|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 25th August, 1939, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
Rushden Prepares for the War - September/October 1939
Rushden on Guard
Serious Political Crisis Prompts - Several Precautionary Measures
In view of the serious tension in Europe during the past few days it has not been surprising or specially alarming to find a number of preliminary safeguarding measures carried out in Rushden, as in other towns. Emergency plans have been worked out in great detail since the crisis last September, and the public was quite prepared to see early signs of activity in A.R.P. matters when new tension arose.
The first step apparent to the public came on Wednesday evening when the police distributed notices giving particulars of the air-raid warning system the sounding of a fluctuating siren note, probably reinforced by police whistles, when a raid is expected, and a steady siren note when the danger has passed. The notice explains further that hand rattles will be heard if poison gas has been used in a raid, and that handbells will announce when the gas has been cleared.
Although some towns reduced street lighting on Wednesday, there was no curtailment at Rushden. The position in regard to future evenings during the period of doubt is that the Electric Supply Co. and Gas Co. have made full preparations and will carry out immediately any instructions they may receive from the police.
“Rushden is ready for all emergencies,” an official of the Urban District Council stated on Thursday.
There has already been something of a rush for materials with which to darken the windows of private and business premises, and a leading Rushden draper said yesterday that his stocks of black Italian cloth, the material recommended for the purpose, were temporarily exhausted. A consignment which arrived only on Thursday morning had already been sold.
“I am going to send someone to London to try and get some more,” the draper said. “We can get the people all fixed up if they will be reasonable and allow sufficient time.”
Rushden has recently reviewed its arrangements for the billeting of children who would be brought away from London.
1st September, 1939
Rushden Gas Mask Supply
Those Rushden people (including visitors) who are not yet in possession of a gas mask may get one by applying at the A.R.P. Depot in Portland-road, which will be open for the purpose at eight o’clock this evening (Friday).
Twelve Hundred Refugees To-Day?
Soon after the national announcement on Thursday that the evacuation of children and others from London was to proceed, the responsible officials at Rushden received instructions to go ahead with the plans already prepared plans which provided for the billeting of up to 3,765 persons in the town. The first batch, provisionally estimated at 1,250, is expected to arrive in three instalments to-day.
Rushden’s quota of evacuees is expected to come from Willesden, and may consist of children and adults in almost equal proportions, who will arrive at Wellingborough by train and complete the journey by ‘bus. The arrival will be spread over three days.
Reception and Rations
Under the Clerk to the Urban Council (Mr. W. L. Beetenson) and the Accountant (Mr. A. Maclean) there are four reception officers, all school-masters, each in charge of a reception centre Mr. S. Howitt at the Intermediate School, where 1,120 are scheduled for reception, Mr. S. A. Lawrence at the Highfield-road School (875), Mr. O. L. Ash at the South End School (915), and Mr. W. A. E. Sherwood at the Newton-road School (855).
There are 52 billeting districts, each with a billeting officer (who will have compulsory powers) and one or two assistants.
Rations sufficient for 48 hours are already at the four reception centres. They comprise : 3,795 cans of sweetened milk, 3,795 cans of unsweetened milk, 3,765lbs. of biscuits, 5,232 cans of beef, and 1,000lbs. of chocolate. Four thousand carrier bags are also on hand, and they will be filled with the rations as required by Councillor W. J. Sawford and the Co-operative Society’s catering staff.
A cup of tea will be served when the evacuees arrive at the centres.
The object of the ration issue is, of course, to prevent any unbalancing of the town’s food supplies.
Councillor Mrs. O. A. H. Muxlow leads the Rushden branch of the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence, which will help in the work of looking after the evacuees.
Education in Shifts
One of the greatest problems will be the education of the children. The Rushden schools are due to re-open after the holidays next Monday, and the standard scheme provides for two shifts at the schools one conducted by the local teachers for the local children, the other taken by the London teachers for the London children.
The Alfred-street Schools, however, have just been equipped as a casualty station, and it is not known whether they can be used for ordinary purposes.
An appeal for blankets was made yesterday by the Council Clerk, who asks that old spare blankets should be sent to the Council Offices at once. All available blankets have been bought up, but the stock at the Rushden depot is as yet insufficient to meet the billeting requirements.
The Rushden billeting officers were notified to attend at their respective centres at 11.30 this morning. The Women’s Voluntary Services have prepared a rota of duty, and a rota of nurses four at each school has also been arranged.
The following timetable is expected to operate, the first column showing the times at which the evacuees for Rushden will arrive by train at Wellingborough:-
Rushden Urban District Council - Evacuation Scheme
Between the hours of 11.30 and 8 p.m. to-day, and between the same hours to-morrow, no trains will run on the Wellingborough Higham Ferrers branch line. The reason is that during the movement of refugees the main lines must be kept clear, and the Rushden platform at Wellingborough cannot be used.
