In one of the oldest buildings in the village of Holcombe (Lancashire), the Shoulder of Mutton public house/hotel, hangs a small framed print which most patrons will never notice. It is a small part of local Second World War history.
Comforts Funds began in the First World War and were meant to run in parallel to the Red Cross service of providing comfort to the front line troops. They were set up all over Britain with this purpose. Many charitable concerns were launched because ordinary people wanted to "do their bit" and there had to be an organised way of providing this. Such provisions were less common in WW2 and so it is interesting to see this historical record preserved.
Local Historian, John Ireland, researched this particular comforts fund and kindly gave us a copy of his notes, which forms the basis for this page.
This Comforts Fund was formed in 1941 by thirteen villagers - "The village's movers and shakers of their day". John's research tells us some of the recipients' jobs before they enlisted: "every thing from a dustbin man to street lamp lighters to railwayman, shepherd, two bricklayers, farm workers, a solicitor and a few mill workers who walked up and down the Rake every day twice a day - as they came home for their dinner." They came from every corner of the village, including one recipient who came from the pub itself - Russel Greenhalgh.
The list includes several brothers and even a woman, Nellie Duckworth, who is on the list with her brother, Herbert. Many of the surnames are common names in Holcombe and the surrounding area to this day - such as Taylor, Hamer, Greenhalgh, Hayhurst, Booth and Howarth.
The comfort fund had two main tasks: raising money and knitting things (mittens, socks, gloves and baraclavas) for those listed. The committee organised jumble sales, tombolas, beetle drives and raffles. The money was sent to the troops in the form of Five Shilling Postal Orders. As Mr Ireland asks: "How they got to the far flung places and how they cashed them god only knows. Imagine receiving a five shilling postal order sitting under a banyan tree in some equitorial rain forest in Borneo or Sarawak and then trying to cash it down at a local Post Office!"
Of the fifty three recipients of the comforts fund, four unfortunately lost their lives in the war. These four are immortalised at the top of the plaque in the black box. They are: G. Goulding, C. Hamer, R. Greenhalgh and J. Waddington. Russel Greenhalgh is the son of the committee member Mrs R. Greenhalgh and they lived at the Shoulder of Mutton itself where this plaque sits today in memory of all their achievements and sacrifices.
The Shoulder of Mutton is a lovely pub and well worth a visit. It sits in the centre of a picturesque Lancashire village, full of history and a great place to go for a stroll. Peel Monument is on the hill above the village and the views on a good day are worth the hike. If you visit the pub to see the plaque, please be kind and make a purchase. The food is excellent and the bar serves some lovely real ales.
ABOVE: The plaque showing the WW2 Comforts Fund recipients and committee in the Shoulder of Mutton.
BELOW: The pub itself in the village of Holcombe.