Today December 20th 2021 would have been the 97th birthday of diarist Peggy Jane Skinner (1924-2011).
You can read more of her daily life in the 1940s in her diary entries month by month on this blog, detailing her life as a wartime schoolgirl and university student in Scotland, then post-war life as a scientist and teacher back in her native London.
Happy Birthday Peggy!
Blog posted by Mark Norris, WW2 Home Front Diaries blog site.
80 years on, it is interesting to read Peggy’s reflections from far away Scotland on the air war raging over her home skies down south in London and Richmond / Kingston Upon Thames home area. The Battle of Britain and the Blitz bombing had begun in earnest.
The important trivia of school and social life as a fifteen to sixteen year old girl continues, despite the worsening international situation after Dunkirk and the Fall of France in June 1940.
It is not clear from her diaries which secondary school(s) she attended in Glasgow / Renfrew. Many children’s schooling was being disrupted by the war.
Selected war related diary entries – end of school year / start of summer holidays
Friday 19th July 1940 – A bomb was dropped in Yoker which hit a tenement and killed five people (three of them children) and injured a lot of others, and one was dropped in Hillington this morning. No warning was given but the aeroplane and bombs were heard.
Saturday 20th July 1940 – Went to “Ninotchka” this afternoon with Bunty. It was very funny in parts but it was inclined to be sloppy. We had an air raid last night I slept during [the] time bombs were dropped but woke up later on.
Tuesday 23rd July 1940 – Had a raid warning just after dinner time, lasted about an hour. Nothing happened, very disappointing.
Wednesday 24th July 1940 – I was woken this morning about 6 o’clock because bombs were being dropped and there was a lot of noise from A-A guns. Factories at Hillington hit. No warning.
Thursday 25th July 1940 – Went with Bunty to see damage done at Industrial Estate. Not much at all, one factory or block of factories pretty badly damaged, nothing else except broken windows.
Editor’s note: Jigsaws? Some of the wartime entries are more subtle and oblique than others. Peggy’s Dad has cleared their bungalow loft in Renfrew because of the threat of incendiaries.
Peggy lives near factories, probably where her English father is an engineer.
Sunday 28th July 1940 – Went to church this morning, a lovely morning but rotten later in day. Dad was clearing stuff out of loft, what a mess and what a lot of stuff.
Tuesday 30th July 1940 – I had my hair washed this morning and as it wasn’t dry till late on this afternoon, I didn’t go out and it rained this evening, so just did a jig-saw.
Incendiaries, ARP, jigsaws and junk
Peggy playing with old jigsaws from her loft on 5th August 1940 is connected to the bombings in July and her father clearing the loft on 28th July. Air raid advice suggested clearing the attic or loft and laying down a thick layer of sand, all to try to make it easy to tackle incendiary bombs which had pierced the tiles.
Background Events of July 1940
2 July 1940 – First major daylight raid on Britain by German Luftwaffe bombers
10 July 1940 – Beginning of ‘Battle of Britain’ as Luftwaffe bomb military targets.
19 July 1940 – Final appeal to the ‘common sense’ of British people by Hitler from Reichstag.
23 July 1940 – Churchill renames the LDV the ‘Home Guard’. Peggy’s engineer father has joined this.
Background events to August 1940
10 August 1940 – Adlertag (Eagle day), Luftwaffe offensive delayed by 3 days to 13th August.
12 August 1940 – Radar stations on south coast raided.
14 August 1940 – Bad weather – RAF downs 45 German aircraft.
16 August 1940 – Military targets across Southern England targeted.
18 August 1940 – RAF Airfields across Surrey and Kent attacked. First German aircraft brought down over central London.
20 August 1940 – Churchill’s “Few” speech about the RAF.
Sunday 4th August 1940 – Took communion this morning. I hear I am to have a part in one of the plays which St. Marg[aret’s Church] are putting on for the troops billeted in schools here.
“Troops being billeted in schools” is another cause of the disruption of Peggy’s wartime schooling.
Monday 5th August 1940 – Spent best part of day doing very difficult jigsaw puzzle. I am doing all the puzzles which Dad found when clearing out the loft.
Thursday 15th August 1940 – Had my hair washed tonight. The holidays are passing very quickly. I am worried about next year because of the Highers and what I’m to do after.
German radio was broadcast from major cities like Berlin or Hamburg and often shut down when an RAF air raid was in progress in order to avoid the planes homing in radio signals to find the cities – a form of radio blackout – see Roger Moorhouse, Berlin at War 1939-1945.
Friday 16th August 1940 – We listened to [Lord] Haw-Haw, just as he said Britain never attacked he suddenly closed down, just as though the RAF had decided to pay him a visit.
Additional note by Peggy in the Diary Memoranda section on the Battle of Britain: not dated.
It is marvellous the way the RAF are adding to their cricket score. We put on the wireless at every news to hear how many more Jerries they’ve added to their score. Yesterday it was 180 for 34 of ours (from whom many pilots are safe). Since the beginning of the week excluding today they have brought down over 400.
Sunday 18th August 1940 – Went to church, saw all the soldiers marching down both from Renfrew and from Moor Park afterwards. Lot more raids along the South coast.
Friday 23rd August 1940 – Quite a nice day though very chilly in morning. Went to library with Bunty in afternoon. Heard yesterday that all Paisley schools are taken over but that soldiers are to go to old works in Barrhead.
Monday 26th August 1940 – Had a short raid, warning just after came to bed last night. I think it was mistaken because only one siren went and that only for short time.
September 1940 – Glasgow / Renfrew area
Selected war related entries from Peggy’s diary.
Friday 6th September 1940 – Air Raid Practice yesterday, fire drill today. Played table tennis at Bunty’s tonight. Latin was terribly boring. Made an awful lot of smells in Chem.
Sunday 15th September 1940 – Communion, Bible class, evensong. Was round hall this evening when sirens went so I just had to trot home. Warning didn’t last long.
Monday 16th September 1940 – Had holiday because it was Paisley Autumn holiday. Rotten day. Went to Glasgow in afternoon with Mum. Bought new coat. Had to wait 1 ½ hour in queue before we were served.
Editor’s note: Clothes Rationing would suddenly be introduced without warning in June 1941.
Tuesday 17th September 1940 – Simply poured today. Had half-holiday while staff put net on windows – until further notice all the school except 5th and 6th years are to have half day everyday. We are to go back in afternoon.
Editor’s note: It is interesting rereading this during the Pandemic summer 2020 as schools return and exam grades are estimated, how schools in 2020 have prepared for social distancing. In wartime, many schools were damaged in air raids or requisitioned for military and civil defence purposes. Along with evacuation, this caused lots of disruption to wartime schooling, especially to Peggy starting her crucial exam year of 1940/41.
The Clydeside Blitz would take place in 1941, sadly we do not have Peggy’s entries for this year but she did make it University of Glasgow to study Science in September (1941?)
Tuesday 24th September 1940 – Had two free periods this afternoon. Did no homework, there was far too much noise. Heard that school was to go back to usual time because netting had run out but no intimation made so must be false.
Thursday 26th September 1940 – Had to go looking for rooms this afternoon because the netting was being put up in the room we use for English on extra periods. It is getting done very quickly.
Friday 27th September 1940 – An awful lot of planes have been brought down today, over 120 so far, I hope it goes past the 200 mark by tomorrow. Mum is thinking of asking Peter and Madge up.
Editor’s note: Mrs Skinner is thinking of asking Peggy’s cousins or young relatives up from the London Blitz areas of 1940 to the relative safety of Glasgow. It was no safer – The Clydeside Blitz occurred in 1941.
Copyright: Peggy Jane Skinner (1924-2011) / Mark Norris, my WW2 Home Front Diaries Collection. if you wish to quote from or reproduce these diary entries, please contact me first through the Comments / Contact page
August entries from an unresearched single year diary entry from my wartime diary collection.
A little glimpse of the disruption of family and married life caused by WW2. […] usually indicates illegible bits.
Monday 19th August 1940 – The Roystons, Royston, Herts
“Once more back in the dear little old home – which looks so bright and clean and sweet- bringing back memories of childhood, girlhood and womanhood live here in this dear old place.
Toni took me to Fareham station at 11 a.m. and eventually I arrived here at 6 p.m. Mummie and Coo on the old familiar station to meet me. Mummie as ever gay and [?] – Coo big with child. Looking most strange. The house full of women and children as [Maj?] Skelton and her two babies are her as PG’s [Paying Guests]. George Skelton (RAF) is a Prisoner of War.
Well let’s hope I get away from those terrible air raids we had at [..?]
