Wartime and Showtime in Long Marston Episode 2

This story is a semi-fictional version of events, based on the actual minutes of the meetings which took place in Long Marston 1936-1940, and further information obtained from interviews with long term residents. The information from residents is based on their memories of past discussions with those who were there at the time so may not be totally accurate

Episode 2 – William Southernwood’s story, April 1940

I think we can be proud of what we have achieved over the last four years, getting the Village Show off the ground and making it an important part of village life. It took some doing to get it going and we had some obstacles along the way. It was disappointing that Lords Rosebery and Rothschild ignored our invitation to be Vice Presidents but we at least got our MP Sir John Davison and the Reverend Anthony on board and their support was important in the early stages.

It has been vital for me to maintain control over the finances. I had to lay down the law when Joe Chandler wanted to spend ridiculous amounts on prize money and this sent a message to everyone that costs had to be controlled. I had a fierce negotiation with Headmaster Gordon Savage about the rent to be paid to the school and I kept it down to seven and sixpence. And we have been very successful in persuading businesses here and in Tring to fund the prizes; for instance Freemans Chemists in Tring offered a five shilling prize for the winner of the humorous walks competition – a great favourite with the villagers and a handy sum to take away.

Less generous has been my friend John Chapman whose response to our request for prize donations from local farmers was a free load of manure, hardly interesting to the many children who were taking part in the events. In the end we allocated this to the flower growing competitions and were surprised how grateful the winners were. But, as we anticipated, the majority of the finance has come from the whist drives which have been very successful and have continued every year so far.

The committee has been largely unchanged since we began in 1936. Poor old Joe Chandler has been trying to get someone else to take over as secretary but no-one else seems to want it and, though we disagree on many things, I have to agree that he does a good job. He thought he had persuaded dear old Ray Pheasant to take over but he turned it down at the last minute. I was pleased because Ray is great at playing the drums and marching round the village as a Pied Piper but I would hate to see minutes written by him.

But now we have a most important issue to discuss, whether we should continue to run the Village Show now that war has broken out. The committee members seem to have different views from what I have heard. A practical problem is that most of the younger male residents have been called up, or will be soon. And there is the question of whether it is right to be seen to be having fun when the country is at war and young men are being killed every day. There are rumours that the Germans will soon begin to bomb Britain and we often hear planes flying low over the village.

Before the meeting, I had fears that there would be bitter disagreement as is often the case with our committee – but I am pleasantly surprised. It must be the wartime spirit and the impact of that awful man Hitler. John Chapman made the point that cancelling the show would be giving in to the Nazis and nobody was prepared to disagree. We agreed that we would have to scale things down because of the number of men likely to be called up and that the Carnival Parade should be discontinued, along with frivolous events like the humorous walks competition. And the final decision was to send any profit we make to one of the local nursing associations.

We all left the meeting feeling that we had made the right decision. I wonder if we will feel the same when the bombs start falling on the big cities. Well at least we should be pretty safe from bombing out here in the country.

Read: Episode 1

Editors Notes:

  • The first bombs fell on London in September 1940, a month after that year’s village show.
  • The bomb fell on Long Marston School on January 13th 1941.
  • The Village Show continued every year of the war and thereafter until 2020, when it was cancelled due to Covid

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