Launceston and World War Two 1945.

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1945, The Wars End.
On January 3rd, the Allies take the offensive east of the Bulge but they fail to close the pincers (which might have surrounded large numbers of Germans) with Patton’s tanks. The East Prussian Offensive, a major Red Army offensive in East Prussia, begins on January 13th. Three days later the U.S. First and Third Armies link up following the Battle of the Bulge. The following day the Battle is officially at an end plus on the eastern front, Warsaw is entered by Red Army troops. A government favourable to the Communists is installed. On the 18th, Hitler orders that any retreats of divisions or larger units must be approved by him. But the following day the Germans continue to retreat as the Red Army advances into East Prussia and by the 31st, the Red Army crosses the Oder River into Germany and are now less than 50 miles from Berlin. On the January 27th, Auschwitz concentration camp is entered by Soviet troops.

At the beginning of January the four mainline railway companies, in a joint statement on their post-war intentions, announced that as soon as the national situation permits they were ready to re-equip the railways, re-train their staffs, and carry out extensive improvements that would furnish Great Britain with the finest railway services in the world.

Geoffrey Stick being awarded M.M. January 1945.
Geoffrey Stick being awarded M.M. January 1945.
Truscott Homeguard Farewell Dinner, January 19th, 1944.
Truscott Homeguard Farewell Dinner, January 19th, 1945.
Driver Harold Cabe, Mentioned in Dispatches, January 1944
Driver Harold Cabe, Mentioned in Dispatches, January 1945.
South Petherwin Homeguard stand down dinner, January 1944.
South Petherwin Homeguard stand down dinner, January 1945.
St. Giles Homeguard Stand Down Dinner, February 9th, 1944.
St. Giles Homeguard Stand Down Dinner, February 9th, 1945.
The Yalta Conference of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin begins on February 4th, with the main subject of their discussions being postwar spheres of influence. The same day all German forces are cleared from Belgium. The Colmar Pocket, the last German foothold west of the Rhine, is eliminated by the French 1st Army on February 9th. Four days later the Battle of Budapest ends with Soviet victory, after a long defence by the Germans. That night the bombing of Dresden takes place; it is firebombed by Allied air forces and large parts of the historic city are destroyed. On the 19th, U.S. Marines invade Iwo Jima four days later the American flag is raised on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

At the February meeting of Launceston Town Council, Clr. the Reverend H. J. Harcup asked what arrangements were being made in connection with the day when they would celebrate the cessation of hostilities in Europe. He said that the clergy and ministers of the town would place themselves at the services of the people as soon as the word was given that we were to celebrate. In the evening there would be an open-air service in the Square, to be followed by three united services, one in St. Mary’s Church, one in St. Stephen’s Church, and one in Wesley Church. At the same meeting the system of calling the local fire brigade was severely criticised when it was alleged that there had been avoidable, delay in the arrival of the brigade at two recent fires, and when a fire occurred the previous day, an official of the Council, having smashed the glass of the callbox, near the fire brigade station, he could get no reply to his telephone call. Ald. W. H. Gilbert said owing to telephone calls for fire services having to go to Liskeard or Bodmin there was some delay in the case of two recent fires. The brigade always turned out promptly when they received a call, but were unable to do so until they received orders from Liskeard. In a fire last week, although the local fire station was only 200 yards away, there was delay, and had not Mr Quick, a section leader, himself fetched the brigade, there would have been further delay. From the time Mr Quick reached the station only three minutes elapsed before the brigade was on the spot, proving that there was no lack of smartness on the part of the brigade. Local residents were becoming alarmed, and the local brigade was receiving unfair criticism, Mr Gilbert added. Eventually, it was agreed that the Town Clerk should get into touch with the authorities on the matter.

Private E. Ball wounding notice February 1944.
Private E. Ball wounding notice February 1944.
Private Furse award, March 1944.
Private Furse award, March 1944.
Launceston POW's March 10th, 1944.
Launceston POW’s March 10th, 1944.
The Battle of Remagen begins on March 8th, when German troops fail to dynamite the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine, the U.S. First Army captures the bridge and begins crossing the river. The Army also takes Cologne, Germany. The same day, the Germans begin to evacuate Danzig. On March 22nd/23rd, US and British forces cross the Rhine at Oppenheim. The following day Operation Varsity, an Anglo-American-Canadian assault under Montgomery crossed the Rhine at Wesel. But by the 27th, the Western Allies slow their advance to allow the Red Army to take Berlin. On the 29th, the Red Army enters Austria. Other Allies take Frankfurt; the Germans are in a general retreat all over the centre of the country. The following day Red Army forces capture Danzig.

