HOLMFIRTH IN WARTIME (1941-1945) film no: 782

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A film that captures the people and events of Holme Valley throughout Second World War, this film shows some of the activities that took place such as War Weapons Weeks, a Royal Visit, a student nature walk, and a Victory bonfire.

Title – Holmfirth in War-Time
 Boxing Day at Holme

The film opens with people gathered for a hunt.  Some children have also gathered around to pet the hounds.

Title – Parkhead

The houses in the valley can be seen from atop a hill. 

Title – War-Weapons Week Jan 25th-Feb 1st 1941

The commentary informs that money is being raised to buy armaments to help the War Effort.  A parade then takes place through Holmfirth lead by the Duke of Wellington’s ITC band. Home Guard, Military Police and members of other Civil Defence agencies follow.  A Messerschmitt is on show, and there is an auction of a hand-made horse-shoes made from Nazi bomb splinters.

Title – Choppards

A woman walks down a path which is covered in snow.  There is evidence of extreme winter weather and heavy snowfall as the snow banks on either side of the road are far taller than even the woman can raise her hand. 

There is another parade for a War Weapons Week organised by councillor Joe Lockwood of Holmfirth War Weapons Committee.  A fire-fighting display is given by the auxiliary fire-service.  The fire fighters demonstrate the water hose as well as use a tall ladder to rescue a man from a second-story window.  One of them jumps from the window to the crowd below who hold out a safety blanket to catch him.

Title – Lord Harewood opens A.T.C. Headquarters at Lane End

Lord Harewood is shown around Holmfirth and Gotside Estate.

Title – Wings for Victory week April 17th 1943
Parade of Youth organisations

There is a parade for the Air Force.  A raffle is held followed by a procession of Youth Organisations lead by the ATC (Air Training Corps) band, the Army Cadet Corps, the Girls Training Corps and the Girl Guides.  This is followed by brief footage of a baby and a man holding up a plaque with the initials USSR.

In another part of the valley, the children of Hepworth school are off on a nature walk.  They carry their gas masks.  Back at the school, young boys “Dig for Victory” by tending the gardens on the school grounds.  They use shovels and pitchforks. 

Title – Home Guard Sunday.  May 16th 1943

There is another parade for the home guard.

Title – Presentation of Wings for Victory plaque October 2nd 1943

A still of a newspaper article shows the headline ‘Princess Royal visits Holmfirth display.  January 29 1944.”  The newspaper headline is followed by stills taken during her visit to the Holme House Hostel for evacuees. 

Title – Visit of Lady Baden-Powell June 8th 1944

Lady Baden Powell visits a group of girl-guides who have gathered in Holmefirth to greet her.  The Lady stands on a podium and addresses the crowd.  They give her three cheers before those attending break formation and mingle with the other guests. 

Title – Victory Bonfire at Choppards

A victory bonfire has been set up, and children are gathered around.  This is followed by footage of men standing atop haystacks.  The valley can be seen in the background.  The men are working alongside a steam-operated machine which packs the hay. 

Title – Victory Bonfire Victoria Park Oct 13th 1945

The community gathered together to celebrate.  They begin by building the large structure for the bonfire which is lit upon nightfall.  The film ends with a shot of the burning fire.

