What life was like on the home front while war raged

Mexborough Town Council march down Quarry Street to celebrate the end of World War II.
Mexborough Town Council march down Quarry Street to celebrate the end of World War II.

When Britain was plunged into World War II, lives were turned upside down in many ways.

Obviously the disappearance of Doncaster people into the Forces and transfer of residents around the country with evacuations all meant major disruption to normal life.

But what about the home front, not the major cities where bombs wreaked havoc, but the ordinary villages and towns up and down the country? Towns like Mexborough for instance.

A Town at War is a fascinating publication which portrays perfectly the comings and goings in the town during 1940 as told through the pages of the council minutes.

Lots of mundane tasks and sometimes slightly bizarre decisions, bearing in mind there was a war on, but necessary to keep the community running, and of course there was always the perceived potential threat of invasion.

Harold Brearley was chief public health inspector and officiated at the council meetings. The following is an insight into what went on during those gatherings.

Twelfth June 1940 and decisions had to be made. At this time Roman Terrace consisted of 32 acres, 616 houses and a population of 2,440. The extra responsibility meant that sewage effluent problems had to be considered now the street had been transferred from Swinton Borough Authority to Mexborough two years previously.

Announcements were made that due to the war all national holidays should be cancelled and overtime payments should be considered where necessary. Council workers were paid for carrying out war duties and the average working week for council workers was 47-48 hours.

It was decided that no further post boxes should be erected, also that bus services to Thurnscoe should depart from West Street instead of Cliff Street - this was an alteration which remained until the 1980s.

More serious problems were the plans for hospitals to deal with Blitz and bombing victims. Stirrup pumps were distributed for firefighting use. Two nights a week were set aside for gas mask training in the Market Hall while all unassembled Anderson shelters were to be collected and erected.

Private homeowners were also contacted and questioned as to how many people they could accommodate in the case of bomb victims losing their homes.

The hospital carried on and there was a reported trend of an increasing population with 46 births registered (included one illegitimate boy), 17 deaths were noted. Notifiable diseases were two diptheria and 14 measles.

Finally, in this small snapshot of everyday life in war-time Mexborough enemy aircraft were becoming more frequent in the area and a resolution was passed that one council worker be paid for two hours loss of work when he had to turn out as convoy officer following the sounding of an air raid siren during his shift at work.

Some of the above may at first seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but were essential and meetings and decisions such as these were taken up and down the country as Britain settled down to an unsure and unpredictable future which in hindsight would last another four years.