At the March meeting of the Launceston Town Council, Councillor W. E. Miller suggested that at the earliest date an effort should be made to prepare some sort of history of the voluntary war work done in the Borough by the various services. It would be a big task to collect the data, but he was sure those who would live in the Borough in the future would be greatly interested to see what part they had played in the town and what contribution they had made to the war effort. The Town Clerk agreed, saying that it would be a most interesting record. He suggested that the head of each service in the town should be asked to supply information. The war book used by the invasion Committee was being filed with the Borough documents. The Mayor (Ald. G. E Trood) announced they had inaugurated a Welcome Home Fund for local people the Services and were aiming at raising £2,000, whereby they should be able to present £5 to each of the 400 serving. By mid-September, the fund had reached £1,200. At a meeting of the committee in September, it was estimated that about 400 personnel would be returning. It was agreed at this meeting that the Fund would apply to men and women who were resident in Launceston on September 3rd, 1939, and who joined the Forces between September 3rd, 1939, and August 3rd, 1945.

At a meeting held on March 23rd, at Truro a conference of representatives of Borough, Urban and Rural District Councils in Cornwall, convened by the Cornwall branch of the Rural Councils Association, declared in favour of the post-war organisation of the Fire Service reverting to the control of local authorities under the 1938 Act. The Chairman, (Mr F. Dempster, St. Austell) stated that the Cornwall County Council did not desire control of the fire services, but preferred the restoration of the 1939 Act, subject to suitable safeguards which were already provided for by the Act.

Sergeant Gynn M.M. March 31st, 1944.
Sergeant Gynn M.M. March 31st, 1945.
Launceston Welcome Home Fund, March 1945.
Launceston Welcome Home Fund, March 1945.
Launceston Men Wounded in Action, March, 1945.
Launceston Men Wounded in Action, March 1945.
April 2nd and the Soviets launch the Vienna Offensive against German forces in and around the Austrian capital city. This ends in a Soviet victory eleven days later. Meanwhile, also on the 2nd, the German armies are surrounded in the Ruhr region. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies suddenly on April 12th. Harry S. Truman becomes president of the United States. The Ohrdruf death camp and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp are liberated by the Allies this month. On the 21st, Soviet forces under Georgiy Zhukov’s (1st Belorussian Front), Konstantin Rokossovskiy’s (2nd Belorussian Front) and Ivan Konev’s (1st Ukrainian Front) launch assaults on the German forces in and around the city of Berlin in the opening stages of the Battle of Berlin. Four days later the first contact is made between Soviet and American troops at the river Elbe, near Torgau in Germany. By the 27th, the encirclement of German forces in Berlin is completed. The following day, on the 28th, Mussolini, heavily disguised, is captured in northern Italy while trying to escape. Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci, are shot and hanged in Milan the next day. Two days later, Hitler and his wife commit suicide with a combination of poison and a gunshot. Joseph Goebbels is appointed Reich Chancellor and Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz is appointed Reich President.

The death took place at Launceston on April 2nd, of Alderman H. Hoskin. Seven times Mayor of Launceston (five times in succession including the first four years of the war) thereby creating a record for the borough.

On April 9th, two Italian prisoners of war escaped from their camp near Launceston during the night-early morning. How they made their get-away was apparently unknown. However, on Wednesday morning April 11th, one of them was captured by police officers when walking along the road at Pipers Pool, in the direction of Bodmin. He offered no resistance when apprehended. He was later conveyed back to the camp. The second prisoner was recaptured on April 13th, at North Petherwin.

Local POW's released, April 1945.
Local POW’s released, April 1945.
Victory in Europe report from the Cornish and Devon Post.
Victory in Europe report from the Cornish and Devon Post.
On May 1st, Goebbels commits suicide. The following day Soviet forces capture the Reichstag building and install the Soviet flag.
The Battle of Berlin ends when German General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defence Area, unconditionally surrenders the city of Berlin to Soviet General Vasily Chuikov. On the 4th, Karl Dönitz orders all U-boats to cease operations. German troops in Denmark, Northern Germany and The Netherlands surrender to Montgomery and Neuengamme concentration camp is liberated. Formal negotiations for Germany’s surrender begin at Reims, France the following day with Germany surrendering unconditionally on May 7th. The ceasefire takes effect at one minute past midnight and May 8th is officially proclaimed V.E. Day. Western Morning News – Tuesday, May 8th, 1945.

The Aftermath.
It was announced on May 19th, that the Launceston Branch of the British Legion had purchased Edymead House for the use of ex-service staff as a social centre. The house, standing in 3 1/2 acres, was originally built during the 19th century by a Mrs Bunbury and was later occupied by Colonel C. Byng and Mr F. Vowler. With the Vowler’s losing their two only sons during the First World War, on the death of Mr F. Vowler, the property passed into the hands of four nieces, who, when they heard the Legion were interested in it for the proposed scheme, most generously agreed to accept a figure very considerably below the fixed reserve price (£500 below market value). An appeal for funds was set up at a public meeting in the Town Hall. The club was officially formed at a meeting held on June 29th, where it was stated that at least £2,000 would be required by the end of the month to close the deal, and on top of that, there was a mortgage of £3,000 to also clear off. Mr Keast said that they were hopeful of raising a considerable amount by the sale of gardens and the grounds around. Lt.-Col. W. R. Prout pointed out that they had already raised £1,000, and he was confident that they would raise the final £1,000 in time to close the deal.

