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Caithness at War – Week 227

3-9 January 1944

The New Year began as the old one had ended, with Allied armies pressing the Axis forces on a number of fronts. On 4 January Soviet forces entered Poland for the first time, driving the German army into a retreat that took it ever closer to its own borders. In Italy, Allied forces attacked Cervaro and Monte Trocchio in yet another effort to break through the German Winter Line. And with the invasion of occupied Europe now just months away, Allied operatives and weapons were parachuted behind Axis lines to begin the final preparations.

In Caithness the John O’Groat Journal reported that “The general opinion of the advent of the fifth New Year since the war was “the quietest yet”… There was no outward excitement. But there was much inward rejoicing—a feeling that this year we are to gather the fruits of hard-earned victories.” The children of Wick had a “free cinema entertainment in the Pavilion picture house in the forenoon”, courtesy of the management.

Now that the holidays were over life went back to normal, and the county’s schools all went back on Tuesday 4 4 Jan Bower School stormy weatherJanuary. Bad weather and sickness continued to hit attendance, however. In Bower School the head teacher noted in the log book: “School opened today with stormy weather and a very low attendance—only 19 out of 38. The District Nurse reports many cases of colds and ‘flu’.”

At the Annual Meeting of Wick Harbour Trust debated the status of Wick and Scrabster harbours: “the Secretary 7 Jan Wick Harbour Trust - Ministry of Food Specified Portsexplained that it had subsequently transpired that Wick and Scrabster … had been denied interport privileges for fish processing. For example, herring sent from Wick for outside kippering attached freight. With centres accorded interport privileges such herring or white fish for processing went freight free.” The trustees unanimously agreed to seek interport privileges for Wick.

Finally this week, the John O’Groat Journal reported a number of festivities that had taken place over the holidays in Lybster. The saddest sign of wartime privations was at the British Legion Hall: “There was a Christmas tree which gave a festive air to the scene, although the usual presents were missing.” But things were rather better at the Church of Scotland Hut where the Primary Sunday School children were gathered: “The party been going on for some time, and the youngsters had been enjoying games and sweetmeats, when a knock was heard at the door and Santa entered the room. Pretty bows and smart salutes greeted Santa as he handed over to each child a gift from the tree.”