Diary reveals life in war-torn 1944 Raynes Park

The entry in Fred French's diary from March 17

The entry in Fred French's diary from March 17

First published in News
Last updated
by , Reporter

Wartime Wimbledon has come to life thanks to a new blog that details what it was like in the borough during World War II.

Tony French has been blogging an entry every day from his uncle Fred French’s diaries, detailing his experience of the London Blitz.

Having inherited the diaries, he thought this example of social history would be useful to revisit, and began the blog.

The blog describes the fire guard duties, falling bombs and the daily activities of Fred French, of Chestnut Road, Raynes Park.

Mr French has 57 separate notebooks containing entries from his uncle’s life.

He said: “Fred has become very real and close, reading his diary and blogging it day by day.”

Entries speak of the war affecting the area, detailing a fire at Wimbledon stadium on February 24, and the Clapham Junction and Waterloo train line hit by “delayed action bombs on or near the line” on February 25.

Fred French tells of the early morning February 22 bombs falling throughout Wimbledon, Wandsworth and Tooting, leaving Merton Road closed off due to the severity of the damage.

On the same night, he saw a “great red glare in the sky” and a Home Guard depot at Putney College, whose ammunition and petrol store were set on fire.

Amid documenting the destruction caused by air raids, Fred French kept a note of his daily errands, giving an idea of what it was like attempting normality during the Blitz.

Often cycling to Wimbledon, February 21 saw Fred French buying fish, haricot beans and window fasteners, noting that “the latter have been missing since the bombing”.

Tony French is planning to donate the diaries to the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre when he stops blogging.

The entries can be found at myunclefred.blogspot.co.uk.


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