New Ration Book Application, May 1945.
New Ration Book Application, May 1945.
R. L. Courtenay awarded the D.S.M. June 1945.
R. L. Courtenay awarded the D.S.M. June 1945.
Temporary Housing at Launceston June 18th, 1945.
Temporary Housing at Launceston June 18th, 1945.
 

The Allies agree to divide Germany into four areas of control (American, British, French and Soviet) on June 5th, and on the 10th, Osaka, Japan, is heavily bombed. The United Kingdom begins demobilization on June 19th, and two days later it is announced that the defeat of the Japanese on Okinawa is now complete. The United Nations Charter is signed in San Francisco on June 26th.

The United States Navy stationed in Launceston, held a dance on June 14th, in aid of the ‘Welcome Home Fund,’ during which the Mayor was presented with the U.S. national flag. At the Town Council Meeting held on June 18th, Councillor Miller suggested that the American flag should be flown on American Independence Day as a mark of appreciation for all the American nation had done for this country.

At the end of June, Sergeant S. C. Adams, of 4, Chapple Park Terrace reported back to the Cornish and Devon Post, from a temporary camp on the seashore of the southern Peloponnese, where he was a senior N.C.O.. He stated that along with enjoying the sunny climate, his detachment made regular patrols to see how things were going in the remote mountain villages, where the occupying Germans had wreaked such havoc, and to help fetch supplies being arranged by voluntary welfare groups of the Red Cross working under UNRRA. Sergeant Adams had been an insurance inspector in Launceston before the war and joined the Royal Armoured Corps in August 1940, training to be a gunner and operator in a tank. “We had the two-pounder anti-tank gun then,” he said. “A quick and extremely accurate weapon; of course we had to get something heavier as enemy armour was increased in weight and toughness.” “After I had served some time in England, we went to Egypt before the push in the Western Desert and went right through that campaign from Alamein onwards, and then to Sicily and Italy, before getting a rest in Palestine and then coming to Greece.” His regiment was very highly reputed for its work in action; in Italy, it was in the front line for nearly 14 weeks just before it was pulled back; an exceptionally long time without a break possible a record for this kind of fighting. “Italy was much worse than the desert for tank work,” said Sergeant Adams. “In the desert, you could always get around obstacles; in Italy, with the mountains and ravines, you often had no option but to go straight through them. When I joined the army I met a man from Bideford. We became pals and stuck together right up to the time he was killed. He was a driver in my tank. There was a bombing raid on Lancio and the chaos didn’t tell me about my pal until afterwards. I was in a cinema at the time.” Sergeant Adams said that he had learned a little Greek since going to that country, and had local friends who speak English. Most of the people he had met there were very pro-British but there was quite a lot who didn’t seem to have realised that they must get busy if they want to rehabilitate their country, maybe they had not yet recovered from the period of enemy occupation.

F. E. Frayn awarded M.B.E. on June 13th, 1945.
F. E. Frayn awarded M.B.E. on June 13th, 1945.
Nazi guide book article from the Cornish and Devon Post.
Nazi guide book article from the Cornish and Devon Post.
On the Friday morning of June 29th, 69 evacuee children from Launceston Borough and the rural areas, returned to London by special train from Launceston. The children in the Borough had previously been medically examined, and those from the rural area were examined in the morning, and it was reported that generally, they were in a better state of health than when they arrived. The children partook of lunch at the British Restaurant in Northgate Street, provided by the billeting officials, and in a few words to the children, the Mayor (Ald. G. E. Trood) told them not to forget the kindness which had been shown to them during their stay and said they and their parents would be sure of a welcome if they wished to pay a return visit. He wished them a very pleasant journey. Before entraining the children were given sweets, and some of them received monetary gifts from their ‘uncles and aunts.’ It was also noted at the time that for the remaining evacuee children, efforts were being made to reunite them with their families.

The Unconquerable Spirit of Britain, June 1945.
The Unconquerable Spirit of Britain, June 1945.
On July 1st, Australian troops land at Balikpapan, Borneo in the Western Allies’ last major land operation of the war. Four days later, General Douglas MacArthur announces that the Philippines have been liberated. On July 16th, The U.S. conducts the Trinity test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, the first test of a nuclear weapon. The following day the Potsdam Conference begins under British Prime Minister Churchill, Soviet Prime Minister Stalin and U.S. President Truman. The Allied leaders agree to insist upon the unconditional surrender of Japan. Truman hints at the Potsdam Conference that the United States has nuclear weapons.