Tuesday 20th August 1940 – The Roystons
I spoke too soon of peace from air raids yesterday, for at midnight we were woken by a terrific noise – three bombs had dropped in a field nearby – the first real noise they have heard here.
What a funny little peace this seems to be – just the same as ever. I went down to Old [?] for a drink at lunch time – there was old Reggie Porter – just the same as ever and fat old Doc Dighton sitting in his accustomed chair at the table , covered with an old green [p?] cloth, which I’m sure has been there since I was born. I had a chat and drink with them – but I rather longed for the Inn or the Vic and the friends and people I always met there. No word from Nigel so I expect he has gone – Bless him.
Wednesday 21st August 1940 – The Roystons
A quiet day with the family, as I suppose all their days are. No one seems to call, and there is no one to go and see except the old maiden spinsters whom I have quite forgotten ever existed.
I must admit I am very bored and feel cold and depressed, oh how I crave for Nigel – my longing hurts, I do love him so, I had a sweet letter from his mother today.
She says “I am quite sure yours and Nigel’s love for each other is the right kind, I am just sorry things have had to be done as they are … [redacted / edited] and she ends her letter: “As you say, we must prey for Nigel’s safety and return to us all. I know what you feel, I am not used yet to being without my love of 30 years of bliss. I hope you will long be spared each other.”
I am so glad she wrote to me like that and she also asked me to go and stay with her and her daughter Charity. I will go, for knowing them will be bringing me nearer to Nigel’s people. I wrote to him today.
Thursday 22 August 1940 – The Roystons
I feel happier today because the postman brought me a letter from my Beloved Nigel – letter No. 5 – Bless his darling heart. I am afraid it will be the last letter I shall get for some time now, because this time I really think he has gone as he says he has been bandied about and was in his third ship since leaving me. He did not sound very happy and had not received any of his letters. he writes so lovingly and so adorably for example … [Letter]
Our luggage arrived from Gieves today all battered and bruised but now I have all our own pack and baggage here with me.
Friday 23rd August 1940 – The Roystons
My letter to Nigel No. 7 – “… By now [Poops?] you must be of the high sea and I’m frightened for you, because we hear that ships and convoys are being heavily bombed. all I can do is to pray for your safety. I wrote to your Mother yesterday and said I would like to go and stay with her for a few days next month sometimes, as Tom is coming home on leave and there will be nowhere for me to sleep, and I should like to be with your mother because she loves you and will understand.
Poops what a waste of time it was bandying you about from ship to ship all that time. I do so wish I could have got word to you for your birthday sweetness [?] … I hope you will have received my seven previous letters and the parcel. I will number the letters on the outside , so that you can read them in order – let me know darling if any of them are missing …
… Poops [?] it is one of those dark cold wet [?] afternoons when if I was at Down Cottage you could go upstairs and fetch the little green eiderdown and tuck me up cosily on the sofa in the sitting room, bend to kiss me before you left for the office – even then, for that little while of parting I feel lonely until you returned at 6 pm but today you will not return. I have had no news of [X} since I left.
Saturday 24th August 1940 – The Roystons
My darling Poops, I didn’t finish this yesterday because it was tea time – and in the evening after an early supper, Mummie and Coo had a bridge party! You know the [?] tea and cakes at 9 pm sort of thing, so Kay and I went to the local hotel and had a drink. I then met an old [farmer / family] friend who took me round to the [new?] Club which has just been opened by Basil Briscoe (Newmarket Trainer) who has had to give up racing, therefore opened this club. I was quite nice, though I only knew one or two people. I think I will be a member as it is only 8 shillings and will be somewhere to go when I am bored and fed up. I try hard not to be either but it is difficult at times Poppits, you see I miss you so …
This morning the sun is shining for the first time since I arrived and it makes me feel a little happier, for I need the sunshine. Little Georgie lies on the lawn by my side and I’m sure he sends love to Daddy and dreams of those fast rolling apples – there are no apples here and no Daddy to throw for him.
Still no news from […] I expected to hear from Toni but no doubt everyone has forgotten I ever existed by now. I must go and clean my face, they all say I look much older and thinner, not very complementary. nothing exciting in the news since the shelling of Kent from the French coast …”
August 1940 – Josephine Mary French – Unresearched diary entry from my collection.
