CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Heritage - The Cotswolds at War by June Lewis-Jones

PUBLISHED: 11:52 05 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 20 February 2013

The Cotswolds at War by June Lewis-Jones is published by Amberley Publishing.

The Cotswolds at War by June Lewis-Jones is published by Amberley Publishing.

It's easy to forget - even when the evidence is still all around us - that the Cotswolds played a crucial part in Britain's war effort

For Peace on Earth


Peace on earth! was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
Thomas Hardy Christmas



The Christmas cards are still festooning our walls and window sills, cupboard tops and mantelpieces, proclaiming the age old sentiments of wishing for peace on earth and goodwill to all men, although the last notes of the carols have faded into Christmas just past. Thomas Hardy, our West Country poet, was reflecting on the war to end all wars when he penned his words just a decade after the Great War had ended seven decades on since the outbreak of the Second World War those words still form a fervent prayer for peace in the world as another new era dawns and many thoughts turn back to that time when the country was called upon to fight for that peace. Hardy also declared that War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading.
There has been a remarkable interest in the history of wartime as remembered by the generation that lived through it and both the official documents on the restrictions and regulations, and daily life lived in accordance with, and in spite of them make incredible if not rattling good insight into that period in our history. So, how was our peaceful corner of Britain affected, and what part did our peace-loving folk play in what became a world at war? My grandfather muttered darkly about what he took as a personal affront and insult to the better judgement of the small Coln Valley village of Quenington that war was declared, despite his efforts at getting some 300-odd souls of the parish to sign a Peace Ballot. During my research to try and build up a picture of the Cotswolds at war, I was delighted to find that Grampy Lewiss efforts to keep peace on earth though in vain, as it turned out, were locked in to the statement of the Quenington Parish Council Minutes of 25 July 1935: It was proposed by the Chairman, Mr A Hobbs, and seconded by Mr Pink, that a resolution be sent to the League of Nations or National Peace Council stating that we do not want war. No wonder he nursed his indignation to the end of his days as war broke out some four years later.
Life in village and town, city and countryside was turned upside down as the folks at home set about defending their home patch against the real threat of invasion; the influx of children from vulnerable cities and coastal towns doubled the size of the village schools and family homes bulged with evacuees.
Playing fields went under the spade as every bit of land was turned over to grow food; factories changed production, mothers turned their hand to munition work and hairdressers joined the Land Army; grandmothers sacrificed saucepans to help make Spitfires, and every schoolchild became a skilled fruit-and-nut hunter of the hedgerows all for the War Effort. Austerity as well as necessity became the mother of all inventions: conkers turned into munitions, corsets to parachutes and camouflage created a culture all of its own as kerbs were whitened and windows blackened.
The first Christmas of the war brought forth boastful reports in the local papers (known to be a source of information followed closely by German Intelligence) of how joyful the feasting and merry-making were in England compared with what German people were having to make do with. Cheltenham enjoyed an excellent Christmas, thank you, Mr Hitler. The turkeys were plump and toothsome and the mince pies and plum puddings sizzled. The traders had a splendid Christmas. We defied the black-out and danced till two in the morning with paper hats on our heads. How your people would have loved it. Although not quite so effusive in description and provocative in style, the following years reports still aimed at trying to put across a reassuring feeling that things were not too bad after all.
The Citizen of 5 September 1939 warned Nazis are Watching Parish Magazines and the Minister of Information appealed to the editors of 40,000 technical and religious magazines, through the Censorship Division, to follow the lead of the national press and make no reference to incidents that gave identification of place and persons. Such was the suppression of detail and reconciling the responsibilities of a free press with stringent censorship that editors and journalists were constantly frustrated as to just what to report and publish. It was summed up in a cabled report to the Chicago Daily News: An undetermined number of bombers came over an unidentified portion of an unmentioned European country on an unstated day. Recently is the official word for it. There was no weather. Had there been, it would have been considered a military secret. The alert sounded at no particular hour because the enemy one hesitates to label them with a proper name are not supposed to know the right time. The report was passed by the British censors!
Posters warned against scare-mongering and careless talk, but rumours were rife just as the Cotswold author, Reginald Arkell, had written of in the course of the First World War.
Actual evidence I have none, But my aunts charwomans sisters son Heard a policeman, on his beat, Say to a housemaid in Downing Street, That he had a brother, who had a friend, Who knew when the war would end. Reginald Arkell was so amused that so many people quoted the lines and carried cuttings of them in their pocket that they imagined themselves to be the author of them! He duly acknowledged the public adoption of his verses in his subsequent book War Rumours, published in 1939. My grateful thanks are due to those many excellent authors who have allowed me to print the verse that appears in this little book. The fact that I wrote it myself does not lessen this sense of obligation.
There had been a definite optimism during the strangely quiet spell following the declaration of war that it would be all over by Christmas. That was not to be, but no one could foretell that it would be six long war-torn years before it was to end and even longer for a true peace and security to be achieved.
The Cotswolds were designated as a safe area, hence the high number of evacuees, but the rural idyll was to be shattered as the war intensified and key aircraft industries settled in the foothill vale, attracting devastating air raids. Airfields and landing strips mushroomed over the rolling wolds and tucked into the folds of the valleys to become strategic pivotal points for the invasion of Europe, and American troops introduced a whole new culture to local villages.
Units of the legendary SAS and SOE trained in tented compounds and within castle walls, Radar was developed in a country house at Malmesbury and an important cell of the British Resistance, which was known as Churchills Secret Army, were, literally, an underground movement at Coleshill Estate, with a Miss Marples figure of a postmistress as a crucial link. And we must not forget brave little Kenley Lass awarded the Pigeons VC for meritorious performance on war service the Cotswolds thus claiming to be the first to
use the National Pigeon Service successfully.



