The winter of 1944/45 in Britain and Europe was one of the severest on record. In the Ardennes region, where in December 1944 Hitler launched his counter offensive in the west (known as the Battle of the Bulge), all Allied reconnaissance planes were grounded. In Italy it became impractical for the Allied offensive to continue, the Baltic Sea froze over and so too did Dutch canals making them impassable for barges. Because of this food stocks in cities in western Netherlands rapidly ran out. In Britain, snowfalls of 1–2 ft were recorded in Scotland, Wales and the West Country, and overnight temperatures throughout the country regularly fell well below freezing. Censorship forbid weather reports in newspapers but local reporting in January did reveal snow on the ground in Stortford.
Bishop’s Stortford UDC meetings continued to be held monthly as they had throughout most of the war, the first this year after the Christmas break taking place on Tuesday 30 January. As per usual it was covered in some depth by the H&E Observer.
A committee formed to examine the housing problem in Bishop’s Stortford, was reminded by a letter from a resident not to forget the country areas that fall within Stortford’s boundary. Satisfactory housing, it said, was just as urgent for rural residents as town dwellers, adding that rural residents would be unable to afford houses built by private enterprise, and speculative builders were unlikely to build houses for the working class in country districts.
Unfortunately it seemed the plight of the working class, rural or town dwellers, would receive little help from building societies. They, according to a government report (The Pole Report), were anticipating imposing a stranglehold on post war building to the extent of £150m per year and endeavouring to convince the government that state schemes (council housing) would be unnecessary.
Censorship didn’t allow the H&E Observer to report too openly on the war’s progress so local deaths often made the headlines, including this month local solicitor William Johnstone Gee. A senior partner in the firm of William Gee & Sons, founded by his father, he died on 13 January, aged 79, at the Foxley Hotel where he was living temporarily. Also mentioned was Isaac Prior, chauffeur to Tresham Gilbey, who died an unnatural death on 25 January, aged 53. He was knocked down and killed by a train beneath the road bridge in Michaels Road near to the former Red, White and Blue public house.
17 January: the Russians took Warsaw and on the 26th liberated Aushwitz. In the Far East Japanese troops withdrew to the Chinese coast
ARP report 20 January: 1 *LRR fell in field near Farnham Road, BS, slight blast damage to a few houses, no casualties.
*LRR - Long Range Rocket (V-2 Rocket Bomb)
There should be no reason to doubt the accuracy of the ARP report, above, but former Stortfordian Pete Young, who was a schoolboy at the time, remembers what he believes to be the true site of the V-2 explosion.
Pete lived in a bungalow in the grounds of Bishop’s Stortford College and attended the original Northgate End school at Northgate End. While getting ready for school one morning in January 1945, at some time between 7am and 8am, a noise was heard that he describes ‘like snow sliding off a high roof and hitting the ground.’
There was no way of telling the direction the sound came from, so deciding to investigate Pete and his school friends chose to walk to school via Westfield Road and then through a narrow, tree and scrub lined alley that would take them to Chantry Road. Near the top of Westfield Road they turned right along the edge of a playing field but on entering the alley were stopped by a local policeman, who told them not to enter the allotments. These ran alongside the playing field stretching as far as Cricketfield Lane. Despite what the policemen told them, a short way into the alley Pete went through the hedge and saw a huge hole in the ground with clumps of earth smoking and steaming. He remembers soldiers arriving at the scene from Silver Leys, who were surprised at the size of the crater and at the heat coming from it. Discussion between the soldiers concluded the crater was too small to have been caused by a V-1, or an aircraft that would have left surface wreckage and the smell of aviation fuel. Therefore it must have been a V-2. See Personal Memories
The former allotments that ran adjacent to the playing field, now in fact a playing field of the new Northgate School in Cricketfield Lane, was later developed to form Willow Close. This is a cul-de-sac at the top of which are four houses, their rear gardens backing on to the same alley that Pete Young speaks of. The hedge he went through is now the back fence of these house and where the V-2 hit the ground is now their back gardens.
