Launceston and World War Two 1942.
On January 1st, Twenty-six Allied countries signed the Declaration by United Nations during the Arcadia Conference. On the 7th the Soviet Winter counter-offensive comes to a halt, after having pushed the exhausted and freezing German Army back 62–155 miles from Moscow. Operation Barbarossa’ had failed, with strong consequences for Germany and ultimately the war. For Launceston, 1942 was to prove to be a year of tremendous upheaval with the town becoming a garrison town with the influx later in the year of American soldiers now that the U.S. was now in the war.
On January 14th, the Order of the Gold Triangle was awarded to Launceston Freeman James Treleaven at a dual ceremony that took place in the Y.M.C.A. Hall, Launceston, for his work in connection with the Y.M.C.A. and for the youth of the town. A welcome was also extended to Mr and Mrs W. J. Trethewey, who have taken charge of the canteen for troops. Launceston’s waste paper salvage drive for January was a great success, the Surveyor (Mr Colston) reporting that with the assistance of the W.V.S. and the Boy Scouts the yield for January 28 tons 12cwt. 2qr. The special week yielded 15 tons.
Caterers of Launceston protested at the suggestion of setting up a British Restaurant in the town. This fact was disclosed at the February meeting of Launceston Town Council when a letter was read from the Ministry of Food, Bristol, stating that the protest had been forwarded to the Wartime Meals Division, who had replied that in view of the fact that approval had already been given to the scheme before” the protest was-received at Bristol, it was felt, that the work should proceed. The Ministry felt that the seating capacity in Launceston cafes was inadequate and that most of them worked on gas-fired equipment, and were therefore not so covered the event an emergency. The Ministry’s policy with regard to cooking for British Restaurants was laid down as 70 per cent, solid fuel as a safeguard against emergency. Mr W. H. Gilbert inquired who was to blame for the protest being late. Ald. J. Harvey remarked that when the Council decided to take steps the matter was reported ” The Western Morning News ” and the Cornish and Devon Post,” and that was a long time before the protest was sent in. Mr Gilbert: Is it a fact that at Plymouth it is costing £200 per week? Mr S. J. Fitze said it was not for the Town Council to decide, and the Clerk (Mr S. L Peter) said the original request came from the Regional Office, and not from the town. Mr T. Hicks said a British Restaurant would have an adverse effect on local cafes Ald. Harvey: I do not think anyone on the Council was in favour of a British Restaurant, but it was forced on us. Mr S. E. Uglow: And we are of the same opinion now. We do not think it is necessary, but we cannot help ourselves. The Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) pointed out that it was an emergency measure. Also at this meeting a letter was read from the Salvage Department suggesting the appointment of a Salvage Committee and stewards for each street, Mr Fitze said everybody knew the importance of salvage, and he considered the appointment unnecessary. It was agreed that the whole Council should constitute the committee, with the surveyor to organizing the matter and report. The Mayor referred to the retirement from the fire-brigade Lieut. Cottle after 46 years’ service. It was agreed that letter appreciation be sent to Lieut. Cottle. The Mayor then referred to the fact that blood transfusions would be taking place in the town shortly, and the Medical Officer of Health (Dr D. H. A. Galbraith) said that people who were prepared to respond to the appeal should send their names to the matron the hospital. On the occasion of the 1st appeal, a list of names was taken and a number of people had their blood tested, but now the blood need not be tested. People would be asked to give threequarters pint each. The Medical Officer Health reported that the health of the borough was good, and there were no epidemics.
By the collection of 28 tons 12 cwt. 2 qrs. during January, Launceston Borough Council qualified for a prize in the £20,000 National Waste Paper Collection Contest. The campaign was taken up enthusiastically, and the Council had the assistance of the Women’s Voluntary Service and Boy Scouts, the special week yielding a total of 15 tons. Since the new Surveyor (Mr Colston) took the matter in hand, waste paper salvage had increased month by month, January being the best to date. The receipts from the month s collection were £125, which went to the relief of the rates. The Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) presided at meeting at Launceston on March 5th, when it was decided to form a cadet force unit for the borough and district. Between 20 and 30 boys immediately enrolled.
On Saturday, March 7th, the Launceston’s Warship Week had an auspicious start, when big concourse of people listened to Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell, V.C., perform the opening ceremony. A long procession paraded the town and assembled in the Square. The Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) read a message from the Engineer Officer of H.M.S. Hatherleigh, which the town was then adopting, which he said, “Keep your sights on the target; shoot hard and often. We depend on you.” Mr T Horabin, M.P. for North Cornwall, said we had now got down to brass tacks, and unless we did our duty as civilians we were going to lose the war. The target of the town and district was £100,000.
That same week Canon W. H. Riggs, D.D.; Archdeacon of Bodmin and vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, gave an address to the Launceston Brotherhood on “Love our enemies.” He said the German founders of the Gestapo and the Gorman Army had perpetrated such atrocities, such horrors, such cruelties, that the idea of loving them seemed almost as absurd as hoping to tame a tiger by feeding it with Cornish pasties or saffron buns. The tales of horror in Poland, Rotterdam, and other occupied countries, and the treatment of the Jews beggared description. He concluded: “What is the end that God had for the German people? Was it to make a full end of them altogether? All of them were inclined to long for that in unguarded moments. But in the presence of God could they pray for the destruction of 90,000,000 Germans? The German nation was sick, needed to undergo a major operation, i.e., must suffer a military defeat on such a scale as to convince the people that their Army was not invincible.”
At the March meeting of Launceston Rural Council, held on the 17th, the Sanitary Inspector (Mr T. A. Judd) appealed to all members to make the scrap metal drive a success. With a few willing voluntary workers in each parish, the dumps would soon begin to swell. Many farmers had metal lying about, and he suggested that they should spend a couple of hours taking it to a dump. For the scrap on the dumps, the Council were to be paid 10s per ton. and he did not see why they should not be able to collect 50 tons. The Chairman (Mr A. W. Henwood) said there would be more enthusiasm if places were cleared where it was known there were large quantities of scrap metal. Presiding over the March meeting of Launceston Town Council, the Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) announced that Launceston and District’s Warship Week target of £100,000 had been passed. At one time, he said, it seemed that it would be difficult to reach the target, but the contribution of £28,000 on the Saturday brought the total to just over £101,000, and with other amounts still to come in, it was anticipated that the total would reach £103,000. From the various events held during the week the local hospital and St. John Ambulance would benefit by a considerable amount. In the end, £103,603 was raised, resulting in the adoption of the destroyer H.M.S. Hatherleigh, although this was changed by the Admiralty in June who transferred the ship allotted to the area to the H.M.S. Vigilant.
Launceston contributed £76,909 and parish amounts were: Altarnun, £583; South Petherwin. £1,760; North Petherwin. £2,354 (including the free gift of £20 to the Government from a village concert); Lawhitton, £1,425; Lezant, £3.413; Warbstow, £1,491; Boyton, £1,558; Werrington. £7,582; Tresmeer, £510; Laneast, £1,305; Egloskerry, £1.540; Lewannick, £1,134; North Hill and Coads Green, £1,705; Tregadillett. £334. The winner of the forecast competition was Mrs F. A. Williams, of 12, Tredydan Road, Launceston. who gave the figure as £101,250 5s. 6d. Patricia Carthew, aged 15, of the St. Josephs Convent School, won the poems competition.
During the year there were two other big funding drives – ‘Tanks for Attack Campaign,’ an endeavour to increase small savings by at least 20%, on the corresponding ten weeks in 1941, and £51, 922 10s. was raised, so that Launceston qualified for a light tank; and the ‘Schools Membership Drive,’ when Launceston finished four weeks effort with a membership percentage of 60.4 and holding the 18th place in the County.
The inquest into the above accident was held on April 22nd. It was heard how an Army lorry driver, who braked hard but without effect, had to decide to avoid the risk of running down children or take an acute bend on to a bridge at too great a speed when the Coroner (Mr G. Graham Wilson) inquired into the deaths of Lnc.-Bdr. James D. Thornton and Pte. Frank W. Pearson, who were killed when the lorry crashed into the bridge at Yeolmbridge village. In the case of Thornton, the Coroner found that death was due to shock as the result of multiple injuries and that Pearson died from drowning, both being caused by the lorry accidentally crashing through the bridge. He further recorded that no blame was attached to the driver of the lorry.
At the April meeting of Launceston Town Council, the Surveyor (Mr W. E. Colston) reported that they had now completed twelve months of salvage work, and the receipts totalled £306 7s. 10d. During that period 50 1/2 tons of paper had been salvaged. 14 3/4 tons of metal, 1 1/4 tons of rags, and 1 1/4 tons of bones. The price for scrap paper had been increased by £2 per ton. Up to then- the only unsatisfactory part of the scheme had been that in respect of tins which had been accumulating at the dumps. Arrangements were then being made for these to be cleared at 10s. per ton by the Ministry of Works. The Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) said it was a very satisfactory report, and he was glad to know that the tins were to be cleared. Councillor W. H. Gilbert said it was discouraging to householders to find that after they had neatly sorted their tins school children came along, took out the tins, and used them as footballs. Some went down the drains and were lost. It was reported that the £50 prize received in connection with the recent waste paper collection contest had been allocated as follows:—Red Cross, £12 10s.; Mrs. Churchill’s Aid-to-Russia Fund, £12 10s.; Launceston Hospital. £10; St. John Ambulance. £5: local Red Cross. £5; Nursing Fund, £5. The Town Clerk reported that he had received 26 applications for the Council’s house 23, Trelawny Cottages, and Mrs Tolman, wife of the former caretaker of the Castle, was selected.
Large blocks of granite were thrown a considerable distance in the early morning of April 25th, 1942, when four high-explosive bombs fell between Hawks Tor and Berah Tor, North Hill. No damage was caused, but owing to the nature of the ground, Wardens had difficulty in locating the craters which they caused.
An appeal was made to Launceston farmers the week commencing May 3rd, the woman publicity liaison officer of the Ministry of Works and Buildings, spoke to farmers on Market Day through a loud speaker van to talk about the Cornwall metal scrap drive. She told them that though they were already doing their bit towards the war effort as farmers, they should realise that without every available piece of scrap metal, no matter how small, armaments factories would not be able to work at full pressure. If they were thinking, she went on, that since we had been able to wait for their scrap metal during the two and a half years of war already, another few weeks would not matter, they were wrong. We used to get thousands of tons of scrap metal from the U.S.A. every week. Now we must rely on our own resources. For every ton of scrap 100 Bren guns could be made; three to four tons of scrap was sufficient for a Bren gun carrier, and 16 tons could produce a Valentine tank. If they thought of their old machinery in those terms, perhaps they would be more ready to part with it. On the night of May 24th and morning of the 25th, an invasion exercise in Launceston and district was carried out. The respective Home Guards took the role of defenders and various incidents were staged thoroughly testing the services.
On May 5th, a large number of incendiary bombs were dropped in an area between Smallacombe Farm and North Lodge, Lifton. Although many landed in cornfields and one near a hayrick, they caused no damage.
Prizes totalling £2,500 were offered during the period from May to July in connection with Launceston Borough Waste Paper Drive. From June 22nd to June 27th was to be Waste Paper Week, starting with door-to-door collection collaboration with the salvage stewards- There was a guessing competition for which prizes of £ 2 and £3 were offered for the nearest Correct estimates of tonnage collected in the borough during the May-July period. On June 23rd there was to be a novel effort, when an attempt was made to range a mile of books on the kerb from the Constitutional Club, through Westgate Street, and beyond.
During a discussion at the June meeting of Launceston Town Council, it was stated that a woman Fire Guard had complained that while she was on duty there were able-bodied men who remained in their beds. Mr F. Philp (Fire Guard staff officer) reported that progress was being made with the Fire Guard scheme. The town was divided into three areas. Personnel one area had been issued with steel helmets and had attended lectures. Lectures had also been given to personnel in another, but the area was not yet in working order, but it was hoped would be soon. the remainder of the town the position was not so satisfactory. Replying to the Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) Mr Philp said that people wishing to enrol could see one of the officers—Messrs Bright, Bryne, Bate, Prout —or himself. The Mayor then asked, “was it not a fact that in one area you have young women going out on duty and complaining that there are able-bodied men remaining in bed?” Mr Philp agreed. The Mayor made a reference to compulsion, and Mr Philp said he hoped it would not come to that. There would be paid officers, whose salaries would come out of the rates. At present no one, officers or personnel, was paid—it was voluntary from top to bottom, in spite of the fact that some people talked the officers having large salaries. The Town Clerk (Mr Stuart L. Peter) thought a strong appeal should be made from the Council for people in that area to join up. He had had a letter that morning stating that two officers would be visiting the town on Friday to offer what assistance they could in arrangements in regard to Fire Guards. The matter then dropped, the hope being expressed that the appeal from the Council would have good results.
On July 7th, a fruit preservation centre, sponsored by the Ministry of Food, was opened at Roseneath, Tavistock Road, Launceston.
Launceston British Restaurant, in Northgate Street, was opened on August 24th, by the Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) when, at his invitation, about 100 townspeople partook the first meal served at the restaurant. Declaring the restaurant open, the Mayor said the purpose the British Restaurant was to help feed the people, especially evacuees, and others who might come among them. There might be an influx of people, not only from the immediate neighbourhood but possibly from other areas. Visitors, and even the general public, were invited to the British Restaurants up and down the country, and they were invited to the Launceston restaurant. They quite understood that it was a wartime measure, and not a thing which they hoped would be in existence over a long period. As long as conditions remained as they were at present the British Restaurants would continue to function, and they hoped that at Launceston would take its place with the others. The Mayor expressed thanks to the Town Clerk (Mr Stuart L. Peter) and the surveyor (Mr W. E. Colston) for their services and said he hoped the restaurant would be freely utilized. Concluding, the Mayor said he hoped the town and district would not take a narrow view in regard to the restaurant, but that they would all help to make it a success. Mr Roberts, a representative from the Ministry of Food, thanked the Mayor for his remarks and said was glad that the restaurant had been completed thanks to the foresight shown by the Town Council and with the help, the surveyor and builders. He understood they had been fortunate in obtaining the services of a supervisor, and he congratulated them that day on their good fortune. Mr Roberts disclosed that a letter had that day been received from Cornwall County Education Authority inquiring whether they could feed 200 school children at the restaurant, and he was given to understand that the Council would give favourable consideration to it. Although he did not say that it would be possible to feed the children on the premises, arrangements could be made for the meals to be cooked there and sent to the schools. Now that they had a restaurant for the town they must not forget the rural area It would not be possible for rural workers to come to the restaurant, but they had a pasty scheme. In the past, there had been some difficulty in getting the pasties made, but now they would be able to cope with the work at the restaurant if the demand arose. On behalf of the Ministry of Food, he wished the venture every success. Mr E. L. Marriott, Regional Officer, Ministry of Information, said he knew only too well from experience that after a town had been blitzed the most urgent job was the feeding of the people. The immense amount of work put in by the Ministry of Food was known everybody who had had anything to do with blitzed towns, and, he would like to pay tribute to the amazing efficiency of the services and the way the Ministry of Food rose to the occasion. There was another advantage in that institution worth bearing in mind, and that was that it taught them to rub shoulders with one another in a manner they had not done before. It also taught them to fend for themselves. The Town Council was to be congratulated on their decision to set up a British Restaurant, though he hoped they would never be faced with an emergency which would prove to them its dire necessity.
It was reported at the monthly Town Council Meeting held on September 21st, that the Deputy-Mayor (Mr R. Gregg), Messrs. Fitze and Uglow (the Mayor being an ex-officio member) had been appointed to the committee dealing with the management of the British Restaurant. The Mayor (Ald. Hoskin) said the patronage of the restaurant had increased practically every day since the opening ceremony. They were pleased with the manner which the work was being done by the staff under Mrs Ransome, and he would like to express appreciation of the work being done by the W.V.S., three of whom assisted each day. The Surveyor (Mr W. E. Colston)- appealed to the public to support the county salvage drive in connection with which Launceston’s target was 5 tons of paper, 2 1/2 tons of metal, 5 cwt. textiles, and 5 cwt. bones, to be collected in a fortnight. It was also discussed the motion of Mr Hicks, and seconded by Mr Fitze, the resolution passed on August 17th last that the Council do not purchase a motor vehicle, but a horse was rescinded. Mr Hicks said the reason why the purchase of a motor vehicle was turned down was on account the cost. A motor vehicle, he contended, would do the work of two horses, except cases of certain emergency, when r some outside help might be required. He saw no reason why a secondhand vehicle should not meet their requirements for the time being. He considered the motor vehicle would do 75 per cent of the work of two horses. The Mayor pointed out that if a motor lorry were acquired for the collecting of refuse a new roadway would have to be made to the dump. He did not think his committee would consider second-hand lorry of the haulage type. Mr Hicks: The approximate cost one horse is between £80 and £90. and lorry from £24o to £250. Mr Fulford said they wanted something more economical and something to speed up the work. He the Council in committee go further into the matter of obtaining suitable second-hand lorry. Mr Doidge seconded and it was agreed.
Launceston Rural District Council organised an intensive drive for salvage during the two weeks from September 19th to October 3rd for paper, old rags and clothes, bones, and rubber. The target for the two weeks was 7 tons of paper, 15cwt. of textiles, and 1 ton of bones.
The Club Shell Mex, Diadema, Buenos Aires, presented to the people of Launceston a mobile trailer kitchen (above) on Friday, October 2nd. The vehicle was handed over to the Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin), on behalf of the town by Mr H. M. Medland, Deputy Regional Commissioner, Ministry of Home Security, the ceremony taking place in the Square, in the presence of a number of people. Mr Medland said the Regional Commissioner had requested him to ask the Mayor to accept the kitchen for the use of the people of the town. Continuing he said, the members of the club were mainly people of Argentine, but there were also British and Dutch members. They were a long way from the war and it demonstrated the feelings of sympathy they had for those in this, the country who were suffering from the effects of, the war. They realized that in this country we were right up in the front line, and in a town like Launceston they might be called upon to deal with large numbers of people. Only those towns and cities which had suffered the effects of concentrated bombing could understand what it was to be without the means of providing warm food in the homes of the people. When the gas and electricity had gone mobile kitchens had to come to the I rescue. Although the people of Launceston might think they were a long way from the actual scene of conflict, as a matter of fact, they were very much in the front line. It was absolutely essential for them to get the right outlook upon what was required. It was vitally important that the morale of the people should be maintained, and fortunately, there was no sign that they were less determined than ever to beat the Bosch. They had in this country an organization known as the Queen’s Messenger Service. The fact that the Mayor was asked to accept the kitchen on behalf of the town would supplement that service and help them in their preparation. Guns for defence, ‘planes for air cover, Home Guard and Civil Defence services were all necessary for their protection, so, too, were mobile kitchens. Each had its part to play. Extending a welcome to the Deputy Regional Commissioner, the Mayor said he was an outstanding personality in the city of Plymouth. His work in the past few years had been followed by the people of Launceston with great interest, and they owed him a debt of gratitude. Continuing, the Mayor expressed thanks and appreciation to their friends in Buenos Aires for their practical gift and kind thought. Though far from the fighting line, their heart was with them in the struggle through which this country and the Allies were passing. The town appreciated and valued the gift, and he would ask the Deputy Commissioner to send their warmest and most sincere thanks, with the assurance that the gift would be used, and used to the fullest extent, whether in Launceston or the country adjoining. The Mayor expressed thanks to the Deputy Regional Commissioner and also to Mr E. L. Marriott Regional Officer, Ministry of Home Security, who. he said, was always ready to render assistance to the various Home Defence services. The kitchen was then opened for the inspection of the public. Arrangements for the presentation were made by Mr E. J. Killingback, establishment officer, Ministry of Home Security.
In regard to salvage activities in the borough during the months of August, September and October, the Surveyor at the October Town Council Meeting reported the following results: Paper collected, 27 tons 15 cwt., in money £183 14s. 3d.; metal, 10 tons 9 cwt, £12 6s. 5d.; rags, 1 ton 6 cwt., £12 17s. 2d.; bones, 1 ton 1 cwt., £3 10s.; total, 40 tons 11 cwt., £212 7s. 10d. During the Cornwall Salvage Drive, the target for the borough was 8 tons 15 cwt.. and they achieved 8 tons. Mr Fitze observed that no one showed a greater interest in the salvage question than their surveyor. He was proud he had done so well, and he congratulated him on the interest he had taken in the matter and the results achieved. Also at this meeting, Mr F. Philp (Fire Guard staff officer) stated that they lacked numbers, and spoke about the difficulty he was experiencing owing to many of the Fire Guards having to resign in account of their being required in the Home Guard.
Alderman Herbert Hoskin was re-elected Mayor for the fifth successive year and seventh occasion in total, at the end of October. Launceston and District’s Prisoners of War Week opened on Saturday, November 28th, with a children’s carnival organized by two little boys of Newport. Raymond Davey and Gordon Hodge. Some children in fancy dress took part and were judged by Miss D. Pethybridge. of the Launceston Sick Bay, and Miss A. Revell, daughter of the matron. The Deputy Mayor Launceston (Mr R. Gregg) addressed a large audience the Town Hall on Sunday 29th, prior to a concert given aid of Launceston’s Prisoners of War Week. Among those taking part, the concert was Mr Jack Collings (baritone), of Port Isaac. It was announced at the interval that £20 had been taken the door. On December 3rd, various youth organizations of Launceston organised a social gathering in connection with the local Prisoners of War Week appeal. Mr W. H. Edwards was M.C.. National Savings returns for Launceston during November were £18,303.
Mr S. L. Peter (clerk) reported to Launceston Town Council on December 21st, that between opening of the British Restaurant on August 24th and November 30th, there had been 12,850 servings of meat and vegetables, 11,948 of sweets, 11,045 cups of tea, 841 cups of coffee, 2,456 complete luncheons, 144 bottles of mineral waters. Receipts for the period were £729 6s. 2d., expenditure £684 15s. 5d. From gross profit, deduction of amortization of capital expenditure left a net profit of £8 ss. 4d. The Mayor (Ald. H. Hoskin) said the report was very satisfactory, compared with some he had seen in the newspapers. The Mayor thanked residents for supporting the Borough of Launceston (1939) Fund. Arising from remarks at the previous Council meeting on eligibility for Christmas gifts from the fund, he said people living in parishes outside the borough, but who worked in the town would, in the forces, receive Christmas presents from their own parishes. Everyone else from the borough in the Services would get presents from the fund. The Mayor said that for the recent successful Prisoners of War Week the Deputy Mayor was chairman of the Week, Mrs D. H. A. Galbraith represented the Red Cross, and Mr R. Gibbens the ambulance. The Deputy Mayor said the response to the appeal was marvellous. There was still more money to come in, and after expenses were paid the committee would be able to forward to the Red Cross over £650. He paid tribute to work of the committee and especially to Mr Roy Gibbens. The Mayor said the borough’s fund for necessitous poor received excellent support, making possible extra assistance to more people. The British Restaurant was the scene of a truly English Christmas ” dinner,” on Christmas Day. Soldiers were served with roast turkey, goose, pork followed by Christmas pudding, and military dance band was in attendance. And it was reported that the lads stayed for tea, too.
The year ended with nearly 1,000 members of the services being entertained in the Town Hall on Christmas night, by the ladies of the Y.M.C.A. under the leadership of Mrs S. Fitze. The hall was decorated with bunting, holly, and large scenic canvasses on the walls. On the stage was a military dance band, and on the platform at the other end of the hall long trestle tables loaded with a variety of things to eat.