The Second World War
If the 1930s was the decade of light and speed the impact of the Second World War was equivalent to turning the lights off - when fairs around the country became black out events - temporarily out of action in 1940 but reformed and encouraged to boost public morale less than a year later. The advent of Holiday at Home Fairs in parks and market places throughout the country, supported by the Government and organised by the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain, in the words of Thomas Murphy 'brought light, colour, pageantry, gaiety and laughter into a very sombre world'. Financially the 1940s were one of the most profitable ever experienced by the industry as the 'black out showmen' and their morale boosting fairs were once again a mainstay of popular entertainment and a place where class barriers fragmented and inhibitions lowered due to the tensions of the time. However, in terms of competition and spectacle, the war years were overshadowed by the austerity of the time as the lights and music were hidden under black canvas
Due to the start of the Second World War Oxford St Giles Fair was suspended. The fairground community feared that their business would be devastated. In the Second World War the Showmen’s Guild extended its authority over the travelling show people. It fought for the continuation of fairs and the needs of its members during this period. With the near collapse of the industry during the First World War in mind, the Guild was better prepared. During the late 1930s it maintained close links with the relevant Ministries. When war was declared in September 1939 the Guild immediately contacted the Government. It wanted to ensure that travelling fairs would be able to continue. Fairs were allowed to continue even under black out conditions. Despite the loss of some Charter events such as Hull Fair which was requisitioned for the war effort, others continued.
On August 24, 1940, the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain published an appeal in the World’s Fair: "Other industries have raised funds to give fighter aircraft to the R.A.F. We, the travelling showmen, must do the same. Between £5,000 and £6,000 is necessary to provide a Spitfire or Hurricane fighter and many of our members have expressed the wish that they want to contribute to such a fund and we agree with them". Within ten days over £1,500 had been collected! The money came from individual members, regional sections and organisations associated with showland such as the World’s Fair. The target figure of £5,000 was realised during the Annual Meeting of Members. That was in early 1941. The money was sent to the Ministry of Aircraft Productions. The Spitfire purchased by the Showmen’s Guild was built by Supermarine Aviation Vickers Ltd. It was part of a lot of 450 Spitfires.