The Cotswolds At War by June Lewis-Jones is published by Amberley Publishing.

0 comments

More from People

Fri, 11:53

Helping clients through divorce, separation and disputes over children, we talk to 8 divorce lawyers in the Cotswolds

Read more
Fri, 11:52

We’ve some extraordinary, and inspiring, women in business in the Cotswolds. We talk to 7 female trailblazers in local industry who offer the business advice they’ve lived by

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

25 years in business is no mean feat – and the owner of Lauren’s Catering has lost none of his ambition

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Julian Dunkerton has moved his family’s cider-making business from Herefordshire to the outskirts of Cheltenham, where it boasts a state-of-the-art production unit and a stylish new shop. But don’t think the heart of the business has changed one whit: it still honours the core values Ivor and Susie Dunkerton held dear when they planted their first apple tree, nearly 40 years ago

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

If you want to spread some Christmas cheer to those in need, here are some fantastic charities in the Cotswolds to donate to

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Harnessing the power of social media, charity awards and dreaming up new projects - it’s all in a day’s work for Gloucestershire children’s charity Pied Piper and its corporate supporters

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Cotswolds’ very own Prince of Wales turns 70 this month, so we looked back on some of the highlights of his life and career, and wondered what birthday pressies we would buy for the man who has the world at his feet

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

When landowners are looking to sell their land, and want a transparent journey that delivers them best value, Rosconn Strategic Land is here to take them through the process.

Read more

Radio DJ Paul Gambaccini has secured a payout from prosecutors over unfounded allegations of historical sex offences. The presenter, 69, was arrested in 2013 over a claim he sexually assaulted two teenage boys in the early 1980s. Mr Gambaccini always denied the claims, calling the case “completely fictitious”. He spent a year on bail before the case was dropped. Two years later he gave this interview to Katie Jarvis

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Barn Theatre’s artistic director, Iwan Lewis, talks to Candia McKormack about a rather special project aimed at bringing the Cotswold community together in commemoration of the Great War’s fallen

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The environmental charity set up to protect Stroud’s industrial heritage now enhances the lives of its own volunteers. Katie Jarvis meets chief executive Clare Mahdiyone to hear about her Cotswold Life

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Alex Caccia was in two minds about setting up Animal Dynamics as a limited company, but a shark attack warning changed all of that. Tanya Gledhill meets a man on a mission to change propulsion, one animal at a time

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

He quit his job with a few thousand pounds in savings and an empty garage. In less than a year, Nick Grey’s technology company Gtech was flying. Tanya Gledhill meets him

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search