This may be a little piece of a family jigsaw for someone …
Blog posted by Mark Norris, 80 years on from August 1940 / 13 August 2020
Here are some of the background events to Peggy Skinner’s diary, some of which she mentions.
Bombing raids on German cities and British Cities continued throughout 1943. Peggy notes raid warnings whilst
January 31st 1943 – The Battle of Stalingrad in Russia ends with German defeat and capture of many prisoners after 5 months of winter fighting, claiming the lives of 750,000 Russians and 400,000 German soldiers.
April 19th 1943 – German soldiers begin clearing the 500,000 Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, many Jews are killed, the rest sent to concentration camps.
May 3rd 1943 – Part-time work becomes compulsory for women like Peggy Skinner between 18 and 45 in Britain.
May 12th 1943 – All organised resistance by Axis in North Africa ends with German and Italian surrender there.
May 17th 1943 – The RAF ‘Dambusters’ raid by 617 Squadron with Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bombs on the Mohne and Eder dams.
July 10th 1943 – Airborne forces of British, American and Canadian troops launch the Allied invasion of Sicily, prior to the invasion of Italy.
July 12th 1943 – Germans lose Battle of Kursk against the Russians.
July 25th 1943 – Italian Dictator Mussolini overthrown in Italy.
August 15th 1943 – Invasion of Italy by Allied forces.
September 3rd 1943 – Italy surrenders to the Allies (noted in Peggy’s diary)
October 13th 1943 – Pro-Allied forces in Italy declares war on Germany.
November 28th 1943 – Allied leaders Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin meet at the Tehran Conference and discuss the Allied invasion of France, the Second Front.
1949 – Peggy Jane Skinner, a wartime school girl then Science graduate in Glasgow, is working in electronics in postwar London in 1949. She helps out with youth work and canteen work through her local church. She is not particularly happy in her research job or the company she works for – TCC, the Telegraph Condenser Company in Acton.
This 1949 volume is the last of the diaries that I have for her (1940, 1943, 1946 to 1949). She was born in London at Kingston upon Thames in December 1924, lived in Kings Road, Kingston postwar and died in London in 2011.
In 1945/6 she worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough, then TCC, the Telegraph Condenser Company from 1946 onwards. She never married, worked on Lithium battery research (named as a co-patent) and later worked (according to her death certificate) as a teacher.
Peggy starts her 1949 diary on February 1st, continues until early August 10th – entries for holiday missing until Monday 5th September – and makes her last entry of all the diaries in my collection on Monday 7th November 1949.
Clothes rationing (‘coupons’) and food rationing are still in force.
London February 1949
Tuesday 1st February 1949 – After hunting for a winter coat since last Autumn, I at last bought one on Saturday only to find that coupons were taken off coats and costumes yesterday – awfully annoying to lose 15 coupons like that. After having had a very painful jaw for several days, it is not quite so bad today but bad enough.
Wednesday 2nd February 1949 … Weather bitterly cold today, how I long for central heating when weather is like this.
Thursday 3rd February 1949 – Letter from Mum, she’s been up to hospital for examination and they do not seem to think its anything seriously wrong with her heart. Dad [an Engineer] really seems quite keen to go to Norway for his holiday. I do hope he doesn’t change his mind when he finds how much its going to [cost] … bitterly cold day.
Friday 4th February 1949 – Horrible day, not so foggy outside but very foggy inside at work, made all our eyes smart badly. Wore stockings to work for the first time this year – and the last as I made a huge hole and large number of ladders. Could not keep awake this evening.
Saturday 5th February 1949 – Another very cold day but nice and bright this afternoon. Had a light tea at Ken? Cakes then went to see Richard Attenborough in “The Guinea Pig”, the story of a boy of tradespeople parents at a public school. Very good indeed, and not overdrawn as it might easily have been.
Wednesday 9th February 1949 – Left work on the dot today in hopes of getting home a bit earlier. Instead of that I was slightly later, 6.50 pm, rushed my dinner and dashed out to have to wait for over 10 minutes for trolley to Coronation Hall. Concert in aid of Boys Club funds by Police Central Band and Choir. Very good indeed, particularly the choir. All the canteen helpers had had invitations so we sat in the posh seats.
Thursday 10th February 1949 – Charles [work colleague at TCC] out yesterday afternoon, came in this morning to say he’s got another job. I think he’s very wise but I’m left in bit of a pickle. Still I’m not worrying , I suppose as usual it will be months before the powers that be will move to get anybody else and then it will probably be completely unsuitable, another reason for me to get out.