In Europe the Allied advance hadn’t yet destroyed all V-1 and V-2 launch sites, the consequence of which was that Britain was still receiving regular hits. The above report seems to be the only recorded incident of a *V-2 rocket falling on this district, but shortly afterwards a V-1 was brought down near Thorley. Witness to this was a young evacuee living at Butler’s Hall Cottages, Thorley. While in a field outside the cottages, he heard the distinctive motor sound of a V-1 very low and heading in his direction. A fighter plane was chasing it with guns blazing. As both passed overhead, the V-1 with its motor still going crashed beyond the Green Man pub at Exnalls Farm on the Great Hadham Road. There were no injuries.
*The first V-2s fell on Chiswick and Epping on the evening of 8 September 1944, and the last fell on Orpington, Kent on 27 March 1945. The very last V-1 to fall on Britain was at Datchworth, Hertfordshire on 29 March 1945.
In a report by the Services Personnel Welcome Home Sub-Committee of Bishop’s Stortford UDC, concerning proposals for welcoming home members of the Forces, three options were decided upon: 1) to distribute the fund raised by way of cash gifts 2) create a scheme for a trust fund to assist ex-Services personnel and their dependents 3) the erection of a community centre. These options were to be discussed by local organisations, then voted on at a public meeting possibly to be held at the Regent cinema. It was pointed out, however, that a public meeting would not to be representative of the town and so it was agreed to recommend to the council that a referendum take place.
January: As the Russian Army advanced westwards more than a million German troops and civilians fled East Prussia. Between 20 January and March many thousands of them died at the hands of the Russians or the weather.
At the start of February allied leaders Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at a secret location in the Black Sea area to discuss the future of Europe
On a slightly lesser scale the future of Bishop’s Stortford was also under discussion at this time, though little headway was being made. The stumbling block was Professor Abercrombie’s report on the planning of Greater London, which now dictated that administration of the Bishop’s Stortford area in relation to town planning be transferred to the London Regional Office instead of the Eastern Regional Office. This was causing delay in the council’s application for consent to purchase land in the Havers Lane area for housing.
Because of the situation the Housing Committee recommended abandoning plans for temporary housing at *Dimsdale Crescent, and instead prepare plans for permanent houses on the 4 acre site. Also recommended, and adopted, was that all undeveloped land between the Great Hadham Road and Thorley Lane should be planned as a Neighbourhood unit for inclusion in the council’s own Draft Town Planning Scheme.
This month the local Burial Board revealed interments in the cemetery in 1944 were 159 compared to 128 in 1943. Despite this drop in population the Chief Librarian’s annual audit confirmed the demand for books in 1944 was as great as ever. Among his statistics were the following: the number of books in the town library was 10,750, there were 3,000 adult members and 700 child members, and the number of issues that year was 28,600.
An earlier request by the town council to borrow money to buy an ambulance for local needs was turned down by the Ministry of Health ‘in view of the need for economy in the use of labour and material.’ That the town was entirely dependent on one ambulance, mostly tied up with duties at Haymeads hospital, and that Civil Defence ambulances had now been withdrawn was felt good enough reason to ask the Ministry to reconsider.
But in March, hopes faded that the town might secure its own ambulance when county council intimated it was considering setting up a county ambulance service. Councillors’ objection to this was that an ambulance coming from elsewhere would delay urgent cases getting to hospital, and doctors were of the opinion that the town was large enough to justify its own ambulance. Councillor Hughes was more vociferous: ‘If this council is going to give up all its duties to county council, we might as well resign.’
It was also announced there was to be no Holiday at Home programme this summer due to lack of public support the previous three years. There would still be entertainment during the summer months but on a much smaller scale. Gramophone music was to be provided in the Castle Gardens on two evenings each week, and for a fee of £50 an amusement fair was allowed use of a field at Easter, Whitsun and during August. The only stipulation was that music should be of the steam organ variety and not gramophone records, and sound was to be regulated to avoid nuisance. As usual, councillors were divided: one saying it was wrong to limit the fair’s owner to one form of music, another saying that ‘compared to steam organ music, amplified records were too penetrating and piercing.’