Higham Ferrers, whose part in the evacuation scheme was not quite clear, is now definitely a reception area. During the dinner hour yesterday the Town Clerk (Major F. J. Simpson) received an official message warning him that evacuees will be sent to the borough in due course. Higham Ferrers had already made provisional plans for receiving up to 700 children and adults.
The whole of Rushden’s gas respirators have now been delivered, and practically all have been fitted according to the official census. In a few instances householders or their families have not been at home when wardens have called, and this accounts for the fact that fitting is not quite completed.
Capt. C. H. Clark (Rushden’s Chief Air Raid Warden) informed the Press yesterday (Thursday) that any member of the public who has not a respirator, including people who have come into the town since the census was made, should apply to the nearest air raid warden. A further announcement will appear later in the Press regarding the time at which these people should visit the Portland-road depot in order to receive their respirator.
Plans for other aspects of A.R.P. in Rushden have now been completed. The decontamination squads will be stationed in the Council’s Newton-road yard. They may not, however, be summoned by a member of the public. It is the job of trained wardens to do this.
The Auxiliary Fire Service comes under the complete control of Chief Officer A. P. Timpson, and each fireman has been told what his duties are.
1st September 1939.
Information For Householders
How To Look After Your Child Guests
Two leaflets on evacuation have been compiled by the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil defence with the approval of the Ministry of Health. They are being distributed to the W.V.S. centres in the reception areas, including Northants, and through them to the general public.
One of the leaflets deals with general information for reception areas, and out-lines the scheme of evacuation, dealing with billets, bedding, payment, clothes, mending and washing, medical and nursing expenses, rations, education, communal meals, recreation, domestic help, discipline and other matters.
The other leaflet is for householders who will take unaccompanied children at 10s. 6d. a week for one child, and 8s. 6d. a week for each child if more than one is taken. Payment will be by Government order to be cashed at a post office.
Similar headings as on the other form are on this one, and there are added notes on care and discipline, for food storage, menus, and specimen meals.
8th September 1939.
Rushden’s Task in Opening Week of War
Refuge Offered To Thousands of London Women and Children - Town Grappling with Social Problems
Day-By-Day Story of Great Effort and Strange Experiences
An amazing change in the everyday life of Rushden and Higham Ferrers has accompanied the outbreak of the great war in which Britain, with its Empire and its allies, seek to rid the world of oppression at the hands of Adolf Hitler, Dictator of Germany.
The immediate special task of this district has been to find shelter for thousands of women and children, school teachers and official helpers evacuated from London. Few tasks could have been more difficult or called for greater patience and kindliness, but once again in British history a crisis has liberated a great flood of calm and resolute spirit, and wonderful things have been accomplished.
There are now more than 2,000 evacuees in Rushden, 400 in Higham Ferrers, and contingents in the neighbouring villages. About 1,000 school-children came to Rushden last Friday and a similar number of mothers and small children on Saturday. More were expected on Sunday, but did not arrive, and it became known that the evacuation scheme at the London end was complete. Higham Ferrers “stood by” until Tuesday, when 400 London evacuees were transferred to the town from Rugby.
Bewildering problems have followed the inrush of women and children, and much remains to be organised or adjusted; but everybody concerned has been unsparing in effort, and the visitors are loud in their praise of what has been done on their behalf.
Below a memorable piece of local history is presented in day-by-day diaries.
Patients at Rushden House Sanatorium were removed to their homes to-day, leaving only the bed cases. Rushden Rotarians undertook the work of transport.
Bus loads of London children were arriving at Rushden (from Wellingborough Midland-road L.M.S. station) from twelve-thirty onwards, and the first big double-decker to reach the No. 1 reception centre at the Intermediate Schools brought 93 refugees from King’s Cross and Somers Town.
Little girls hugging dolls and tiny boys under the care of their bigger sisters looked wistfully through the windows towards their new “home.” Into the friendly atmosphere of a very willing reception town had come the scholars of the Thanet-road School, King’s Cross, and the Aldenham-street Church School, Somers Town. Their ages ranged from three upwards. Their headmasters and teachers were with them, and the party included only four mothers. All responded cheerfully to the welcome awaiting them.
They carried their own belongings food, gas masks, hand-bags, and even pillows and some were so small that they could hardly manage the job. They received their emergency rations at the school door, and passed on to the classrooms, where cups of tea were served at the desks and a meal was eaten. Then began the march along the streets, where the billeting officers found homes for them.
