PART TEN

 

                                             THE WAR YEARS

 

 

                "It was one Saturday night in September 1939, when dressed in our best,

            we were ready for the pictures and the postman arrived with a telegram. 

            It was father's call up notice.  Being on the reserve he was one of the

            first to be called up.  Mother took us all out into the garden and took

            some photos of us and then we went to the pictures.  War was declared

            the next day, September 3rd 1939".

 

                                        Patricia Abrahams - Memoirs of Moorends - War Section

 

On the whole, for the majority of people left on the 'Home Front', life wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be, although their lives did change.  The people of Moorends, as did the rest of the country, got on with it.  They were always warm and friendly, most of them welcomed outsiders into their midst, this being their way of 'doing their bit'.

 

There were very few air raids that actually affected Moorends, although precautions were in place.  Air raid shelters were erected; there was one air raid shelter just before St Wilfrith's Church and one just before West Road School, where the 'second generation' of houses now stand.  Lots of people used the ginnels between the blocks of terraced houses and miners had their own shelter on the pit top while they were at work.

 

The blackout was in force.  The ARP was always on alert.  Gas masks and identity cards were carried everywhere.  Ration books were issued early in the war and were used until 1953.

 

 

Memorabilia of World War Two

Some families in Moorends lost loved ones; their loved ones were returned to them injured and heroes returned unscathed after the war.  Young women joined the armed forces; lots of housewives went out to work to help with the war effort, grandparents looked after families at home.

 

The working women took over mens jobs in various places, sometimes on local farms, lots of them were transported by buses which would line up on Marshland Road opposite the Winning Post, at all times of the day and night, often driven and conducted by women like the Mesham and Gash sisters from Moorends who all worked on the buses.  The women were taken to villages around Doncaster to do shift work in various factories, very often some type of engineering, mostly connected with ammunition, weapons and transport.  The rail industry's work force consisted of a very high percentage of women as did Dunstan's ship builders in Thorne. 

 
 

  Women at war, working at Dunstans

 

 

Women at work at Micklethwaite Farm, Sam Atkin was a proud owner of this John Deere tractor, sent from

America for distribution to numerous British farms

 

All sign posts were taken down, buses no longer displayed their destinations and routes; The Doncaster, Thorne and Moorends bus was number 24.

 

There was a temporary fire station erected on the spare ground behind the cinema; this housed a fire appliance and pump, there was also a nissen hut which stood adjacent to this, in the area where the disused clinic now stands at the side of the butcher's shop at the top of Wembley Road; this building was used as accommodation for the 'on duty' firemen.

The local billiard/snooker hall - later known as the British Legion - was used as the First Aid Post.

 

There was a huge 'thermometer' attached to the front wall of Moorends Hotel showing the amount collected in National Savings Week.                                                             

 

 

The ornimental iron railings around the Miner's Welfare Club were removed and taken for salvage for the war effort.

 

Collections were made for Thorne War Weapons Weeks, money came flooding from all directions.

 

               

Newspaper cuttings from the Doncaster Gazette during the war

 

There were 2000 evacuees from lots of cities in Great Britain, mostly from Hull, they arrived at Thorne North railway station and were taken to distribution centres where they were allocated places in local homes, where they would, hopefully settle for the duration of the war.  People were paid a small amount for taking women and children into their homes.

 

When the children were sent without parents, it seemed that lots of people gave a hand in caring for them.  One lady told me that there were some poor little souls.  They had obviously come poor from homes although some didn't have anything because they had been bombed out of their homes and had lost everything.  Some of them arrived with their brown paper parcels, shivering from the cold without coats to put on, holes in plimsoll shoes and 'candles' running from each nostril.

 

These children were taken in, loved and cared for and some didn't return home.  Neighbours and friends would rally round finding cast-offs for the children to wear or the WVS would provide clothing from their donated stock.  They were fed well, shown good manners and taught good morals

                          Elsie Butler's, nee Smith's, family evacuated from Hull and settled in Wilkinson Avenue                

 

Many evacuees liked the village and it's people and decided to settle in Moorends, to this day there are evacuees and the descendants of these families still living in the area.

 

Unfortunately, it seems that a chosen few evacuees did not settle in very well, they clashed with their 'landlords' and sometimes had to be moved, not only to other accommodation but to other areas where they would try resettlement.  Some children didn't settle because they were homesick and had to be returned to their homes and parents, sometimes with dire consequences.

 

The wooden huts in the Senior Girls School grounds, housed the Italian prisoners of war, who worked for the local farmers. They were later moved on to billets in Pollington and brought to the local farms on a daily basis.  Ernest George helped with language problems.  German prisoners of war also worked on the local farms.  Some of them liked the village and the people so much that, after the war, they chose to stay in the area and became valuable members of the community. 

 

After the Italians were moved out of the huts, the Sussex regiment came to Moorends for rest time, after having an injury.  Any soldiers that came for rest time would also stay in the old Catholic Church, later known as the 'sweatbox', the Winning Post Hotel and rooms near the Buff Club.  A Scottish regiment followed by a Shropshire regiment also came to stay in the huts.  

 

Again, most of the villagers were keen to do their bit.  Housewives would do their washing,  mending and also provide good home cooked food for 'the men that came from the front'.  It seems that the 'Monkey Run' was very busy at this time too!  Many new romances and friendships were formed. 

 

Newspaper cutting from the Doncaster Gazette during the war

 

As there were quite a few working farms in the area, the Land Girls were stationed around Mooren

               

 

  Although mining was a reserved occupation, many miners decided to enlist in the forces and fight for their country.  After a while the pit became desperately short of men, a sign was erected at the pit entrance stating - MEN NEEDED.  This is when the Bevin Boys came to Moorends to work in the pit; they came from various parts of the country, also from Ireland.  Again, a few of these men stayed in the village and brought their families to live in Moorends.

