When Neville Chamberlain spoke in the Houses of Parliament on 3 September 1939 and told the British public that the country was once again at war with Germany, it must have sent a wave of horror through the veterans of the First World War. Everything they had lived through must have resurfaced in their minds in vivid detail.
Perhaps one anecdotal story may relay their fears. William Fearnley fought in the First World War. He lost at least two of his friends but returned to Somercotes, married and had two sons. At the outbreak of war they were young men of 15 and 17 years. His youngest son told the story that William put his arms around them both and told them “If either of you join the army I will shoot you myself and save the Germans the trouble”. They both believed him. Such was the horror that William had witnessed that he would not see his own sons subjected to the same experience. In the event, both left school and became apprentices at the Riddings Ironworks. By the time each was of age to join the army they had become maintenance and tool fitters and both were in reserved occupations. The youngest son, Gordon, was sent to Stanton where they made bomb and shell casings. It was locally known as the “bomb plant”.
In the event, the war took a different path. Adolf Hitler, who had experienced trench warfare himself, also did not want the stagnation of the First World War, and the tactics of Blitzkreig (or Lightening War) were born. For the people of Britain, the war was not as bad as feared. The Somercotes War Memorial testifies to the fact that not as many men were killed, although the families of those that were, must have been just as grief stricken. In one case in Somercotes, a family lost a soldier in the First World War and his son in the Second World War.
As with the previous conflict, not all of the servicemen who died are listed on the Memorial, but the list of those names in the “WW2 Soldiers” section contains as many as can be found. Also among the list are many more men who died serving in the Royal Navy.
Read their stories and remember their names…