Richmond at War

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What was it like to live through the Second World War in Richmond? As well as fear, disruption and long queues for food, there was also a lighter side, with the community really coming together to help each other out

For his new book, Richmond at War 1939-1945, local author and historian, Simon Fowler, has searched the archives and local accounts by people who lived through the war to produce a detailed look at how the town came through six years of turmoil.

Like much of London, Richmond was prepared for when war came. Air raid shelters had been built under Richmond Green, or people could take cover under the arches of Richmond Bridge or in trenches in Old Deer Park. If people couldn’t make it to a shelter safely, many hid under the stairs of their homes. For the residents of a whole street – Peldon Avenue – this wasn’t enough to save them when a massive land mine hit, destroying almost every house (pictured above). One of the first policeman on the scene found his wife, Lilian Danby and their three daughters aged Margaret (14), Stella (13) and Sybil (11) had all been killed. His young son was later found alive.

The book also covers the important role Richmond Park played in the war – housing military units, a rehabilitation centre, anti-aircraft guns and, in Pembroke Lodge, a base for the Phantom Regiment, which included the film star, David Niven.

While war was terrifying for children during air raids or the coming of the V1 bombs, it was also a time for unusual play – collecting shrapnel souvenirs or a chance to miss school.

Richmond at War, £6.50, is available at Open Book in Richmond and Kew Book Shop or can be bought online at richmondhistory.org.uk. The book also ties in with an exhibition at the Museum of Richmond, which ends in March.

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