During 1940 the war had claimed the lives of 11 members of the armed forces and 8 civilians with a connection to Darwen. At the start of 1941 Britain stood alone against the might of Germany. The spirits of the town were raised with the purchase of the Darwen Spitfire, and the USA passed the Lease-Lend Bill which meant we had the equipment to carry on with the war. The debt for that equipment would not be repaid totally until 2006. Germany invaded Greece in April, the same month we had a battle in Tobruk, then May saw the invasion of Crete. May saw the loss of HMS Hood, but then in reply a Darwen man would win the DSO for his part in sinking the Bismarck. Two things that year turned the tide of the war – Germany made the mistake of invading Russia and the Japanese made the mistake of attacking the Americans. Strangely, when the USA declared war on Japan, Britain was quick to do the same – a decision which would cost a lot of Darwen men their lives.
***You can click on each image to enlarge it***
The 1941 Diary was sold in aid of Darwen Farmers and made the point that we faced the world alone.
At the end of 1940 the Tramways Manager was given permission to employ female conductors – Lottie Clarke took the opportunity.
Grace Willis on the other hand became a conductor on the Darwen buses.
The Darwen Spitfire which had been paid for by donations from Darwen folk was delivered to the RAF in March.
The Darwen Spitfire had a short but very lively time in the RAF.
The Ministry of Supply sent a plaque to Darwen, thanking the people of the Borough for their contribution to the War Effort.
As more men were called up women were encouraged to do their bit.
The Land Army attracted Kathleen Gregory who moved away to Devon and like other Darwen ladies who did the same – never came back.
In March the Council applied to run a direct service from Darwen to Euxton as so many Darwen folk were employed at the ROF Factory.
Those who caught this bus were lucky to escape serious injury when it skidded on bald tyres at Feniscowles and hit a tree.
Women were also required in the factories to replace men in the Armed Forces.
A lot of the mills in Darwen were on war work such as ICI who were making cockpit covers for aircraft.
Evelyn Walker was 25 years old when she worked on Spitfire canopies.
This crew from Hollins were on Mortar Bombs, Tank Wheels, Window for the RAF etc.
The wages book from Hollins shows that they were on Tank Wheels in December 1941.
The Mostyn and Darwen Ironworks at Goosehouse was put on National Service and their employees were exempt from conscription.
All sorts of metal started to disappear from Darwen as the Government stepped up its campaign for Salvage.
The ornate cast iron railings on top of India Mill Chimney was one casualty.
Sadly, the cannon from Whitehall Park would go the same way.
Rationing of Clothing started in 1941 as material started to become scarce. This continued until 1949.
1941 weddings were affected by the Clothing Rations and the white dress started to disappear as the men wore uniform, and the ladies wore their Sunday best.!
Outfits would sometimes be used for more than one wedding with slight changes as people had to Make Do and Mend.
Those too young to join the Armed Forces continued to start their War Career in the Home Guard who would take them at 16 like Eric Harwood.
In May 1941 Darwen held its War Weapons Week to raise funds for the War Effort.
John Gregory, the Mayor, set an ambitious target of enough to buy at least 30 planes and ten tanks.
The Darwen Textile Savings Committee, like other saving committees, ran a successful campaign which helped Darwen to raise over £400,000.
In May 1941 HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismarck, but didn’t count on the bravery of the Darwen men in the Royal Navy.
Commander Halliwell, from Darwen, was on HMS Cossack and won the DSO for his part in sinking the Bismarck.
Casualties amongst Darwen men continued, sadly, and many young men lost their lives in the fight for freedom, Harry Smith amongst them.
In July 1941 the number of evacuated children on roll in Darwen schools amounted to 624. There were also children below school age plus some adults.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of 1941 was brought about by an accidental air crash at Blackpool Central Station.
Complaints were received by the Council in September 1941 about the state of the Air Raid Shelters in the town.
In October it was decided to remove all unnecessary school railings for Salvage including the Grammar School and Technical School.
The second National Service Act of 1941 meant that all single women or childless widows between 20 and 30 years of age could be called up.
Many Darwen women had voluntarily joined the ATS since it was set up in 1938 including Phyllis Dawson
The Navy was not slow to take up its chance and provided women with the opportunity to join the WRNS.
Florence Willis took up the opportunity and made a lifetime career for herself.
Only the Air Force left then, and maybe it was posters like this one on the corner of Union Street that attracted Emma Brown.
Emma met her husband to be whilst in the WAAF’s and actually became a GI bride, moving permanently to the USA after the war.