Chorley people's wartime efforts included everything from growing their own food, working in munitions factories, enlisting as volunteers and raising much-needed funds

We continue our Chorley 150 series as local historian Stuart Clewlow looks at the efforts the people of Chorley borough made to contribute to the war effort.

By Stuart Clewlow
Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 8:32 am
A call to raise £25,000 wartime funds. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow.
A call to raise £25,000 wartime funds. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow.

As the Chorley Guardian reflects on the 150 years since it first published, we're telling the stories which have touched our community. We continue to look back in our Chorley 150 series with local historian Stuart Clewlow

Almost from the outset, what was to become known as World War Two, was `total war`.

To that affect, it wasn’t just the military that were caught up in the action, it was now also the civilians who were directly involved.

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Women working in the munitions factory at Chorley during the war. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

At first they were encouraged to do their bit by growing their own food, making do and mend, accepting and adapting to rationing, etc.

People were also of course at danger due to enemy air attacks.

It soon became necessary for civilians to be more directly involved with the war.

“There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the Battlefield” - King George VI, 3rd Sept. 1939.

Fundraising articles from the Chorley Guardian. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

Women not only enlisted to work in the munitions factories (such as ROF Chorley) producing bullets and grenades, etc, they were also breaking down the social barriers yet further and becoming involved even closer with the military.

Young women were being trained up as pilots and as such would ferry newly-produced aircraft to their designated squadrons and airfields.

They were also manning the anti-aircraft gun batteries (of which many sprang up around the district), which would protect the British industrial centres and sites of military importance.

Even the men who were too old or unfit for active service still found their position within the war machine.

The Chorley Home Guard Band outside Astley Hall. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

One such position was within Local Defence Volunteer groups that mobilised around the country.

They were later renamed the Home Guard, or more affectionately referred to as Dad’s Army.

They consisted of `old boys` who had fought in World War One or even the Boer War (of 1899-1902) and those unfit or too young for military service abroad.

There was also the Women’s Voluntary Services, Air Raid Precaution Wardens, Fire watchers, Auxiliary Fire Service, Women’s Land Army, and many more voluntary groups.

Artefacts belonging to Air Raid Precaution Wardens. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

From 1939 the National Savings Movement developed fund raising campaigns and War Bonds were sold to help finance the requirements of the Armed Forces.

These schemes provided yet another way for civilians to support the war effort.

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It seems that the great effort by the civilian population of Chorley borough to support the war, has been largely forgotten, but the huge amounts of money raised is certainly worthy of note.

The major funds organised through Chorley and District included:

1940 Chorley & District Spitfire Fund,

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1941 Chorley & District War Weapons Week

1942 Chorley & District Warships Week

1943 Wings for Victory Week

1944 Salute the Soldier Week.

There were also other funds or efforts such as:

The Motor Ambulance Fund

The Red Cross

Prisoners of War Fund

Soldiers Comforts

Help for Russia

HMS/m Ursula Comforts, United Aid to China, Searchlights Comforts, and many more.

The people of Chorley and district certainly went above and beyond to support the war effort; not only in terms of people enlisting to serve with the Armed Forces, but also by the contributions and donations made by those who remained at home.

Everyone did their bit.

Chorley 150 countdown

This story is part of our Chorley 150 series to mark the 150th anniversary of the Chorley Guardian.

If you'd like to suggest a story for this Chorley 150 series then email [email protected]