Temporary Homes Correspondence July 2nd, 1945.
Temporary Homes Correspondence July 2nd, 1945.
Private L. R. Adams awarded M.M. July 1945.
Private L. R. Adams awarded M.M. July 1945.
1945 North Cornwall General Election.
1945 North Cornwall General Election.
The 1945 United Kingdom general election was held on July 5th. The results were counted and declared on July 26th, to allow time to transport the votes of those serving overseas. The result was an unexpected landslide victory for Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, over Winston Churchill’s Conservatives. Clement Attlee replaces Churchill as British Prime Minister and immediately flies to the negotiating table at Potsdam. The Potsdam Declaration is issued the same day.

1945 North Cornwall General Election Results.
1945 North Cornwall General Election Results.
Stoke Climsland Lads Meet up In Italy, July 1945.
Stoke Climsland Lads Meet up In Italy, July 1945.

Craigmore House, Launceston.
Craigmore House, Launceston.

 

Craigmore (above) with its commanding view at the top of Windmill Hill, was used by the Royal Observer Corps for the duration of the war, only being stood down in the July of 1945. Post & Weekly News, July 14th, 1945: Royal Observer Corps. “Stand-Down” Dinner at Launceston.
That “K 2” was indeed a fortunate post in being placed on the roof of Craigmore through the generosity of Mr G and Mrs Peter, was again and again stated at the dinner in the White Hart Hotel, Launceston, on Saturday last, when Head Observer J. H. Lashbrook, who was the generous host, presided over a “stand-down” dinner. The Chairman was ably supported by Obs/Commander N F Bushby, MC.; Group Commandant Obs/Lt. P H Austin; Obs G Peter [toast master]; and L/Obs CFJ Bradford. The Services were represented by Sub/Lt. Raymond Lowey, RNVR.; Capt H J Wandless, Army Dental Corps; Major Branch, Home Guard; Sub Controller SL Peter, ARP; ex Obs J G Dingle, ROC; ex LAC Leslie Bradford, RAF; and Police Supt. W H Hallet.
After a really magnificent dinner, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all, the Toast Master gave the Loyal Toast, and the ‘Royal Observer Corps’ was given by Mr S L Peter and responded by Obs/Com, N H Bushby, MC., who said that the ROC throughout the country rendered a great service to the RAF, especially during the Battle of Britain, and later when the V-2 appeared.

The Launceston Post was one of the key posts, being in one of the most difficult aircraft lanes, and it was very seldom that one was missed. He asked the observers to consider seriously the question of volunteering for duty during the post-war period, as they would certainly be needed. He congratulated the post on their great luck in being placed on the roof of a house and having such splendid accommodation and hoped they would continue their association and friendships for many years. – – – -(more regarding the house and owners and their generosity with hot drinks and snacks, etc. – –)
A convivial evening followed when many reminiscences caused much enjoyment; and L/Obs. Bradford spoke of his attempts at mad-reading and plotting ‘planes and origins of sounds of explosions. After three cheers for Mr and Mrs Lashbrook for the use of their house since the post was dismantled, the National Anthem was sung, everyone wanted to be assured that there would be a similar meeting yearly for the future.

At the July meeting of the Town Council, it was agreed after a lengthy and heated discussion, that the wartime restrictions in regard to the limitation of hours for dances held in the Town Hall should be removed. The motion was carried by the casting vote of the Mayor (Ald. G. E. Trood), who said ‘it is time restrictions were taken off. It is absolutely ridiculous to try to tell people the time they should go to bed.‘

Launceston Housing Delay Report July 1945.
Launceston Housing Delay Report in July 1945.
Also at the July meeting, a letter dated 20th June 1945, was read from the Mr M. W. Greenwood, War-Time Meals Officer reporting on his visit to the British Restaurant on June 18th, last. After discussions, it was decided to adhere to the Council’s resolution that the British Restaurant in Northgate Street, be closed from July 31st, 1945.

Launceston's British Restaurant Closure, July 1945.
Launceston’s British Restaurant Closure, July 1945.
Frederick Burnett Awarded the C.B.E. July 1945.
Frederick Burnett Awarded the C.B.E. July 1945.
Private Gordon Burnett's Death, July 1945.
Private Gordon Burnett’s Death, July 1945.
On August 2nd, saw the end of the Potsdam Conference: Issues such as the expulsion of Germans from the eastern quarter of Germany and elsewhere in eastern Europe are mandated in the Potsdam Agreement. Four days later, the B-29 bomber Enola Gay drops the first atomic bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. On the 8th, the Soviet Union declares war on Japan; the Soviet invasion of Manchuria begins about an hour later which includes landings on the Kuril Islands. The Japanese have been evacuating in anticipation of this. The following day the B-29 bomber Bockscar drops the second atomic bomb “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. Emperor Hirohito issues a radio broadcast on August 15th, announcing the Surrender of Japan. Victory over Japan Day celebrations takes place worldwide including around the whole Launceston district with peals of church bells being rung all around. At Lifton on the 22nd, the residents stirred early to decorate the village with flags of the Allied Nations. Lifton Silver Band played selections and under Mr W. Venner, led the floral dance through the village. A united service was conducted in St. Mary’s Church, by Rev. G. Newman, assisted by Rev. G. Stephens. During the day many helpers built up a pile of gorse and wood on Raddon Hill, which was lit at night with community singing and handbell ringing around it. Visitors in the village provided a barrel of cider on the hill, and potatoes were cooked in the hot ashes. A collection for the Lifton Welcome Home Fund was made, raising £2. a further £15 was made at the social organised by the British Legion in the Coronation Hall. The following Sunday a united service was held in Parsonage Court with a collection being made in aid of the restoration of Churches in Europe. At Broadwood, on V.J. day a service of thanksgiving was held in the Parish Church, conducted by Rev. G. Holmes-Gore. This was followed on the Sunday evening by a united service on the Village Green.