27 March: V2 rocket attacks on London cease
With the start of a new financial year looming, an increase of 2s 8d in the general rate was announced, making it 14s. 2d. in the Pound. This was due to a rise in the county rate from 8s 10d to 10 shillings and additional requirements for urban council purposes.
After some delay, and possibly sensing that the war was now fast nearing its end, the council finally decided that the town’s welcome home to members of the Forces and War Memorial should be in the form of the Remembrance Fund scheme for the assistance of ex members of the Services and their dependents.
Progress too on the housing front, a council deputation sent to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning gaining approval, in principle, to acquire land for housing in the south west part of the district [Thorley].
By April the Allies were closing in on Germany from all sides:
6 April: Yugoslavian partisans take Sarajevodian
7–13 April: Russians occupy Vienna
10 April: US Army take Hanover
12 April: Allies liberate Belsen and Buchenwald concentration camps. The same day President Franflin D Roosevelt died and Harry S Truman became President.
15 April: Arnhem finally taken by the Allies
23 April: Russians attack Berlin
25 April: Russian and American forces meet up on the banks of the Elbe at Torgau, Germany 28 April: Italian dictator Benito Mussolini captured by Italian patisans trying to flee Italy, and killed the followed day
30 April: Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin bunker
Unreported this month was the crash near Stortford of a De Haviland Mosquito.
At the April Petty Sessions, a lorry driver living at Causeway pleaded guilty to ‘using motor fuel in a manner which would not effect reasonable economy in its consumption.’ Employed to collect night soil from Service camps and afterwards deposit it at Braughing, the driver one day used the lorry to take three friends to Newmarket races and also Cambridge – a deviation of some 60-70 miles. His fine was £20 with £3. 14s 4d. costs. Also to appear was a woman from Great Hallingbury charged with stealing a lady’s bicycle in Stortford, valued at £5. Describing it as ‘a stupid act’ the Chairman of the Bench fined her £2 and £1. 1s. 6d costs.
Bishop’s Stortford Golf Club, which remained open throughout the war years, this month held its first annual meeting at the club since 1940. Since that time the club house had been let to London Hospital (Ligature Departmet) Ltd; annual subscription charges had been reduced to three guineas; ground staff had been cut down; sheep had been grazed on the course; and four holes, together with other land, had been ploughed up to grow crops. Membership had also dropped to 173 against well over 300 pre-war, but it was hoped to gradually get the club back to normal.
Towards the end of April the Ministry of Health finally gave the town Surveyor permission to apply for the necessary permits ‘and proceed by direct labour’ with the preparation of Dimsdale Crescent site for temporary housing (prefabs). It was also hoped that, following an interview with Ministry officials, permission would soon be granted for the building of houses south west of the town. Though important news for Stortford it was somewhat overshadowed by events in Europe a few days later.
May 01: German forces surrender in Italy
May 02: Battle of Berlin ended, German Forces surrender
May 04: German forces in North West Germany, Denmark and Holland surrender
May 07: The Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender document for all German Forces to the Allies at General Eisenhower’s headquarters Rheims in France
To mark Victory in Europe (VE Day) the 8th and 9th of May were declared a national holiday in Britain.
‘The way in which Bishop’s Stortford received and celebrated the news of the unconditional surrender of Germany and cessation of war in Europe was typical of the spirit of an English country town as anything could be.’ So wrote a H&E Observer journalist on 12 May 1945, who witnessed celebrations in the town.
There seems little point in rewriting his report, so here it is in full:
There may not have been the cheering, singing and dancing in the streets that might have been anticipated, but there was something else even more eloquent of the joy that was in people’s hearts after the long years of suffering and anxiety. Everyone had a smiling face and a cheery greeting for friends and acquaintances.
On Monday afternoon the town began to prepare for the long awaited VE-Day. Flags appeared at the windows of shops, offices and houses and soon the streets took on a gay and colourful air reminiscent of Coronation time. By Tuesday morning – when the weather, too, had entered into the spirit of the occasion and sunshine added real brilliance to the scene – everyone was in holiday mood and came out to see what VE-Day really felt like now that it had come.