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This film is one of many made by Kathleen Lockwood, a teacher at Hepworth school. Kathleen, a member of the Holmfirth Camera Club, filmed her local communities in Holmfirth and the Holme Valley between 1939 and 1945, and on into the 1980s, and include footage of the filming of Last of the Summer Wine. In many ways Kathleen’s films are similar to those of another woman filmmaker from the same area, Lucy (Louisa) Fairbanks, from Linthwaite in Huddersfield.  Lucy too was a teacher, though slightly older – for more on Lucy see the Context for her film Out and About in Yorkshire, made in the 1950s. This film, Holmfirth In Wartime, has much more in common with another film made of Holmfirth during the war, Holmfirth Tradesmen's Trip & Blitz In Sheffield made by local amateur filmmaker Wylbert Kemp.
The YFA has a number of wartime films that feature War Weapons Week, one of a number of fund raising events that took place throughout the country during the war. They all take a similar format with the services, at home and abroad, and other organisations parading through the streets and giving demonstrations, as the fire brigade do here. Fortunately Holmfirth got off lightly as far as bombing raids go, see the Context for Morley Depot Of The C.H.S.S & St Johns Ambulance. Notice that the fire fighters are practicing on the buildings of the Baddeley Brothers, the coach company who also figure in Holmfirth Tradesmen's Trip & Blitz In Sheffield – see the Context of this film for more on them.
Both Lord Harewood and the Princess Royal make appearances in other films from this time, see Green Howards Train For War (1940) and Morley Depot Of The C.H.S.S & St Johns AmbulanceBut this may be the only film of Lady Baden Powell in the YFA Collection. Olave Baden-Powell became Chief Guide in 1918, taking over from Robert Baden-Powell’s sister Agnes Baden-Powell – see the Context for Brownie Pack Holiday (1982).
Something else that turns up in another film is the Luftwaffe Messerschmitts that can be seen. It makes an appearance also in Morley in 1941, again being used as part of a Wings for Victory Week – see Morley Depot Of The C.H.S.S & St Johns Ambulance and the Context for this. The Wings for Victory Week in the film has an interesting feature with the plaque of the hammer and sickle, sent by the Soviet Union. Of course, Britain and the USSR were allies during the war, and the Soviet Union was taking a lot of the fighting at this time. Yet just a few days before this Wings for Victory Week commenced, on 17th April 1943, Germany claimed to have found a mass grave of 4,443 Polish officers at Katyn, on the 13th April, shot from behind by the Soviet Army. The Soviets denied this (and continued to do so until 1990), but when the claim was verified by the Red Cross relations between the Polish government-in-exile in London and the USSR were quickly broken, and the Soviet Union set about establishing their own Polish government-in-exile.
Much has been made of the baby boom after the end of the Second World War, but of course many babies were also born during the war, as we can see in this film. Doubtless the arrival of a new generation would have acted to spur on the morale of the population during those times when German bombing was making this difficult to sustain.  A good many of these babies would have lost their fathers in the war, not least those who were born to American GIs stationed in Britain in the war. 

Another reminder of some of those for whom the war was being fought, is the exceptional film of the children evacuees. Many children were evacuated to the safer areas of Yorkshire, and many of these have described this as an adventure, which seems to be the case for the children in the film – for more on wartime evacuees see the Context for Malton Evacuees. In fact it was safe enough for the children to have left behind their gas masks which they were, legally, obliged to carry around with them (although this was far from always being the case) – Britain was never bombed with poison gas.

One such evacuee from London describes her experience on the BBC WW2 People’s War website: “With other evacuees, we were taken to Dean House Hospital, near Holmfirth, then later, the four of us were taken to a big dark mill owners house where there was a cook, it was up a curving drive with lots of trees round, and I started school while there in Sept 1941.” Who knows some of these might well be seen in this film walking through the countryside or helping to grow food. As part of the 'Dig for Victory' campaign, allotments contributed an estimated 1.3 million tonnes of food from 1.4 million plots: although more labour intensive, they were more productive per acre than agricultural land.
Apart from the gas masks, another precautionary measure that by 1943 was hardly likely to be called into action, at least for its original purpose, was the Home Guard, seen here in May 1943. By that time the feared German invasion that gave birth to the Home Guard was only a very remote possibility, with German troops tied up on the Eastern Front – for more on the Home Guard see the Context for Formation Of The Homeguard (1944).
The threshing machine that can be seen at work is very similar to another shown in Sheriff Hutton Agricultural Scenes (1946-54), which has German prisoners of war working on it. This highlights another interesting connection, as recently the story has come to light of German prisoners of war helping out in restoration after the great Holmfirth flood of May 29, 1944 (see the Report from the Huddersfield Daily Examiner under the rather odd title of Hitler's impact on the Great Flood of '44, References). Unfortunately this event is not covered in this film – perhaps accounted for by the news blackout at the time on anything that might affect morale – but still Kathleen Lockwoodhas provided us with a fascinating portrait of one town during the war from its early days until its victory celebrations.
Juliet Gardner, Wartime: Britain 1939-1945, Headline, London, 2004.
Arthur Marwick, The Home Front: British and the Second World War, Hudson and Thames, 1976.
BBC WW2 People’s War: Mrs P.Evacuation memories and home: From Charlton to Huddersfield: Huddersfield Local Studies


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