Egloskerry was also another village that was decorated with the Union Jack ‘floating triumphantly’ from the Church Tower, and another adorning the War Memorial. On the 22nd, there was a combined service of thanksgiving in the Church conducted by the Vicar. A children’s sports day was held in a filed lent by Mr Harris on Thursday, August 23rd, supervised by Messrs W. Davey and J. Grylls. After refreshments, everyone made for the Vicarage, where they played croquet and bowls. On the Sunday evening, another combined service was held in the Village Square. However, at Boyton, V.J. Day passed quietly, possibly due to the good weather for harvesting, but a thanksgiving service was held in Church conducted by Rev. S. L. Connor. Later the Church Bells were rung in celebration. At Polyphant on the Wednesday evening, a thanksgiving service was held in the Methodist Church conducted by Mr G. Venning. On the Thursday a victory tea was held on the Village Green organised by Mr and Mrs S. Martyn and Mr G. Venning and a band of helpers. Following the tea, sports were held for the children. A huge bonfire was built by Messrs W. Sedgman, C. Dawe, C. Wakem and G. Willcocks and at 9:30 p.m., Mrs A. Hockin, the eldest inhabitant of the village, lit it. Mr T. Baker of Trenarrett, supplied music with his gramophone, as the large crowd enjoyed refreshments.

St. Paternus Church bells were rung at South Petherwin on V.J. Day, followed by a thanksgiving service in the Church, conducted by Rev. G. Pitts. On the Thursday afternoon, there was a peace celebration where the youth marched through the village carrying flags to a sports field lent by Mr Martin. The procession was headed by Miss June Sadd dressed as a sailor boy, with Miss Joyce Spear, of South Molton as a nurse. They were accompanied by a musical band under the conductorship of Gerald Finnemore. The village had been decorated with flags and bunting, and at night electric coloured lights illuminated parts of the village. The programme of sports had been organised by Mr R. Maddever and Miss M. Maddever, assisted by Messrs G. Symons, C. Lane, G. Edwards, J. Strike, L. Oke, and A. H. Cheeseworth. A tea was provided afterwards in the W.I. Hall.

At Altarnun on the Wednesday, peals were rung from the Church and on the Thursday a bonfire built by the boys and girls on the Village Green which was lit later in the evening when there was singing and dancing around as fireworks were let off. On the 22nd a garden fete was held at the Sanctuary.

On August 30th, Royal Navy force under Rear-Admiral Cecil Harcourt liberates Hong Kong and the following day General MacArthur takes over command of the Japanese government in Tokyo. On September 2nd, The Japanese Instrument of Surrender is signed on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

At the beginning of August, a large number of German prisoners war brought to a camp just outside Launceston (Pennygillam) and by October there were 500 prisoners at the camp. Nearly £130 was realized at a garden party in aid of the Launceston British Legion Social Centre at Launceston on Thursday, August 9th. Presiding at the opening ceremony, Mr A. W. Johns, president of the local branch, said that they were aware that the Legion had bought Edymead as a social centre. Through the generosity of the Vowler family, the Legion were able to acquire the building on very generous terms, and they needed £2,500 to pay off the mortgage and to equip the building. Miss G. Vowler, Yelverton, spoke of her interest in the Legion and of her membership with the women’s section. Mr R. H. Keast, chairman of the local branch, said the building was intended to be a real welcome home for service men and women on their return. A boy—Leslie Gliddon—he said, had given 10s. his savings towards a chair for the chairman. A baby show was held, the judge being Miss G. Varcoe, Wadebridge, assisted by Nurses Owen and Linyten. Best baby in the show, Ann Chapman, and youngest in the show, David Randall.

The War Ends, August, 1945.
The War Ends, August 1945.
Cornish POW's Fund, August, 1945.
Cornish POW’s Fund, August 1945.
St. Stephens Rural Welcome Home Fund Sport Days, August, 1945
St. Stephens Rural Welcome Home Fund Sports Days, August 1945.
Many of the parishes organised events to aid their respective ‘Welcome Home Funds’ such as the sports day organised by St. Stephens rural (above), and Lewannick, which held a gymkhana at Coombeshead for its fund, on the August Bank Holiday. As well as the gymkhana, other attractions included a stall and refreshments, and in the evening a dance was held in the Village Hall, the music being supplied by the North Hill Rhythm Boys.

Stoker J. Percy's Ordeal, August 1945.
Stoker J. Percy’s Ordeal, August 1945.
At the August meeting of Launceston Town Council Ald. S. J. Fitze said the new plan of the Council’s housing scheme (Hurdon) had been sent to the Ministry, and as soon as approved tenders would be invited. It was also discussed about the possibility of building flats for the elderly. Councillor W. E. Miller said there were a lot of elderly people living in houses larger than they required. I f the Council could build some small flats for these people they would immediately release larger houses for larger families. This could be done apart from the main programme. Alderman Fitze replied that they had contemplated putting up some small houses on the new site, but it was since thought it would be too far from the centre of the town for elderly people. He hoped to bring forward another plan which he trusted the Council would approve. Councillor Worth enquired whether the Council had any idea of the number of houses required, the Town Clerk (Mr S. Peter) replying that at present he had four applications from men in the Forces, with seven or eight verbal enquiries, but the applications from men in the Forces would probably come in more rapidly now.

Japanese Surrender, September 1945.
Japanese Surrender, September 1945.
Payments of War Gratuity, September 1945.
Payments of War Gratuity, September 1945.
Wreakage of Halifax Bomber that crashed at Bolventor in September 1945
Wreakage of Halifax Bomber that crashed at Bolventor in September 1945.
Bomber Crash at Bolventor, September 1945.
Bomber Crash at Bolventor, September 1945.
Ldg. Acwm Margaret Thomas at the HQ of the Mediterranean Coastal Air Force, September 1945.
Ldg. Acwm Margaret Thomas at the HQ of the Mediterranean Coastal Air Force, September 1945.
At the September meeting of the Town Council, the matter of the new housing at Hurdon again was discussed at length, in particular to the delay in getting the plan authorised by the Ministry. Ald. Harvey asked the Chairman of the Housing Committee whether they were taking any steps in regard to tenders for their new houses. He noticed that several other Councils had invited tenders and it was time Launceston Council did so. If they did not get on with matters when the young fellows came back they would find Hurdon site in the same condition as it was now, he said. Ald. Fitze (Chairman of the Committee) said the new plan had been sent to the Ministry and immediately they approved of it then tenders would be invited. The Town Clerk then read a letter from the Ministry of Health in reply to the application for the early release of Captain Parkes Lees, who had been appointed the Council’s architect for the new housing scheme intimating that the conditions did not normally permit of release for what appeared to be a new appointment, but early release might be expected. Cllr. Toy remarked that it was another case of delay in dealing with the erection of much-needed houses.

At the end of September, the Home Office announced that the Government had decided that there would be many tasks for the W.V.S. to perform in the transitional period following the end of the war, possibly for two years, and that the organisation should, therefore, be continued in operation.

Release of Private Fred Couch, October 1945.
Release of Private Fred Couch, October 1945.
At the September meeting of the Launceston Rural Council, the matter of housing also dominate proceedings, especially regarding the housing survey called for by the Ministry. The Sanitary Inspector said a standard had been drawn up as to what constituted fit houses, and every house had to be surveyed for defects or otherwise and classified into one of five categories. He added that the Council had until September 30th, 1946, to complete it. There was no hope of getting a qualified inspector, but a practical builder, with his assistance would carry out the work. Mr Henwood remarked that there were scores of houses in the district which should be demolished, but what could they do with the people until they had new houses erected? He added that about four years ago the Council asked for about 200 houses, and up to date he believed they had just four. The Sanitary Inspector said that until they had made the survey they did not know the number of houses that would be required. Eventually, it was decided to advertise for an assistant at a salary of £200 a year, with a travelling allowance of 3 1/2d. per mile. Also at the meeting, the supply of water to the proposed six cottages at Tregadillet, and the two cottages at Polyphant was also discussed, with the possibility of tapping into the Launceston Borough main being ruled out.

At the Town Council Meeting held on October 15th, a resolution was agreed to construct a new car park costing £2,000 at the Cattle Market. Councillor Miller, moving the resolution, said the site which would provide good parking for a large number of cars and would greatly improve the facilities at the Market. He remarked that the scheme would provide for one-way traffic through the centre of the main market and would provide reasonable accommodation for the washing of lorries, allowing them to leave without passing through the congested area. “They saw time after time people being summoned for leaving their cars on the highway and wondered if it were not the Council that should be summoned for not providing accommodation,” he said. The motion was for the Town Clerk to negotiate for the purchase of the north western portion of the filed No. 167 Ordnance Survey Map, and that a application be made to the Minister of Health for approval of the scheme. Alderman Fitze seconded. Councillor Fulford said he realised the value of the market to the town and that they had one of the best in the county, but he still maintained that the market was in the wrong position. He felt consideration should be given to a better and more adequate location before spending any further money on it. Alderman Harvey remarked that at the ratepayer’s meeting the previous week several big schemes were mentioned. The sewerage scheme needed tackling before a new market and would cost over £30,000. A parking ground must be obtained if it cost £2,000. It was close to the market and would be money well spent. Also at the meeting the Town Clerk read a letter from the Ministry of Health which intimated that they were not prepared to come to a decision on the Council’s application for a compulsory order for the acquisition of a building site, until Launceston and District Steam Laundry had had an opportunity of seeing the new lay-out plan. He had replied to that letter stating that the laundry company had seen the plan but had had no further reply. Councillor Fulford said that Councillor Miller and himself had been to the Ministry of Health in regard to the housing scheme and were very disappointed at the progress they made. He said that the scheme was being held up owing to the desire of the laundry to acquire a piece of land subsequent to the Council’s efforts to acquire the land. Councillor Miller and himself expressed concern at the repeated delays, considering that they had started on the matter in 1943. Councillor Miller said he was very disappointed with the whole affair. He felt there was no real help coming from the Ministry to enable the Council to push on with the work. He was of the opinion that towns like Launceston would have to take second place to the bombed areas and they would have to fight hard to make any progress. Alderman Fitze said the steam laundry purchased the piece of land after the Council’s notice of intention to acquire the land. Alderman Harvey said he was getting very disturbed about the housing question. It did not seem that they would be able to build houses for some, and he was going to ask the Council to consider prefabricated houses.

Prefabricated Homes for Launceston, October 1945.
Prefabricated Homes for Launceston, October 1945.
H.M.S. Vigilant thanks to Launceston, October 20th, 1945.
H.M.S. Vigilant thanks to Launceston, October 20th, 1945.
Correspondence from Germany, October 1945.
Correspondence from Germany, October 1945.
Cyril Fry of Ashwater wins M.M. November 1945.
Cyril Fry of Ashwater wins M.M. November 1945.
At their Broadwood Rural Council decided on sites for fourteen council houses in the area, at their October meeting. Six were for Box’s Shop, St. Giles; six for Ladycross, Werrington; and two at Maxworthy, North Petherwin. The Sanitary Inspector reported that the Housing Committee had visited the site at Box’s Shop and Ladycross. The committee recommended that a site in a filed immediately south of St. Giles School should be acquired. At Ladycross the committee recommended building six houses in the north east corner of field 670.

On November 3rd, Launceston began its ‘Thanksgiving Week’ campaign. The chief speaker was the Right Hon. Sir Claude James, Agent-General of Tasmania, and a native of Launceston, Tasmania. £120,000 was the target of the campaign. Preceding the opening ceremony there was a procession, led by the Royal Marine Band, of Devonport, and the following organisations took part: 30th Devonshire Regiment, Army Cadets, A.T.C., British Legion, St. John Ambulance Brigade and cadets, Ambulance nurses and cadets, Red Cross Detachment and cadets, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. After the parade the band played selections in the Town Hall, and after the opening ceremony in the Square. On the Monday, a concert was held in the Town Hall, by the Royal Marine Police Choir, which drew a large crowd.

Launceston Thanksgiving Week, November 1945.
Launceston Thanksgiving Week, November 1945.
However, for the first time in the savings campaigns over the war period, Launceston and District and Broadwoodwidger failed to reach the target set. For Thanksgiving Week £120,000 was aimed at, but the total announced November 12th, with some small amounts to come in, was £96,368. The final total eventually came to just over £104,000.

The start of the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal begins on November 20th, US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson opens for the prosecution with a speech lasting several hours, leaving a deep impression on both the court and the public.

At their annual meeting held on November 20th, the Launceston Branch of the Farmers Union,expressed their disapproval of the regulation whereby those employing prisoner of war labour had to pay, when owing to wet weather, the men were unable to work. The question arose when Mr Wadge enquired who was responsible for the raising of the wage rate of P.O.W. labour from 1s. to 1s. 3d. per hours. Mr R Paynter replied that it was the Minister of Agriculture. He had been asked by the Agricultural Workers Union to make the figure 1s. 6d. per hour, as it was considered to be in competition with local labour. The Farmer’s Union stood out for no change, so the Minister split the difference. Mr Wadge said the labour was dear when it was considered that the men had to be fetched and taken back, and he proposed that the War Agricultural Committee be asked to provide transport. This was seconded by Mr E. Baker and was agreed. Mr C. P. Goodman enquired when the Italian prisoners would be returning, Mr Paynter replied that gathered they would be returning in the spring, but German labour would be available for the following year’s harvest.

At the November meeting of the Town Council, the question of the housing scheme at Hurdon came up again, with still no decision from the Ministry of Health, and it was decided to send a telegram direct to the Ministry, and to telephone North Cornwall M.P., Mr T. Horrabin, asking him to take up the matter.

