Hinckley During the Second World War

The events that happened during the years of the Second World War in Hinckley.


1939

Government Announcement - Your home as an Air Raid Shelter (1940).

28th April 1939 - The towns of Earl Shilton and Barwell as well as the village of Stoke Golding were made ready to take evacuees if war should come. The Hinckley District planned take 5,760 evacuees.

During May 1939, Hinckley factories were now producing clothing for the British Army. George Ward and Harvey Harvey Ltd. had also received large orders for the supply of boots for the army, the orders would exceed over 100,000 pairs. The factories of Hinckley were also producing hose for British Tommies.

19th May 1939 - At a HUDC (Hinckley Urban District Council) meeting, ARP plans were discussed along with a survey of cellar accommodation. A map showed that there were to be shelters in the car park off Castle Street and also opposite the Union Hotel in Lower Bond Street. At the Constitutional Club the cellars would need to be strengthened.

22nd May 1939 – Over the next three days the final issue of gas masks took place at the Church School, Trinity Hall, the Council School and the Police Station.

25th May 1939 - The ARP test was postponed because it had been arranged for the same day as the crowning of the Hinckley Carnival Queen. When the test did happen, a plane flew over Hinckley and the ARP wardens would give a warning of the raid with rattles. A rush for the last batch of gas masks happened, with queues at the venues. In total over 33,000 gas masks were distributed in the Hinckley District.

1st September 1939 – When the first of the evacuees arrived by train at Hinckley Railway Station just after 1pm, there were large crowds to greet children from Birmingham and Smethwick. All the children were ticketed and labelled, and they all wore armbands. Buses stood waiting in the station yard ready to take the children away to begin their new lives with strange people. The local bus operators had to reduce their runs by 50% and there would be no more theatre buses.

3rd September 1939 - The Prime Minister of Britain, Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. In the following week’s Hinckley Times, there were photographs of the air raid shelters being constructed in the town. Also there was a photograph of boys helping to fill sandbags outside Hinckley Hospital.

29th September 1939 - All householders in the Hinckley District were asked to make sure that they were registered for a Ration Book and Identity cards. At a later date 65,000 enumerators throughout the United Kingdom were employed to call at all houses and receive a completed form, which would give all names of people in the house.

People had to contend with the ‘Black Out’, and many sons and husbands were now in one of the armed services.


1940

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill

During January 1940, Rationing started within the Hinckley District.

10th May 1940 - Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister, 3 days later he said 'I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat'.

26th May 1940 - The B.E.F (British Expeditionary Force) were forced to retreat to Dunkirk and evacuate from the beach, the evacuation was codenamed ‘Operation Dynamo’. The Hinckley Times would begin to report the names of the Hinckley and District servicemen who had been killed and missing in action. Over the course of 10 days, a flotilla of 900 naval and civilian craft were sent across the Channel under RAF protection, they managed to rescue 338,226 people. 235 vessels were destroyed along with 106 aircraft and at least 5,000 soldiers lost their lives.

25th June 1940 - The German Luftwaffe dropped bombs across the Midlands, the censor at the time would not allow the newspapers to print the names of the places were the bombs had landed. In fact the bombs were dropped around the Hinckley area.

A bomb landed in a field near Wykin Fields Farm, which was the home of Mr R J Palmer, who was a well-known rugby player. Another bomb had landed within a dozen yards of the house, leaving a large crater in the rose garden uprooting some trees as well as blowing a fence flat at the end of the tennis courts. Luckily there was no damage done to the house, leaving the occupants free of any injury.

Just 300 yards away bombs had also been dropped in the garden of a hosiery manufacturer belonging to Mr R Bedford. More bombs were dropped and landed in fields around Wykin as well as Stoke Golding.

8th November 1940 - The Germans released some bombs over Watling Street (also known as A5) between Nutts Lane and the Lime Kilns. One of the houses that was damaged belonged to Mrs Grubb who was the wife of a soldier, luckily she was away from the house at the time. Mrs Grubb’s neighbours Mr & Mrs Malin, who owned the Wayside Café on Watling Street said that the bomber was so low they though it was going to hit the roof, but they escaped with broken windows.

