Kew At War
Date of publication: September 2009
Publisher: Richmond Local History Society
Kew at War tells how people survived the Blitz in shelters – yes there are still some of those shelters left in Kew – ate apple turnovers made with parsnips, collected shrapnel, ran from the doodlebug that landed by Thompson Avenue. It discloses where there is still a military pill box in Kew, and how the plaque on Kew Bridge came to be pitted with holes, and which houses in the streets mark the bombsites of the Blitz?
Other communities, of course, had similar experiences and far greater loss – Kew lost just 26 residents and 44 houses to bombs – but Kew had a special distinction: for four years it played host not only to evacuees from Belgium and the East End but also to American GIs and Italian PoWs, with all the inevitable complications that entailed. The GIs and the Italians enjoyed a mixed reception from the locals. The GIs won friends with their generous gifts of nylons and gum, and the Italians with their charm. Yet there was also animosity with local gangs over the local girls – with good reason: in just one GI company one fifth of the personnel married British girls.
Happily, our American visitors compiled two books with photographs and cartoons describing their life at Kew. The books have been presented to Richmond Local Studies Library, and many of these illustrations are reproduced in Kew at War.