Category Archives: Home Front

Wartime Orlox Suet packet

Back when this blog first started I wrote a regular series of posts called Tuesday Finds, showcasing anything I had found that week. These were very brief posts with usually only a single photograph of the object and very little background information. I have decided to revisit some of the objects featured in those early posts and give them a post of their own with more photographs and a more in depth write up. These items will be dotted around during the coming months and we start tonight with a wartime Orlox Suet packet:imageThis packet is unused, but was designed to hold suet to make puddings with. It is made of recycled cardboard, with simple red ink printing, described on the box as a ‘wartime jacket’:imagePaper like other materials was in short supply during the world war and as well as salvaging and recycling as much as possible, manufacturers were encouraged to reuse material and cut down in other areas such as the inks, hence the very simplistic nature of this box compared to the eye catching designs of the 1920s and 30s. The box itself is made from die cut cardboard that can be folded up and secured with tabs on either end:imageApart from the product details on three sides, the only other information is the recipe as to how to use this item:imageSuet puddings were a popular part of British diet at this period, being both cheap and very filling. Suet is processed beef fat and when mixed with flour and water can be made into a pastry, dumplings or a thick stodgy pudding such as spotted dick.

Fats such as suet were rationed during wartime, with each adult allowed typically 5oz a week. Suet puddings however were an excellent way to make this go as far as possible and a meat pudding could be made packed with root vegetables to pad out the meat that would feed the whole family, if it was cooked with a hay box type cooker it would also be economical with fuel.

Stirrup Pump

Although very simple, the stirrup pump was a key piece of equipment in fighting incendiary bombs during World War II. The stirrup pump was a little hand operated water pump that could be used with buckets of water to fight fires. It consisted of a tube that was placed in the water, a foot rest to hold the pump steady and a handle that was worked up and down to draw the water up:imageThe base of the pump is fitted with a pierced metal filter that prevents grit and debris being drawn into the pump and fouling it:imageA large handle is fitted to the top of the pump:imageThis can be pulled upwards, creating a vacuum that draws water into the pump:imagePushing this down forces the water back out through this nozzle:imageOriginally a thirty foot rubber tube was attached here that could be used to fight fires. To keep the pump steady, a foot rest is fitted to the side of the pump, this part was on the outside of the bucket of water and the user held it steady with their foot:imageThe main tube that was in the bucket of water is protected by a sleeve of a hard rubber that prevents the inner tube from getting crushed:imageThe stirrup pump was recommended to Fire Guards in their handbook as an ideal way to fight small fires caused by incendiary bombs:imageIt could be used by teams of one, two, or ideally three persons:imageimageThe handbook also gave some instructions on how to care for the pump and actively encouraged owners to use them in civilian life for purposes such as washing windows in order to ensure they were familiar with its operation:imageimageimageHere we see the pumps being manufactured:D 3597And used on an ARP training exercise:image

Jersey Liberation Penny

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by Germany during the Second World War. As such the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945 had perhaps even more significance in these islands than it did in the rest of the U.K. as it also meant liberation. In 1949 the island of Jersey commemorated its liberation by minting a special coin. This was based on the standard copper 1d coin in use at the time, known in Jersey as ‘one twelfth of a shilling’, but with an additional legend of ‘ISLAND OF JERSEY LIBERATED 1945’:imageThe reverse of the coon has the crowned head of King George VI and as it was struck after 1948, the words IND IMP (India Imperator- Emperor of India) have been deleted:imageDespite the date of 1945, the coins were actually struck in 1949, 1950 and 1952 with a total production of 1.2 million coins. The commemorative coin owes its existence to Mr. J. Wilfrid du Pre of the Societe Jersiaise who lobbied for its production.

Reg Langlois was only a child during the war, living on Jersey, but he remembers the excitement of liberation:

I will never forget the day the adults started acting strangely, dancing and calling out to each other. I was playing in the back yard when my father called me indoors to listen to the wireless. “What’s a wireless?” I asked. He was indoors by then so I hurried in to join the family. In all the excitement I remember there was a lot of laughing and crying and everyone was hugging each other. My father stood over by the fire place with a strange piece of equipment in his hand that I had 

never seen before. It was attached to a dark coloured box-shaped thing on the floor and had wires attached to something I recognized as a battery. Sounds and voices came from it and my father told everyone to be quiet because 

Winston Churchill was going to speak. You could have heard a pin drop as Dad said softly “we have waited a long time for this moment “. We heard the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, say ” our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.” There was silence in the room. It was hard to 

believe that the long war and the occupation of our islands were over. When I asked my father where the wireless had come from he explained that it 

had been in the sitting room all the time, in a cupboard under the floor next to the fireplace. He went on to tell me that, when the Germans arrived in Jersey at the beginning of the occupation, they requisitioned his brand new Studebaker car but, before they took it away, he had very carefully removed the radio so 

that it did not look as if there had ever been one. If they had caught him with a radio he would have been punished or, worse still, sent to Germany. Many detainees were sent to Germany from Jersey and never returned. They died

over there. My father’s car was never returned to him but I have a memento – that radio is in my loft.

