Bolton Remembers the War Logo
Arthur Orrell - War Worker
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Arthur Orrell



Arthur Orrell

27 July 2005

Arthur was born in 1920 at Essingdon Street, Daubhill, Bolton. His father was a cotton spinner and his mother worked at the bleach works at Back o' the Bank. He lived at Presto Street Farnworth and Fairhaven Road, Astley Bridge. He attended St John's C of E School, Farnworth, Chalfont Street School and Folds Road School, where he was in the same class as the footballer, Tommy Lawton. When he left school it was very difficult to get a job and after some temporary work he got work at Bolton Light Leathers in Weston Street.

Through an initiative known as the Juvenile Transference Scheme a job was found for him with an engineering firm in Bedford and, at the outbreak of War, he was working for the Williamson Manufacturing Company in Willesden who made survey cameras and photographic equipment for the RAF. His interest in photography resulted in him being taken in for questioning by the police after he was seen using his camera near the Thames. Arthur came back to Bolton and worked for Ferranti at Holinwood. He did voluntary work and helped raise money to provide Wartime aid for Russia.

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Our Russian allies... mp3 sound clip - 283kOur Russian allies... mp3 sound clip - 283k

The perils of photography...

I was interested in photography, and you know, start of the War I was working in this place in Reading. I used to get about on a bike a lot, so. But when I worked at Reading, come weekend and on a Sunday which I didn't work, I thought, oh, being interested in walking and you know, I'd get to know places, so, and at that time I had a camera, cameras were like a big fuse box, folding chimney on the top, you know, the old type of press camera with the lens that size. I'd got one of those, you see, but I'd only three plate holders and it was using glass plates, not roll film, these were glass plates, 9 x 12 centimetres in size which were a bit bigger than English ones were 40 plates, so I say a bit smaller. So I thought I'll have a walk out, and so I took the local bus from Reading bus station and got to a place called... near to Goring which is along the River Thames there and went towards Ridgeway, which is a Roman road, and nice scenery and things like that. And I'd no camera case, I had a piece of brown paper, thick brown paper that I'd covered my camera up with to keep the rain off if need be. So I was on my own and walking there and there was a Fairey Battle came flying over me. I thought eeh, be a good shot that, anyhow, I deferred from doing that. So, and then continued my walk and came to a very high spot where it looked down to a place called Streatley which isn't far from Wallingford which is going towards Oxford, and I was carrying this camera and I hadn't got my brown paper over it, it'd got tattered so I'd disposed of that, or wrapped it somewhere, and I was walking with my big camera you see, and there was a few people with parked cars quite close by. Anyway walking along there and then there were a car coming behind me and so I just waved it on as such and they stopped and said ‘Oh excuse, what have you got there?' and I said ‘It's my camera' and it happened to be an Air Raid Warden, you know, with one of these badges on, you see, and this were when things were, you know, state of anxiety, and the like. And I said ‘oh it's just a camera' and I think I had my identity card but I hadn't filled it in, that's right, and I'd got my birth certificate, and we stopped and picked up a chappie just a short distance away, an Army officer, you see. So they started questioning me, where did I work, what did I do, and things like that. So they said ‘Oh you'd better come with us' so they took me down in the car to Wallingford police station, (laughs). Anyway I was living in digs in Reading at the side of Kennet canal there and the like, so I was there about two and a half to three hours, and I'd gone by bus up to Streatley but I'm in Wallingford police station, putting everything out, you know, and asking me about my camera, where did I work, and in the meantime when I'd got back to my digs, they'd had the police round there checking on me! And the funny part about it, is this, there was a Sergeant there and a PC there, he was brought out of retirement, fortunate in a way, he'd come from Oldham so we were quite on level grounds there. I finished up taking their photographs (laughs) So when I'd got back home there were quite a to-do.

Our Russian allies ...

Yes, I was attached to the... just on the fringe of the Labour Party and aiding Russia, that was one thing, Bolton they had a committee there and knew all the local councillors and whatever and we created a fund there. I think we managed to get £500 and present a cheque to an official from the Russian Embassy in London and put on things like entertainment, a brass band on at Capitol Cinema, and also I got one of the people who used to work where I used to work, called Winifred Halliwell, and she was a classic pianist, yes, and very good. So we had a brass band entertainment, a pianist and also Pollitt, one of the Communist leaders, come and gave a talk, so there was a lot to do. Emphasis on Russia trying to get us to create a second front, much earlier than we did, you see, it took a lot of keeping back that, otherwise we could have gone too soon or Hitler could have gone to soon, and things could have been different today.