WAR TIME RINGING II (National).
Ringing World Vol 35, Iss 1526, p289-91,
21 June 1940
CHURCH BELLS BANNED.
AN UNEXPECTED' WAR-TIME ORDER.
The complete ban which was placed last Thursday on the ringing of church bells came as an unexpected blow to ringers. Some inkling of what might happen was gained by ‘The Ringing World’ earlier in the week, and the paragraph of warning of things to come was inserted just before going to Press.
Notification had earlier been received in this office that at various places in the Aldershot Command notification had been given that bells were only to be used for signifying the landing of enemy troops by parachute or aeroplane and, as a result, the Editor got into communication with the hon. secretary of the Central Council (Mr. G. W. Fletcher), who visited the Ministry of Home Security on Tuesday.
Consideration of the plan for using church bells as a warning was actually taking place, and the hon. secretary endeavoured to persuade the authorities to adopt a more modified scheme than a complete ban. Unfortunately, the lines suggested by Mr. Fletcher were not followed, and the new Order was issued two days later.
Ringers, disappointed though they are, accept the decision of the Ministry as one of the minor sacrifices that have to be made in the national interests, although the efficacy of what is proposed is still conjectural, for reasons that ringers will know well.
There is, however, one important point that in the interests of the public should be made plain. What is the object of the warning which the bells are to sound? Is it to call certain services to help in rounding up the invaders; is it to tell the people to keep indoors? The public ought to be informed, otherwise they may go rushing out and impede military or other defensive action, to say nothing of the risks they may themselves run.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was the first to give any public intimation of what was to be expected when, addressing the Church Assembly at the new Church House, Westminster, he said that the silencing of church bells at an early date was possible. He warned the clergy that he had been advised by Sir John Anderson, the Home Secretary, that some restriction on the ringing and chiming of bells was to be expected.
The ban has not only put an end to all Sunday service ringing, but it will also, of course, seriously affect meetings of associations, although there is already proof that a meeting can be successful even without ringing. Last Saturday, the Western Division of the Yorkshire Association met at Ilkley, and forty ringers were present.
This is an example which other associations may bear m mind when tempted to adopt a defeatist attitude and imagine that it is of no use to hold meetings if the church bells cannot be rung.
|COUNCIL PRESIDENT’S VIEWS.
HOW RINGERS MAY HELP.
It is only natural that ringers should feel disappointed at the newly issued Order, which forbids the use of church bells except as a warning, after the efforts to maintain their use for their chief purpose, that of ringing for service.
This is not the time to express that disappointment or to offer criticism of the Order. Military needs come first and it is the duty of ringers to help the authorities in every possible way to carry out the Order. It may be, however, that a more effective warning may be discovered later.
It is not yet clear how the bells are to be rung as a warning, or who is to give the instructions that they are to be sounded. To make the warning more effective, bells that can be rung should be rung and not chimed, so that the sound may carry as far as possible. It might be well, therefore, to consider some of the difficulties in the case of bells hung for ringing. If the warning is to be sounded quickly, it will be necessary to have always at hand, day and night, at least one person who can ring a bell.
In this connection it may be well if the clergy were warned of the danger of allowing any unauthorised person into the tower. Unfortunately, quite a number of the clergy and most of the local military authorities do not realise the risks to limb or to church property.
There is considerable risk of damage to the bell and the person attempting to ring it if he has no knowledge of ringing, and to ensure that someone is available day and night will require a good deal of local organisation.
If under the Order a number of bells are to be rung where they are available, the difficulty of getting ringers together would be insuperable in most cases.
There is a special risk of damage in towers where bells are hung for ringing and there are no organised ringers, as is unfortunately the case in a number of village churches. This fact suggests a useful outlet for the energies of the various associations who cannot carry on with their normal routine. They can help towers which are not in union who have few or no ringers, instructing, if necessary, some of the Local Defence Volunteers to ring a bell at least frame high without danger to themselves or the bells. If this were undertaken, it might be a useful introduction to such towers and benefit the Exercise in the happier times which we ultimately look for.
A word of warning might be given about instruction, if false raid warnings are not to be sounded. A tied clapper should not be used, because there is always the danger of the rope chafing through and allowing the clapper to sound. For instruction, therefore, in handling a bell, the clapper should be taken out. If the organisation of the warning is properly carried out, there will be quite a lot for local bands and for associations to do.
