Skip to main content

Blandford in World War Two - I


Day War broke out

On the 3rd September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. But what was life like at the time, in Blandford and in the surrounding villages? At first, despite the outbreak of war, things continued as normal.

The Somerset & Dorset Railway was offering cheap excursion fares to Bournemouth and Bristol, the latter including entry to the zoological gardens. A cheap half-day return ticket to Bournemouth cost two shillings and one penny (10p). While the all-inclusive Bristol fare was only two shillings and eleven pence (15p). Perhaps travelling by rail rather than by road was safer in September 1939 as there were two serious local road accidents. While riding his bicycle in Blandford, a 17 year-old milk roundsman was killed at the bottom of White Cliff Mill Street when he was hit by a car driven by a Stourpaine man. The coroner reckoned it was an accident caused by the recently introduced wartime requirement for car lights to be dimmed. While just outside Long House Dairies in Pimperne there was a triple accident. A 25 year-old Bournemouth bus driver was fined one pound with costs for driving a bus without care and attention. Two buses and a car were involved in the collision.

At their meeting the Blandford Rural District Council announced no change in the half-year rate while the chairman reported his intention to recruit a minutes & finance clerk to be paid an annual £240 salary.

Gas Masks

Outbreak of war had begun to be evidenced in the columns of local newspaper, the Western Gazette. Because both the Germans and the Allies had used poison gas during World War I, there was an expectation it would be used against the local population. An angry letter to the newspaper’s editor complained not a single person in the village of Templecombe had been issued with a gas mask. The new term was beginning at Clayesmore School with 37 new boys and the war saw the loss of several masters to military service.

(to be continued)


Popular posts from this blog

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw