DCSIMG

Brave volunteers who joined up to tackle wartime fires

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editorial image

In 1940 the Ministry of Home Security decided that to help combat any fires which might happen during an air raid it would encourage the creation of what they would be known as Neighbourhood Fire Parties.

In practice every district would have groups of men who would volunteer for fire training and the use of stirrup pumps to ensure they would be ready and able to deal with any small fires caused by incendiary bombs. All volunteers would be trained and then each group once suitably qualified could be issued with the stirrup hand pumps.

Then when any outbreaks of fire were reported the volunteers would be expected to put them out in their own neighbourhoods.

Of course the Brighouse Fire Brigade would be helping to train the volunteers.

On September 3, 1939, everyone listened to the announcement that this country was at war with Germany and later the same evening the air sirens sounded. Everyone took shelter but what a relief when it was discovered to be just an unannounced practice.

Up in Hove Edge on some nights children were taken outside – some may remember watching the night sky glow from the fires in the Leeds direction which could be seen over hills and beyond the Hartshead area in the night sky.

Donald Southwart was a Sergeant Major in World War One and was appointed the Company Commander of the Local Defence Volunteers (Home Guard) and would be out regularly on an evening meeting up with his troops.

In the fields opposite the Pond public house in Spout House Lane, many readers will remember an area often referred to as the Rabbit Warren.

The fields were littered with tall fence posts fixed into the ground and wires connecting all the posts together, this was an early form of radar and often referred to as ‘The Mat’.

In the same field were a few Nissan huts and a few soldiers and in the air was a barrage balloon with spiked fins a scene that fascinated the local children.

Down in the grounds of Crow Nest Mansion was a make shift rifle range, which when the soldiers were not about many local young lads would go down to the mansion lake and then up to the house itself which at that time was in a very poor state of repair.

If the lads were lucky they would find a few unused cartridges near the range.

There was very little traffic about in those days and the vehicles there all had slitted metal masking over the headlights to reduce the visible light to enemy aircraft.

All the bus windows were masked off as well for the same reasons and it was during this time, be it a rare sight, the first gas-buses were seen.

Failing to adhere to the blackout regulations following an instruction from the ARP warden could involved a serious reprimand from the Police and at worse an appearance at court.

The cinemas kept open showing propaganda films and others showing Winstoin Churchill and Field Marshall Montgomery.

There were the morale boosting films – Dig for Victory and Careless Talk Costs Lives, was another.

How many readers can remember being a member of the Odeon Cinema Club in Halifax, every Saturday morning when the opening song went something like this:

Is everybody happy…..YES (very loudly)

Do we ever worry……..NO

To the Odeon we have come

Now we’re all together, we can have some fun

Do we ask for favours….NO

Do we help our neighbours…..YES

We’re a hundred – thousand strong

How can we all be wrong

As members of the OCC (Odeon Cinema Club), we stress

Is everybody happy ……YES (even louder still)

Every now and then a slide would flash across the screen informing the audience particularly the adults that the air raid siren has just sounded.

The following announcement was then made: ‘The Air Raid siren has just sounded if any patrons wish to leave they may do so … and then afterwards the programme would continue’.

Surprisingly few patrons left their seats but stayed to enjoy the entertainment.

 

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