War Weapons week is upon us. They’re already calling it the Battle of Britain. Forget about turning your swords into ploughshares. Now, these desperate times call rather for the opposite of that. Granted – we need food too. But the pressing need is for Spitfires, for bombers to repeat the success at Kiel, avenge Belgrade, and match Hitler’s 1,000 ton deathloads dropped onto civilian English targets. The nation needs your metal, but the nation also needs your money. Drop in at any Post Office or bank – or see your stockbroker – for War Bonds, Defence Bonds, paying 3%. Even better, start your own savings group. “Hit back at Hitler. Hit harder than ever in War Weapons Week” the advert says. That’s the way to save the country: put your spare cash in the bank. After all, let’s face it: there isn’t much to spend it on.
The grand opening took place today, in Penzance. There’s been a parade, with plenty to see. There was the military might of the Empire: the Indian cavalry on their chargers, just as they might have been back in the olden days, but also a Bren gun carrier. There was a captured Messerschmidt - all “bullet-scarred and twisted… greeted with boos and cat-calls” - to show what we’re up against, but also to show what we can do. There was the Home Guard, the older men wearing their ribbons from the Great War and showing the youngsters that discipline and pride still counts. And of course the usual speeches at the Public Buildings – the Mayor, Lord Lieutenant Bolitho, a brace of MPs. The target £400,000; the slogan “sweat to save”. Then in the evening a boxing match inside, in the big St John’s Hall. Later in the week we’ll hear about civil defence – how to resist like Englishmen – and women – until the last. And every morning, from Monday onwards, you can see the indicator level raised, to show how much money has come forth. To inject a bit of fun, there’s a competition – guess the final total. Humour – that’s the spirit. That’s what’ll do for Herr Hitler all right: humour, love of freedom, and pluck.
But it isn’t just going to be about the grim business of offering up your saucepans and learning how to resist - street by street if it comes to that. There’s going to be a concert at the Ritz, a dance at the Winter Gardens, and a cinema van for the villages. Monday is Children’s Day, with local schools playing the evacuees at football, “entertainment… and instructional films”. Times are such that they’re having to grow up fast, the kiddies – can’t be molly-coddled like they used to be. City children have left their classrooms, their homes, their families – everything they know - and come to find safety amongst us. And elsewhere, streams of children ( hordes, we might say, flooding in) make their way on foot across the continent towards what can only be a better future.
Cornishman 16th April 1941 pages 1, 4 and 7; Cornishman 23rd April 1941 page 3
For a vision of what life might have been like by the end of 1941 if the people of Britain hadn’t stepped up to the mark, see the recent BBC drama serial, SS-GB – shortly available on DVD