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 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 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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