Mr. G. H. Ayling, headmaster of the Aldenham-street School, said that everything in connection with the journey was splendid “and I am sure it will be splendid here,” he added.
A teacher said: “We had only one child who cried, and she was a girl who caught sight of her mother crying on the platform. We have emphasized that they are going on holiday.”
All the Rushden Council Schools will remain closed until further notice.
The four reception schools were the Intermediate (Mr. S. Howitt in charge), Newton-road (Mr. W.A.E. Sherwood), South End (M.O.L. Ash ) and Highfield (Mr. S.A. Lawrence).
Welcomed By Church
A welcome to the refugees arriving in Rushden is announced to-day by the officers and teachers of the Mission Church and Sunday School.
The whole of Rushden’s gas respirators have now been delivered, and practically all have been fitted according to the official census. In a few instances householders or their families have not been at home when wardens have called, and this accounts for the fact that fitting is not quite completed.
Capt. C. H. Clark (Rushden’s Chief Air Raid Warden) informed the Press today that any member of the public who has not a respirator, including people who have come into the town since the census was made, should apply at the Portland-road depot at 8 o’clock this evening.
Plans for other aspects of A.R.P. in Rushden have now been completed. The decontamination squads will be stationed in the Council’s Newton-road yard. They may not, however, be summoned by a member of the public. It is the job of trained wardens to do so.
The Auxiliary Fire Service comes under the complete control of Chief Officer A. P. Timpson, and each fire-man has been told what his duties are.
Sang “Tipperary” - How the Children Greeted Their New Home
Rushden’s method of receiving the evacuees from London was speeded-up to-day. Thanks to a magnificent organisation and a universal willingness it passed the test of unique experience yesterday; but the system had one flaw which only experience could reveal. One-third of the billeting officers were on duty to deal with one third of the total contingent of evacuees, and in many cases they had not conducted one party of children to their billets before another party was waiting.
To avoid all such waiting the entire billeting staff was asked to go on duty to-day and to-morrow.
Rushden received its full first-day quota, and to-morrow will show whether the provisional total of 3,765 has been reached.
The children came from St. Pancras, King’s Cross, Somers Town and Walthamstow. Their part in the great enterprise was brave and excellent. Some were singing “Tipperary” as their cram-jammed buses came into the town; all were admirable in discipline and quick to adapt themselves to a strange situation. Small sisters mothered smaller brothers. Big boys set big examples. Their teachers and the few adult helpers who came with them were quietly competent.
The town’s reception staffs matched the visitors in calm approach to the common task. They added a great deal of simple kindness and worked cheerfully at full pressure for several hours. There were the catering staffs, filling the ration bags and producing cups of tea staffs containing a nucleus of Co-operative Society employees and a majority of voluntary workers ladies of the W.V.S., Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Air Raid Wardens and whoever else had time to spare.
Everybody praised the uniformed boys and girls they were splendidly alert and active, both at the centres and in distributing official messages about the town.
Ladies trained in nursing were at each centre; quickly and thoroughly they examined the children for any sign of infection or attended to any child who felt the strain of the journey.
In the town the sight of the children melted all hearts. Those who had not undertaken to accommodate visitors came forward with spontaneous offers; some increased the number for which they had contracted.
“We will treat them as our own,” they said, and soon, in many a letter from a kindly Rushden guardian to an anxious London mother, these words were repeated.
The children, too, wrote home on postcards provided for the purpose but they also found time to run out and play with the Rushden boys and girls. The streets were ringed with Cockney accents.
The wife of a school teacher introduced the “Echo and Argus” representative to four fair haired brothers Patrick, aged 13, Wilfred (11), Clive (7), and Anthony (4). Just behind were two brothers and sisters whose father works “on the Council.”
The Newton-road reception staff bore the brunt of something which went wrong. Two batches, each of 300, had passed through the other centres before any bus found its way to the school on the hill. There was then a load of Roman Catholic children, with hooded sisters among them, and the staff turned gladly to work after its long and weary wait.
Few of the visitors, teachers or children had even heard of a place called Rushden. They were soon speaking well of it and making great friends of the people they had met.
With these remarkable scenes in progress Rushden slipped strangely into the atmosphere of war-time. There was an undercurrent of excitement, and the special “Evening Telegraph” editions were snapped up in large quantities, but war comment boiled down to the madness of one or two people and the impossibility of allowing the world to slip further into the grip of ruthless fanaticism.
The day ended in an orgy of shopping for food, dark paper, cloth, drawing pins and nails and a universal sound of hammering as the first full black-out was improvised.
