Tuesday, January 30, 2007

“Sealed with a Cross”

For reasons that will become obvious, I have not given the names of the central characters in this short wartime story about West Cumberland. There was an article in the local West Cumbrian newspaper, ‘The Whitehaven News’ during the summer of 1942. I came across it whilst researching another subject for the BBC "People’s War". It may illustrate how some things that have changed in society since the war and how some things have not changed.

The essence of this tale is that a gentleman who was a steelworker (aged 35) and a lady (aged 33) travelled together from Barrow-in- Furness to Whitehaven and they booked into a hotel for the evening. At the time the rules required hotel guests to fill in a form giving their names, address, nationality and so forth. Presumably this was for the good of the National Security. The steelworker from Barrow-in-Furness completed his personal details on the form. Additionally, he filled in the details for his good lady, whom he registered at the hotel as his wife. Because the lady claimed she was unable to write, she signed her name with a cross. They couple were then shown to their room. For some reason, the hotel owner was suspicious about this particular couple and called in the police.

Nevertheless all went well for the Barrovians until the following morning. By then the forms had been checked by the local constabulary and they too were suspicious. After being questoned by a police inspector it transpired that the lady was not actually the wife of the gentleman she was with. She was married, but to someone else. Subsequently, the lady in question was charged at Whitehaven Court and appeared before the local Magistrates. The charge was one of "making a false statement to the manager of a West Cumberland Hotel". The gentleman to whom she had claimed to be married was charged with "aiding and abetting". Both parties pleaded guilty.

Strange as it may seem nowadays, the lady’s real husband went on to be questioned by the police to verify this was the case. At the first hearing of the case it was the real husband who had written a letter to the Magistrates on behalf of his wife with the guilty plea. To conclude this sorry tale, it may be appropriate to state that by this time the whole affair had become a serious matter. Please pardon the pun. There were some strange goings on in wartime!


Blogger Frank Mee said...

It was a strange time, ours was a small village with so many men away. They had joined the TA before the war for the extra money and were called to the colours straight away.
Most of those men went to the Niddle East and many did not come home for three to four years, some never came home again.
We had married women in war work and for some, it was their first freedom plus their own money they had ever seen. They worked hard those girls and wanted a bit of fun in their few hours off.
On the other hand we had thousands of men mainly Canadian's though a lot of Poles as well with Dutch Sailors and men from many countries training near here it was a mix that would soon boil over.
Lusty fit young men far from home and hard working girls whose husbands were far away and no idea when or if they would make it back, so we had the ingredients for a volatile situation.
Do you blame them? I dont. Times were uncertain, we were being bombed on a regular basis. The Canadians were flying off into hell night after night, they took their fun when and where it was offered.
Not all the men or the married women of course but some of them did.
I knew a couple of the local married girls who were faithfull to the end only for their husbands to come home and say they had met some one else, so was it worth being chaste?
You cannot judge the people of those times by todays standards, you cannot blame the men or women for wanting some life in horrible times.
Thinking about it though todays people of the same age as those people in the war put themselves first saying they have a right to a life too!!! What does that mean. You find a girl have your 2.4 kids then vanish with no regards for their lives.
Odd times bring odd situations and unless you are their living those times we should not judge them.

Wednesday, 31 January, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank is right of course - they were odd times and odd things were done. It has been said that the first tragedy of war is Truth, and the second is the destruction of family which appears to be an ongoing challenge to many governments with their "New Morality" which is being introduced all over the world to the detriment of family.
What with the One World Government, the New World Order and all the other new slavery ideas being bandied about by the politicians... I am just glad that I am the age I am and probably shall not see this but I do grieve for the family and their futures.

Wednesday, 31 January, 2007  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Well Tom that is probably where we got it right.
Our family like yours Rons Peters is a close knit one, my sons and daughters have brought up or are bringing up their children to appreciate family ties.
Hannah at 2 years old thinks it normal to be all together and comfortably has days with her aunts or us.
I am proud that I never once heard any of my children say they have a right to a life too, they may have thought it at times but mothers training will out.
The point is Tom I find that the norm among our many friends and associates so the "I want" people are the ones the media pick up on. As usual good news is not news so we nightly get headlines about the scum as if that was the norm. It is not, only bad news makes news so Mr average will always be the odd one out when it comes to reporting the so called news.
Looking at this area I see the men go out to work the mothers take the children to school then they dash of to work coming home in time to pick up the children from the six schools around us. The unusual bit is 70% of them walk along the sheltered paths we walk with the dogs.
To read the papers you would think all of them do the mad car run, I can only speak of what I see. The result of the parents being responsible we have very little bad behaviour. I nearly fell off the brush I was leaning on when a young lad of around ten or so came up to the gate and said "excuse me sir can you tell me where so and so is" I took him to the end of the road and showed him the way where upon he thanked me.
All is not lost, have faith in our youth but beware the nanny governments, oh and do not put yourself up for adoption with this lot, you never know where you will end up.

Wednesday, 31 January, 2007  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

As you say, guys, it was a strange time. I looked up the section in Angus Calder's book "The People's War" about marriage, 'irregularly conceived maternities' etc and even he says the figures pose more puzzles that answer questions.

I realise it is a peculiar area to consider about the war years, probably because of the taboo involved. The original newspaper article gives the names of the people concerned. I purposely omitted the names of those involved in case any of their relatives came across the article by an Internet search.

The strange thing for me was that the authorities still went to town with it, even when it became fairly obvious what was going on. To begin with, if there was a suspicion the couple were potential enemy agents I can understand the police making a thorough investigation. Perhaps it was even necessary to ask the lady's real husband to confirm his wife's identity. But it does seem strange to me (with my postwar ideas) for the police to go ahead and press for a prosecution.

By the way this wasn't a front page, good old "kiss and tell all" story. It was just tucked away in - what I suppose you would call - the the run of the mill stuff on page 5 of the local newspaper. In today's society, the couple concerned, and no doubt the husband, could make an absolute fortune selling their story (probably elaborated by Max Clifford) to the highest bidding newspaper.

It's certainly different to the usual sort of WW2 stories I have written about!

Wednesday, 31 January, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Sorry I am trying out the new blog "I think"???
This has nothing to do with your posting and if it does not work I will demolish the conservatory with my head.

Sunday, 04 February, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank - I am right with you there as the past week has been a head scratcher - and all apparently not 100 % our fault either as the powers that be - in their wisdom - decided to change things for the better -sic- reminds me of the time I wrote an article entitled
" Why we left the Vatican 11's New Order Church -" by the time I had finished the article I had renamed it to " We did not leave the Vatican 11's New Order Church - they left us "!

Monday, 05 February, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

it would appear that I spoke too soon - as the screen has just gone berserk once more with an attached note to tell them what I was doing to make it go berserk ??? which then disppeared before I could memorise the error number ??? It would appears that Google's troubles are not yet over !!!

Monday, 05 February, 2007  

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