The War Years In Darwen
Darwen was not an obvious target for mass bombing, indeed it was considered to be a suitable centre for evacuated children. However from the very beginning of hostilities air raid precautions were put into practice. The black-out was enforced. The authorities stressed how the careless display of lighting could undo the care and diligence of everyone else. An ARP centre was set up and manned 24 hours a day.
There was some fear that Darwen Tower could be used by the enemy to find their bearings and attack the town. The Darwen News was quite strident in its demands that the tower be dismantled. The idea gained some momentum, but stalled before any serious moves were made to implement it.
It was decided Darwen could accommodate 5,000 evacuees, the first of them arrived on the 1st of September 1939. Many people in the town were prepared to do their bit and accept children. Difficulties arose mainly with very small children accompanied by adults and by large familes who would not consent to be split up. Some prospective evacuees returned to Manchester.
The German bombs arrived at last in October 1940 when seven bombs were dropped and fatalities occurred. A bus travelling up Marsh House lane was machine-gunned by one of the attacking planes.
Rationing, paper-drives, scrap metal collections became features of the daily lives of people in Darwen. It was noted by some that while the iron railings of ordinary terraced houses in the town were removed for the war effort, the ornamental gates and railings of the grander houses at Whitehall were spared.
A spitfire fund was launched in the town in September 1940. The aircraft was accepted into service in March 1941 and was lost in July while on escort duty over the Hazebrunck marshalling yard.
Thousands of people gathered in the Market Square for VE Day on May 8th 1945. That day and the following were declared holidays. VJ Day was several months later on August 15th. On both occasions celebrations both official and unofficial went on until long into the night.