miles per hour.
Cyclist also had problems, whereas no rear lights had been necessary on bicycles before the war, it now became law to show a rear light. Batteries were soon in short supply and the supply of Lucas and Miller cycle dynamos became non-existent as the producing factories turned over to war production. Factories engaged on important war work were permitted to issue dockets monthly to those employees who required cycle lamp batteries. This system gave priority to those essential war workers to purchase batteries from those selected shops receiving supplies. Cyclists also turned to oil and gas (calcium
With the introduction of cloth rationing and the difficulty of obtaining haberdashery supplies, the village shop "U-Need-Us", owned by Margery Morris and Mabel Woodhouse, decided to close. The vacant premises were then taken by a Jewish family named Gurdock from London. It is believed that Mr Gurnock was a tailor. Evidently he was a man who liked his food and found the meat ration very meagre. Because of this he developed a liking for river fish. His enquiry to the local lads of “You bring me fish, I give you shilling", had the lads hooked. With the river fish there for the taking they thought they were onto easy money, but there is some local doubt as to whether they always got their shilling.
The first War Budget introduced by Sir John Simon, Chancellor of the Exchequer on 27th September 1939 had raised Income Tax from 5/6d to 7/6d(37p) in the £1, Excise duty was increased by 1d a pint on Beer, Spirits from 11/6d to between 12/6d and 13/9d a bottle, 1d. on twenty cigarettes and 1d. per pound on sugar. Of the four Eton Wick pubs only Mrs Amy Gladys Buck, landlord of the Three Horse Shoes, held a spirit licence. The Greyhound in The Walk, landlord William Newall; The Shepherds Hut, (W. Colburn); The Grapes, (W. Whittington); were licensed retailers only of beer and cider.
Government allowed expenditure for the local war services was controlled by the Eton U.D.C. with a nominal budgeted figure of £100 per week for the Fire Brigade, Auxiliary Fire Service, Rescue and Demolition, First Aid, Evacuation, Fuel and Food Control. Wartime conditions made true expenditure difficult as the government paid 65% of the Fire Brigade expense and all expenditure for the Auxiliary Fire Service. Rescue and Demolition service expenses were paid by the County Council and the remaining services financed by the government. Although designated as being a fairly safe area it was still necessary to expand and equip the Eton Fire Service to deal with possible air raids.
The New Year (1940) opened with the Church Sunday school party, arranged by the Reverend Wingate. Ninety excited children were entertained in the village hall and with help from parents and friends, the children enjoyed a special tea. Various party games, followed by a fancy dress competition, made the party a great success. On leaving to go home each child received an orange, sweets and a bun. By the mid-summer of 1940 oranges would be a memory until the end of the war.
This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham.