Friday, 25 November 2016

A Look at Earlston during the Second World War

War Weapons Week the Home Guard, Munition Workers and a Polish Tank Regiment - all feature in this look at Earlston during the Second World War.

In August 1941 War Weapons Week was held across Britain as a major national fund raising campaign to provide for the replacement of weapons lost in the evacuation from Dunkirk.

Each town was given a figure to raise. Earlston's target was £8000. In fact the "patriotic investors of Earlston" raised £23.006, 18 shillings and 4 pence - a phenomenal amount and equivalent to over £1 million pounds today. [Source: Measuring Worth] 

 Southern Reporter:  4th September 1941

The fancy dress parade included a float depicting Mary Queen of Scots and her the Four Mary's - Peggy Betts, Ella Montgomery, Lizzie Burrell, Mary Young and Mame Weatherstone.

Voluntary organisations were  on parade, including nurses and the Home Guard.  

Earlston Home Guard, drilling at Carolside. 

The Home Guard (initially "Local Defence Volunteers" or LDV) was a defence organisation operational from 1940 until 1944. The Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the services, or those in reserved occupation - and is best known today from its portrayal in the TV comedy "Dad's Army".
 The Home Guard's role was to act as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the enemy. The Home Guard continued to guard the coastal areas of the United Kingdom and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores until late 1944 when they were stood down, and finally disbanded in December 1945. [Source - Wikipedia]

Also supporting the War Effort in Earlston - Local Munitions Workers.


Earlston women munition workers were employed at Charlesfield, St. Boswells and at Rodgers in Earlston. Ella Hood recalled being sent to college at Portobello, Edinburgh to learn how to operate a lathe. She said there were two shifts working seven days a week involving dozens of women.

Around 950,000 British women worked in munitions factories during the Second World War, making weapons like shells and bullets. Munitions work was often well-paid, but involved long hours. Workers were also at serious risk from accidents with dangerous machinery or when working with high explosive material. Some munitions workers handled toxic chemicals every day. Those who handled sulphur were nicknamed ‘Canary Girls’, because their skin and hair turned yellow from contact with the chemical. [Source: My Learning.Org ]


The Polish Tank Regiment in Earlston

General Eisenhower arriving at Earlston Station in 1944 to inspect 
the Polish Tank Regiment stationed in the village. 
Tanks in Earlston Square, under close inspection  by two little boys.

Polish troops under the command of General Stanislav Maczek trained across Scotland including Berwickshire, before taking part in the Normandy Landings of 1944. At its peak, the division numbered 16,000 soldiers.

In Earlston, the rugby club pitch and clubhouse were requisitioned by the military. Approximately one third of the pitch was dug out and concrete laid to make a "hull-down" park for the tanks stationed in the area preparing for D-Day.

The Polish contingent in the village involved themselves in local community events, including playing for the dances which were a popular form of wartime  entertainment.  
 The Polish band playing for a dance in the Corn Exchange. 

With a thank you from the Auld Earlston Group to everyone 
who has supplied the photographs featured here.   


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