NFS No 5 Fire Force Area Map

In August 1941 the National Fire Service was formed by amalgamating nearly 1600 local fire services and the Auxiliary Fire Service into a single entity covering the whole country. This new nationwide service was administratively split into around forty regional fire forces and the force covering much of the West Riding of Yorkshire was the No 5 Fire Force. Tonight we have a period map of the region with the different fire forces labelled:imageNo 5 Fire Force Area is the focus of the map and its borders are clearly marked with a deeper and darker outline than the adjoining forces:imageA small key indicates what the map depicts and includes the badge of the National Fire Service:imageNo 5 Fire Force Area’s Chief Clerk, AB Trundell, writing in late 1941 described the elements that made up the new regional force:

For the purposes of administration the No 5 Fire Force Area is within the No 2 Region under the Chief Regional Fire Officer, who is responsible to the Regional Commissioner. The Fire Force Area covers approximately 900 square miles and extends from Sedbergh in the north to Holmfirth in the south, and from Wharfdale on the east to Bowland at its boundary with Lancashire on the west. There are within the Fire Force Area at present time some 33 local government authorities as follows:-

County Boroughs- 3

Boroughs-3

Urban Districts- 21

Rural Districts-6

The area as a whole has again been divided into Divisions covering 84 stations now established. The total administrative strength is 226.

J Downs, the commander of the area reflected on nationalisation:

In August 1941 the territory now known as No 5 Fire  Force Area consisted of 33 local authorities, each possessing fire brigades and AFS organisations of varying sizes and types. These were spread over some 900 square miles and contained the major portion of the woollen and worsted industry, with a population of approximately one million. A very important part of this country and a vital one from an industrial point of view.

The regulations provided for this to be taken over in so far as fire cover was concerned, “lock, stock and barrel” both operationally and administratively.

Operationally it meant the organisation of large numbers of pumps, special appliances and personnel into a unified Fire Force in divisions, and the establishing of an effective system of control with a definite chain of command. This involved new headquarters and control rooms, a complete new lay out of telephone communications, new stations and improvements to existing ones. It involved the up of schools for both men and women where instruction could be given on a nationally adopted standard and where women could be taught to take over duties previously carried out by firemen and thereby release the latter for active fire-fighting duties. It involved the construction of static water tanks with a total capacity of millions of gallons, the laying of 12 1/2 miles of steel piping and the building up of a predetermined water relay system for the purpose of delivering water to the fire ground and replenishment of supplies.

British Legion Remembrance Leaflet

By the early 1930s the British Legion and the Haigh Poppy Fund had become firmly entrenched in British life and was doing sterling service in raising money for ex-servicemen and their families. The charity published a small pamphlet in 1930 that gave details of its work, what it spent its money on and how supporters could donate to the fund. The cover shows a large crowd in London, presumably at some sort of commemoration for the end of the Great War:skm_c30819010908040 - copyThe interior of the leaflet has graphs and details of the different causes the charity supported along with a small number of pictures:skm_c30819010908050skm_c30819010908051skm_c30819010908052skm_c30819010908060skm_c30819010908061The rear has an advertisement for poppy wreathes that loved ones could purchase and arrange to have placed on a soldier’s grave:skm_c30819010908062The Daily Mail reported on the preparations for Poppy Day in 1929:

Nearly 500,000 volunteers throughout the Empire, it is hoped, will sell poppies on Armistice Day, November 11. No fewer than 37,000,000 poppies and 20,000 wreathes have already been prepared at the British Legion factories.

An attempt is being made to collect not less than £750,000 this year for ex-Service men…

Approximately 4,000 local committees are busy preparing for November 11 throughout Britain and over-seas.

A big poppy motor mascot has been manufactured with a metal clip so that it can be fixed to motor-cars. Arrangements are being made for the distribution of these emblems in garages throughout the country.

Inside this Island Fortress, WVS Book Review

Jon Mill’s series on Home Front Insignia was originally planned to run to at least eight volumes, sadly it seems only the first four titles ever made it to publication. Of these I have already reviewed a couple of them and just before Christmas I managed to track down the first book in the series covering the Women’s Voluntary Service. This service was set up just before World War II to provide voluntary support to the ARP services, but as the war progressed found its remit extending into any role the government or local authorities needed it to fulfil. This included running canteens, organising rest centres and co-ordinating salvage drives. There are a number of excellent titles covering the work the WVS set out to do and this book is looking specifically at the insignia and ephemera of the service.skm_c30819011707540As such it is packed with both colour photographs of surviving items and black and white period shots of the badges and uniforms being worn. The WVS did not supply uniform to its members; they had to purchase it for themselves, but a small number of retailers were designated official suppliers and those who could afford uniform had something that matched their colleagues. Printed cloth brassards and badges were far more prevalent and worn with volunteers own civilian clothing. Mill’s covers a great many of these, both official and locally produced variations.skm_c30819011707550As with all Mill’s books the text is succinct, but highly readable and covers many of the items a collector is likely to encounter in detail. Jon Mill’s seems to have cornered the market in these sort of specialist publications on home front insignia, this however is not a bad thing as he is both hugely knowledgeable and a very readable author. This latter point is in some ways as important as the knowledge he is imparting. Many otherwise excellent reference books are let down by the author being unable to communicate his information in a clear way that is pleasurable to read- these books then become a chore to read. Happily with a Mill’s book you know that this will not be the case and even what could be a dry subject such as badge variations remains readable and accessible to the layman.

Unlike some of the other titles in this series, Mill’s covers the WVS in other countries as well. The organisation was copied in Canada and perhaps most significantly in India and he covers this organisation and its insignia in some detail which is a nice addition.skm_c30819011707551Copies of the book are available through the author, please email via the address on the ‘About’ page and I will be happy to put you in contact with him.. If you have an interest in the uniformed women’s services or the home front then this title is highly recommended.

Postcard of Victoria Place, Hartlepool, after German Bombardment

A couple of weeks ago we looked at a postcard depicting the destruction of the Baptist chapel in Hartlepool, however it was not just public buildings that were damaged in this naval bombardment. Much civilian property was also destroyed and tonight’s postcard depicts the ruins of housing in Victoria Place Hartlepool:SKM_C284e18110611560 - CopyVictoria Place is on the headland at Hartlepool and this row of Victorian houses suffered heavy destruction at the hands of the German attackers. At 8.15 at the same time the Baptist chapel was being hit by shellfire, the houses of Victoria Place were hit and Salvation Army Adjutant William Gordon Avery was killed and buried beneath the rubble of the houses.

Censorship of newspapers had not yet been rigorously enforced, so the following day the Daily mail was able to run a detailed story outlining the attack on the town:

Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, two of the most thriving ports on the east coast, had today the unenviable distinction of being among the first English towns to suffer from a German bombardment.

They were attacked shortly after 8 a.m., and for forty minutes were subjected to a rain of heavy shells. Twenty-nine people were killed and 64 wounded, some very severely. Some damage was done to the town.

Official information is not to be obtained, and those who were manning the trenches and saw most of what occurred have been prohibited from giving any information, but the above figures are the nearest estimate I can make from careful inquiry in the two towns.

As near as can be made out, firing commenced at 8.04 a.m. and only ceased at 8.45. Various reports are current as to how many vessels took part in the bombardment, but the most careful sifting seems to indicate that there were certainly three warships, and possibly four.

Several shells landed in the battery at Hartlepool and one killed five men, but the guns were not put out of action and continued to fire until the enemy steamed away southwards.

The Hartlepools lie in a crescent-like formation, with old Hartlepool as the apex, and the German ships lay off this point and fired fan-wise, with the result that shells swept both towns for a distance of a couple of miles inland, striking most of the important buildings with the exception of the town hall and post office at West Hartlepool. The latter, however, was largely incapacitated from working by a large number of wires being down through the wrecking of telegraph poles or the actual cutting down of the wires themselves by exploding shells.

SEVEN “PALS” KILLED

There were many terrible tragedies, but three stand out pre-eminent. The seven soldiers killed were members of the Durham County “Pals” battalion. These seven were standing together on the front and a shell burst in the middle of them. Two other cases are those of civilians.

FAMILY OF EIGHT DEAD

A family resident in Dene-Street, whose name I have not been able to obtain, had a shell burst in their house, with the result that the father, mother and six children were killed instantly.

The third case was that of the Misses Kays, who live in the end house of Cliff-terrace, just behind the Lighthouse, at the point nearest to where the hostile vessels lay. The Misses Kays were aroused by the sound of firing. They let their maid servant out at the back and told her to run, and returning to their house went upstairs to gather some things. While they were in the bedroom a shell burst, carrying away the end of the house and killing both of them.