14th November 1940 - People from Hinckley would be able to see The Blitz on Coventry, there was a large orange glow.

22nd November 1940 - Many of the now homeless people from Coventry made their way to Hinckley. The report in the Hinckley Times said, ‘the people of Coventry will not forget the hospitality they found in the homes of Hinckley and district people. The WVS had a job to do and they did it manfully’.

20th December 1940 - The Hinckley Times wrote an article with the heading of ‘Hinckley’s great effort for war weapons week’. In the report it was announced that Hinckley had contributed £329,672 to the war effort, this was £9 0s 11d per head of the population at that time.


1941

the 82nd airborne at netherley road, hinckley
The 82nd Airborne at Netherley Road, Hinckley

22nd February 1941 - The Spitfire that was purchased for the war effort by the Hinckley & District Hosiery Manufacturers Association, called The Hinckley Spitfire was assigned to 145 Squadron stationed at Tangmere to be piloted regularly by Flight Lieutenant Newling.

16th May 1941 - The bombing of Hinckley happened when a German bomber released its bombs, killing 11 people in Merevale Avenue during the night.

23rd May 1941 - The Hinckley Times reported ‘People killed when bombs fall on Midland town’; a censor had erased the name Hinckley.

4th July - Due to beer being in short supply, the people of Hinckley were developing a thirst for it. All the pubs were closed every Wednesday, and most pubs would not open until a later hour after the licensed opening times. A member of a local club asked for a pint of beer and drank it straight away, he then produced some bottles and asked the barman to fill them up, he was declined and was asked to leave.

December - Due to Russia being invaded by Germany (on 22nd June 1941) there was an advertisement in the Hinckley Times asking for people to ‘Help the Russian people by having part of the purchases on the Russian Number at Hinckley, Burbage, Barwell and Earl Shilton Co-Op stores. When you quoted the number given, then a part of your Co-Op dividend would be given to the cause of the Russian Relief.


1942

2nd January 1942 – The Hinckley Times had an article with the heading of ‘Munitions workers offer big prices for wine’. At the time you were unable to buy in the stores, the article did not say where they were getting the wine from. According to a local wine merchant, he said ‘there was little wine left and Hinckley people seemed to think it was as plentiful as water in a stream’. The other drink that was unobtainable was sherry due to Spain being sympathetic toward Germany, and because of the Christmas period there was a beer shortage as well. Due to France being occupied by Germany, the only French wine available was the wine that was imported before the war began.

George Dewis who lived in Dadlington now joined the Army, he was well known for playing football pre-war with Leicester City and post-war he would become one of Leicester City’s top scorers. While in the Army he scored six goals on three occasions and in a couple of other games he would score seven and eight goals.

24th March 1942 Hinckley’s first British Restaurant was to open in Wood Street, it served 1,000 meals a day with a full meal costing 10d (5p). The HUDC announced that the British War Relief Society of America had sent a letter with an enclosed donation of $200 which once converted was £49.10s.0d. The donation came from the Gardens Club of Mount Desert, New Orleans and Sand Hills in Georgia for the purchase of games at the Red Cross Home at Stoke Lodge in Stoke Golding (known today as St Martin’s School). The HUDC sent back a letter of thanks along with photographs of the children at Stoke Lodge, the matron would also include a letter.

26th July 1942 - Hundreds of incendiaries were dropped on Hinckley and a bus driver named Tommy Mustin saved some burning buses in the garage. His bravery and courage would later win him the British Empire Medal.

12th June 1942 There were complaints read out at a HUDC meeting about ‘offensive microphone matter’ during a Sunday evening concert held at Hollycroft Park. Councillor Coley said "stuff that was given out over the microphone was not fit for grown up ears, never mind children." He went on to say "it was worse than anything heard over the wireless and some people walked out of the park in disgust." He thought that promoters should be warned before the park was let again in the future.


