Morton history: 1939 to 1945 Part 3

Notes from Barrington Darby (Local historian):

Part 3 1944 – 1945

As the War progressed air activity intensified, with the Hurricane, Spitfire, Wellington, Whitley, Stirling, Halifax, Lancaster, Dakota and the Mosquito being the most common types of aircraft. Not forgetting, of course, the USAAF P38 Lightning and the B17 Flying Fortress.

In the period 1944/45 Miss S.E. Howard replaced Miss Smith as Head Mistress at Morton School. When victory was imminent Miss Howard made sure all the children of Morton School were fully acquainted with LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY. Morton Colliery CX Co. No.5 played its full part in the War effort although the Hard Coal CX Co. No.6 closed in 1942.

Peace at last – at least in Europe, May 8th 1945 V.E.DAY. We had to wait a while longer for V.J.DAY (Victory in Japan), August 15th 1945. The Village celebrated in fine style.

On the Cricket Field there was a Road Safety First Display followed by dancing by Floodlight in the evening. A Fancy Dress parade – ‘Sidney Greaves and his Chimney Sweeps’ band of assorted players. Tommy Whyman led a procession playing a Barrel Organ. Only Tommy was allowed to approach Morton Isolation Hospital, others in the procession were told to wait at the end of the Hospital Drive.

On both occasions there was a Street Tea Party held in New Street. There was also a Celebration Tea held in the Colliery Canteen. New Street was decorated with Union Flags. Victory Bonfires were made at several sites in the Village. Houses were decorated particularly so if a long lost serviceman was returning.

It was quite a novelty to see the Lamp Lighter on his round each evening, and then to enjoy the illumination from the Gas Street Lights which for six years had simply been monuments.

There were some tragic stories of lives lost in WW2 but thankfully the overall numbers were much less than in WW1 as the Village War Memorial testifies.

The Black-out conditions brought a host of incidents, such as the bus-conductress who saved a passenger’s life after he had slipped beneath the front wheels of her bus at a bus-stop on Stretton Road.

After 6 years of War there was, naturally, great enthusiasm to return to a peaceful way of life as soon as possible. We had emerged victorious through an extremely stressful and austere number of years. The Miners’ Welfare Hall (Village Hall) had been used for various functions during WW2, but was in desperate need of renovation. One such function was on certain Sunday afternoons prior to D-Day, there had been official gatherings of military personnel, centred around the War Memorial. Afterwards, I believe refreshments were provided in the Hall.

Morton Colliery Cricket Club which had laid dormant after the end of the 1939 season was eagerly revived. An immense amount of hard work was necessary to restore the playing area to anything like match conditions. As a boy, I accompanied my father on one of the restoration parties. Although the pavilion had officially been closed and made secure, certain individuals had gained access for one purpose or another? Conditions inside were deplorable, with remains of equipment (pads mainly) strewn around. One item of particular interest, was a large set of leather over-shoes which I was told had been worn by a horse when pulling the roller – there was no sign of the horse!

Many former German P.O.W.s have revisited the Village, sometimes with members of their families. I feel this is something which pays a huge compliment to the way they were treated here during WW2.

© Barrington Darby