Saturday 12th February 1949 – Awful day, weather miserable. I’ve developed a stinking cold … To cheer myself up I spent a lot of money I couldn’t afford and bought myself some grey flannel for a skirt and a record case (tho’ this was out of Xmas money).
Wednesday 16th February 1949 – Went to rehearsal of Outward Bound this evening. Everybody seemed in a hilarious mood. It’s coming along, most of the people were pretty good.
[From entries in early March, it shows that within a few weeks Peggy is no longer involved in this play].
Thursday 17th February 1949 – Went to [Church] Fellowship tonight , a Whist Drive, only 6 tables, quite friendly … imagine my surprise to find I was first lady … Prize was two tickets for Stoll Theatre next Tuesday for ice show, two 12/6 stalls. I’m terribly thrilled as it came as a complete surprise.
Friday 18th February 1949 – Charles left [work] today. I hear my youngster is leaving , she’s given in her notice but not told me, cheek I think. I’m not really sorry she’s going …
Saturday 19th February 1949 – Beautiful Spring day, really hot out. Went to Sunday School Teachers service at Southwark Cathedral. Rather disappointing … found it practically impossible to follow the sermon because of echoes and trains.
Sunday 20th February 1949 – [Aunt Madge’s] birthday party this evening – 20 here – loads of grub. Unfortunately Young Madge brought her boy friend who tried to monopolise everybody’s attention. Went between 12 and 1. I was longing for them to go as I get so tired now. Funny how I loved late parties when I was a kid. I was thinking of getting up in the morning.
Monday 21st February 1949 – Horrible day at work. New boy arrived , I’ve had to have him tagging along all day. Spent most of it trying to teach him elementary arithmetic. I think he’s going to be a handful and need chasing to do any work. I’m afraid Madge’s birthday parcel arrived from home with blouse Mum had made for me and some [plastic animals?] which I hope are mine.
Tuesday 22nd February 1949 – Terribly fed up this morning, ready to give in my notice at the least provocation … Aunt Madge and I went to Ice Cascades at the Stoll Theatre this evening. A pretty good show, one rotten comedian … most turns very good. Some of the principals seemed to make skating so easy, absolutely effortless.
Thursday 24th February 1949 – Felt much better and more cheerful today. I always seem to be having these ups and downs of moods, I suppose in this case it’s being U.W. [Unwell] yesterday to blame but often there’s no rhyme or reason to them and nothing has much effect to cheer me when depressed as it is easy to differs me when I’m happy. Told Flack I can’t possibly use new boy for calibration, the child definitely appears cracked and needs chaining down to keep him in his place.
Sunday 27th February 1949 – Talked to Barbara for a long time after Evensong. We both seem to be in similar emotional up-sets. There’s a chance we might be going to Switzerland together in the summer.
Monday 28th February 1949 – Had letter from Bunty [Campbell] tonight saying she got engaged to the farm manager at The Hannah. They intend to buy a house, furnish it and get married in early June. She asks me to the wedding and of course I’d love to go but whether I could manage it is another matter but I’ll certainly try my best. Very brief note so I don’t know if she‘s continuing with her job or what.
Editor’s note: Bunty Campbell is a wartime school friend from Glasgow. It was quite common for women to [have to] give up work after marriage.
75 years ago in February 1944 unexpected Luftwaffe air raids known as the Little Blitz rained bombs down on parts of London that had seen little damage since the end of the Blitz in May 1941.
This Little Blitz period is mentioned in an unpublished diary in my collection written in 1939 and 1944 by Vera Richardson of “New Holme”, 218 Coombe Road, Wimbledon.
Vera Richardson is an unmarried woman, born in 1907/8, living with her father, mother and sister Olive. She appears to be past female call up age but works in ARP (Air Raid Precautions) and Civil Defence. She is based at an MU or Mobile Ambulance or First Aid Unit at the Oberon Sports Pavilion in Wimbledon (still standing and in sporting use today). The unusual name ‘Oberon’ came from a hosiery brand by Brettles of Belper who built the Pavilion for their staff.
In early 1944 things of the Home Front have been quiet for months without any major air raids on Wimbledon. Vera and her Civil Defence colleagues are keeping busy preparing for a second fundraising concert party, the Oberon Oddities. Vera is part of the Oberon Oddities Chorus.
