Just 8 days until the Crown Road Community Christmas Fair!

We can’t wait until the Big Day on Crown Road! In the meantime, here’s the full unabridged version of local historian Martyn Day’s excellent local history piece, as featured in your Xmas 2015 issue of My St Margarets Magazine; a thought-provoking article with a personal reminisence at the end that will make you appreciate the things we have 70 years on…

Returning%20soldier.jpg A returning serviceman in 1945

‘70 YEARS ON - CHRISTMAS 1945, by Martyn Day.

“Final victory has not brought the solution of our problems or the sweets which are said to fall to the victors…The country is faced with enormous problems of reconstruction and the whole future of the race depends upon how they are faced and tackled.”

Christmas 1945. The fighting was over and for those who survived it was time to come home. Thousands of P.O.W’s were being repatriated and 5 million service personnel were slowly being demobilised. But with no immediate return to pre-war abundance or comfort ‘Jingle Bells’ were muted In the U.K that Christmas. Food and clothing were still rationed as were coal and petrol. There was also a desperate shortage of housing. …
“There is a prevailing famine of accommodation - in Richmond there are 1,400 people on the Council’s waiting list.”

The return home of P.O.W’s and demobbed service men and women raised other problems. After years away some were finding it difficult to rebuild family lives. There were 60,000 divorce applications made in 1947, a figure that would not be surpassed until the 1960’s. Aware of these problems a Civil Recruitment Unit was set up at Kneller Hall to help former P.O.W’s return to civilian life with advice on jobs and opportunities for further education…
“Wives are invited to the centre because they have a great part to play in the resettlement of a man. After years on foreign service domestic problems may arise. The husband and wife may have changed and the readjustment to home life is of equal importance with the industrial resettlement”

On demobilisation the service uniform was exchanged for:
A felt hat or optional flat cap.
A double-breasted pinstripe three-piece suit, or a single-breasted jacket with flannel trousers.
Two shirts with matching collar studs.
A tie.
A raincoat.

In December 1945 75,000 ‘demob’ suits were being produced each week by companies such as ‘Burtons’ and ‘Fifty Shilling Tailors’. Some servicemen complained that the suits made them look like old time gangsters.
The ‘Richmond Herald’ rose to the food rationing challenge with recipes for ‘Christmas Pudding’ made with ‘reconstituted eggs’ and ‘Mock Marzipan’ with almond essence and soya. There was guidance on cooking for returned prisoners of war, particularly those held by the Japanese. “Small meals at frequent intervals” was the recommendation. There were also reports of a gift of Christmas Puddings to Britain from South Africa - “However it is not known when they will arrive or how many there will be!”

For those who cared to look there were Christmas diversions. The Richmond Pantomime was ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ with Randolph Sutton, a popular music hall singer while Isleworth star William Hartnell was appearing at the Q Theatre in Kew in ‘What Anne Brought Home’. Kew Parish Church raised £600 for the Church Missionary Society with a Festive Christmas Market. There was a special variety show for repatriated P.O.W’s by the Metrocops (formerly the Black-Out Blues) entitled “Grand Slam”. Some former P.O.W’s got married. Arthur Glover married Muriel Ellis at Christ Church in Richmond and Alfred King married Josephine Pretty in Ham. “A very appropriate name” suggested the local paper. The couples might have had a hard time though finding somewhere to live. The Council appealed directly through the local newspapers…

‘An appeal to all householders in this Borough
Spare Rooms Urgently needed.
Will you please help?’

Things weren’t too rosy with the supply of coal either. When the ‘Ministry of Fuel and Power’ announced that only 8 cwt of coal per household would be available for November and December 1945 the ‘Richmond Herald’ responded with a report that local coal merchants were offering logs for 19/6d (98p) per 100.

And so the year dragged to its weary end. On the 29th December 1945 the ‘Richmond and Twickenham Times’ offered some thoughts for the year ahead…
“Let ‘Tolerance’ be the password for 1946, with kindness and courtesy following up in the rear…. The next time you feel like hitting someone over the head with a frying pan remember to count up to ten - or as a last resource take up Astronomy. It makes a row with the fishmonger over a piece of cod a trifle ridiculous!
Anyway a Happy New Year to you all and may the queues grow smaller, the rations larger, and the long suffering housewife at last see ‘a light in her darkness”. Let us give the New Year a warm welcome. It is bound to bring a flicker of hope for better things to come.”

And so agreed the ‘Richmond Herald’…
“Only those qualities displayed when we stood alone can bring about the realisation of the things we cherish in our minds”.

My family had its own homecoming on the 9th April 1946 when my father, Sergeant F. Day, 5256501, returned from the Middle East and saw me for the first time. It was in the ticket hall at Turnpike Lane station and I was 16 months old. When I first saw his face appearing over the rising escalator I, intensively schooled by my Nan with the help of a photograph, pointed and said “Dadda!” My mother said that the entire family cried that day- but we weren’t alone. The rest of the world was in tears with us - for those who had returned and the 60 million that hadn’t.’

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