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Shortstown Heritage

Shortstown 1939-1945

Due to the suspension of electoral registers for the war years there are no official listings of residents living in Shortstown between 1940 - 1944. However by comparing the resident lists for 1939 with those of 1945 it is apparent that some families remained in the village throughout these years. By following the RAW Sports & Social Club minutes for this period a clear picture emerges of what life was like in Shortstown during the war.....

Like any other community up and down the country the village had to contend with wartime conditions and shortages and there are continued signs of restrictions and rationing in these years. There are constant references to low stocks of fuel, coal, and bar supplies. Blackout times were strictly adhered to and in October 1939 the Bedford Record reports that a Shortstown lady in Greycote was fined £3 for allowing a light to be visible from her home at night time. The clubs windows were painted black and although the exact location is unknown it is recorded that there would be no more children's sports days for some time as trenches had been dug around the parameter of the 'running track adjoining the club'. Mr Bill Bell recalls that as an eleven year old living in Shortstown he attended Elstow school in 1938 and that all but one of the male teachers there were called up for service during that year.
This notice taken from The Bedfordshire Times in April 1943 lists black out times which were published weekly during the war.

Blackout times1

(Source Beds & Luton Archive Services)

During this time an 'Invasion Committee' was formed by Eastcotts Parish Council to prepare a defence in the event of a German invasion - a real threat at the time and one perhaps that later generations cannot appreciate. The Council was made up of some residents of Cotton End and also a few people from Shortstown - looking at their names some had been in the village since the 1920's. Interestingly the Council minutes record that the Invasion Committee and full Council meetings were held at no 4 Greycote in these years and this house became the ARP (Air Raid Precaution) centre for the remainder of the war.

Spitfire fund Oct 401

(Image courtesy Beds & Luton Archive Services)

Spitfire fund donations Nov 1940

A notice in The Bedford Record in Nov 1940

The photograph (left) from The Bedford Record in October 1940 shows people attending one of the many dances at the Corn Exchange organised by Shortstown workers to raise money for the Spitfire Fund. Do you recognise anyone?

As the war continued further measures were taken by the club to combat shortages - the annual children's Christmas parties were scrapped as there was little 'luxury' food available and raffles were cancelled as tradesmen could no longer afford to donate prizes. In 1940 in an effort to reduce electric lighting costs it was decided to remove the black paint from the windows to preserve daylight as much as possible and use blackout curtains at night instead. In 1941 it became necessary to try to 'slow down' new memberships as bar stocks were dwindling and lemonade drinks for children were stopped altogether due to lack of supplies. Moving on to 1942 it would appear that there were grumbles by members that other pubs and clubs in the area had more alcoholic drinks available from the black market but the committee responded that this sort of trade 'could not be entertained by a properly maintained club.'
It is a sad fact that during these years there are several mentions of friends and members transferred to other bases and some very poignant entries recording the passing away of some members with long associations going back to the airship years. One certainly feels that the club was a mainstay of the village in these years.

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