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Mayor heralds Black Country town's greatest hour in 1945

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 15, 2014

By John Workman

  • Warship Week raised £330,000, and HMS Achates was adopted by the Borough

  • Salute the Soldier Week raised £352,404

  • HMS Achates off the coast of Malta. On December 31, 1943, she was sunk during the Battle of Barents Sea with the loss of 113 of her crew

  • A gift of £5000 by unnamed Halesowen donors bought a Spitfire in April 1942 that saw action in France, where it was shot down in August of the same year

  • Wings For Victory week in May 1944 raised a grand total of £258,482

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IN times of war and struggle a country and its people pull together and can achieve incredible results, and during the Second World War a scenario experienced just a quarter of a century before had to be faced all over again.

Throughout the land everyone was doing their level best for the war effort, including the people and industry of the Black Country, and this story records the extraordinary effort shown by the town of Halesowen and its people to help win the war during those dark days of conflict. The information is taken from a small book sent in by G. D. Gwynne from Sedgley, entitled "Notes on Halesowen, Worcestershire" which was issued during Thanksgiving Week, October 6-13, 1945."

In a letter by the Mayor of Halesowen, H. Parkes, which was printed in the book he said, "We are all grateful to see the end of the war, and our hearts go out in thankfulness to Almighty God, and the men and women of our services, for our safe deliverance.

"Our people stood firm in the war, and now, in a spirit of thankfulness, let us stand firm in the peace ... In recognition and as a thank you to our brave lads and lassies of all ranks who have made it possible for us to plan and build for our future prosperity, please support what we hope is our last big saving effort and show that Halesowen is loyal to the end"

Thanksgiving week, October 6 -13 1945 was one of a series of money raising campaigns that had been held throughout the war, and each had been given a target for the people of Halesowen to aim at. The Mayor hoped the last big saving effort would raise £200,000, and with the encouragement of these words he said, "Let this be our greatest hour."

National War Savings efforts began in Halesowen in April 1940 with 'War Weapons' Week. A figure of £150,000 had been set for the townsfolk to reach, an almighty sum, but incredibly the money raised of over £410,000, nearly trebled the target. In March 1942 the Halesowen Savings Committee bravely fixed a target of £310,000 for 'Warship' Week, fully aware of how much money had been raised previously. Could the generosity of Halesowen people have reached its zenith, and were the savings coffers bare?

Incredibly another huge total was reached, £330,000, and as a result the destroyer H.M.S. Achates was adopted by the Borough. On the last day of December 1942 the ship was engaged in convoy duty to Russia and during what became known as the Battle of the Barents Sea she was sunk with the loss of 113 hands. But the Savings Committee, with the same commendable pluck, immediately began another campaign to replace the Achates, and the people of Halesowen rose nobly to the challenge, raising a further £241,482, one of only three or four other places in the country that had the courage to launch another appeal so soon after the loss of an adopted ship.

'Wings for Victory' Week, May 8-15, 1944, was another stunning success. This appeal followed so quickly after one just a month before, the pessimists were out in force to criticise the committee for setting a target of £275,000. Surely the town had exhausted its savings and needed time to recover. But once gain the people of Halesowen did themselves proud and raised a magnificent £258,482, enough to purchase six heavy bombers.

'Salute the Soldier' Week, June 24 - July 1 also raised a sum beyond expectations, this time of £352,404, to add to the growing total.

In the book the Borough was generous with its thanks to all those concerned "In all these efforts grateful thanks are due to the members of the Halesowen Savings Committee, Street Group Secretaries, Women's Voluntary Services, Works Organisers, and all others who assisted, and last but not least, to the general public who so splendidly came forward with their savings for the good of the country, the Borough and themselves.

The total invested in the Borough during these campaigns was £1,688,368, and the total savings since the inception of the War Savings Campaign in November 1939 to the end of August 1945 was £3,592,735."

It would be remiss of us not to mention the efforts made by the industrial companies in and around Halesowen during the Second World War such as Stewarts & Lloyds and their famous cross Channel fuel pipeline called 'Pluto'. But the information recorded in the book is of such quality and comprehensive in nature, an article on this subject will feature at a later date.

If you have any stories to tell about your experiences of the War Effort campaigns during the period 1939 -1945, or memorabilia connected with them, please get in touch. Email jwork man@blackcountrybugle.co.uk, or contact 01384567678.

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