1943

26th March 1943 The National Savings Committee announced that during May 15th to the 22nd it would be ‘Wings for Victory week’. The target was set at £350,000 which would provide the funds to pay for following aircraft:


wellington bomber
Wellington Bomber

30th April 1943 A couple of 500lb bombs were given to Hinckley for the local people to stick saving stamps on during the week of ‘Wings for Victory week’. A boxing match at Stoke Golding in aid of the local soldiers’ fund was held. This was between ‘Battling Bill’, better known as Bill Geary, the licensee of the ‘George and Dragon’ in Stoke Golding, his opponent was Percy Mayne from Wykin, named the ‘Wykin Tiger’. ‘Battling Bill’ was knocked out and the boxing match raised £30.

28th May 1943 The total of the ‘Wing for Victory week’ raised £503,733. This was announced by Sir William Edge MP. The money was raised by schools, factories and streets, there was even a competition for 12 rationed eggs, a donor from Barwell paid £2,000 for them.

9th July 1943 The Hinckley Times included an advert that read ‘Corn Harvest 1943: Volunteers urgently wanted. Over 400 volunteers needed from the Hinckley and District, must be over 17 year of age. Rate of pay 1s.11d per hour for people over 21 years old, and 11d per hour for people under 21 years old. Each volunteer will get extra food rations’.

At a HUDC meeting Councillor Bailey said that ‘for a town that has 38,000 inhabitants it was a disgrace that there was no taxi for the soldiers coming home on leave’. Mr Clarke of Cowper Road applied for a Hackney Carriage Licence for a taxi, a vote of five against six granted Mr Clarke permission to have a taxi.

26th November 1943 a proposal to move the Barwell War Memorial from Malt Mill Bank to a site next to the Sports Club ground in Kirkby Road was made. They proposed the move would enable improvements to be made in the centre of the town of Barwell. Many years later the memorial was eventually moved to the cemetery.


1944

31st March 1944 - American soldiers arrived in town and were stationed at the Hinckley Lido along Netherley Road.

While on duty a Policeman gave a £5 fine when he found a woman in an air raid shelter with an American soldier. The PC asked the woman if she had a warrant for being on the premises, she replied “No”. She then went on to say to the American Soldier “why did you bring me here?” Some of the local women found the American Soldiers hard to resist.

14th April 1943 – A campaign in Hinckley to raise £400,000 called ‘Salute the Soldier Week’ was to commence on 29th April to 6th May. Sir Clive Liddell who was the Colonel of the Leicestershire Regiment took the salute at a parade. It took over half an hour to pass the saluting base that was in the Borough. Hinckley exceeded the original target and raised a final figure of £457,800.

6th June 1944 - British and American Troops successfully landed on the Normandy beaches of France, this day is known as D-Day.

20th June 1944 - Ivy Benson and her All Girls Band played at a dance at St. George’s Ballroom, they were very famous during and after the war.

21st July 1944 - Over 1,200 new evacuees arrived in the Hinckley District from London and South East England due to the V1 Flying bombs called the ‘Doodle Bug’ and the V2 which was a rocket powered bomb. During Wednesday of the previous week 120 evacuees were waiting for billets, this was due to them being large families, such as one mother with her eight children that did not want to be separated. The families would have to use the five rest centres throughout Hinckley while they waited to be accommodated.

During July 1944, a member of the Hinckley Home Guard who was a 19 year old van driver was at Hinckley Police Court being summoned on six separate charges for not performing Home Guard duties without a reasonable excuse. He was fined £3 on each of the charges and 5s costs which came to a total of £18.5s. He was told that if he did not pay the fine he would find himself in prison.

24th July 1944 – The Magistrates Court would hear a case headed ‘Wife, husband and a Yank’. A local wife was accused by her husband of matrimonial upheaval, this was due to his jealousy and suspicion that he had thought his wife was unfaithful with an American soldier. The husband had torn his wife’s dress and gave her bottom lip a cut. The wife admitted that the soldier had spent some nights at the house, but he slept downstairs in a chair with her father. The Magistrates dismissed the wife’s application for a maintenance order without her husband giving any evidence.