      The housewives of Moorends struggled to get lots of commodities due to rationing.  Bacon, meat, sugar, tea, dried fruit, citrus fruits, bananas and clothing were all in very short supply.  As in most country villages, fresh home produce was widely available, as lots of families grew their own fruit and vegetables, reared chickens for eggs as well as meat.               

                                    

          Posters often seen on public notice boards in the street, shops, pubs, post office and schools during the war                         

Pregnant women or mothers with small children were allocated extra rations to help give their children a good start in view of the shortages. 

   

Pigs were kept on allotments and many a piglet was 'snuffled' away to be reared out of sight of the Ministry of Food Officers, to enable families and friends to enjoy ration free meat; everything was swapped or shared.  People who kept pigs and chickens collected kitchen waste in order to feed their livestock.  they were allocated corn to feed the chickens, because the livestock supplemented their rations, their meat, bacon and egg rations were adjusted acordingly.

   

 

                               

                                                       Posters that will be remembered

The Goverment decreed at the beginning of the war that ice cream manufacture should be suspended and all stocks were to be disposed of.  George and Sons, the ice cream manufacturer in Moorends at that time, gave all their ice cream away to the children in one day - a day to be remembered!

 

The miners used the canteen at the colliery.  Here food was subsidised and off ration, to ensure that they got good nourishing food, to enable them to keep their strength up and work hard.  Cheese was plentiful in Moorends as the miners were allocated extra rations for it;  most of the miners wouldn't take cheese in their snap boxes as they said it would 'sweat' down the pit, therefore the rations were enjoyed by all.  The miners also received American food parcels.

 

There were posters around the pit giving the instruction to 'produce more coal in order to produce more weapons.

 

It seems that there was always someone that knew someone else who had something in the food line to exchange for something else.  Everyone helped each other, not many families went without.

The moors were also made useful for shooting pheasant and wood pigeon or snaring rabbits and hares.  Mushrooms could also often be found, wild blackberries and elderberries were also collected.  Peat was also collected to burn, as the miners home coal was also rationed.

The Government temporarily managed all of the pits during the war.  The average miner's basic wage was £2.3s, today's rate £2.15p, before deductions of rent, coal and union contributions, for a fortyeight hour working week.  Overtime often supplimented their wages.

The tranquility was disrupted and the reality of war came to the forefront in Moorends on a few occasions.  Apparently, a bomb was dropped on the edge of the moors, close to Broadbent Farm.  The farm house suffered a few broken windows but all was well.  It is said that the bomb was one that was left over from a bombing raid on Hull or probably Goole docks and was never really meant for Moorends.

 In 1944, a short while after 'D Day', a Halifax crashed on the moors, apparently near the Verhees' and Smits small holdings on the edge of the moors.  Three French airmen were helped to safety by the farmer's families, apparently another two airmen were trapped and died in the aircraft.  The plane gradually sank, disappearing into the wet peat before the bodies could be recovered.  The authorities inspected the site, which had been roped off and decided not to recover the plane.  A wooden cross was erected on the site and it is said that the Verhees' sisters took flowers regularly and laid them beneath the cross.  In 1947 there was a fire on the moors and the cross was destroyed.  It is said that the wreckage has still not been recovered.

A Vickers Wellington, flown by Australian airmen, crashed in the area between the Winning Post and the Social Club one night in 1942.  All but one airman was killed.  Apparently, the engines were failing and the plane rapidly lost height when it approached the village, the pilot knew that it was going to go down, the crew were already bailing out but he persevered and managed to manouvre the plane away from the built up area, thus probably saving many lives and damage to property.  Sam Atkins lost two horses that were kept in a field nearby, they were killed as a result of the aviation fuel exploding.

In November 1939, one of our planes that was stationed at Finningly, ran out of fuel and crash landed into the Warping Drain bank.  After minor repairs and refuelling, it was dragged into the field, took off and returned to Finningly.

The railway lines and a goods train were strafed between Rawcliffe and Moorends.  It is said that the signalman and his companions, who were playing cards at the time, dashed out of the signal box and dived underneath it on top of a box of coal, for safety.

There were three anti aircraft guns and search lights in the area, situated at Brickyards Lane - at the end of Alexandra Street in Thorne, Marsh Lane and Rawcliffe Bridge.  Until recently, the circle of concret where the equipment stood could still be seen in Marsh Lane.

                 

                             

The Home Guard, 'A' Company of the 42nd Battilion watched over Moorends.  Most of their patrols were around the pit.  They had a look-out post at Medge Hall end of the pit tip, which was linked to the pit by telephone.  The bombing of the pithead gear would have been devasting and had to be avoided at all costs.  There was an attempt at the beginning of the war to shutter the whole of the pit gear in an attempt to disguise it from an aerial view. The thoughts in everyone's mind was the fact that a German Company had been employed to assist in the sinking of the first shafts in the early 1900s and the whereabouts of the pit could have been easily traced by the enemy.  Another look-out post was sited on Lands End Road.                            

 When the war was declared over on the 8th May 1945, bonfires were built on almost every crossroad in the village, leaving considerable damage to the road surface.  Guys were made in the image of Adolf Hitler; fireworks were bought out from somwhere!  The food and drink was amazing, when everything had been on ration for the last few years.  Music and dancing went on until the early hours, all the struggling and heartache had been worthwhile and that day was a public holiday!  It was called VE Day - Great Britain had won the war!                            

                                                Celebration party held in the old Penticostal Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

                                             Celebration party held in the old Penticostal Church

 

                                             

 

 

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