Southall 830-1982

Parts of the parks were turned into wartime allotments, and people were encouraged to keep pigs, rabbits and chickens.
As more men volunteered for the army, women began to take over most jobs. In 1915 a huge complex came into being just on the Hayes border of Cranford Lane — this became known as ‘Hayes Arsenal’. It was a shell filling factory and women were drafted in from many places. The nature of the work turned the skin of some of the young munition girls yellow, so they got the nickname ‘Canary Girls’. They were supplied with extra milk. Alas, there was to be a tragedy for, in September 1917, an explosion killed 28 women and injured several more.
Up to the end of 1915 army service was still by volunteering. ‘Kings’, Southall Gazette proprietors, loaned their two shops for a recruiting drive for the Middlesex Regiment; about 80 men joined up and, before leaving the town, were given a Civic Reception and bid God Speed by the Chairman of the Council. In less than three months 80% were either killed or wounded. In the churches almost every Sunday during the war the name of someone killed was read out and several major disasters commemorated.
The Brentford branch of the GWR was closed down except for military use. Food was becoming in very short supply and people began to queue for meat and groceries. This continued until 1917 when ration cards were issued.
Conscription came in 1916 and all men between 19 and 43 — later 48 —had to register. Although no bombs were dropped in Southall, aeroplanes were now being used and air raids began. When the alarm was received police would ride round on bicycles and use a rattle.
On April 25th, 1917 the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church for 27 years, Revd Henry Mills, died and, with the local clergy and choirs in procession, was buried in Havelock Road Cemetery. At various times there were military funerals at the cemetery — besides British, some German and Polish servicemen.
It became quite apparent that there would be a lot of local girls leaving for Australia and there were quite a few weddings of Australians to English girls. The Southall people did a great deal of social work for all branches of the Services.
At last the Armistice came and the town seemed to accept the end of the war very slowly. There was no celebration as, for quite a number, it was the beginning of hard times to come. Many of those who had been drafted into the town went home, whilst others had taken up residence. It would take time before the factories could get back to peacetime production, and this meant unemployment. Women began to give back their jobs to men coming back, but this was not always easy.
Early in 1919 the first steps were taken to form branches of the British Legion and the Old Contemptibles. A meeting was held at The Romans and they began to function in August. A hut at the rear of The Romans became the Club House; Standards were purchased and these were paraded at all appropriate occasions — the first time being when, in 1922, the Town Memorial was unveiled. Major White and Captain Bridges were very active officers and, together with Mr W. Bousfield, helped the branch to have the present Headquarters built in 1936/37. The builders were E. Plaistow and Sons. Captain Bridges carried on as Secretary until 1946. When in 1971 the Legion became the ‘Royal’ British Legion it was the Southall Branch Golden Jubilee and a new Standard was dedicated – Mr C. Mort the Standard Bearer – and the old Standard laid up. Mr Mort is now the Branch Chairman in 1982. Gradually, as must be, the Old Contemptibles passed on and they faded out in 1954.