Royal British Legion

Great Yarmouth

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Great Yarmouth War Years

Great Yarmouth was a "Front Line" town during both the First and Second World Wars. Read about incidents that occurred during these times.

The Wartime Gari Boys

During the Second World War, the rationing of petrol was essential so that supplies, which were short anyway because of enemy attacks on our convoys, could be channelled towards the military and industry. This was the case with all raw materials: the war effort had priority. Factories were turned over to producing 'war' goods; Grouts silk factory in St Nicholas Road, Great Yarmouth was a good example: it produced crepe bandages and parachute material.

Next door to Grouts factory was the Garibaldi Hotel and like all hotels in Great Yarmouth it closed to tourists in August 1939, when the government declared the holiday season over. The Garibaldi, along with the others, was requisitioned by the military to house service personnel for the duration of the war. Opposite, in St Nicholas Road was Beulah House, also home to soldiers. Our Branch Secretary, Irene Williams, tells that her grandmother ran Beulah House, feeding and caring for these men. They, and their comrades from across the road, were known as the Gari boys. Many of them paid Irene's grandmother a small fee to do their washing and Irene's mother, Phyllis Southgate, helped her. She would walk from her home in Caister to Beulah House and back every day, pushing her youngest in their pram together with the washing - dirty on one journey, clean and ironed on another!

In the decades running up to the war, the Garibaldi had been a hotel which catered only for men. Factories closed for two weeks in the summer and it was usual for the workers to holiday together. The Garibaldi was popular with young men from London factories and these original 'Gari boys' and 'Gari lambs' spent much of their time fund-raising for good causes. The wartime Gari boys did the same thing; Irene remembers that once they collected enough old pennies to make a mile of pennies along Yarmouth Seafront.

Irene also recalls that among the many shortages her parents had to contend with was a shortage of brass. When the door knocker broke on their house in Caister it was replaced with a coffin handle which withstood many years of service!

Tuesday's Poppy
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