The day passed happily and quite quietly. Services of thanksgiving at the churches had crowded congregations, and in the afternoon the bells of St Michael’s rang out a peal in celebration of the historic day. In the evening the centre of attraction was the Causeway, where there was dancing on the car park, specially floodlit for the occasion, fireworks on the Castle Mound and a huge bonfire in the Town Meads. Now the black-out was beaten with a vengeance. As darkness came on the crowds grew larger and it was noticeable how many parents had brought their children to see this cheerful display of light. One street lamp in the Causeway, back temporarily to full pre-war brilliance, was gazed at in wonder by the youngsters, many of whom, of course, had never seen such a sight before.
At about 10.30 a cascade of fireworks went off on the Castle Mound, which, ringed with flares, made an impressive sight and brilliantly lit up the surrounding trees. Then the bonfire was lit and the occasion celebrated in age-old manner. Other bonfires were also to be seen in various parts of the town, and a constant ‘barrage’ of fireworks was kept up till after midnight. Searchlights in the surrounding district swept the sky and flashed out ‘V’s’.
It was no novelty to see the sky lit up with searchlights and the glow of fires, but now that these had such a different significance they seemed to give a most appropriate finish to the day’s proceedings. Loud speakers at the car park, which earlier had given Mr Churchill’s announcement and the King’s speech, were used to relay music for dancing which went on till a late hour.
9-12 May: Channel Islands liberated, the Russians occupy Prague
Celebrations continued in the coming days with Victory street parties held for both adults and children. Among the streets taking part were Oak Street, Orchard Road, Rye Street and Meadowlands, London Road, West Road, Nursery Road, Stort Road and Sidney Terrace (including Jervis Road). Rhodes Estate held their party for about 120 children on the town’s football pitch. Games arranged both for children and adults included a football match between married men and women, the men having their hands tied and not being allowed to run. The result wasn’t recorded.
Children from South Mill Road, Mill Street and Twyford Road were entertained to a Victory party at Trinity Hall, the cost of hiring the hall paid for by an American soldier who had since been posted abroad. And at Holy Trinity Vicarage Gardens, Apton Road, a party was held for 96 children including those from Newtown Road and Castle Street. VE-Day celebrations involving residents of Dimsdale Crescent and Beldams Lane included effigies of Hitler and Mussolini being ‘hanged’ and then burnt on a bonfire of rubbish.
But by far the biggest party was that hosted by the town council at the British Restaurant behind South Street. Attended by more than 1,200 Bishop’s Stortford school children, the Wesley Hall also had to be used to accommodate them all. Before the party started children attended a special service at St Michael’s church then marched in procession to South Street. A local firm supplied biscuits and American soldiers in the area provided doughnuts, sweets and presents.
23 May: Heinrich Himmler, architect of the ‘Final Solution’ – the attempt to destroy all Jews in Europe – committed suicide while in custody
Of interest to Bishop’s Stortford at this year’s Royal Academy exhibition in London, was a painting by local artist J Kynnersley Kirby, entitled ‘Twenty-six Coupons.’ Portrayed was Jack Tissiman, of the tailoring firm Tissiman & Son, at work on a check suit in a cutting room of the firm’s High Street premises.
Though the war in Europe was over and an air of near normality was now returning to Britain, the war in the Far East continued.
10 June: Australians invade Borneo
22 June: Americans take Okinawa
Also in June a metaphorical bombshell hit the town council when Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s long awaited ‘County of London Plan’ recommended that development and expansion of Bishop’s Stortford be curtailed and its population restricted to 13,500. The reasoning behind this decision was to address the needs of a growing urban population, and having long favoured the idea of building satellite towns or ‘New Towns’ around London, nearby Harlow fitted his plans perfectly.
