Mexborough and Swinton Times August 12, 1938
Value of Black-Out Minimised
Weather Baulks Planes
Public Interest in Tests
Curious Crowds in Streets
The black-out over South Yorkshire on Sunday morning appears to have been quite effective. The curtailment of the air defence exercises owing to bad visibility prevented the full value of the black-out from being ascertained, but in far as could be observed from the ground the desired conditions were obtained by the turning out or screening of street, house, and works and factory lights.
A feature of the black-out was the interest it created among the general public. Throughout the district hundreds of people stayed up to see what would happen and there were crowds in the, streets, though they found that there was very little for them to see. They even had, difficulty in distinguishing each other, which speaks well for the efficiency of the blackout.
Few Glimmers At Wombwell.
As a black-out the demonstration was almost completely successful at Womb-Well; as a spectacle it was disappointing. Promptly at one o’clock lights were extinguished and the big flare at Mitchell Main by-products works which everybody had been watching was snuffed. Just a few glimmers broke the gloom and marked out Wombwell as a place of habitation. One was an illuminated clock in a business establishment another was a light over a safe at the post office. These were duly noted and will no doubt be darkened on -future occasions.
A night of eerie humidity and tropical warmth was reminiscent of an African jungle. To the effect strange voices added their contribution. Little knots of people at street corners spoke in subdued whispers with an occasional gruff “Is that thee Bill?”, there being no street lamps to aid identification.
A lone listener heard strange noises coming from the “Hilly Fields” where a party of youths had pitched their tents for the black-out. In awed silence hundreds who had expected to see a thrilling display of aerobatics strained their ears for evidence of the approach of the planes which never came. “Get to bed yer foo-ils”, shouted an impatient male voice from a bedroom window, “Yer wouldn’t be asking when they were comin if they were real ‘uns. Yer’d want to know when they were goin.”
Special Constables numbering about thirty went dutifully to their ‘posts having received instructions from Divisional Commander Mr. W. H. Thompson. Their work was carried through with efficiency and tact. When lights in windows were visible a gentle tap on the door usually had the desired effect. A few were Oakwood and had to have the whole thing explained to them. When asked, “Can yer foorce us?”, the special gently but firmly replied, “No but we expect to do it for your own sake”. They made a good many converts. One or two had never heard of the black-out.
Quins were born at Wombwell during the black-out. Seeing a light in a window a special tapped at the door. to ask the reason. “Bet yer don’t know what I’m doing” said the man who answered the knock. “No, what?” asked the special, curious. “Dog’s just having pups”, he said. The special asked if he wanted any help. “No” he replied in a whisper, “That’s the lot I think”. The police of the district were able to make useful observations of black-out effects. “Grand night for netting rabbits”, remarked a poacher. A grand display of aerobatics and power diving was given by several planes which appeared over the. King’s Road housing scheme at Wombwell during a thunderstorm in the late afternoon.
In Dearne District.
“I got tired of sitting up. – Nothing happened, so I went to bed”—was said to our representative by a dozen different people this week in Thurnscoe. They waited up for the black-out on Sunday morning, half expecting to hear the roar of aeroplanes and see the flashing of searchlights but -nothing happened. The streets were darkened, but they were scarcely appreciably darker than they usually are at such an hour. The air raid wardens who in the event of any air attack will be at their posts within a few minutes, were not called out for any purpose. On Goldthorpe Colliery tip an extra flow of water was used so that it should not burst into flame and the Hickleton colliery tip drenched by the downpour which preceded the black-out was shrouded in steam which mingled with.the prevailing grand haze to forth an effective screen.
There were so many people in the main streets of Wath early on Sunday morning, that according to a Police- Officer who was on duty, the roads resembled the approaches to a fair-ground. However, only in respect of the number of the public abroad, did Wath between the hours of 1 and 3 on Sunday morning, differ from Wath under real air raid conditions. Arrangements had been made for the waste-gas flares at Manvers Main and Wath Main to be extinguished and everything went according to plan. The street lights, too were extinguished and, apart from an occasional flicker in a bedroom -window, the public gave the test their complete co-operation. Search-lights could be seen trained on the skies in the Rotherham district but no aircraft were heard to pass over.
A complete and eerie darkness reigned over Mexborough between I and 3 o’clock on Sunday morning, when the black-out test proved an unqualified success. The folk (and there were many of them) who ventured-out into the streets were as completely lost as they- would have been in a thick fog. The moon was almost full but the clouds were so thick and, so low that even the moon could aware of the other’s proximity. Dead on the hour of 1 a.m. the street lights were extinguished and-from that time onwards the only lights that were seen were the distant glow of searchlights at Doncaster and Rotherham and a beam from a shop window of a firm in High Street where the lights had inadvertently been left on. Police officers were stationed in various parts of the town to request ‘motorists, to dim their lights and the only two vehicles that passed through Mexborough did so by the light of their side-lamps. The house-holders readily co-operated and, so far as can be ascertained, not a single domestic light was seen during the two hours. The majority of the people who had turned out had done so in the hope of seeing the lights of aeroplanes passing over the town but in this they were doomed to disappointment.
Vain Conisborough Vigil.
A number of local people were out of doors early on Sunday morning for the black-out and maintained their vain vigil until the black-out period finished. The local police fulfilled the duties of asking householders to extinguish their lights, but air raid wardens also undertook similar duty unofficially and were kept quite busy in the Conanby area.
Motorists found some difficulty in driving with only sidelights lit—One well-known local motorist took 90 minutes to travel from Woodlands to Hill Top and was on the footpath twice during his journey —but no mishaps were reported. At the Conisborough Cliff Company’s quarries at Butterbusk, workmen were on special duty damping down the fires and similar work was also put in band at the neighbouring lime quarries at Warmsworth ‘Cliffs, but the fog was so thick that it would have been impossible for any aircraft to have seen lights-on the ground. No planes did, of course, because of the fog, fly over the district.
A number of intrepid and curious Swintonians stayed up for the black-out on Sunday morning. They tramped to the top end of the town and some thought, they would have an even better view from Rawmarsh. But all they saw was the velvety blackness of night and the occasional reflected glare from the fire-boxes of early locomotives. The bombers never came and they saw no searchlights sweep-ing the sky. The elaborate pageant of a mock war did not materialise, and the watchers returned disappointed to bed.