LESS than 12 months ago, Horwich Heritage commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of First World War.

Now the society is preparing to mark another momentous landmark – 80 years since the start of the Second World War.

A full programme of events is planned on Saturday, September 7 from 10am to 4.30pm including an exhibition, book launch, the premier of a war-related play, Ways and Means (performed by the On the Go Theatre Company) and a wartime singalong. It is all free and Horwich Heritage is urging as many people as possible to share in what promises to be a poignant occasion. Anyone with family photos, memories or mementos can bring them along on the day.

Following the success of their book about Horwich in the Great War, Horwich heritage will be launching a new book about the town during the Second World War.

Costing £8, it will tell of the resilience of the people of Horwich as they faced up to the prospect of another World War only 20 years after the ‘War to end all Wars’ had finished.

There was heartache as late in 1939/early in 1940 the first casualties (out of a total of 127) were announced, and there was hardship as rationing and the ‘blackout’ affected every aspect of family and working life.

The Horwich and Westhoughton Journals of the time provided a detailed account of everyday life, in particular the sterling work of the ARP wardens, Home Guard, Women’s Institute and localschools in support of the war effort.

The amount of money raised for various wartime appeals like War Weapons Week or the Spitfire Fund were staggering and amounted to many millions of pounds in today’s currency – a true indication of the patriot fervour of the war years.

One of the few ‘benefits’ of the war was a surge in overtime and full-time working at the town’s factories, which was most welcome after the economic depression of the 1930s.

The Loco Works and the newly-opened De Havilland aircraft factory in particular were working ‘flat out’ on wartime production, the Loco Works making tanks and shells and De Havilland making ‘variable pitch’ propellers which helped our Spitfire pilots win the Battle of Britain in 1940. With so many men being ‘called up’, there was an urgent need for female employees to supplement the workforce and hundreds of women played a vital role at these two major wartime production centres.

With two prime targets, it was fortunate that Horwich wasn’t specifically targeted by German bombers. As German bombers concentrated Manchester and Liverpool there were many eye witness accounts of how clearly visible the fires were from the higher ground above the town.

One bomb did land on Horwich, in Lever Park Avenue but, although it did some local damage, it did not kill anyone.

Today, few people would know that Rivington was a ‘militarised zone’ during the war with public access severely restricted. Military training and target practice took place there and in late 1943/early 1944, American forces began to assemble in the area ready for the D Day landings.

Many Horwichers whowere children at the time, have shared their memories pf these times including what it was like to go to school with evacuees who had travelled up here from ‘another world’ called London.The records of the evacuees who came and the families who ‘billeted’ them have survived and are kept in the History Centre at Bolton Library. Horwich Heritage would love to hear from anyone who was an evacuee and chose to stay after the war.

The book launch will be held at Horwich Heritage and Community Centre from 10am on September 7. The exhibition will run until March 2020.