Wednesday 11 March 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - March 1940

March 1940

The construction of a new sewer system by Lemon and Blizzard started in 1938 had made good progress with Bell Lane complete and Tilstone Lane almost finished. The contractors confidently informed the Eton U.D.C. that after the testing of the system homes could be connected. Unfortunately for the contractors the arrival of summer thunder storms found serious leaks in the pipe work and the council had to apply pressure to the contractors to rectify the faults. Complaints were also received from village residents about the state of repair in which Bell Lane had been left. Replying to the criticism the contractor claimed difficulties with the weather and the shortage of supplies due to war priorities had delayed the re-instatement of the road.

Re-arrangement of the A.R.P. within the village made the wardens post at the Post Office redundant enabling the protection works to be removed much to the relief of Mr and Mrs Chantler. The wardens post at Burfoots remained until other arrangements were made. To test the efficiency of various ARP organizations based around Slough a large scale practice was held. As the ambulances, fire pumps, rescue units, police, St. Johns and the Red Cross personnel with other essential services gathered on Agars Plough, Eton four hundred Eton College boys prepared to act as casualties. Emergency incidents were staged with the college boys giving a realistic touch to a most successful exercise.

Thursday March 11th

Meat rationing began. The ration was assessed not by weight but price, with a weekly ration for adults of 1/10d per week and for children 11d. Later into the war the adult ration was reduced to six ounces per week for any cut of meat. Rationing encouraged a black market which gave rise to a little wheeling and dealing for various commodities.  Favouring customers with a little extra than the official ration allowed could lead to prosecution of the shop keeper. Through village gossip it became known to the Ministry of Food Inspectors that George Mumford, the village butcher, had occasionally let customers purchase more meat than their entitlement. With indications of prosecution and thoughts of imprisonment, George made arrangements for a manager to run his business. No prosecution followed, but George was not let off the butchers hook as the following relates. At the end of the war a coach party from the village, including George, went to the Victoria Palace, London, to see the show starring the Crazy Gang.  Before the opening of the show one wag from the village party went back stage and tipped off the two comedians, Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen, about the affair.  Later during the performance Bud Flanagan said to Chesney Allen "Ches, Do you know where I can get a little extra meat under the counter?" "Yes Bud, a little village near Windsor called Eton Wick. "The Butcher there will see you alright". Poor George had to take the ribbing as the story got round. 

(Meat rationing together with some other food commodities continued until July 1954.)

Easter Sunday 24th March

Apprehension of what may lie ahead and the desire to pray for peace brought increased attendance at Sunday church services during the war years. To mark certain wartime events special church services were held attended by the military and council dignitaries. A large congregation at the traditional Easter service taken by the Reverent David Wingate in St. John's church, Eton Wick, heard the Eton church choir, conducted by the organist Kenneth Weller, give a recital of ‘Passion music for Easter’.  He was assisted by ladies from Eton Wick and Boveney in a reverent rendering of the Messiah and exerts from John Stanier's "Crucifixion". Duets were also sung by the brothers, Albert and Harry Prior.

The Easter Monday five - a - side annual football competition open to boys under fifteen years, is for the Juvenile Challenge Cup presented by Boveney, Eton Wick and Dorney Discharged Soldiers and Sailors in 1921. Two competitions only (1940 & 41) took place during the war years which were played on the recreation ground. The entry for 1940 being fifty five boys. Eight eliminating games were played in the morning followed by the semi-final and final in the afternoon. The final, between the team of R. Wilson (Capt);    J. Butt; G. Budd; P. Mitchener and H.A. Prior who pitted their skills against R. Lunnun (Capt); E. Steptoe; K. Sibley; F. Wells and H. Lawrence brought a win to R. Wilsons team with a final result of 3- 2 goals. All the games were refereed by Mr W. F. Pardoe. Mrs Pardoe had the honour of presenting the cups and medals to the Winners and Runners Up. The competitors ended the exciting day on a high note as 432 cakes, 45 lb. of toffee and a box of oranges was shared out amongst them'.  

With no blackout arrangements available and used by the L.C.C. School during the day the village hall was not available for recreational purposes. Obtaining material from Bruce and Lumb of Slough the village hall working party made the requisite curtains, but these when finished were inadequate for the purpose due to the poor quality of the material, therefore no dances or other evening activities took place during the winter months. This curtailment on the use of the hall, also the decline in club registers as members volunteered or were conscripted to the forces or other war work reduced the hall finances. The flower show committee had every confidence and they continued making arrangements for the 58th Horticultural Show on August Bank Holiday held at the Wheatbutts. The possibility of air activity over the area was to be no deterrent to Major Dabson, committee chairman with committee members Mr Kemp and Mr Laverty,    
The first six months of hostilities, labelled the "Phoney War", had brought no air attacks on London thus encouraging a number of evacuees to return home. Great efforts were made by the civil authorities to deter their return to London but many parents thought it safe to have their children home. A small number returned home from Eton and Eton Wick.

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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