But Abercrombie’s master plan was not acceptable to all who had an interest in the prosperity and progress of Bishop’s Stortford, the major fear being that the building of a new town at Harlow would detract people from living in Stortford and lead to the decline of the town. Backed by the Chamber of Trade, the town council formulated strong arguments for a revision scheme for the district. Not joining the fight, however, was the Ratepayers Association and Bishop’s Stortford and District Trades and Labour Council, who were in favour of Abercrombie’s scheme.
The council’s report was matter of fact. While it was true that Stortford hadn’t developed very rapidly in the past this was due to most undeveloped land in the area being owned by two large estate owners. These had since come on to the market and been split into many parts. It was, therefore, reasonable to suppose that new owners of that land were keen to develop for housing.
The proposed senior school at Thorley [London Road] on land already acquired by the county council would also increase demand for housing, as would development of the Thorley area. Even at a figure of 10 or 12 persons per acre the population would increase by 4,000-5,000. Add to this the proposed development of Parsonage Lane area and the population would soon amount to 25,000. All Public utility services in the district were capable of improvement and expansion.
The council also contended that expansion of local light industry was in both the National and local interest and that more new industries be encouraged and sufficient housing provided for an increased population to work in those industries. Stansted airfield on the boundary of the district would also have some influence on the town, whether it continued as a military or civil airport or was adapted for use as housing estates.
With regard to transport: fast trains to London taking only 40-45 minutes had already made Stortford an attractive place for City workers to live in, and LNER’s plans to electrify the line as far as Stortford would only increase its popularity.
Weighing in with its support for a revised scheme, the Chamber of Trade estimated that local traders already provided shopping facilities for a population of approximately 40,000 people resident in Stortford and surrounding district, and was confident there existed adequate facilities to cater for an increased population. They also expressed the opinion that a new town built six miles away from Stortford would cause long established firms to move to the newly created town.
In conclusion the council’s report pointed out that residents of Stortford were entitled to municipal amenities which, if the town declined, it would not be possible to provide, because a reasonable rate levy would be insufficient to enable the provision of such facilities and amenities. For all the above reasons the council submitted that the Area Joint Town Planning Committee, in cooperation with the Local Authority, should be permitted to plan and direct an orderly development of Bishop’s Stortford up to a maximum population of 25,000. They hoped that Abercrombie’s Plan and Scheme, so far as it affected the district, would be amended to make such provision.
*The building of Harlow ‘New Town’ began in 1947
Despite the continuing war with Japan, mass demobilisation for British servicemen began on 18 June, with each man given a ‘demob suit’ to replace his uniform.
1st July – American, British and French Forces occupy sectors of Berlin
10th July – 1,000 USAAF bombers attack Japan
16th July – First test of atomic bomb in the Mexican Desert
17th July – Potsdam conference to decide war reparations. 1,500 USAAF bombers attack Tokyo
On 23 May 1945, two weeks after the Allied victory in Europe, Winston Churchill’s National Government, set up in May 1940 came to an end. Though Churchill was reluctant to dissolve Parliament until the war in the Pacific had been won, the Labour Party was eager to return to politics and called for a general election. When his coalition partners made clear they also wanted to go to the country he had no choice.
Polling Day was Thursday 5 July. It was the first election fought in Britain for ten years and in Stortford three polling stations were open: Northgate School, Hockerill School, and St Michael’s School. Four candidates representing Conservative, Labour, Liberal and the Independent Party were fighting for the Hertford and Stortford seat, and while in the town canvassing voters each escorted supporters of their respective party to the nearest polling station.
But unlike pre-war general elections, there was little excitement in the town and even less atmosphere. That the electorate had to wait 3 weeks for the results to be declared may have had something to do with it, or it may have been that Stortford residents pretty much knew what the result would be in this Conservative stronghold. The 1935 election had returned Rear Admiral Sir Murray Sueter (Conservative) to the Hertford and Stortford seat with 21,193 votes against the Labour candidate’s 11,492.
And so it was once again on 26 July when the election result was announced – the Hertford and Stortford seat won by the Conservative candidate, Lieut Col Walker-Smith. But the national vote was somewhat different. A sweeping Labour majority of 146 ousted Churchill from power; Clement Atlee became Britain’s new Prime Minister, and Lieut Col Walker-Smith took his place on the opposition benches.
