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15 October 2014
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Supporting the War Effort - Recycling and Saving

by mrblackberry

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Carshalton/Wallington, Surrey
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Contributed on: 
18 January 2006

Boy Scout's National Service badge (1940)

As an island nation, when war broke out in 1939, Great Britain was dependent for so many of its supplies on imports by sea. The days of significant air cargo traffic had yet to arrive but would have been equally vulnerable to enemy attack. Although the term was not used in those days, there was an immediate recourse to recycling to conserve scarce resources. Garden railings were removed for their scrap metal and aluminium kitchen saucepans were collected for their potential in the aircraft industry. Whilst there may have been undue optimism of some of the benefits, nevertheless, the whole population was involved in a practical way in helping the war effort.

An ongoing effort that was well organised was the collection of waste paper. Scout troops and their associated cub packs had groups out with their trek carts collecting waste paper on established rounds. As a cub, I regularly went out with a group of scouts from the early days of 1940. When our cart was full, we would trundle off to a collection depot in Wallington where the paper was weighed and appropriate credit given. Not only was the quantity of paper collected recorded but also the time that was spent on the collections. After 100 hours, one qualified for the Scouts’ National Service Badge which I was very proud to wear.

Later in the war, we had some more sophisticated collection vehicles. The local council organised “salvage weeks” and scouts manned the council dust carts to make large, well-publicised summer evening collections. This was the high spot of a voluntary salvage collector’s career.

The Government understandably put a great emphasis on personal saving. To this end, special weeks were organised with an emphasis on each of the services in turn. There was “Salute the Soldier”, “Wings for Victory” and “Warship Week”. A smarter aspect of our involvement as Scouts was the participation in parades that accompanied these special weeks. All of the Troops from Carshalton, Beddington and Wallington, together with the Girl Guides, Boys Brigade, the Air Training Corps, the Sea Cadets and the Army Cadets and other organisations paraded through the town complete with their bands. They could be an impressive sight as they marched past appropriate local dignitaries.

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