Thursday, 29 November 2018

Earlston's Generous Community Spirit in World War Two

During World War Two, Earlston’s community spirit shone through, whether it was in supporting national causes such as  War Weapons Week and Wings for Victory week, or fund raising for the local War Comforts Fund. At the heart of this activity was the Earlston War Works Party. 

As in  other communities, there were women in Earlston who were experienced in charity work, organising events and raising money for worthwhile causes. On the outbreak of war in 1939, they were galvanized into action to form the Earlston War Works Party, working closely with the local branches of the Red Cross and Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS).

Compiled and updated Address Books of names of Earlston lads serving, with details of their whereabouts, status, rank, next of kin, plus personal details e.g. non-smoker.

Organised the issue of ration books.

Organised a weekly house to house “penny” collection to provide comforts to serving forces.

Organised billets for evacuees and troops stationed here.   

Distributed comfort parcels to 400 Polish soldiers on their arrival in the village.                                       
                                            Polish soldiers in the Market Square

Did darning for troops. 

Distributed khaki wool supplied by the Scottish Woollen Comforts Council.

Sent Comfort Parcels thrice yearly to Earlston men and women serving in the forces.

Sent Comfort Parcels to Earlston Prisoners of War - to include a knitted blanket, a pullover, two pairs of socks, plus cigarettes and a friendly word from home.  

  Prisoners of War in  Stalag XVIIID, Germany,
with Earlston men on the back row - Jim Reid (far left) and Ed Reid  (far right)     

Sent knitted garments (socks, mittens, scarves, pullovers, balaclavas) to the Comforts Funds of the Army, RAF, Royal Navy, Merchant Seamen, and K.O.S.B.

The Red Cross Work Party made swabs, bandages, pyjamas, vests, shirts, tropical underwear, limb pads, kit bags, dressing gowns, surgeons’ overalls, and sleeping bags for bombed areas. 

Set up a clothing depot for emergency use.

Organised the collection of herbs and sphagnum moss used in the treatment of wounds.   

Organised the collection of brass and aluminium

Made available A Red Cross Library of 1000 books.

The WVS organised a canteen in the church hall for troops  which became a popular social venue. . 

Looking forward to happier times, a Welcome Home Fund was set for servicemen returning home as the war ended.
Gave £6 to each re-patriated Prisoner of War - equivalent to £213 in today’s money.  (National Archives Currency Converter


All kinds of events were held, with young and old contributing  with whist dances and whist drives, concerts, regular house to house collections, and  donations from shops,  businesses and organisations,  pipe band and dancing displays, baby shows, pin up boy and girl competitions, football and bowling tournaments, and a garden fete at Cowdenknowes. Some typical reports in the local newspapers were:  

Southern Reporter:  12th July 1945 

 Berwickshire News:  17th April 1945

Participants in the Pin Up Competition 
Margaret McAulay; Sybil Jackson; Bunty Thomson (Mason) and Dorothy Hartley (Hall)
During the war Bunty worked at Simpson and Fairbairn Mill
and Dorothy was in the Land Army in Earlston. 

Bunty being presented with her first prize by Mrs. Scott Aiton.

 Advert from Southern Reporter: 31 May 1945.

Southern Reporter:  27th September 1945.


Names that appear regularly in the press reports and minute book:

Miss Henderson, Miss Hope, Miss Hogarth, Mrs Hood, Mrs Barlow, Miss Sharpe, Mrs Wylie, Mrs Young and Mrs Rodger.


From regular reports in the local press and from the Minute Books of the Earlston War Work Party, which are now held in the archives at the Heritage Hub,  Hawick.


In 1945 a joint meeting of the Earlston War Work Party,  Earlston branch of the Red Cross and WVS met to look back on their activities.

Since the start of the war,  £3723 was raised for the Comforts Fund, the Red Cross Fund and the Welcome Home Fund - equivalent to £132,356 in  today's money terms.

A wonderful example of community spirit and one which did much to raise morale on the home front, as people felt they were contributing to the war effort.  



Southern Reporter: 23rd August 1945


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