The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: The war bonds drive to buy weapons

Bonds campaign: Army tanks appeared at various times in Dewsbury during the two world wars. This  WW1 tank was put on public display in Market Place, but not too sure which year it was. Note the Black Bull Hotel on the right.
Bonds campaign: Army tanks appeared at various times in Dewsbury during the two world wars. This WW1 tank was put on public display in Market Place, but not too sure which year it was. Note the Black Bull Hotel on the right.

Millions of pounds were invested in war bonds in Dewsbury during the two world wars to supply the armed services with tanks, war ships and aeroplanes.

Week after week the Ministry of War placed advertisements in local papers, including the Reporter, urging readers to invest their savings in the war effort.

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

The response was always swift and generous with people from all walks of life investing in war bonds, savings bonds, defence bonds and saving certificates.

In 1942, even young children were being encouraged to set up savings groups in their schools and in the streets in which they lived.

One young lad who had set up his own group was pictured in advertisements throughout the country stating how successful he had been in recruiting new members.

In one advert he proudly announced that in a matter of weeks he had collected £45, enough to buy an anti-tank rifle.

Hundreds of thousands of savings groups were set up in workplaces, shops, schools, hospitals and businesses.

Those savings groups which reached the target they had set themselves, sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds, could name a tank after their town.

The advertisements stressed it was a war of machines they were fighting as well as a war of men because ships, guns and aeroplanes cost money.

It was the shillings and pounds which would help them win the war. One advert told people they couldn’t spend a single shilling on themselves without reducing Britain’s war strength.

They had to save, save, save and put all they could into Defence Bonds, National Savings certificates, Post Office Savings Bank or a Trustee Savings Bank.

The Government were not asking the public to “give” their money, but to “lend” it at an interest rate of three per cent.

Photographs of warships regularly appeared in local newspapers, and every town had its own “Warship Week” at various times throughout the year.

The slogan was “Buy bonds to build Battleships” with the added message: “Do your Duty – put every penny you’ve got into War Bonds during Warship Week.”

Local businesses joined the fight to save, often to their own detriment, like J.W Thornes, electrical suppliers, who urged customers not to buy new radios but instead have their old one repaired and reconditioned.

Jean Modes, dress shop, also in Dewsbury, told customers to buy less clothes to help the war effort, asking them instead to make sure they bought good quality clothes which would last longer.

The Yorkshire Woollen District Transport Company, urged people to travel only when they must and invest the fares they saved on war savings certificates.

To encourage people to support war weapons week, army tanks would be brought to the town at various times and put on public display.

People contributing to the war effort were delighted to see where their savings had been spent.

In 1942, three tanks and their crews came to Dewsbury and were exhibited in various parts of the borough, one of them in the mill-yard at Lyles’ Mill in Earlsheaton.

Many among the huge crowds were allowed to climb on board and have their photographs taken with it.

But this wasn’t the first time weapons of war had been put on display in the town because the public wanted to see them, especially those which had been captured from the enemy and put on show.

Three German gun carriages captured during WW1 were put on display in Crow Nest Park in 1920, but this caused a spirited protest from certain Dewsbury councillors, opposed to the idea.

The guns had been captured by the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment, and presented as a gift to the mayor of Dewsbury who immediately put them on display in Crow Nest Park.

One councillor who had been a serving soldier in the 1914-18 War, Councillor Gillard, said the mayor should not have accepted them, It was an insult to the soldiers who had fought in the war, and a reminder of how so many of them had been killed.

He felt the decision had been made by people who had taken no part in the war except to ask the lads to go and defend their country and risk being killed or maimed.

But Alderman Dwyer, disagreed. He thought they should have as many exhibitions of these trophies captured from the “detested Germans” as they could get.

Despite a number of protests against the guns being put on display, the gun carriages remained on show in the park for some time to come.

Some four years later Crow Nest Park, where the trophies of war had been displayed, was chosen as the site for the erection of the Cenotaph in remembrance of the Dewsbury men killed in WW1.

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