When war came in September 1939, air raid shelters for the public were provided. One was 200 yards from the Tabernacle Schoolroom Rest Centre, in Belmont Street, Buckley, and another 10 yards from the ex-Serviceman’s Memorial Institute in Church Road. There were air raid wardens’ posts based at 11a Mold Road; Holly Bank; Knowle Lane Ewloe Place;; Alltami; Nant Mawr; Dobshill Cross Roads; and the junction of Liverpool Road and Mold Road. There were two first aid parties and a dressing station at Holly Bank. The Council set up two feeding and rest centres. The documentation squad (in case of gas attacks) was based at Manor Farm, Buckley. The Home Guard used the ex-serviceman’s Memorial Institute in Church Road for training and storing their equipment.
First Aid Box from Mold Road
Neville Chamberlain returned on 29 September 1938 from his meeting in Munich with Hitler holding a piece of paper, which he described as ’Peace and honour’. This did not prevent the issue of 6,000 gas masks brought from Connah’s Quay which were hastily assembled and distributed from the Council Chambers. Instructions were given at the brickworks, to the first and second house audiences at the Palace and Tivoli, spectators at football matches and to a public meeting at Tabernacle, on what to do in a gas attack.
Further plans made by Flintshire County Council on what to do in the event of an emergency were revealed on 15 May 1939. Reception areas were to be established and controlled by marshalling officers, together with distribution points and road transport officer in charge of three motor buses and a van for the conveyance of rations. Arrangements were planned to recruit twelve members of the St. Matthew’s Church Lads’ Brigade to act in a general capacity as messengers. A display of strength had to be witnessed two days earlier the Buckley Battery of the 71st Anti-Tank Regiment in procession with Buckley Royal Town Band, members of Buckley’s Volunteer Auxiliary Defence Force (VAD) and 100 Territorial recruits marched from their headquarters in the Mill Lane School Room. On 5 June all men aged 20 years had to register at the Labour Exchange under the Military Training Act. On 3 September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
71st Anti-Tank Regt. Royal Welch Fusiliers
Immediately after the declaration of war the British Expeditionary Force left for France. A few days later Buckley members of the Territorial Army, part of the Anti-Tank Regiment, left with their equipment. It was reported that ’the boys went away singing and were cheered on their way’. On the home front there was time for the ARP and Local Defence Volunteers (later re-named the Home Guard) to organise. There were plenty of rumours.
In April and May Germany increased her grip on the Continent by invading Denmark, Norway and the Low Countries. Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and ordered the evacuation of Dunkirk and Norway in June when Italy joined the Nazis and France capitulated. It was Britain’s darkest hour. For August into September the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain successfully withstood the German offensive. High Explosive Bombs and incendiaries landed in Buckley.
Mold Road 1940
It was a bad year for morale but not patriotism. This was demonstrated by the response to special weeks organised under the direction of the National Savings Committee. In War Weapons Week in May Buckley raised £76,155, and gave the opportunity for the ARP, AFS and WVS to parade. Few casualties and no deaths on active service were announced in the local press. Names of the men captured in the desert and Crete trickled through.At the end of May a German bomber crashed in a field at Ewloe Place with bombs landing in several places in the surrounding area. Buckley was also bombed in October with bombs landing around the Bannel Lane area. In June Nurse Elsie Okell was one of 13 nurses killed in an air raid on Salford, Manchester.
Salford Royal Hospital bomb damage in which Elsie Okell died.
On the 16 of February, 60,000 British troops capitulated at Singapore to experience the horrors of captivity at the hands of the Japanese. Amongst those interned were Army and RAF personnel from Buckley. British Forces struggled in the desert until Montgomery arrived to give them a new spirit. North Africa was the resting-place for soldiers killed on active service, others were captured and taken to Italy. For Lance Corporal T. M. Wilcock of the 2nd Cameron Highlanders, from Meg’s Lane, it turned into an adventure. He had joined the army in 1935, left for service overseas and fought in Abyssinia and North Africa. He was captured by the Italians at Benghazi and was sent to Italy until1943, when Allies landed in the county, arrangements were made by the Germans to transfer all prisoners to Germany. Wilcox saw this as an opportunity to escape, and with a comrade made his way to the British lines. He was awarded the Military Medal in 1945 for bravery on the battlefield.