Warrant Officer W. Munday, December 1945.
Warrant Officer W. Munday, December 1945.
Hospitals and other charitable organizations in Devon and Cornwall benefited as a result of the Victory Carnival held in November 1945. The allocation, made at a committee meeting on December 19th, were: Launceston Hospital, £145 11s. 8d; Launceston St. John Ambulance and Nursing Division, £100; Orthopaedic Clinic, £25; Prince of Wales’s Hospital, Plymouth, £50; Launceston Operation Fund, £25; Plymouth Eye Infirmary, £25; and the Northey Nursing Association, £25. It was announced at the same time that owing to the shortage of nursing staff, Launceston Hospital may have to close, wholly or partly. Mr W. B. Matthews, hon. the secretary stated that the Ministry of Labour had been unable to help. The position had become so serious that the Board of Management reluctantly decided that new admissions of patients were being reduced to a minimum, and unless further trained staff could be obtained it would become necessary to close a large part of the hospital or part of it.

Closing Launceston Hospital due to staff shortage, December 1945
Closing Launceston Hospital due to staff shortage, December 1945.
Prouts Garage Advert December 1945.
Prouts Garage Advert December 1945.
Leonard Littlejohns death notice, December 1945.
Leonard Littlejohns death notice, December 1945.
The Town Clerk informed the December meeting of the Town Council, that he had received a reply from the Ministry of Works saying that the buildings erected on the Castle Green and occupied by the Air Ministry were likely to be needed for an indefinite period. The Mayor, Councillor W. Miller, said that would be very unsatisfactory news for the people of Launceston. He felt that whilst they did not want to be unreasonable, there were premises which were becoming vacant all over the district, and it seemed very hard that the buildings should be allowed to remain in the Castle Green, the people’s recreation ground. He suggested that the General Purposes Committee should take up the matter with the Ministry direct. The Town Clerk also reported that the compulsory order for the purchase of the housing site at Hurdon had at last been granted.

Link to Bert Tremain’s oral memory of his time with the DCLI during the Second World War.


Rationing.

Childs Ration Book.
Childs Ration Book.
Although the war had come to an end, rationing continued. Some aspects of rationing became stricter for some years after the war. At the time this was presented as needed to feed people in European areas under British control, whose economies had been devastated by the fighting. This was partly true, but with many British men still mobilised in the armed forces, an austere economic climate, and a centrally-planned economy under the post-war Labour government, resources were not available to expand food production and food imports. Frequent strikes by some workers (most critically dock workers) made things worse. It wasn’t until after the Conservatives regained power in 1951, that rationing began to be reduced with confectionery rationing ending in February 1953. Even then, full rationing of all foods didn’t end until July 4th, 1954.

Timeline
May 25th, 1945: Bacon ration cut from 4 to 3 ounces/week. Cooking fat ration cut from 2 to 1 ounces/week. Soap ration cut by an eighth, except for babies and young children. The referenced newspaper article predicted that households would be grossly hampered in making food items that included pastry.
June 1st, 1945: The basic petrol ration for civilians was restored.
July 19th, 1945: In order to preserve the egalitarian nature of rationing, gift food parcels from overseas weighing more than 5 lb (2.3 kg) would be deducted from the recipient’s ration.
Summer 1946: Continual rain ruined Britain’s wheat crop. Bread rationing started.
January–March 1947: Winter of 1946–1947 in the United Kingdom: long hard frost and deep snow. Frost destroyed a huge amount of stored potatoes. Potato rationing started.
Mid-1947: A transport and dock strike, which among other effects caused much loss of imported meat left to rot on the docks, until the Army broke the strike. The basic petrol ration was stopped.
June 1st, 1948: The Motor Spirit (Regulation) Act 1948 was passed, ordering a red dye to be to put into some petrol, and that red petrol was only allowed to be used in commercial vehicles. A private car driver could lose his driving licence for a year if red petrol was found in his car. A petrol station could be shut down if it sold red petrol to a private car driver.
June 1948: The basic petrol ration was restored, at a third of its previous size.
1948: Bread came off ration.
May 1949: Clothes rationing ended. According to one author, this was because attempts to enforce it were defeated by continual massive illegality (black market, unofficial trade in loose clothing coupons (many forged), bulk thefts of unissued clothes ration books).
February 23rd, 1950: The 1950 general election is fought largely on the issue of rationing. The Conservative Party campaigned on a manifesto of ending rationing as quickly as possible. The Labour Party argued for the continuation of rationing indefinitely. Labour was returned, but with its majority badly slashed to 5 seats.
May 26th, 1950: Petrol rationing ended.
October 25th, 1951: United Kingdom general election, 1951. The Conservatives came back into power.
February 1953: Confectionery rationing ended.
September 1953: Sugar rationing ended.
July 4th, 1954: Meat and all other food rationing ended in Britain.

 

 

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