Mansfield in World War II
The Old Mansfield Society has a
new book, Mansfield in World War II. Published
by, and now on sale at, W.H. Smith's. This book has only been made possible
by the contributions made by those who lived in Mansfield during World War II.
Their memories provide a record of the way the war affected their lives.
The summer of 1939 was a good one. Many local families enjoyed basking in their favourite east coast resorts while Nottinghamshire batsman, Walter Keeton, who lived in Mansfield, had responded to the sun on his back by making the highest score for the county, 312 not out.
People could be forgiven for thinking that just as good, if not better, days lay ahead for had not the Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, assured the nation of, 'Peace in our time.'
. . . In those early months of the war, unless a family had a loved one away in the forces, events touched Mansfield lightly. There were petty nuisances to be borne but the earlier fears of air raids and gas attacks proved groundless. So lacking in danger did the general situation seem that by Christmas of 1939, the children, evacuated in haste in September, had returned home.
. . . This period of inactivity - the 'Phoney War', as it was called - lasted until the early summer of 1940. In this period of comparative calm, there were reminders that, in the popular phrase, 'there‘s a war on.' Early in January, food rationing was introduced: not all at once, just for meat to begin with but other foods followed.
. . . Mansfield felt very much involved in the conflict, as one of the regiments in the hastily formed expeditionary force that was sent to Norway was the local territorial battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. Outnumbered and ill equipped, some fell in battle, many were taken prisoners: only a few returned safely to England. As they looked at the ever increasing casualty lists in the local papers no Mansfield person could be in any doubt that they and their home town were now fully involved in the war and must face its consequences.
Memories . . .
The war caused shortages of materials at the Mansfield Brewery so when forces personnel came home to Mansfield on leave they were often unable to be given a pint for lack of production.
At Barringer, Wallis and Manners, later to become part of Metal Box, about half of production was turned over to helping the war effort.
My father had an allotment during the war and, together with the garden behind the house, kept us well supplied with vegetables, soft fruit and apples. When rationing began it was sometimes a case of 'who you knew', a friend of my father‘s obtained large tins of sugar for us from his canteen, which helped with the jam and marmalade making.
The survivors of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk
arrived at the LNER station on Great Central Road. They were haggard, unshaven,
half without arms, boots, tunics or any other equipment, they nevertheless formed
up and marched through the town and up to the Market Place from where they were
split up and were allocated billets.