Meeting Report January 2022
On Friday 28 January 2022, we were finally able restart a monthly programme of meetings after an almost two year absence. During the covid induced break we made the decision to change the meeting day and time to Friday afternoons at 2.00pm, but we had no idea how popular this change would prove. We were pleased therefore, to welcome an audience of forty one people, who expressed their delight at once again being able to attend meetings. Covid precautions were in place and will remain for the foreseeable future.
Our restart meeting was an illustrated lecture by Jacki & Bob Lawrence entitled "Leeds During World War Two". Jacki began the talk by thanking John Best who had provided the original material for the talk. As the talk progressed, drawing on information from diaries, memories and documented evidence, it became apparent that this was a subject close to the heart of the audience, many of whom had family members who were involved in the conflict.
Beginning with the words of Neville Chamberlain on September 3rd 1939 as war on Germany was declared, Jacki described how the war progressed in Leeds starting with the evacuation of children which occurred on the 1st of September, even before war had been declared. Using many images she talked about rationing, government booklets for recipes and "make do and mend", air raid shelters, and gas masks. The audience was highly amused if not a little shocked at the images of baby's gas masks and an unusual gas and bomb proof pram. She also covered bombing raids in Leeds including the major raid on the 14/15th March 1941 which destroyed over 200 buildings and left 65 dead.
Moving on to industry's response to the war, she described how different industries had changed production from making commercial goods to producing ammunition, tanks, uniforms, aircraft, everything in fact required to support the war effort. People were particularly intrigued at the story of Waddington's printing firm making Monopoly games and hiding maps etc, which were distributed to prisoner of war camps, thus aiding the escape of many British and Allied POW servicemen.
Jacki also talked about the situation in the city regarding the medical facilities which were made available, including using Armley and Bramley baths as first aid posts and Harewood House and Lotherton Hall becoming military hospitals. The images of double decker buses converted to mobile first aid posts provoked much interest.
Finally she concluded with the story of pilot Arthur Louis Aaron the only Leeds man to be awarded a Victoria cross during the conflict.
The talk was followed by a lively discussion amongst the audience with many keen to share their own, or their parent's memories and experiences. Two particular stories were of real interest, the Leeds headmaster who became Montgomery's interpreter in Germany, and the female conscientious objector who went to Germany after the war to support the relief effort.
This turned out to be a thought provoking and interesting talk
The next meeting on Friday 25th February will be an illustrated talk by Jane Ellis entitled "Around the UK in Classic Railway Posters"
Photo: This Spitfire was gifted to the RAF with money raised by employees
and Directors of Montague Burton Ltd. It was seconded to a Polish squadron
and flew many sorties over France, with some of its pilots being awarded
the French Cruex de Guerre. It later served as a training aircraft in
the Canadian Air Force and crashed on landing during a training exercise.