*Votes returned: 393 Labour MPs, 213 Conservative MPs, 12 Liberal MPs
The last town council meeting of July held on Tuesday 31 July, was the first to be held at the Council House in Causeway since war began. During the war years the council chamber had been in use for civil defence purposes, and the council had met at the police station in the Juvenile courtroom.
6 August: The Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan, killing 100,000 people instantly. In the following months and years, thousands more would die from burns and radiation.
9 August: A second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, this time on Nagasaki. 40,000 people were killed instantly and 45,000 more would later die from burns and radiation.
14 August: Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender. The following day people in Allied countries around the world celebrated VJ-Day (Victory over Japan)
14 August was also the day of the official closing of the American Red Cross Service Club at Bridge Street in Bishop’s Stortford, reportedly one of the finest canteens of its kind in England. Thousands of American soldiers had passed through its doors bound for the Continent, and during 1944 no less than 2,000 meals were served weekly. A supper party was given to all members of staff and volunteer helpers in recognition of their services. It was hoped the premises would be used to benefit the town and community at large.
Bishop’s Stortford’s preparations for VJ-Day began early on the morning of Wednesday 15 August. Magistrates held a special meeting to grant licensees permission to extend opening hours from 10.30pm to 11.30pm, buildings throughout the town were adorned with Union flags and bunting – not long since put away after celebrating VE-Day – and early morning shoppers stocked-up for the declared two day holiday. By mid morning, Thanksgiving services were taking place in all the town’s churches and as tradition dictated at times of national celebration the bells of St Michael’s rang out loud and clear.
Pubs did a good lunchtime trade but by afternoon the streets quickly emptied as people prepared for the evening celebrations. As with VE-Day the venue was Causeway, and as dusk fell people gathered in their thousands to watch or take part in a torchlight procession around the town.
Led by a Major LG Lewis, on horseback, and headed by the drums and bugles of the Army Cadets, the procession journeyed through Bridge Street, North Street, Hadham Road, Bells Hill, Windhill, Potter Street, South Street, South Road, London Road, Hockerill and back to the Causeway. Hundreds of people cheering and singing accompanied the procession as did many children in fancy dress costumes.
Celebrations continued with the lighting of a huge bonfire followed by a barrage of fireworks launched from Castle Mound. An amusement fair near to Castle Gardens added to the fun and Causeway car park was specially lit for dancing. Needless to say, most people didn’t see their beds until the early hours of the morning.
On 2 September 1945 Japan signed the official surrender terms aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, bringing to an end a World war that had lasted 6 years all but one day.
Those of us born after 1939 can have no true idea of what life was like on the Home Front during World War Two, just as those of an age who did experience it had no real idea of what to expect when war on Germany was declared. If informed sources of the time were to be believed the immediate future wasn’t too bright – German bombers dropping high explosives and poison gas, laying waste to most of central London and its population within minutes of the declaration of war. Such a scenario may now seem a little far-fetched, but in 1939 it was as believable to the British public as was the threat of nuclear war to the Cold War generation of the 1950s and 1960s. As we now know, the predicted scenario wasn’t so far-fetched after all. One year on, the Blitz laid waste many British cities and did kill many, many thousands of civilians.
(It’s a frightening thought that had Germany’s technical and scientific ability been as advanced in 1939 as it was in 1944, V-2 rockets could easily have laid waste central london and much of its population within 5 minutes of Chamberlain’s declaration of war.)
The first air raid siren to sound almost immediately after Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war was a false alarm, but was the first of 1,224 that Londoners heard between 1939–1945.
Bishop’s Stortford’s first air raid alert was sounded at 06.45am on the morning of Wednesday 6 September 1939 – not to warn of approaching enemy aircraft but as a test to make sure the siren worked and could be heard throughout the district. It did and it could but wasn’t heard again until almost a year later in 1940, after which it sounded a further 815 times – the last at 09.58am on Thursday 29 March 1945, the day before Good Friday.