Slipping Into War - A Sweeping Change in Provincial Life
Like all the other reception areas, Rushden was far too busy for any marked reaction to reveal itself when the last thread between peace and war gave way. The strange activities of the last few days continued and intensified in the same strange atmosphere. Almost everyone had something to do something urgent and apart from the normal way of life. It was better so.
Saturday deserved pages in local history the billeting of London mothers and children going forward, the preparation of key buildings in progress, the digging of trenches commencing, the swarming of the streets with unfamiliar faces, the flooding of shops with new customers. A sweeping change came over provincial life; a hundred preconceived schemes came into operation.
Saturday’s billeting was a memorable experience for all concerned. The ‘buses were again wonderfully punctual. This time, however, they were dark with paint, and from them emerged, not hundreds of school-children, but hundreds of women bringing their small sons and daughters many had babies not yet weaned. It was a sight that took the reception and billeting staffs by surprise, but there it was, and the machinery began its swift working. Mothers, babies, belongings and rations were soon in the schools; chairs were produced the classroom desks were now of no service and hot cups of tea were bringing new life to jaded travellers. There was willing toil on one side and a mixture of anxiety and gratitude on the other. The situation was handled wonderfully but it was no picnic.
Rally Of Cars
Cars had already answered an S.O.S. Still more came along when it was known that mothers and little ones had arrived. There was an abundance of them. Load after load went off in search of homes. Out in the streets the billeting officers made quick inquiries, pressed home the urgency of it all, and somehow fitted sad little parties into surprised little house-holds. It took a lot of time, and yet a very little time, had anyone stopped to consider how much was involved.
The first arrivals were from Kings Cross, the others chiefly from Walthamstow. A few expectant mothers were rumoured to be among them. A doctor said “I should think there are fifty in this room.” There were also lovely little girls aged two or rather less.
It was a day of manifold problems for the billeters, but again the goodwill in the homes met every problem in the end. Even the stubborn party of seven, who sat tight and refused to be divided slept under a roof after harassing the wits and exhausting the patience of every official in the neighbourhood. Next morning, let it be said without regret, they went back to London almost the only group who would not be helped.
There were a few German really Austrian refugees, thankful to heaven for a kind smile and the promise of a pillow. Mothers, daughters and granddaughters clung anxiously together; bigger family parties were of necessity divided and yet, by the understanding collaboration of neighbours, kept close together. Most people took two mother and child but one took ten into a large and beautiful home. Another had equipped a dormitory, hoping to receive four boys.
“Welcome” was declared on the reception centre doors. Those in financial need were asked to visit an office at the Park-road Baptist School on Sunday. All were told of an information bureau established at the Public Library. Lists were made of the expectant mothers, who will all have facilities apart from their billets.
In the evening the evacuees wrote home to husbands and mothers, went out to see the “village,” crammed the shops and tried to trace friends or relatives. Rushden people who had accepted the care of schoolchildren on Friday took them out, where necessary, to buy decent clothes for them.
To-day the reception and billeting staffs and the people with cars reported again to the four centres, the “iron rations” were on the doorsteps for distribution, and the tea was steaming in the urns. Then came the news that no evacuees would arrive until evening. This was a great surprise, but again the arrangements were elastic, and the billeting officers decided to employ the afternoon in visiting houses and bringing their accommodate lists up-to-the-minute. When they returned from this work there was fresh news “No arrivals to-day at all.”
Difficult cases, illness cases, transfers and attempts to find friends all helped to occupy the day. The churches, where moving addresses were heard, received many of the visitors. From the pulpits an appeal was made for push-chairs, bedding and other necessities. Council offices, the A.R.P. depot and the inquiry bureau dealt with demands for gas masks which had not been issued to infants in London. More luggage arrived and was carted away. The “Evening Telegraph” and the wireless announced that Britain was at last in open conflict with the mad Hitler. There was calmness on this Sunday of sunshine, but there were tears. Young wives separated from young husbands had need of comfort.
It appears that children belonging to some of the mothers who came to Rushden on Saturday have been planted at St. Albans a great pity, but doubtless unavoidable.
The London boys and girls are discovering things. They have even discovered farms exciting places where you lean over the fence and show your little sister the “bears” (pigs) and the haystack “where you lose the needle.”
Rushden has also attended to its protective arrangements. The wardens and special constables went on duty; the whole-time A.R.P. men were told to begin; the sirens have long been manned; the report centre is continuously staffed; the key buildings are sandbagged and shuttered; the Alfred-street School has been knocked about and equipped as a casualty station. There are watchers and waiters, day and night, wherever they are needed.
The black-out was complete to-night, and policemen made sure that it was so. Rushden is doing what the times demand that it should.
Speaking to a large congregation at St. Mary’s Church, Rushden, this morning, the Rector, the Rev. F. A. Green, refrained from dealing at length with the crisis, saying: “It is not the duty of a Christian minister to deal with political questions, but rather to bring a message from God to the people.”
Mr. Green asked what they expected God to do in the present situation. The present situation, he said, had dethroned God, and although each one of them, in their own little sphere, had not done much damage, they shared the guilt which had been responsible for the present situation. All those who had left out God were in some way responsible.
Among those present at the service were a large number of evacuees from London.
At Higham Ferrers also the Women’s Evacuation Committee met during the afternoon and the Food Control Committee in the evening.
Rushden Urban Council has appointed Councillors W. E. Capon, W. J. Sawford and F. Green as an emergency committee to deal with civil defence.
The Council members now form a panel from which the chairman will appoint a tribunal of three to deal with billeting questions.
Boot Workers Dig and London Women Get Work at the Factories
Workmen arriving at some of the Rushden factories this morning were asked to go back and bring spades. Soon in some cases with the help of “professionals” they were gaily digging trenches on ground near the factories. The trenches are designed on quite a large scale.
The number of evacuees in Rushden this morning was 2176. They present the authorities with bewildering problems, because some of the London school parties have been divided, with some of their scholars in one town and some in another. A meeting of head teachers from London is being called to discuss with a responsible official billeting and school problems. The problem of communal meals is under consideration.
Councillor Mrs. Muxlow, head of the W.V.S., is taking steps for the opening of a children’s nursery.
Some of the women evacuees, anxious to supplement their income, are applying for jobs at the Rushden factories, and a number have already been set on.
Vouchers for free milk to expectant mothers are now available at the Public Library Information Bureau, which is dealing with hundreds of enquiries of all kinds.
About half the people going to work at Rushden this morning carried their gas masks.
Soon after noon it was announced that no more evacuees would arrive at Rushden to-day.
Trench Systems - Rapid Progress with Defences Near Factories
Within the last few days hundreds of volunteers have been working feverishly in an effort to excavate trenches in which Rushden’s factory workers may find shelter if ever enemy bombs are dropped in the vicinity.
Though none of the large factories have at the time of writing, actually completed their A.R.P. plans, they have all made remarkable progress since the work began. Few of the buildings have been constructed in such a way as to afford internal shelter though at one factory a large room, covered with concrete and with 18 inch walls, is being adapted to provide shelter for the female workers. The men will find shelter in trenches which have been dug on a piece of land one minute’s walk from the factory.
At another factory it was decided to dig trenches in a field at the rear, and these are being constructed to afford shelter for about 300 employees.
Concrete shelters have been ordered by one firm but have not yet arrived. Additional shelter will be provided by a deep trench system. The factory has about 200 employees to find shelter for.
In another case it was thought that it might not be necessary to dig trenches or construct any of the orthodox types of shelter, as there is a stream of water running, many feet beneath the earth, under the factory and adjoining streets and houses. Wooden seats have been fitted in this tunnel.
Another firm are fortunate in having three basements which are of a nature allowing easy adaptation into efficient shelters. In addition there is one outside shelter under construction in which concrete and sandbags are to provide the resistance to flying splinters.
Covered trenches are being provided wherever possible in the vicinity of all those factories which are part of a big chain.
At one large factory there is an efficient fire-fighting squad and a large number of men trained in other aspects of A.R.P. work. Trenches are being hastily excavated in the nearest field and will hold at least 700 workers.
The imposing white tiles of a new factory are being dulled by the application of a greyish coloured paint in order to render it less visible during the hours of darkness.
Owing to the outbreak of war the weekly luncheons of the Rotary Club, which took place every Tuesday at the Queen Victoria Hotel, have been cancelled until further notice.
Care Of Masks
Captain Chas. Clark, Chief Air-Raid Warden is concerned about the preservation of gas masks. The flimsy cardboard boxes should be enclosed in good waterproof cases, or the first shower may ruin them, he says. Housewives should make these cases without delay and fit them with stout slings.
Mr. Leslie Sanders is in charge of the permanent staff of wardens, who are now maintaining day and night duty. The A.R.P. depot in Portland-road is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and 400 enquiries for respirators, advice on gas-proof rooms, etc. were dealt with yesterday.
There have been many applicants for permanent A.R.P. jobs but it is useless for men not completely trained to apply.
Sunshine Circle - London Workers Get Women and Little Ones Together
Social problems arising from the addition of 2,100 women and children to Rushden’s population are following in the wake of the billeting. They are recognised and will be tackled both by responsible townspeople and helpers who have accompanied the London schoolchildren.
