During World War Two
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Personal memories from the war years is the subject of a new oral history project underway in the village. If you can help by sharing photographs or your recollections, happy or sad, about changes in village life, servicemen in the village, land army girls, evacuees or anything else from this time please get in touch with email@example.com It is hoped to eventually publish a history book in aid of a local charity. In the meantime here are a few anecdotes that might interest you or help to jog your memory!
The Rev. H.Ellis Horton was vicar at St. Andrews Church during the whole of the war, and addressed a letter to his parishioners every month in the parish magazine. .Although of course most of his missives were concerned with the details of church life, he also mentioned the major events of the war. As he was a gifted and fluent writer I have used his words to highlight some key events of the war, and have added local detail taken from the minutes of contemporary Mechanics' Institute committee meetings, as well as from the parish magazines and the memories of some of our older residents. (Kirsty Hallett.)
In October 1939 Rev. Horton wrote "modern war directly affects the whole population, and, as time goes on, we shall find in various ways how it affects each one of us." The tragic events of 1939 - 1945 had an inevitable impact on life here, although this was not as overwhelming as it was in many towns and cities. Fortunately the village was not bombed, and only one local man died on military duty. Kirkby Malzeard was a small farming village, with less than two hundred people on the electoral roll during the war, all of whom had to adapt to the many changes described in this history.
The outbreak of war was preceded in July 1939 by the arrival of the military camp, which was on the south east side of the village. The arrival of troops, and later evacuees, meant that the local population grew considerably. Although I know very little about the soldiers from the Derbyshire Yeomanry who were stationed here it appears that they were initially made to feel welcome. For example the Mechanics' Institute allowed them half price (sixpence) admission to the next dance , and immediately agreed that the hall should be open every night for badminton. In October 1939 the Royal Corps of Signals joined the camp, thus further enlarging the local community.
Over a hundred child evacuees from Leeds were welcomed in September 1939, as well as 4 of their teachers. The village junior school was a small building with only one teacher at this time, so the Village Hall was also used by the school at a cost of £100 p.a. The evacuee children were allocated temporary foster parents in the Mechanics' Institute when they arrived in Kirkby Malzeard. They could only see their families on Sundays, when a special bus brought some of them up from Leeds to visit. Some of the children were so unhappy that they returned to the city, despite the risk of bomber attacks, but a higher proportion of them stayed here than they did in many other areas.
In June 1940 Rev. Horton said " I write this at a time of grave anxiety and of deep perplexity. That our great ally, France, should capitulate is a fact which nobody considered possible, and we have hardly recovered from the first shock of the news." A further scheme of evacuation was planned, and another 50 children were allocated to Kirkby Malzeard. The billeting officers met to decide who should accommodate these children, who came all the way from London in November 1940.
A Home Guard was set up, and met in the bank room of the Mechanics' Institute (now the doctor's surgery). However, the Mechanics' Institute committee were not unquestioningly welcoming and wouldn't allow them to practice their drills in the Village Hall until they agreed to purchase matting to cover the oak floor, which had been new with the hall in 1936. They also twice turned down Captain Tibbetts' request that the Home Guard should be served 'intoxicating liquor' (the Institute was dry from 1904 until after 1952)!
In late 1939 blackouts were required after 5pm. The Reading Room at the Mechanics' Institute was blacked out and presumably the hall as well, because dances continued to be held throughout the war. However, the vicar was very disappointed that the Church Council did not immediately vote to black out St. Andrews, which would have allowed the usual weekday evening services to be held. Instead they were cancelled, although there is a later reference to the lamps in the Lady Chapel being suitably shaded and a service taking place there. Private homes were also subject to the blackout, so that enemy planes would not be able to see the whereabouts of towns and villages.
There was some worry that the night time striking of the church clock might give information to the enemy, but the Minister of Home Security said that there was no fear of this so long as Big Ben continued to strike during a London blitz. An air raid shelter was constructed by roofing over Love Lane, the sunken path which ran through Sir Fred and Lady Moore's garden. However it was little used as thankfully Kirkby Malzeard was not bombed, although three shells fell into a field alongside the road leading up to the Drovers.
A ladder to give quick access to the church roof was purchased for the A.R.P. (air-raid precautions) and sandbags, buckets and a scoop were provided. I have seen no record of an Anderson shelter being erected.
Lady Moore started a working party to make 'comforts for the troops'; people around the nation pulled together in many ways to support the war effort. The photo below shows the ladies working in Mowbray House, please click on it to see a full size image.
In June 1941 the German attack on Russia prompted Rev. Horton to write: "for one nation to attack another, with whom there was a pact of non-aggression and friendship, without notice and with every feature of Nazi frightfulness, is a crime to the likes of which no people has fallen hitherto."
"Luxuries we cannot get, waste is a crime as well as a sin and everywhere we hear and see warnings about careless talk," wrote the Rev. Horton six months before he distributed ration books in November 1941. To save resources the parish magazine was gradually reduced in size, from 12 pages in 1939 to 4 pages with a small insert in 1943.
People's minds and time were inevitably occupied by the demands of wartime, and there was little room for play. This may help to explain the declining congregation at St. Andrews, and the reduction in the number of Mechanics' meetings from twelve a year before the war to three in 1941, and none at all in 1943. Villagers' spare time was eroded by involvement in the Home Guard, the Women's Land Army and the Civil Defence Services, groups which were all active locally.
Petrol rationing severely affected the ability of people in this widespread parish to get into town, and must have had an effect on people's social lives. Instead of visiting friends in Ripon or elsewhere villagers had to keep in touch by telephone, which was not as easy as it is today. Many houses did not have a phone, and even those who did had all their calls routed through Kirkby Post Office. The operator could hear every word that was said, and during much of the war he was instructed to cut calls off after three minutes. I believe he did this very politely; but what an inconvenience!
The government's Dig for Victory campaign was echoed in the vicar's exhortation that his parishioners should use any free time for helping the nation in some way, and there were allotments where Mowbray Court stands today. The school closed for a week in October 1942 at 'potato time', so the summer holiday was shortened to three weeks. There was a clear need for some light relief from all this work, so the Church Council organised a whist party each month during the last year or two of the war, and even offered some small prizes.
In June 1945 the Rev. Horton must have been pleased to be able to write " The month of May 1945 will be long remembered. VE Day, for which we had been hoping and praying, was announced on Tuesday May 8th and we all joined in the heartfelt thanksgiving that the war in Europe was over. Our services on the day itself and on the following Sunday were well attended, and at night the church was beautifully floodlit by Mr Bulmer. The flag was flown, thanks to the intrepid Mr Scrivener, who once again mounted to the top of the staff to fix the cord."
Since writing this article Kirsty Hallett has been given more detail about wartime events, some of which you can read by clicking here. If you have any information or photos about Kirkby Malzeard during either of the two world wars please contact Kirsty Hallett at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't want them to be displayed on the website that's fine, Kirsty would still be very keen to see whatever material there is! Thanks to Ripon Local Studies Research Centre for allowing her access to back copies of parish magazines. Thanks also to Dorothy Maddocks for allowing us to publish the photograph of the working party in Mowbray House.