The photograph shows WAAFs from Ramsbury taking part in the Grand Procession on Sunday 2nd May 1943, during Hungerford's 'Wings for Victory' week. Air Marshall Sir Arthur
S Barret KCB CMG MC is seen here taking the Salute. The Marlborough Times reported the order of procession to be: Bren Gun Carrier; Banner (RAF); Chief Marshall; Band of Bomber Command; Contingent of
RAF; Contingent of RAF Regiment; Contingent of WAAFS; Royal Observer Corp; Band of ATC; Contingent of ATC; Contingent of Royal Marine Engineers; Band of Border Regiment; Contingent of Royal Ulster
Rifles; New Zealand Forces; Pioneer Corps; Band of Home Guard; Contingent of Home Guard; British Legion. The banner on the bridge reads "OUR SPITS TO BEAT FRITZ. £50,000 FOR TEN SPITFIRES".
Artie, in Chain Mail Issue 106 (2010), recalls the earlier similar parade associated with War Weapons
Week for the Hungerford Rural District, on Sunday 20th April 1941:
"The parade through the Town, was not to be forgotten by those who were there. The procession assembled in "Dog
Lane" near the Regent Cinema at 2.00pm. (prompt), it moved off at 2.30pm. The one and a half mile route was to go from the cinema down Atherton Road, High Street, Bridge Street, Charnham Street,
(East) Oxford Street, Wantage Road (South) then back up to the top of the High Street, passing the saluting base that had been erected outside Bodmans the outfitters shop.
The salute was taken
by The Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal KCB., DSO., MC. (as he was then). Vehicles dispersed on to Atherton Crescent, and those on foot right wheeled and marched back down the High Street to the
saluting base to hear an address by Chief of the Air Staff, followed by three verses of the hymn Abide With Me, and then the National Anthem was sung. Dispersal was at 4.00pm.
I have a list of
all those taking part, but will mention but a few: Leading was a Police Car, followed by a Bren Gun Carrier, the banner carried by Sergeants of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, a contingent of the Royal
Berkshire Regiment, (the chief marshal was R.S.M. Downey Royal Berks. Regt.). The followed the Band of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, Armoured Vehicles (various), American Ambulance, Band of the Royal
Marines, Royal Naval Guard, Contingent of the Royal Air Force, Drums of Royal Berkshire Regiment, followed by the Women's Royal Naval Service, Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service,
Women's Auxiliary Air Service, Women's Land Army, Observer Corps and the Home Guard.
Then all of the local Voluntary services, which included:- Decontamination Squad, Auxiliary Fire
Service (1 trailer pump), Road Repair Lorry, W.V.S. (2 sitting case cars) and A.R.P messengers. Also included were contingents from the Old Contemptibles and South African War Veterans, Boy Scouts,
Girl Guides (with trek carts), First Aid Parties. At the rear were the Kintbury Volunteer groups, A.F.S., Wardens, and a Bren Gun Carrier.
It was quite a big day locally for the war effort,
and also for the young man who during the 30's, would roar his motor cycle from Eddington House, around the Bear Corner, and up the High Street at breakneck speed. He became Air Chief Marshal, (a
mediator on tricky occasions between the P.M .and certain of the Military top brass), with a most distinguished war service indeed, the well liked, Lord Portal of Hungerford."
Evacuees from London: During the war a group of children was sent to Hungerford as evacuees (many from
the Macklin School, Soho) in London. Jim Sluszny, one of those children, emailed from France (Nov 2010) with some information. "I came as an evacuee around February 1941 with an intake of other
children, probably all from disparate schools/ areas in London.
The journey from London and arrival to Hungerford was a rather
unhappy blur of which I have little memory other than waiting around in Church House with other children and eventually finding myself taken to a most elderly couple in Church Street. It
was my good fortune that by early Spring I was moved to a far more receptive and caring couple, a few houses down that street, where I spent two very happy years.
It is so refreshing to
be able to see them again [on the Virtual Museum]- so many decades later. I'm thinking of the railway station as it was in the early 40'ies and aspects of the high street, the
Croft and especially Church House, which from the Station via Church St was the route our intake of evacuees, straight off the train that February 1941 was led to walk to and the
first place to gather inside its hall. There we just waited for the the billeting arrangements and collection of us kids to proceed that seemed to drag on.
Of special interest is the
shot of the Hungerford Council school as it was in 1910, which is pretty much as it looked when I first walked past it to enter the building just behind it. That was where, in 1941 and
for part of 1942, the Macklin street school (St Joseph's) from Soho, London was housed. Then sometime in 1942 the London school vacated the premises ( which must have been part
of the school complex) behind the main Council school building, to move way down the High street to a place I remember as a cross between a church and a chapel."
Margaret Williams (nee
Cox), who was aged about 9 years at the time, remembers (Nov 2010) that the placing of the evacuees was arranged by the WVS, under Miss Steel. Margaret's own family had an evacuee living with
Jim also spoke of some memories of the Corn Exchange:
"They used to hold dances there on Saturday evenings in 1941/2, to the delight, no doubt, of
the unattached girls and womenfolk population and abundance of military posted in the surrounding districts. What I remember mostly about the Town Hall was a 'comic sketch'
theatrical presentation the school for evacuees I attended put on for the locals, circa 1941/2 - all about a family caught in the rain at a seaside resort like Brighton who popped in to
the nearest photographer's studio for shelter and the French photographer proprietor doing his nut, trying to pin this family into some semblance of a photogenic group, not realising
their ulterior agenda. Naturally they picked on me as the excitable photographer because I managed the accent. Heigh Ho..!"
[See also Correspondence regarding the use of the Methodist Church
Sunday School for the evacuated Macklin Street Roman Catholic School 1939-1946. (Berks RO: D/MS3/1F/8)]
A corps of Spanish soldiers in Hungerford: Also in 1941 a dozen or so formerly Spanish
Republican soldiers were housed in Westfield House, Parsonage Lane. Jim Sluszny remembered:
"I came across them quite by chance not long after I arrived in Hungerford. I immediately
recognised from their uniforms that they were Republican soldiers who, I guessed, had fled Spain after Franco's take over. Originally I had reached England (with my parents) as a
French speaking war refugee from Belgium and these guys having a smattering of French between them, I managed to communicate with them. They seemed chuffed to have me around. Although I
was not quite 11 years, I knew enough about the "Republican goodies and the Fascist baddies" in the Spanish civil war and the Republican cause to convey where my sympathies lay.
What has intrigued me all these years is that - given the political context of that civil war and Britain's "non-intervention" policy prior to WW2 - I have always assumed that the
refuge, hospitality and funding they were granted in Hungerford must have been decided at a higher administrative level than the Borough's level."
Some of them stayed and settled in Hungerford, marrying local
girls. One such family is the Sanchez family in Hungerford.
One final thought: the NWN reported on 30 November 1939 that "Strong local opposition is growing to combat the Air Ministry's
proposed scheme to make the Berkshire Downs near Hungerford into a bombing range". How different things could have been!
- HMS Freesia, the corvette adopted by Hungerford
- Pillboxes and "hedgehogs"
- Home Guard
- Air raid Precautions (ARP) Service
- National Savings Campaigns in Hungerford 1939-45
- NWN report: Screaming Eagles march again, 14 Oct 2010
- Correspondence regarding the use of
the Methodist Church Sunday School for the
evacuated Macklin Street Roman Catholic School 1939-1946. (Berks RO: D/MS3/1F/8)
- Ramsbury At
War, by Roger Day, 2004
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