To-day, as a first shot, the “Women’s Sunshine Circle” opened at the Park-road Methodist Schools. Two Walthamstow ladies, Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Rogers, who came with the schoolchildren as official helpers, are going to superintend it. They are full of gratitude for practical help received from the Rev. Alfred Binney, the church’s new pastor, and Councillor W. E. Capon.
The Sunshine Circle is for mothers and children under five. It offers music, games, companionship and comfort. Ladies of the church have offered to organise a buffet. The school will be open daily from 9 to 12 and 2 to 5.
Many of the women now billeted in Rushden are short of money and will be glad to obtain some employment in the town. Then the problem of their babies will arise.
“The idea of the Centre,” said Mrs. Peterson, “is for London mothers to meet, and if necessary leave their babies while they go to work. It will help mothers to pay….. .”
A room has been set aside for reading and writing, and many mothers entered this room to pen a few words to their husbands and other relatives left behind in London. There is a playroom for children under five years of age and from Thursday cots and beds will be installed for these children to sleep in. It is intended to hold concerts each week in future.
Adjoining the main hall is an enquiry bureau to assist the mothers in finding employment and in making contacts with friends and children.
This hospitable work is being continued on Sundays, when there are to be “open” children’s services and “popular” services for the mothers.
Rushden people have made a wonderful response to the appeal for perambulators and push-chairs but forty are still required.
School medical officers and dentists are now in attendance at the Alfred-street School clinic.
There is still some concern because it is thought that the expectant mothers have not all registered. They should report at the Public Library taking their pink cards with them, and the doctors will then be informed of the arrangements. By Tuesday evening a list of about 30 expectant mothers had been compiled.
Schoolmasters from London met local officials this morning. They hope to get the schools re-opened as soon as possible, but the London school parties have been divided, and the immediate question is whether they shall remain where they are some in one town and some in another or be re-distributed.
The First Test
Perfect good humour and general good order were the reply to the first air raid warning, which sounded in certain districts early this morning.
Families not already awake were quickly out of bed and dressing, shutting windows, gathering in the best protected rooms, and amusing the children.
Those already in the factories cleared out rapidly but cheerfully to the nearest trench or field, or back to their homes. Soon the streets were clear, but when the first surprise was over front doors were opened and neighbours whiled away the time with cheery conversation ready, of course, to take cover if any new sign of raiding should be heard. Some families had breakfast, but others waited because they had decided as a precaution to turn off the gas at the meter. Gas masks were held in readiness, and some people wore them for a minute or so “just for practice.”
Butchers and bakers continued their rounds in some quarters, and postmen delivered their letters unperturbed.
The firm all-clear signal came at last, and the district had passed with honours the test of its first alarm. Shops not already opened were soon doing business, the workers poured into the factories, and the streets were normal again, with buses still running exactly to time-table.
The A.R.P. organisation reported a smooth turn-out of all services and were very pleased with the success of the emergency scheme. The wardens gave kindly help to one or two cases of mild distress, but with these trivial exceptions the moral effect of the experience was one of stimulation, bringing out the best including that invaluable sense of humour in the British character.
Later in the day an unsuccessful attempt by enemy planes to raid the East Coast was reported in an official bulletin.
Police Inspector R. E. Valentine has asked the “Echo and Argus” to point out that every household has been issued with leaflets which give full instructions on their responsibilities during air raids. He urges that these should be read and the advice carried out.
When the siren sounds, people should get off the streets and keep in shelter until the “All Clear” is sounded by a siren, taking no notice what-ever of people who may spread reports of the position being clear.
Drivers of vehicles, unless on official duty, must get off the main streets and leave the highways clear.
A.R.P. Chief’s Advice - “Obey Instruction’s, But There Is Only Off-Chance of Raid”
After one of the busiest weeks in his life, Captain J. Marshall Bailey, M.C. Chief A.R.P. Officer at Rushden, has found time to take stock.
Rushden, he reminded the public through the “Echo and Argus” representative, has about 350 well-trained A.R.P. workers, whose duties in emergency or in the daily vigil have been planned down to the smallest detail. When the first call to alertness arose there was not a single absence from any post of duty. The report centre was staffed within four minutes, first-aid posts and vehicles were ready, and within five minutes of the call the next move was with the enemy.
“I am firmly of the opinion,” said Captain Bailey, “that we must make ourselves prepared for a lot of warnings, with only the off-chance of a raid. In every case the public must take complete precautions as instructed, and A.R.P. personnel must report as arranged on every occasion.”
There need be no worry because the special respirators for babies and small children are not yet available in the “sheltered” areas. The respirators will be issued as soon as they arrive, but in the meantime, says Captain Bailey, a small child kept quiet indoors is extremely unlikely to suffer any ill effects from gas.