I hope the Central Council will be able to help in clarifying the position and sending out useful suggestions, preferably in co-operation with the authorities, with whom the hon. secretary has been in contact since September 3rd.
In these days ringers have not much time to spare, but even in war time some relaxation is necessary, and I suggest that handbell ringing is a very suitable antidote (Continued on next page.)
DEFEAT THE EVIL SPIRITS.
(Continued from previous page.)
to worry. I picture a ringer-parashot, waiting in the tower for orders to sound the tocsin, being joined by two of his fellow-ringers and whiling away the time with some double-handed Minor.
If, as a warning, a number of the bells are to be rung, should they not in accordance with tradition be rung backwards?
‘ The bells are rung backwards, the drums they are beat.’
Or is this practice merely a Scottish one?
The one thing that is quite clear is that every member of the Exercise should, instead of ringing to drive away evil spirits, do his utmost to defeat the evil spirits, so that he can once again ring the bells without let or hindrance.
E. H. LEWIS.
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|CHURCH BELLS AND WAR ALARMS.
To the Editor.
All ringers and thousands of the public will very much deplore the action of the Home Office in ordering our church Bells to be silent, thus depriving the Church of their rightful and Christian uses.
With the system of sirens already in use for air raid purposes, one would have thought it possible to have used them as a warning for paratroops by using a distinctive note to that used for air raids.
It is of little avail to use one end of the church in which to ask God’s blessing and deliverance from so ruthless an enemy when the authorities do not hesitate to desecrate church property at the other end by using the bells for war purposes, bringing every church possessing a bell under the heading of a military Objective.
War or no war, let us keep the church and church property sacred.
Maghull, near Liverpool,
|COUNTRY VICARS' VIEWS.
The following two letters appeared in ‘ The Times ’ on Monday last:
For some months now the regular ringing of curfew at 8 p.m. in this parish has been altered to the ringing of the same bell at ‘black-out’ time. It has proved a most useful function for a custom which had lost all meaning. Under the new regulation this will have to stop. It seems a pity that such use should not be allowed to continue
It is to be hoped that those who are now alone allowed to ring the bells will get some instruction from skilled ringers. It is painfully easy for the uninitiated to pull a bell rope with all the vigour imaginable and yet fail to produce any sound at all. Here it had been arranged for the old fire-call to be used, i.e., the clashing together of the smallest bell with the tenor.
The Vicarage, Deddington, Oxford.
|A DANGEROUS THING.
The use of church bells as an indication of the approach of invaders may be invaluable. Two points, however, need to be raised.
Only the military or Local Defence Volunteers are to use the bells. Do they know how to? The novice will pull the rope (so easy!). No sound will be heard. He will pull more fiercely. Again no sound. He will pull it frantically, angrily. If lucky, he may produce one very half-hearted boom. One has to learn how to make a church bell speak effectively. If a bell is left ‘set,’ even the novice will then be able to make the bell speak on pulling its rope, but in doing so he runs the grave risk of wringing his own neck. An uncontrolled bell rope can become a very dangerous thing.
The second point is, why should church bells be used for this new purpose only? By all means let the tolling of a single bell be the official warning, but who would want or expect a peal of five or eight bells to herald the approach of the enemy? For the sake of our spirits, let the peal of church bells still call us to worship. The solemn tolling of one bell can be an ominous warning about parachutists.
V. B. YEARSLEY .
Benenden Vicarage, Kent.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
Commenting on the Order, 'The Daily Telegraph’ said: 'Home security officials state that it is not intended that an elaborate peal should be rung. All that is needed is the ringing of a small bell which would not demand expert knowledge or practice.'
'Points which would seem to arise are whether the churches are to be kept open day and night, and, if so, who is to be responsible for the protection of the building? I f churches are locked up at night, are the military or A.R.P. authorities to have the keys or are vergers to be summoned in an emergency?’
PROSECUTION UNDER THE NEW ORDER.
The first case since the Home Office Order silencing church bells was heard at Bradford on Saturday.
William Metcalfe, eighteen-year-old baker’s labourer, was arrested under the Defence Regulations for ringing the bells of St. Peter’s, Laisterdyke.
He was charged with ‘doing an act communicating, or likely to communicate, to the public information falsely purporting to be duly given for purposes connected with the defence of the realm.'
Mr. J. Staples, prosecuting, asked for Metcalfe to be remanded for medical observation. He had no connection with the church.
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