During 1941 another 28 people with a connection to Darwen had lost their lives as a result of the war, 3 of whom were civilian casualties. At the end of 1941 Britain lost HMS Prince of Wales just off Singapore. The survivors and Royal Marines from the Prince of Wales were taken to Singapore which was set to defend itself from sea borne attacks from the Japanese. Inland from Singapore was a dense area of swampland and no-one expected an attack from that side. By the time they realised that the Japanese were approaching it was too late to do anything about it and Singapore surrendered. The Germans, meanwhile tried to take Malta, but stern resistance under incredible strain earned the island its freedom and the George Cross from King George VI. Then finally some good news – the Germans and Italians defeated at El Alamein, though in the process more Darwen lives would be lost.
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1. The British Battleship HMS Prince of Wales was sunk by the Japanese off Malaya in December 1941.
2. Stoker Class 1, Thomas Healy from Darwen was rescued from the Prince of Wales but lost his life at the Royal Navy land base in Singapore.
3. Another Darwen man assigned to the Prince of Wales, Marine Norman Anthony Lightfoot, was also lost in Singapore.
4. John Holden, a Darwen man in the garrison at Singapore was captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.
5. Weddings continued in Darwen as people did not know what the future held and they decided to grasp the moment.
6. In March of 1942 Darwen held a Warship Week to follow on from the Spitfire project the year before.
7. The man who opened the exhibition was the Darwener who had won the DSO for his part in sinking the Bismarck.
8. A grand totaliser was constructed outside the Municipal building facing the Market Square.
9. Were you one of the children chosen from local schools to unveil the totaliser?
10. The name of the ship affiliated to Darwen was changed at the last moment to HMS Wakeful instead of HMS Gurkha 111.
11. We have the ship’s badge at the Heritage Centre, but the ship’s bell donated to Darwen in the 1970’s is held at Blackburn Town Hall.
12. In April Malta was under siege by the Germans, but no fear as Darwen men were in the front line including Daniel James Mitchell.
13. In between air raids Daniel played in goal for his regimental team as recreation activities helped to maintain sanity.
14. Another Darwen woman caught up in Malta was Sister Winifred Farnhill.
15. As a result of their staunch resistance King George VI saw fit to award the George Cross for Gallantry to the island of Malta.
16. Mobilisation of the Armed Forces into North Africa was next and Marine John Turner was amongst those who would defeat Rommel.
17. Having defeated the Germans at El Alamein many of the Darwen troops would go on to another major battle for Italy.
18. Meanwhile, at home disaster struck. Sweets were rationed from July 1942 until February 1953.
19. Sigrid Augusta Green who had come to Darwen from Norway joined the WAAF where she was persuaded to go back to Norway as a spy.
20. Eric Harwood would finally leave the Home Guard and join the Royal Naval Patrol Service – minesweeping throughout the Mediterranean.
21. James Arthur Reeves was on Merchant Vessels sailing convoys and earned an award for saving the lives of two men after his ship had been torpedoed.
22. The Albert Medal was specifically awarded to those who saved lives at sea and was exchanged later for the George Cross.
23. Hubert Bentley was another Darwen man drawn into the conflict in North Africa.
24. Bdr Frank Gavagan would be joining the Darwen troops in North Africa where they would play a pivotal role in the victory at El Alamein.
25. Frank is seen here, with stripes, in Egypt.
26. George Hollings took his camera with him to North Africa and compiled a photo diary of his time there.
27. George pictured with some of his comrades outside the billet.
28. Digging the tent locations to provide some protection against blast.
29. Striped pyjamas gave a link back home to normality.
30. Repairing aircraft was an arduous and repetitive task in the desert.
31. Forays out into the desert to retrieve downed aircraft were frequent and hazardous.
32. When not on duty George would go sightseeing – here on top of the great pyramid with the sphinx behind him.
33. Constant reminders of why they were there.
34. Night time brought the inevitable air raids and accompanying spectacular anti-aircraft Barrage.
35. Then there were the expected tragedies.
36. The burials with honour.
37. A final resting place far from home.
38. Brief respite at Christmas as the billet was prepared with the essentials ready for the men to enjoy their Christmas lunch.
39. Leslie Warren was in India at this time and that was where George Hollings would be going next.
40. Many Darwen families received little information about their loved ones due to censorship; the aerograph just gave assurance they were still alive.