Mansfield and the 'Phoney War', 1939-40

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Some newspaper findings

By Tony Clement

I was researching everyday life in Mansfield in early 1939 and 1940 and how the War was affecting people daily, in a time when some called it the ‘phoney War’.

Most of the research has come from local newspapers of the time.


"Put That Light Out!"

One of the first things that came to the fore was how busy the local courts were with the lists of blackout offenders, in late 1939 and 1940 the Courts were sitting in two sessions to try all the offenders.

Maybe the blackout was not taken that seriously in Mansfield in the early part of the War as some weeks 50 to 80 people were fined. Most were fined 20 shillings and some 30 shillings mainly for not obscuring lights.

One man was fined 30 shillings, his excuse was he turned the light on to feed the cat and forgot to turn it off.

A Langwith Junction man was fined 10 shillings for not painting his car bumpers white.

Another Mansfield woman was fined 10 shillings for a chimney fire which could have alerted enemy bombers.


Bombing, Local Defence Volunteers, and Evacuees

I don’t think Mansfield suffered any serious bombing in the War but planes would pass over on their way to Sheffield and Nottingham.

The only bombing in the Mansfield area I can find was at Warsop and Ollerton, these were probably bombers dropping their loads to lighten the aircraft on their way home.

If anyone knows any more details of these bombing incidents in the Mansfield area I would like to hear about them.

One serious incident in Mansfield occurred in June 1940, when a Mansfield girl was shot by a Local Defence Volunteer when a car she was travelling in failed to stop at a barricade in Mansfield, the LDV volunteer tried to stop the car which was travelling at 40 to 50 mph, when it didn’t he aimed a shot at the rear of the car, the male driver was unhurt, but a female travelling in the rear died.  The car driver admitted to ‘joyriding’ and said he didn’t realise it was a barricade. The LDV volunteer was completely exonerated by the Coroner, the driver receiving a three month prison sentence.

Also in June 1940 1,600 children arrived in Mansfield evacuated from Southend, Essex.


The Spoils of War

Some more tangible reminders of the War in Mansfield  was the exhibition for a week of a Messerschmitt 109 in the car park in Queen Street, it was shot down on the south coast and was described as being riddled with bullet holes. The cost to view this plane was 6 pence, all the takings going towards the Spitfire Fund which Mansfield people were contributing to, helping to buy a Spitfire for the war effort.

 Another unusual exhibition in Mansfield in November 1940 was an armoured train which was available for public view at the LMS goods sidings between 11am and 4pm, probably the only occasion when an armoured train ever appeared in Mansfield.  Admission money to see this went towards the war effort.



Mansfield tried to carry on normally in the early 40s.  After initial closure by government order, cinemas reopened with adverts prominent on the front pages of the Chronicle Advertiser - all the Mansfield, Woodhouse, Sutton cinemas being listed.

Another form of entertainment was  badly affected in the early 1940s was Mansfield Town Football Club, the manager commenting that he was struggling to
get players, probably most of them were serving in the forces.


Food Shortages - but no Rationing yet

Food shortages were also an important discussion point for Mansfield Council one councillor suggesting ploughing up Mansfield parks, mainly Carr Bank and Titchfield Parks, and planting vegetables, grave concern was expressed about food shortages and the need to cultivate all available land for food growing.

If anyone remembers any of these incidents I would like to hear about it, or any accounts of Mansfield day-to-day life in the early parts of the War.  Please leave a 'Comment' via the link below.  Thank you.

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