Collecting shrapnel and prisoners of war – by MF

I think my earliest memories are basically towards the end of the War.  I can remember the doodlebugs and that going over and going out collecting shrapnel and things like that.  That’s probably my earliest memories.

And I remember, obviously just after the War, when they demolished some of the old barns and things, making way for the area which became all the prefabs, where the prefabs were built.  And I also remember… I think they may have been just about starting Russell Gardens area… prisoners of war used to be working there.  I think they were digging the foundations and they used to… I think they may have been Italian… They used to have a diamond patch on the back of their coats, obviously to show what they were.  I don’t think they were going to escape, they were quite well-off, I think!

Where did they live?  Richmond Park, they were based in Richmond Park, which eventually became the Olympic Village for 1948.   Well, I never saw it at the time, but there were proper barracks and that there.  It may have started life as a bit of an army base, I think the Americans may have been there during the War, I’m not sure on this.  I know they were over at Bushy Park.  I did meet a chap some years ago – he was in his 80s – and he said he’d been stationed there in Richmond Park, so he may have been there at one time.  I do recall seeing these prisoners of war helping to start the building of the Russell Gardens area of Ham.  I remember sharing sandwiches with them!

My father, he was in the Navy and served on HMS Glorious, which was sunk by the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst in 1940.  There’s a big mystery about why the Glorious and its two escorts had left the fleet and it’s never really been satisfactorily answered why they were where they were and what have you.  I never knew my father, as it happens.