Monday 23 January 2023

World War 2 Eighty Years On - January - May 1943

The gathering strength of the American Air Force with their Flying Fortress bombers was now seen high up as they flew over Slough-Windsor to bomb U-Boat pens on the French coast.  Since the later months of 1942, daylight raids by the American Army Air Force on targets in Nazi occupied Europe had increased and these daylight raids were followed up at night by Lancasters of the RAF Bomber Command. On clear summer evenings the bombers were seen by Windsor/Slough residents flying in lines spread over several miles as they headed for Nazi Germany and their designated targets.

Due to the death of one of their men the Council advertised for a Road Sweeper. Among the applicants was Miss Winifred Hazell of 5, Hope Cottages, Eton Wick and   as no suitable men had applied, Miss Hazell was appointed for a trial period.   The Surveyor was to report that she had proved her worth and said "We find she is conscientious and satisfactory". Before taking up this unusual occupation Miss Hazell had been a part time cleaner at the College. Working from 7.30am until 5pm she was responsible for the stretch of road from Eton Wick Church to College including Sommerville Road and the Judy's Passage, Eton College; she remarked that at first it was pretty hard but soon got used to it and enjoyed it.

New Year activities at the village Institute included the annual birthday party of the Womens Institute. This year Eton Wick and Boveney Institute celebrated their 10th Year. Congratulations were also expressed to Mrs Wilson and Mrs Weller who received prizes for their achievement in gaining the highest standing in competitions of the past year.  

Entertainment for the increasing number of service men, war workers and evacuees now dwelling in the Slough - Windsor area encouraged amateur dramatic and variety groups to flourish.  A popular local group were the ‘Dorney Amateur Drama Party’ who staged shows at Dorney village hall and the Institute, Eton Wick.  A member of the Dorney Players was        Mrs Watts, from Tilston Avenue who with others often entertained the troops at the camp with her piano playing and singing. Dances were held every Wednesday evening from 7pm to 11pm at the Dorney village hall with music for dancing arranged by Mr J. Quarterman with his record player and records and if no electric supply was available his piano playing would get the evening underway.

Mrs Lowry and Mrs Olive Stacey arranged many of the dances and other entertainments for the troops and other fund-raising events.  Many successful shows were in aid of charities, one of which in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital was an amusing sketch entitled, "The Cosy Corner Pub".   Refreshments at the dances and other entertainments were available through the efforts of the ladies of Dorney who had a cooking rota. Ingredients for the "Goodies" were erratic but there was always an appreciated spread, especially by gunners and airmen who went to the dances.  One particular evening the audience, including many from Eton Wick, found that the show did not quite end as they would have wished. The concert had been going for a while when it was noticed that the soldiers were leaving in ones and twos until there were very few left. One artist, endeavouring to entertain with a banjo, lost the attention of the audience as they became more apprehensive as to what had happened. Their curiosity was soon satisfied as the guns on the common went into action. The shattering noise from four 3.7"s anti-aircraft guns soon had the hall echoing from the explosions and no one was allowed to leave until the guns had ceased firing.  A very rapid movement across the common road was undertaken by those from the "Wick" getting back to the village and home.  Other popular places of entertainment were the cinemas where queues often formed waiting for seats to become available.  Two films showing at the Playhouse, Windsor early in the New Year were, "A Yank at Eton" with Mickey Rooney and "In Which We Serve" starring Noel Coward.  As there was no Blue Bus Service after 9pm. it often meant a walk home to Eton Wick in the blackout.  

Great effort by all the village organizations was put into savings drives and collections for relief of war victims, such as Aid for China, The Red Cross, the Prisoner of War Fund and Aid to Russia.    The Aid for China collection which took place at the end of March raised a total of £4-5-0 and the Whist Drive held in aid of the Red Cross raised a record £20.

 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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