A few other sirens are authorised for sounding if those in charge are at hand and can sound them con-currently with the others. If any delay occurs these sirens must not be blown.
London Teachers Are Grateful
Rushden’s “Loving Welcome” Acknowledged at Meeting of Visitors
At a meeting of the local and visiting head teachers at Rushden to arrange for the education of the evacuated children, Miss W. Organ (Executive, N.U.T.) expressed on behalf of the teachers of the London and Greater London area, appreciation of the welcome given them by the teachers, the parents and the local authorities.
Reference was made to the reception work of the teachers, the loving welcome of the parents to their foster-children, the tactful manner of the billeting officers, and the general organisation by the local authorities. Mr. Hall (Walthamstow) added his testimony, which was endorsed by all the visiting teachers present.
An Invitation - London Visitors Welcomed by Mission Church and School
One of the most urgent necessities in Rushden at the moment is the reestablishment of the school system. Normally the schools of the town would have re-opened last Monday for the autumn term, but the outbreak of war, accompanied by the transfer of two thousand souls - mostly children - to the town has made this out of the question.
The position now is that about a thousand children of school age have been added to Rushden’s normal school population, while the number of schools available for re-opening has been depleted by the conversion of the large Alfred-street School into a casualty clearing station a not very cheerful but an eminently sensible A.R.P. measure.
London schools which now have a proportion of their scholars in Rushden are the following:-
Aldenham-street School, St. Pancras;
Chapel End School, Walthamstow;
Prospect-terrace Junior, Mixed and Infants’ Schools, Kings Cross;
Forest-road Junior Boys’ and Girls’ Schools, Walthamstow;
Thanet-street School, St. Pancras;
William Elliott Whittingham Senior Boys’ School, Walthamstow;
Higham-hill Junior Boys’, Junior Girls’ and Infants’ Schools, Walthamstow;
St. Patrick’s Catholic School, Walthamstow;
St. Monica’s Catholic Infants’ School, Hoxton.
Scholars from many of these schools have been scattered over a dozen neighbouring towns and villages, but in most cases the majority of the pupils are in Rushden. Few problems more complex have ever arisen here.
It is very satisfactory to find that the London and Rushden head teachers have formed a joint committee, with Mr. O. L. Ash, of Rushden South End, as secretary, and are among the first in the county to have formulated a scheme of working. They are meeting every day, and yesterday they were able to say with some degree of confidence that schools will open for the Rushden children next Monday and for the London children on Tuesday.
In the case of the Alfred-street scholars two alternative buildings will have to be provided, and one of these will almost certainly be the now disused Moor-road School. A few days may have to elapse before the Alfred-street pupils can be notified that all is ready for them.
After a consultation with Mr. J. L. Holland, the County Secretary of Education, it has been agreed that although some of the London school groups have been divided, no large transfers of children can be undertaken. Minor adjustments may be made, but for the most part “splits” will have to remain splits for the present.
Education must now be carried out in shifts probably a four-hours shift in the morning and a three-hours shift in the afternoon, with London and Rushden children alternating in the longer and shorter spells. The dinner-hour will coincide with the dinner-hour of the factory workers. As soon as everything is ready the London children will receive full directions from their own teachers, whose efficient activity the people of Rushden are glad to recognise.
All those concerned in this great problem of children and teaching must be congratulated on the efforts they have made to prepare for the “All Clear.”
15th September 1939
Reserved Jobs in Shoe Trade
The full revised list of reserved occupations and age limits in the boot and shoe trade is as follows:-
29th September 1939
“Windmill Academy” - Rushden’s Big Hall Will Be A School For Juniors Next Week
From Tuesday, next the resumption of schooling for Rushden children and young evacuees in the town will be complete.
The problem of the Alfred-street Mixed school, which is now a casualty clearing station, has at last been resolved, and it was announced yesterday afternoon that the Moor-road school will be opened at nine o’clock on Tuesday for the Alfred-street seniors. At the same time the Windmill Hall will be opened for the Alfred-street juniors.
The Moor-road school will be working a double shift so that it can be used in the afternoons for a number of evacuated children who already know that they are to attend there. No evacuated children will be using the Windmill Hall, and the Alfred-street juniors will therefore receive full-time education.
29th September, 1939
Sewing Shirts for Soldiers - Sixty Rushden Women Making Hospital Supplies
Women’s war work at Rushden took a new turn on Tuesday afternoon when the Hospital Supplies Working Party held its first meeting, with an attendance of sixty, at the Y.M.C.A. rooms.
The group is being run in conjunction with the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence, but membership is quite open.