The number of air raid alerts in each year of the war were: 1939–1, 1940–245, 1941–115, 1942–25, 1943–99, 1944–291, 1945–40.
As shown above, the second highest year for alerts in Stortford was 1940, starting in late summer with the Luftwaffe’s attempt to destroy airfields in south east England that included nearby Duxford and North Weald. This was followed on 7 September by the start of the London Blitz, October proving to be local people’s and local *ARP’s busiest and most memorable period of the entire war. Rural towns were never deliberately targeted but during the dark days of 1940/41 many, like Stortford, became victims of random bombing and harassment from lone, marauding enemy aircraft. Bishop’s Stortford wasn’t exactly on the front line but it was close enough to London and the east coast to suffer such attacks. That said, it seems odd that its large railway goods yard was never specifically targeted nor, in the later stages of the war, Stansted airbase. That only three civilians in Stortford lost their lives to enemy action the entire war, was extremely fortunate.
During September and October, two German bombers crashed in the district: one at Thorley Wash the other on the edge of town, close to St Michael’s church. In total, 7 crew members of these two aircraft died at the scene and one survived the Thorley crash.
The largest number of alerts in any one-day was nine on 17 August 1945 during the flying bomb attacks, and the longest period for which an alert was in operation was thirteen-and-a-half-hours, from 17.40pm on the evening of 8 December 1940, until 07.09am the following morning. Altogether the times for which the alerts were on added up to 1,293 hours 11 minutes – equivalent to a continuous period of nearly eight weeks.
In total 160 High explosives and 40 incendiary bombs were dropped in this district. There were no parachute mines, one V-1 explosion and, said to be, only one V-2 rocket explosion though there was possibly two. This list is thought to includes Gt Hallingbury.
That Stortford escaped the war virtually unscathed and yet had only 409 fewer alerts than London, is because all towns and villages were alerted if enemy aircraft were in the vicinity, wherever they were headed. The number of Forces personnel killed in action and originating from the town totalled 107. Each name is recorded on the War Memorial in Castle Gardens, some of the same names also appearing on other, smaller, memorials in town churches. Two servicemen from Thorley were killed, their names commemorated on the Second World War memorial in Thorley church. It’s a sad fact that many more Forces personnel died as a result of traffic accidents while on leave.
Some other facts about war on the Home Front that are worth knowing and remembering:
In conventional bombing and during the attacks by V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rocket attacks, 60,595 British civilians were killed, over two thirds of them during the Blitz of 1940/41. 86,175 were seriously injured. 71,270 metric tons of high explosive were dropped on Britain during the course of the war, destroying or damaging over 4.25 million British homes.
In total 9,251 V-1s were launched against Britain, of which 4,261 were destroyed by British defences. over 6,000 people were killed.
1,115 V-2 rockets were launched against Britain, killing 2,754 civilians.
By mid-1944, 5.25 million men and women – 16.5% of the working population – were full-time in the forces or Civil Defence.
5.06 million (15.8% of the population) were in the munitions, shipbuilding and aircraft industries.
There were 1.75 million men in the Home Guard and 1.25 million in part-time Civil Defence.
In Agriculture and helping to ‘Dig for Victory’ were 78,000 members of the Women’s Land Army, while in the mines there were 37,000 ‘Bevin Boys’, drafted into the pits in an effort to boost coal production.
*There were 1.4 million ARP wardens in Britain, most of whom were part-time volunteers who had full-time day jobs. Bishops’ Stortford had almost 200 wardens including 10 women. Only 8 of this total were paid a weekly wage.
After VJ-Day the town council quickly got back to the business of peace-time administration, starting with the announcement that full street lighting in the town would commence on 1 September 1945.Also decided was that in future the Sanitary and Housing Inspector would be responsible for receiving and recording all applications for council houses, and for interviewing applicants. Also to be implemented was a scheme for selecting tenants for council houses on a points basis, though it was decided not to make public the details of the system. This would have included four of the nineteen families who were still billeted in the town because they had no homes to go to, and who wanted to stay here. The other fifteen families wanted to return to their home areas.