The Oberon team practice for First Aid competitions between different local units. She visits relatives and ‘Digs for Victory’ in her allotment and gardens.
FEBRUARY 1944 – 29 days
Tuesday 1st February– Went to Clapham & Brixton & Clapham Junction. Went to Oberon 8 – 11 pm.
Wednesday 2nd – Cleaned & touched up “coal” electric fire(s).
Thursday 3rd – Went to Oberon 4 – 8-45. Siren at 8-50 pm & again(?) at 5 am. Heavy gunfire 4 knocked down.
Surprise Air Raid /4th February 1944
These entries on sirens and guns from Thursday 3rd into the morning of the 4th February may refer to the five large bombs noted by Norman Plastow in Safe As Houses : Wimbledon in Wartime 1939-1945, resulting from a ‘hit and run’ raid bombing on Wimbledon on 4th February 1944. This night-time raid caught many by surprise after three quieter years. 27 houses were destroyed, the Sultan public house and 48 houses seriously damaged, and 320 with minor damage. 5 died and 25 were injured.
‘4 knocked down’ noted by the writer may refer to German planes or possibly houses.
Friday 4th – Went to Clapham Junction in morning. Went to Town Hall to a talk on the Putney Raid (Dance Hall Incident).
Putney Raid November 1943:
According to Jim Slade, On the evening of Sunday, 7th November 1943, an air raid warning was sounded at about 8.40 p.m., with few people going to air raid shelters. At 9.02 p.m. a lone aircraft released a single 500 kg Stabo high explosive bomb that hit No. 35 Putney High Street. The Black and White Milk Bar was on the ground floor of No. 35, and upstairs over two shops, including Rego’s, was the ‘Cinderella Dance Club’, at the time a very popular venue in Putney for young people. A total of 81 were killed, 46 females and 35 males, with 248 injured, many of them seriously. many of the victims were young people and there were also allegations of looting after the raid.
Saturday 5th – Went with O & ? to see [the stage musical] “Something in the Air” with Cicely Courtneidge & Jack Hulbert at the Palace. Had lunch at [?Skaters Poplar?], 1pm [Piccadilly?]
O is probably her sister Olive, the other person her sister Iris.
Sunday 6th – Went to Oberon 4 – 11 pm. Prepared last 3 marrows for jam.
Tuesday 8th – Went to Clapham, Brixton & Clapham Junction. Went to Oberon 7-45 – 11-15 pm.
Wednesday 9th – Planted 2 pots of celery seed, also onion seed in a box.
Thursday 10th – Bought oranges. One lb per ration book. Went to Oberon 4 – 10 pm.
Friday 11th – (B) Rehearsal for chorus.
Saturday 12th – Dug and measured half my small allotment. Chorus rehearsal at 8 pm.
Sunday 13th – Went to Oberon 4 – 11 pm. Finished digging my allotment.
Monday 14th – Went to Brixton to get horseflesh and took some to Aunts F & D.
Tuesday 15th – Went to Clapham & Brixton.
Wednesday 16th – No diary entry.
Thursday 17th – Went to Oberon 4 – 8 pm. Mrs Harding’s son-in-law missing.
The Little Blitz and Wimbledon, February 1944
Friday 18th – (F) Bad Wimbledon raid at night & bombs all round including Nelson Hospital, Labour exchange etc.
Jim Slade’s article Civilian Air Raid Casualties in Battersea and Wandsworth in the Second World War (2006) notes this period as the ‘Little Blitz’ of heavy night raids. In these two nearby London boroughs alone, 103 were killed and 450 injured in this six day period. This came across as a shock after a long period of irregular air raids from 1941 to 1944 with none killed in 1942 in these two boroughs, just like the low casualty rate in Wimbledon at this time.
After six intense days of bombing of the Little Blitz of February 1944, the entry ‘no raid’ marked the end of this terrible week. Wimbledon Museum notes there were no bombs on Wimbledon between the end of the London Blitz in May 1941 and February 1944.
Fewer planes were involved but heavier bombs which caused considerable damage.
Friday 18th – (F) Bad Wimbledon raid at night & bombs all round including Nelson Hospital, Labour exchange etc.
Saturday 19th – [no diary entry]
Sunday 20th – Planted the rest of the celery seed in a box. Went to Oberon 4 – 11 pm. Siren at 9-38. All clear at 10-39 pm. Chorus rehearsal.
Monday 21st – Siren in the night. Called on Miss Hudson & took her 2 eggs.
Tuesday 22nd – Shrove Tuesday. Went to Clapham & Brixton & Oberon 8 – 11 pm. Bought some lemons. Queued 2 hours for cat’s meat. Siren at midnight.
[I wonder – Was this lemon buying related to pancake day?]
Wednesday 23rd – Siren went at 10-5 pm. All clear 11-10 pm.
Thursday 24th – Very cold. Mother’s birthday. Freezing outside. Went to Oberon 4 – 9-15 pm. Siren 9-45 pm. All clear 10-50 pm. Friday 25th – No raid tonight. Saturday 26th – No raid tonight.
Sunday 27th – Planted 45 shallots, some Forward Peas. Went to Oberon 4-30 – 11 pm.
Monday 28th – Rehearsal of chorus at 7-30 pm.
Tuesday 29th – Went to Clapham, Brixton & W. Croydon. Went to Oberon 8 – 11 pm. Siren at 9-30pm.
The sirens heard on the 29th February were part of what Jim Slade in nearby Wandsworth notes as light night raids by the Luftwaffe from 25th February to 12th June 1944, though there were no further casualties, damage or raids on Wimbledon until the flying bombs began to arrive in June.
The Little Blitz in Wimbledon – background notes
Vera’s short diary entries Friday 18th – Bad raid on Wimbledon at night and bombs all around Nelson Hospital, Labour Exchange’ makes a little more sense when you read into wartime Wimbledon history.
Wimbledon historian Norman Plastow notes in Safe As Houses: Wimbledon at War 1939-1945 that on February 19th 1944, from 1am onwards, only a few large bombs hit Wimbledon but the first injured 83 people and did considerable damage across the area.
The first bomb at Merton Road wrecked tramlines, set gas mains ablaze and burnt out Verrans garage and petrol station. Two houses 169 and 171 Merton Road were demolished and the Labour Exchange (a temporary building) burnt down.
The third bomb hit nearby Catholic old people’s homes on The Downs, leading to four hour shifts of rescue teams working to clear the rubble in the cold and snow, assisted by ambulance teams from Richmond, a group of nearby nuns wearing in tin hats and stout rubber boots and the next day rescue teams from Mitcham. Local girl guides salvaged wheelchairs and personal belongings. Five residents died, 22 were injured.
Two more bombs (no. 2 and 4) destroyed many houses along the Ridgeway and Clifton Road areas. The fifth bomb damaged the railway lines at Alexandra Road goods yard.
Further damage to some houses was done by incendiary fire bombs but most notably the top floor nurses quarters of the Nelson Hospital was set on fire:
“Many patients had to be evacuated from the building, including some who had only just been bought in from the other bombing incidents. Wardens helped nurses and stretcher bearers to carry out the evacuation.”
In many diaries the dates of events are slightly out of sync with the official reports, mainly because the bombing raids happened late at night such as on the night of the 18th going into the early morning of the 19th February. There is no diary entry the next day, presumably due to the disruption and the writer being involved in Civil Defence, First Aid or welfare work.
On the night of the February 20th, whilst the previous nights’ damage was still being cleared and casualties cared for, five more bombs fell. On the 23rd incendiaries fell and on the 24th heavy AA (friendly fire bursts) and incendiaries caused damage.
Many UXBs (Unexploded Bombs) were unaccounted for and discovered over the next few weeks. The raid on the 24th proved to be the last conventional air raid on Wimbledon, before V1 flying bombs struck in June 1944.
We will add these “pilotless planes” June 1944 diary entries in a blog post on the 75th anniversary in June 2019.
All diary entries copyright Vera Richardson / Mark Norris wartime diary collection. Please contact me via the comments page is you wish to quote from or publish these diary entries.
You can read more about Wimbledon local history at
Over the past few years of working on the World War Zoo Gardens project blog at Newquay Zoo, I have acquired a number of volumes of personal diaries from British civilians who lived through WW2 and kept writing their diaries into postwar Britain.
Through the World War Zoo Gardens blogpost, I have made some pages and diary entries available. Originally it was intended to turn these into an education pack or resource but the project has grown since then.