FLASHBACK: Burnley Methodist minister warns of war in 1933

Front page pic. Burnley Express 1st April 1933. G290312/2
Front page pic. Burnley Express 1st April 1933. G290312/2

THE troubling, uncertain days of 1933 are the focus for our Flashback today.

I say troubling because 1933 was the year Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, signalling the start of the Third Reich.

Hitler came to power in January of that year and I was keen to see if it was reported in what was then called The Burnley News.

The Burnley News was a rival publication, founded in 1913, to put the Liberal Party’s political view, which actually merged with the Express in 1933.

After much searching, I came across the midweek Wednesday, April 5th edition, which carried a prescient warning from a Burnley Methodist minister, the Rev. F.T. Buckingham.

Under the headline “Nations in Grip of Fear” the minister warned that the stage was set for a new arms race.

With commendable foresight, he wrote: “The world situation grows daily more menacing. The drift towards war is so ominous one dreads to open one’s morning paper, lest during the night some lunatic should have applied the dreaded spark to the world’s powder magazine and set all Europe ablaze.”

Six years later, Europe was indeed ablaze and by its end the most devastating conflict the world had ever known had resulted in the deaths of more than 60 million people.

Despite his notoriety, Hitler was not mentioned by name in this early Burnley News article, but the Rev. Buckingham does make reference to “turmoil in Germany”, as well as war in the Far East and the “nervousness of France”.

He concluded with the chilling observation “it is evident that in almost every great nation the militarists are in control.”

In happier news, the front page, as was customary for the time, was devoted entirely to entertainment – not least Burnley’s plethora of cinemas.

Hollywood star Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, one of cinema’s first icons, and someone who would later make his own contribution to the Second World War by becoming a decorated naval hero, was appearing in “Scarlet Dawn” at The Palace.

Another Hollywood screen legend associated with the war years, German American actress Marlene Dietrich, was the star of her new film “Blonde Venus”, which was soon to show at Burnley’s Savoy theatre.

The Empire, meanwhile, was showing “Doctor X”, “The Crooner” and perennial Disney favourite “Mickey Mouse”, created in 1928 and still popular today.

The layout of the paper back then was a world away from today. Much smaller, in terms of pages, sport was covered on page two and part of page three, which also featured court reports.

On April 5th, there is the report of a Padiham fish salesman’s bankruptcy.

But, more interestingly, the Padiham Police Court was dealing with a car crime – though not as you would expect today.

A 19-year-old man from Mytholmroyd was ordered to pay costs, and a man from Hebden Bridge fined £1 for allowing a cattle-removing van to be driven in a way likely to cause danger.

The incident happened in Burnley Road when a PC stopped the said vehicle which was carrying two women passengers. However, the floor boards had been removed on the van with the result that: “had the driver applied his brakes suddenly there would have been nothing to prevent the passengers falling through to the ground!”