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Remembering High Peak’s Second World War railway stories

This weekend marks a time of reflection and remembrance for many. Railways played a vital role in military and civic life in the Second World War; here we remember stories chosen by Station Friends groups which highlight the role of railways, from to transporting people to safety to the contribution of women to the war effort.

Remembering evacuees who found safety in Glossop
 
In 1940, around 600 children arrived in Glossop by train, evacuated from the Suffolk coastal town of Lowestoft due to the threat of bombing and invasion. For its population, Lowestoft is thought to be one of the most bombed towns in England, as its location on the south east coast made it a place where spare ammunition was offloaded as enemy planes returned to their base, as well as being targeted on the way to city bombing raids.
 
Over 3000 children were evacuated, and some of them found refuge in Glossop, a north-west Derbyshire town which must have seemed a world away from their low-lying home by the sea. The children arrived by train on 2 June 1940, and wouldn’t return home for another four or five years. Billeted with local families, the children became part of Glossop’s story which has never been forgotten.
 
In 2022, some of the Friends of Glossop Station travelled to Lowestoft Station for a reunion event with former evacuees and their families. You can read about it in the Lowestoft Journal. Alma, who arrived in Glossop aged six along with her siblings, recently returned for a visit with her son to mark her 90th birthday. Friends of Glossop Station were delighted to wish her a happy birthday; you can read more about Alma’s visit on the FoGS website.
Remembering “Mim” Jennings, New Mills signal woman
 
Local resident Bill Jennings spoke to Friends of New Mills Stations recently. He remembers his mother, Mildred “Mim” Jennings, nee Bowden, who was a signaller at New Mills Central during the war.
 
“We believe – though we have no evidence – she was the first signal woman in Britain. All the men were wanted for the war effort and Mum needed a job. She had previously been a “bookies runner”, collecting bets and cash from pubs, clubs and quarries from New Mills to Buxton and beyond. She had to learn to drive – no license needed in those days! – and collect cash from big burly men in pubs and quarries – she was amazed she wasn’t mugged! 
 
When her father (my grandad) retired, he said ‘you will have to get a new job’. She started working as a signal woman with Dirk, her poodle, at a signal box at New Mills Central Station. The signal box has long since gone but was a “bridge” over the railway for good views of the lines. One steam train driver had a trick of letting off steam under the box, filling her room full of steam. He thought it was hilarious, but she got her revenge – tipping an ice-cold bucket of water over him in the train next time he passed! He didn’t do it again. Dirk the poodle was named after her favourite actor, Dirk Bogarde.”
 
Many thanks to Bill for sharing his memories and photos of New Mills’ Second World War signal woman, Mim.

If you have railway-related stories of remembrance from High Peak and Hope Valley, you can get in touch with us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn with your memories to add to this article.

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