The Town played a vital role with industry, airfields and a major railway centre. The flat landscape meant there were many airfields including RAF Peterborough, Westwood, which was a major RAF training centre.
Local people volunteered for Military Service but those in ‘reserved occupations’, (jobs important to the war effort) were not conscripted but often spent their spare time in Civil Defence e.g. Home Guard and Auxiliary Fire Service. Businesses set up their own firewatchers while first-aiders and plane spotters were essential. National Service became compulsory for unmarried women aged between 20 and 30, then up to 50 in 1943, unless they had children under 14. Many joined the various women’s forces and nurses were attached to all the Services. Women worked in factories making war machines, ammunition, clothing or parachutes. Engineering industries such as Perkins Engines and Baker Perkins switched to wartime production supplying engines, guns, torpedoes and manufacturing machinery. Amidst this, dancing at local hotels and cinema-going were popular and there were several cinemas, showing films three times a day. Foreign servicemen became familiar sights on the street. They included including Americans, French and Poles, many of the latter remaining in the city at the end of the war.
Peterborough was not a prime target for bombs, so the city received 1496 London evacuees. Brick air raid shelters were built in the city centre. There were 644 Air Raid Alert warnings and bombs were hitting Bridge Street and the Lido. Raids of high explosive and incendiary bombs continued to 1942.
Peterborough Cathedral was hit by incendiary bombs but damage was limited by the quick reaction of the fire-watchers.
At the outbreak of World War II Peterborough Cathedral published its procedures for when an air raid siren went off during a service. The service would pause, the organist would play a hymn whilst those who needed to leave to attend to their duties could do so. Then after a few minutes, the service would resume. The Cathedral escaped major damage thanks to the vigilance of its firewatchers.
For instance, on 10th August 1942 at 12 a.m, two aircraft came over the city, one dropping flares and the other about 250 incendiary bombs. Six fell on the Cathedral roof and thirty on the Town Hall. The incendiaries were all extinguished before they did any significant damage.
The Town played a vital role with industry, airfields and a major railway c…
At the outbreak of World War II Peterborough Cathedral published its proced…