Copied and pasted from an old post from The Showmens Guild of Great Britain - Norwich & Eastern Counties Section page
We thought it was appropriate to share it with everyone here as we come up to #RemembranceSunday
As in the First World War many showmen enlisted in the forces including the President of the Guild Charles Thurston who joined the RAF and became Flight Lieutenant and Jimmy Chipperfield who became a fighter pilot. In the History of the Showmen’s Guild, 1939 –1948, Thomas Murphy estimates that over 1,000 showpeople joined the Forces with many more serving as Bevan Boys in factories, mines and other essential war services. Billy Peak was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and William Meakin the Military Medal for bravery in the Middle East, both two of the highest awards that could be awarded for bravery in combat. As in the Great War, the World’s Fair newspaper carried a weekly photograph and report of the showmen who were fighting for King and Country,despite the paper rationing, which resulted in the paper being reduced to thirty two pages.
When Oxford St Giles Fair was suspended due to the start of the Second World War, the fairground community as a whole could be forgiven for thinking that their business would be devastated as it had been during the Great War. However, the Second World War was effectively the means by which the Showmen's Guild extended its authority over the travelling showpeople as a whole by fighting for the continuation of fairs and the needs of its members during this period.
Mindful of the near collapse of the industry during the First World War, when most fairs were suspended and showland society lost over 70 percent of its manpower, the Guild was better prepared and during the late 1930s it maintained close links with the Ministries of Supply, Agriculture and Fisheries and Transport.
When a state of hostilities was declared in September 1939 the Guild immediately contacted the Government to lobby the continuation of the travelling fairs. Overall, fairgrounds were allowed to continue under blackout conditions with the exception of some Charter events such as Hull Fair, which was requisitioned for the war effort.
The Stay-at-Home holidays initiative, implemented by the Government in 1942, enabled the showmen to build up power, support and economic strength on a national and regional level. Showpeople received special "Traveller's Ration Cards" and "Showmen's Vehicle Fuel Ration Cards" which they could use throughout the country. Not only were they encouraged to open fairs in the city centres and parkland, but some local authorities actually paid the showmen or waived the rent for the wartime period.
Blackout fairs sprung up throughout the country, Silcock’s Amusements opened on Warrington Market throughout the war years and Newcastle held a fair in the Town Moor Recreation Park for seven weeks. In Scotland, Glasgow Green was made available for fairs for the first time in the century and parks throughout London including Clapham Common and Victoria Park were the venues for very successful events. In his autobiography John Ling recalls that:
Morale was an important issue for the Government during the War. Normal holidays were impossible so in an attempt to fill the gap, the Government devised the idea of Holidays at Home. Showmen were granted concession to open fairs in many of the big towns and cities, usually in public parks. In Sheffield these were organised by the Telegraph and Star, who gave them publicity in their newspapers. We presented a fun fair at these events, and extra attractions were offered.’
Despite the fear of bombing raids, the fairs continued to operate and became so successful for the showmen that John Ling’s family brought several old rides out of storage and acquired additional rides from other showmen. These and other events proved to be in