At the start of 1940 Darwen men were involved with the BEF (British Expeditionary Force), supporting the French on the Continent. This was the time of the phoney war and there was little for them to do except for digging gun emplacements and moving equipment about. The Germans had invaded Denmark and Norway in order to protect their supplies of raw materials but this would change in May and the BEF would be forced back to Dunkirk where they would be evacuated from the beaches. In June there was a real threat of invasion and Churchill mobilised the civilian population to form the Home Guard, whilst Darwen did it’s bit to look after the evacuated children. The Battle of Britain started in September 1940 which prompted Darwen to donate money for a Spitfire with many a school pupil giving pocket money. A disastrous attempt to re-take Norway ended up with another evacuation under fire, carried out this time solely by the Royal Navy. Italy saw its chance and decided to try and extend its colonies in North Africa and Egypt but was thwarted when the British, ably assisted by Darwen men, stopped them in their tracks.
***You can click on each image to enlarge it***
In January 1940, former Grammar School pupil, civilian scientist Peter Ingleby was killed in an RAF aircraft crash whilst working on the development of Radar.
Edwin Farnhill was in the Royal Artillery with the BEF in France and had to make his own way back via Dunkirk.
James Edmund Taziker only arrived in France in April and was evacuated from the beach at Dunkirk on the 30th May 1940.
As with many men evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk, these two men would continue to fight their way through the war until 1946. Amazingly they survived!
May 1940 saw Darwen forewarned that they would be receiving around 1,000 children evacuated from London if the air raids began.
One of the evacuees became lead soprano at Holy Trinity Church in the choir.
The threat of invasion was very real and people on the South Coast were warned to evacuate now because later they would have to stay put.
Food rationing began in 1940 and some items were still on rations until 1954.
Civilian men were recruited into what was known as the LDV or Local Defence Volunteers.
Some people knew them by the common name of Home Guard or even Dad’s Army, and many of them had fighting experience from the First World War.
Others were more disrespectful and said that LDV stood for Look, Duck and Vanish.
Initially they had very little equipment and even trained with wooden rifles, but in time they were well equipped and ready to defend.
Many young Darwen men trained with the Home Guard before enlisting in the Armed Forces and went on camp at Hoddlesden where they had a rifle range.
In June Able Seaman William Henry Bassett received the DSM for his part in the Naval action to evacuate troops from Narvik, Norway.
James Harold Kay joined the Royal Engineers early on in the war and it would be a long while before he could sit on this bridge again. James survived the war.
LAC George Tomlinson, 1534143 has the Defence Medal in his collection – an indication of an early entry into the war. George survived the war.
Frederick Haworth joined the RAF in 1940 and was stationed at Fighter Command Headquarters until 1942 when he moved to India until 1945. He survived the war.
October saw evacuees arriving from Manchester. There are several lists of these at the Heritage Centre showing where they were billeted.
Unfortunately for the evacuees the following week-end saw the only two air raids on Darwen town.
In the first raid there were only minor casualties.
The second raid by a single aircraft was more devastating and six people lost their lives that day, one was Mary Lynn, known to her friends as Polly.
Six people were named as having lost their lives but another who was pulled from the rubble alive died a few months later in hospital.
Jim Page, local coal man was delivering coal that day and was killed when his lorry was crushed by falling masonry. It should have been his day off
Jim was a member of the Darwen ARP team and is pictured in the 1939 section with his daughter Joan, on the beach with her gas mask on the deck chair.
This damage was caused by a bomb on a timed fuse. If it had gone off straight away the two people inside who escaped unhurt would have been killed.
In the autumn the Mayor, John Gregory, decided to open a fund so that Darwen could buy a Spitfire for the RAF.
Even schoolboys contributed their spending money to the fund which was well supported by mill owners and workers alike.