St Paul’s During WW2

St Paul’s During WW2: Excerpts from the Parish Magazine

September 1939 and Britain was again at war. The Vicar of St Paul’s was Rev. Wm John Perrett (Vicar 1936-54). There were 3 curates during this period: Rev. J Edwards (1937-39), Rev. C C Peake (1940-43) and Rev. A P Lumley (1943-45).

In the Parish Magazine there was little immediate comment; indeed, there is not much specifically about the war in the Magazine at all. Parish life did seem to carry on. 

However in June 1940 it was agreed not to ring the church bells on Sunday mornings and to reduce the Tuesday practice time in case “people not hear the air-raid siren.” Later that year, the vicar’s letter informed the parishioners that “The Church Council has decided to black-out the church so that evening services on Sundays can continue to be held at 6.30pm… and we have had to incur the expense of approximately £25 on the provision of blackout curtains, etc.” In addition the Church clock chimes were suspended as they “may be confused under certain circumstances with the invasion alarm and this might cause difficulties.” A ‘spotter’ would also be outside the church during services to alert the vicar to an air-raid warning in case this was missed with the singing or organ playing. If bombs started to fall, the service would be suspended to allow people “to take shelter in good places under the tower.”

In March 1941 a request was made for “Fire Watchers” for the church which, it was said, “if hit, would provide a valuable beacon and guide for the enemy”. Lent evening services were cancelled that year.

In order to help the war effort, the church had offered its railings to the ‘Iron and Steel Control’ in November 1940, but a year later (Nov 1941) the Vicar is complaining that they were still there. The reply from the Ministry of Supply that  “.. it will be at least 3 months before they will be able to deal with your railings.” did not satisfy him.

The Vicar’s letter in May 1942 announced that “From the 7th to 14th June we shall have staying in Bradford a few German ministers who are refugees from the Nazi regime and many of whose fellow ministers are in concentration camps in Germany. The Bishop (of Bradford) has permitted these ministers to preach in our churches and the famous Dr. Schweitzer will preach in Shipley Parish Church at 6.30pm on June 14th.” (There is no indication in the later magazines about Dr Schweitzer or whether this took place.)

The East Window blackout curtains were removed in October 1944. When VE Day came there was a Service of Thanksgiving and Intercession at 8pm that day and Communion at 8am the following day, which was a public holiday. There was also regret by the Vicar that he could not get any Shipley firm to put a flag up on the tower.

Unlike in WW1 (there are 207 names on the 1914-1918 War Memorial) the Magazine for September 1945 says “Shipley Parish lost but two of those who were regular members of the congregation.” These were:

  • Sgt G M Hughes, 150 Squadron RAF Volunteer Reserve; Missing in action over Sicily and S. Italy, 21 May 1943 aged 21.  Son of Percy and Ethel Hughes of Bramhope.
  • Capt. E D Hyland, 68th Medium Rgt., Royal Artillery. Died 16 June 1944 in the fighting following the landings on the Normandy beaches, aged 27. Son of Harry and Annie Hyland and husband of Ethyl Hyland of Shipley.

NOTE: There are two WW2 CWGC graves in the Hirst Wood Burial Ground:

  • Sergeant (Air Gunner) P W Bilsborough, 9 Sqdn RAFVR. Died 27/11/1941 aged 21. Son of William and Doris M. Bilsborough, of Shipley.
  • Leading Aircraftman F Whittaker RAFVR. Died 25/05/1944 aged 40. Son of George Thomas Whittaker and Mary Whittaker; husband of Mary Frederica Whittaker, of Heaton, Bradford.


Chris Clough, May 2020

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