It is hoped to meet every Tuesday afternoon throughout the war, and the task of providing hospital supplies has begun with a will. Pads, swabs, surgeons’ masks, nightshirts, vests and bed jackets are on the list, and technical advice on their construction is available from Mrs. G. Strudwick. A list of articles required has been received from Northampton General Hospital, where all the goods will be sent when completed.
Councillor Mrs. O. A. H. Muxlow and Mrs. W. Robinson, were responsible for the formation of the Working Party. In July they attended a meeting at Northampton General Hospital which was attended by representatives of many Northamptonshire towns, and the principle of the Hospital Supply Working Party was explained by Lady Manningham Buller and Lady Hillingdon.
During the last war Mrs. Robinson was the local secretary of the Red Cross Society. Miss Doreen Putnam and Miss Irene Selwood are the secretaries of the new organisation.
20th October, 1939
Three war-time appeals are made to Rushden people this week, and, as none of them overlap, the response can hardly fail to be generous.
The public imagination is caught at once by the intervention of the British Legion in the interests of the younger generation of soldiers, sailors and airmen. The old “Tommies” in the Legion ranks know full well the value of a parcel from home, and they have made it their business to see that every Rushden man serving in this war is supplied as frequently as possible with good things from the old town.
In this task many will be glad to assist, and those who have no relatives or friends on service will count it a privilege to be allowed to participate in such a mission.
The second appeal from the committee set up in Rushden last Monday is for gifts in kind. Boots and clothing may be required for the children of parents whose position is affected by service with the Forces, by the evacuation scheme, or by unemployment. The committee needs and intends to exercise all possible discretion in a distribution of this kind, but it is sure to find a number of hard cases, and here again the public will be actuated by the spirit of the times.
There is also the appeal, on county lines, for the Red Cross and St. John Fund. This is published to-day over the signatures of the Lord Lieutenant and the Mayor of Northampton, and with the approval of the chief citizens of every town in Northamptonshire. Here, again, is a great responsibility for the civilian population, who will desire to establish in the interests of the fighting forces the best possible service of hospital needs and comforts.
27th October, 1939
This week’s estimate, from an official source, of the number of evacuees now in Rushden will satisfy general curiosity and also be of service to tradespeople who wish to know as nearly as possible the extent of the population increase occasioned by the evacuation scheme. It also indicates the problem with which the school authorities are having to deal as best they can.
Although the number of mothers and infants who have returned to London is large, and supports the general evidence that in the absence of air raids on London this part of the scheme has failed, there is nothing to suggest that the authorities were wrong in planning as they did. As events have transpired, the return of so many of the married women was almost inevitable, but in other circumstances not difficult to imagine the scheme would have established itself firmly.
The outstanding fact on the positive side is that the great majority of the thousand schoolchildren who were billeted at Rushden in September are still in Rushden not merely enjoying a better atmosphere than they would experience in a city, but placed to the best possible advantage in view of the dangers which must still be envisaged in a war which, so far as we know, is only just beginning.
27th October 1939
Rushden has 1,300 Evacuees and More Than 800 have Returned to London - Expecting A Few More
According to official calculations Rushden has now parted company with more than one-third of the evacuees who arrived here on September 1 and 2.
The return to London of mothers and small children who had been billeted in this district began within a fortnight of the evacuation, probably reaching its peak at the end of the third week, and has continued in diminishing instalments. The corresponding movement among unaccompanied schoolchildren has been on a much smaller scale and has not yet been affected to any marked extent by the official decision to obtain contributions from the parents.
Rushden received about 2,150 evacuees, and it is now calculated that 1,300 remain in the town, which means that 850 have gone home. Of the original 2,150 about fifty per cent. were unaccompanied scholars, and probably not more that 100 of these have returned to their parents.
These figures are only approximate but Rushden is particularly well forward in its tabulation of billeting data, having a complete index of evacuees, and the estimate may be accepted as a reliable guide.
It is learned that a small number of additional evacuees children from the London schools already represented in the town will be billeted at Rushden within the next week or so.
A review of the official helpers who came to Rushden with the London school parties in September has just been made with the object of ascertaining whether every person so appointed is still giving useful service.
At the invitation of Councillor Mrs. O. A. H. Muxlow, leader of the W.V.S., the helpers met last Friday, and the details of their work among the children were examined.
In many other directions the checking of the evacuee list has proceeded with a view to the avoidance of unjustifiable payments at the public expense.
In local A.R.P. work the town has a particularly good economy record. There are no paid wardens or firemen and only four persons are remunerated the night staff of the Report Centre (who fill in their time with useful clerical work) and those who maintain a constant stand-by at the Fire Station.