24th November 1944 – HUDC announced that the Hinckley district was to receive a 100 factory built houses, which were known as prefabs instead of the 250 prefabs that had been requested. Councillor Bailey said he wanted to put the fighting men into houses the could call home on their return. The prefabs only had a life span of 10 years, but they were liked by many families and they became quite attached to them.

2nd December 1944 – At Queens park a farewell parade took place with over 4,000 members of the Home Guard, the salute was taken by Col. J L Griffiths, the parade would end at the Borough. Once the final ‘Dismiss’ had been taken, an old lady in the crowd was heard to say as she turned to go home “Thank you Home Guard for what you have done, we’re proud of you”.


1945

ve day celebrations in hinckley
VE Day celebrations in Hinckley

During January an announcement was made that the Hinckley District had contributed a staggering £1,008,944 to the National Savings.

14th January 1945 – An RAF Wellington Bomber crashed in fields between Hinckley and Burbage, killing all the aircrew. A local farm worker living at Sketchley called ‘Raven’ said that he had heard a definite bump, but he had not seen anything and therefore he came to the conclusion that nothing untoward had happened. On the morning of the next day the farm worker went out into the fields and found the wrecked Wellington Bomber 200 yards from his home. The bodies of the six aircrew were recovered including the pilot who was a Canadian. The Wellington Bomber was found to have been attached to No.26 Operational Training Unit RAF based at a Buckinghamshire station.

8th May 1945 – Most homes had their wireless on to listen for an announcement of victory and peace in Europe. Winston Churchill announced VE Day (Victory in Europe), this day marked the end of WW2 in Europe. As soon as the news came in that the war was over, flags and streamers were seen all over, but dispersed when a thunderstorm broke overhead. In the evening there were special thanksgiving services in the churches. The Odeon and Regent cinemas showed a special, short thanksgiving film and at 9pm and the King’s speech was also broadcast to the audience.

In the car park in Castle Street a large crowd cheered and danced “The Lambeth Walk” and the “Boogie Woogie” and all the other latest dances. The Parish Church and water tower were floodlit and an effigy of Hitler was burnt on many bonfires. Street parties were held in many town streets and also in the neighbouring towns and villages.

5th July 1945 – The first General Election since the war took place, but the result would be delayed due to servicemen voting in many countries abroad.

27th July 1945 The result of the General Election was that Allen Arthur of Labour won with a vote of 26,151 giving a majority of 5,297 over J M Tucker of the National Liberals who had 21,854. This was the first time that Labour had won the Bosworth Division.

15th August 1945 – The people of Hinckley would hear on the wireless that Japan had surrendered to the Allies, this day onwards would be known as VJ Day (Victory in Japan). To celebrate, a miniature bonfire was lit in The Borough and a café opened its doors for free tea. A piano was brought from a nearby pub and people began singing patriotic songs. In the evening the celebrations really reached their peak when khaki clad men were scaling the lamp standard in the centre of The Borough. When Jack Tar has a go at scaling the lamp, he disappeared into the darkness to the top of the lamp, this created a lot of cheers. There were more cheers when a few minutes later an Auxiliary Territorial Service girl also went up the lamp.

31st August 1945 - There were announcements for the munition workers to return to their pre-war jobs, the hosiery industry would once again need makers, linkers, trimmers, and countermen.

2nd September 1945 - Having agreed in principle to unconditional surrender on 15 August 1945, Japan formally surrendered, ending World War II throughout the rest of the world.

21st December 1945 – 100 acres of land at Lash Hill in Burbage was being negotiated for housing purposes by HUDC. Prefabs were to be built in Middlefield Lane and some in Netherley Road not far from the Hinckley Lido. The Nissan Huts at Lindley Aerodrome (RAF Nuneaton), could be used for housing purposes now that the RAF had vacated them.

During Christmas Hinckley was quiet but happy, in many homes the husband or son would spend their first Christmas with their family after years of overseas service in the forces.


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