Reprinted from Newsletter 116, dated 2005 August–September

A view from when peacetime was new

Jim Nagel


Debbie Fear found this booklet for sale, in good condition, for £2 at the St Margaret’s Hospice shop in Street a few weeks ago. It seems no one has seen a copy before, even in the council archives.

Some questions: Who was the author, who signs himself just “S.”? Is there anyone, perhaps a child at the time, who remembers the celebrations? Are there any photographs?

Sixty years on from the end of the Second World War, this souvenir programme from 1946, when Glastonbury celebrated the first year of peace, brings today’s generation a fresh picture of the rigours our townsfolk experienced in their time. The writer makes a concise and moving list of Glastonbury’s six years of blood, sweat and tears.

He signs himself only as “S.” (any theories? Harry Scott Stokes?) His full text is reprinted in the box below.

The final pages list a programme of events, the entire weekend June 8–10, something for everybody.

The Saturday afternoon had children’s sports in the athletic field — the usual 50-yard race for girls 7 and under, boys’ sack race, councillors’ race, all that sort of thing. A grand carnival followed, with procession leaving Station Road at 7pm and thoroughly parading the town: Benedict Street, High Street, Lambrook Street, Chilkwell Street, Bere Lane, Fisher’s Hill, Magdalene Street, Northload Street, Manor House Road, Archers Way, and back down the High Street. And then dancing in the Market Place till midnight.

Sunday evening had a Town Hall concert by the Glastonbury Male Voice Choir and “guest artistes”, and on Monday afternoon was a horse show, gymkhana, pony racing and jumping in the Abbey park, and then dancing in the Town Hall to two bands until 2am (tickets 3/6).

Glastonbury’s war effort, 1939–45, that’s all


This is the text by “S.” in the 1946 Victory Celebrations Souvenir Programme that Debbie Fear turned up in a charity shop.

  1. Roll of Honour

    Adams, John Merrick  10, Manor House Road  Merchant Navy. Brass, Albert Edward  12, Butt Close  Marines. Chivers, Edward  15, St. Edmunds Road  Army. Chivers, John  15, St. Edmunds Road  R.A.F. Collihole, Phillip  Market Place  Army. Eels, Harold Robert  3, Manor House Road  P.A.S.L.I. Elliot, Wilfrid Arthur  4, Bowyers Close  Army. Higgins, William Henry  6, The Archers Way  R.A.F. Linham, Stanley Ivor  28, Bowyers Close  P.A.S.L.I.

    Marsh, Stanley Arthur  21, Landmead  R.A.

    Masters, Sidney Herbert   Manor House Road  Royal Navy.

    Moulton, William  Hill Head  Army.

    Popham, Henry Charles  6, Northload Street  P.A.S.L.I.

    Rayner, George Alfred  24, Northload Street  R.A.

    Ryall, Cyril  19, Benedict Street  Oxf. & Bucks.

    Sweet, William John  3, Beckery Terrace  Devons.

    Taylor, Allan Henry  Street Road  R.A.F.

    Thyer, Percy Ernest  Bove Town  Natal Carbineers.

    Thompson, John Edward  Street Road  Army.

    Tucker, Albert Glencross  6, Summerhouse Orchard  Fusiliers.

    Webb, George H.  38, The Archers Way  Army.

2. In addition to those who will not return, 442 Glastonbury men and 43 Glastonbury women are on record as having served in H.M. Forces or the Women’s Auxiliary Services and were entitled to benefit from the Glastonbury Welcome Home Fund (£2,904 raised during the War). Of these 17 had been Prisoners of War and the Excelsior Prisoners of War Fund divided £493 between them on their return.

3. Among many others who gave of their best and wore themselves out in the war years, Glastonbury lost and will long remember:

Alderman J. C. MORLAND, J.P.  }

Alderman REGINALD CLARK, J.P.  }  Ex-Mayors

Alderman JOHN ALEXANDER, J.P.  }

Mr. R. O. WINFIELD,  Borough Surveyor

Mr. A. DEWHURST,  Deputy O.C. Report Centre

Among these steadfast men John Alexander will always stand out as the first and last Chairman of the Civil Defence Committee and the Invasion Committee (which would have taken over from the Mayor and Corporation lock, stock and barrel under the Military in the event of invasion) and also Mayor for the third time during the Victory year 1944-45. He was taken suddenly ill within a few days of handing over to his successor, Coun. F. J. Brake, J.P., on the 9th November, 1945, and died in the prime of his life (as Deputy Mayor) a month later.

