PERHAPS one of the most famous of 19th century paintings was that by Millais of a little boy blowing soap bubbles which was used for many years as an advertisement for Pears Soap.

Anyway, the little boy grew up and in December 1941 was Admiral Sir William James, Commander in Chief at Portsmouth. He came to Romsey on December 6th to ‘lay the keel’ for the town’s Warship Week.

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Warship Week was a national event, designed to persuade people to put money into National Savings to enable the Government to pay for more naval vessels. Romsey and District set itself the target of raising £70,000 in order to buy a Motor Torpedo Boat. Since these boats only ever carried numbers, not names, it could not be called ‘Romsey’, although the Advertiser carried mention of the tug called “Romsey” helped bring the “Queen Mary” into Southampton on her first visit.

Romsey and the surrounding villages had all made detailed plans for Warship Week. The fund raising was very successful and in the event nearly £140,000 was raised.

Romsey’s contribution, for which Romsey Extra Parish Council was awarded a Certificate some 15 months later, went, in part, towards funding MTB 30. This boat had been built by Camper & Nicholson in Southampton and received by the Navy in July 1940. In November, while at Felixstowe, she was badly hit and her steering and torpedo gear were disabled.

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Repairs took place and in March 1942 she was one of three M.T.B.s that attacked a convoy off Cap Gris-Nez. After seeing further service against enemy torpedo boats, she was involved in a fierce battle at Flushing (Netherlands) in which she rammed and sank M.T.B. 29.

Throughout the war, the Government was chronically short of money, and one way in which the shortfall was met was by borrowing from the population. There were many savings schemes, some involved week by week savings and these were supplemented by special drives at intervals. Throughout Romsey and the local villages, as elsewhere in the country, there were savings clubs. Some of these had been extensions of existing clubs, particularly those associated with schools, but streets or places of work also set up savings clubs to help the war effort. Since wages were rising and there was less to buy in the shops, it was easier for people to save, although the government showed considerable ingenuity in finding a variety of ways of inducing people to save.

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Kimberley Barber