In January, Buckley hearts were lifted by Dennis Griffiths’s third Pantomime Revue of the war, at the Tivoli, which attracted and audience of 8,702. The object of the National Savings Drive was for naval forces, ’Warship Week’, 7 to 14 March. Buckley was set the target of raising £40,000 towards a minesweeper. They passed the objective, reaching £65,332 17s. 10d. and adopted the vessel HMS Foxtrot. At Buckley, the Lord Lieutenant, Rear Admiral Sir Rowley Conway, took the salute for the parade, which consisted of soldiers from the RWF, 60 ATC trainees, RAF personnel from Hawarden, Girls Guides and the Church Lads’ Brigade.
The Germans VIth Army surrendered to the Russians at Stalingrad in January. The war was taken from North Africa, into Sicily and then mainland Italy. The Battle of the Atlantic against U-boats reached its height. Unlike the First Wold War, a number of men from Buckley joined the Royal navy, and some were tragically lost in the cruel sea, through enemy action.
In March 10,000 people attended the pantomime, with the profit increased by the raffle of a three month old pig and a doll’s house. In May it was announced that 10,159 books were collected in Buckley during the Book Salvage Campaign, of which 2,030 were sent to the troops. In July George Lewis recorded: ‘July 16 Fri. All iron gates and railings in the Liverpool Road and Buckley and District taken for the War Effort because of the shortage of iron.’ Much to the anger of the local residents they remained where they were dumped to the end of the war. The National Savings campaign was directed to Wings for Victory. Buckley’s target was set at £40,000, the price of two Wellington bombers - £65,006 was raised.
In August the Buckley Prisoners of War Association sent eighteen parcels, consisting of 30 books and 500 cigarettes, to the prisoners in Italy and Germany and £30 from the local fund to the British Red Cross Society Parcels Depot for Prisoners of War. In December the WVS sent comforts or postal orders to the six hundred men and eighteen women from the Buckley district serving in the forces.
Britain and the United States launched their armada on fortress Europe on 6 June, the D-Day landings in Normandy. In Buckley the National Saving event, ’Salute the soldier Week’ was held at the same time, and raised £71,644, exceeding again the target of £40,000. The number of men killed on active service in Europe and Burma increased. Hitler hit back with frightening weapons, flying bombs and rockets, in ’the battle of London’. There was a new evacuation - nearly 1.5 million people left London before the end of July. Buckley received 77 mothers and 152 children from London in the middle of July and 100 more evacuees on 19 August.
The Normandy landings in June 1944 had raised people’s hopes of a speedy conclusion to the war. But Hitler did not think of surrender. The British failed to shorten the war at Arnhem in September. It was a bridge too far, and Buckley men were killed there. It was not until March 1945 that the British crossed the Rhine. Meanwhile the situation eased in Britain, In February the Buckley Home Guard attended ’a stand down supper’ with nearly 100 members present with their officers Major J. S. Parry, and Lieutenants Edwards, Mutch, Roberts and Green.
At the end of April the first two returning prisoners of war were welcomed home by 1,500 people at the Council Chambers after being escorted from their homes by the Buckley Royal Town Band. In June the number had risen to 24 who were welcomed at a special gathering at the Albert Hall.
Hitler killed himself in his Berlin bunker on 30 April. The Germans surrendered unconditionally to Montgomery on 4 May. Churchill announced victory in the House of Commons on the afternoon of 8 May and the nation began celebrating. Buckley gave thanks he same evening with a series of religious services in all places of worship. Soon houses and public buildings were decorated with bunting and streamers and the Royal Buckley Town Band paraded the streets with helpers collecting for the Welcome home fund.
VE Day 1945 The location of this photograph was known as the Alley Fields,
it is where Maxwell Close now stands.
71st Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery Royal Welsh Fusiliers
The 71st ATR Royal Artillery (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) was part of the 5th Bn RWF. It started the war off as 70th ATR in Flintshire before two batteries (which represented Buckley and Hawarden) were split to start off the 71st ATR. It was attached to the 53rd Welsh Division in November 1940, joining the Division in Ireland, in April 1942 it rotated to Rochester then on to Suffolk to engage in intense training excercises.
Over its life the Regiments armaments altered substantially starting on 2 pounders, they moved to 6 pounders and then to the heavy 17 pounders. They were then re-equipped with Achilles - 17 pounder anti-tank guns mounted on a valentine tank chassis.
2 pounder Anti-Tank gun
17 Pounder Anti-tank gun
Self-Propelled 17 pounder Valentine
A Loyd Carrier towing a 6 Pounder anti-tank gun of 71st ATR