4. For security reasons, little was said during the War about the efforts of local agriculture and industry. Even today we must content ourselves with recounting that hundreds of acres in the Borough were brought under the plough for the first time or (as one example), 40 per cent of the output of our largest industrial undertaking was engaged on direct service contracts. About one half of the wool sheepskins processed in England during the War were processed in our town.

5. After the Armed Forces, and for a time before many of them, the Fire Brigade were first in the front line and they served with distinction throughout the War, attending blitz fires at Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Bristol, Exeter, Bath and Weston-super-Mare.

6. Here and elsewhere the Home Guard served without serving, defended us without being part of the Civil Defence, and in the best traditions of the Territorials, the Volunteers, the Militia and the trained bands of earlier days did their exercises and gave up endless days and nights to qualify themselves to die in the last ditch if it had to come to that, and so they would have. Over 450 officers and men passed through the Glastonbury platoon (or company) of whom 150 went on to the regular Forces. There were no casualties. The A.T.C., Army Cadets, and Sea Cadets were para-military formations in which lads learnt much before enlisting. The G.T.C. were a comparable organisation for girls, but not trained for warlike operations.

7. The Wardens were mostly 1914–18 ex-Service men, who volunteered at the outbreak of War for any duty that was needed, and continued faithful in the same unto the end.

8. The Special Constabulary were and are a permanent addition to the Police Force, recruited in far greater numbers during the war and serving long spells of duty week by week throughout the War under their own officers. In the same class, i.e. a peace-time organisation, greatly developed, were the Red Cross, with their constant aid to Butleigh Hospital; and St. John Ambulance, which “ambled” early and often. More than 1,000 cases were removed and nearly 43,000 miles were covered.

9. The Royal Observer Corps were among the first bodies to be mobilised, and they manned their post at Wearyall Hill day and night to July, 1945.

10. The Report Centre, the First Aid and Rescue Parties and the Information Bureau all made a valuable contribution to the war effort.

11. The Fire Watchers came late into the field and (under compulsory powers) in very great numbers! They soon became an organised and well trained force promptly available to deal with all except major fires.

12. Last, but not least, the W.V.S. throughout the War were ever at the call of Mayors and others who had anything in hand for the good of the town (or for the evacuees), and wanted help. How many meals they served, how many dances they refreshed, and where they found all the food and drink that they supplied (largely from their personal rations) no-one will ever know, and nobody, whether they know or not, should ever forget. The many other duties of the W.V.S. included staffing the Report Centre during the day time and the supply of knitted comforts to the forces, and the V.C.P. (Voluntary Car Pool).

13. The Women’s Section of the British Legion performed a similar service for British and American soldiers, white or black, stationed in the town or passing through here, night after night from Dunkirk to D-Day and after, in the Supper-Bar up over the Legion.

14. The following was the town’s record of War Savings and Special efforts through the War:

1941 War Weapons Week  69,494

1942 Warships Week  43,312

1943 Wings for Victory Week  44,113

1944 Salute the Soldier Week  64,332

1945 Thanksgiving Week  27,651

Total  £ 248,902

The total amount, large and small, special efforts and savings week by week, from mid-1941 to the end of 1945 was £857,559.

15. One other service remains to be recorded. On a memorable evening at the end of the summer of 1939, before hostilities actually commenced, there arrived at the Town Hall, accompanied by their teachers, hundreds and hundreds of travel-stained and weary children from Poplar and other poor parts of London and the suburbs, children who for the most part were to spend most of the war here, whom together with their elders we were to get to know as “evacuees”. No one who was present will ever forget the lump in the throat with which we welcomed them, and the sudden realization that this was what war meant. Since that day organised parties of mothers and children have come from Hastings and London, and a large party of children from Bristol. At one time there were more than a thousand evacuees altogether, and Glastonbury householders provided homes for them all. Their contribution is one that will be remembered with some pride.

16. Seven explosive bombs and several hundred incendiaries fell (technically) within the Borough during the raids on Bristol. No one was injured. No damage was done to property. The Siren sounded 392 times.

That’s all.    S.