The War Years

The Great War 1914 - 1918

From 1pm on August 4th, 1914, Britain was at war with Germany and Gidea Hall was commandeered by soldiers of the Artists Rifles, as were the mews cottages, at the end of Heath Drive (serving the large houses in Main Road). An early form of graffiti—silhouettes of the soldiers billeted there, drawn on the walls of the mews, could still be seen some 25 years later by the next generation of fighting men.

Gidea Hall with sentry box during the Great War

 

There were a number of houses in the 1911 Exhibition that had not been sold at the outbreak of war and these were requisitioned soon after its commencement. See the chart, below, (drawn from the rate books of the time) of premises requisitioned.

Rate Number Name of Occupier Name of Owner Description of Property Name Or Situation Of Property Notes/New Occupier details and date
3261   Gidea Park Ltd House and grounds East Wing Gidea Hall War Office (18th December)
3262   Gidea Park Ltd Cottage In Yard Gidea Hall  
3263   Gidea Park Ltd Cottage In Yard Gidea Hall  
3264 Gidea Park Club Gidea Park Ltd Club Tennis Court and Premises West Wing Gidea Hall War Office (6th December)
3265   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 20  Gidea Close War Office (18th December)
3274 Tom Hunter  Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 17 Heath Drive War Office (18th February)
3280   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises The Hut 41 Heath Drive War Office (3rd January)
3293 Mitchell Bertha  Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 36 Meadway War Office (18th December)
3298   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 26 Meadway War Office (1st February)
3312   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 7 Meadway War Office (18th December)
3316 Redmark Wilfford  Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 17 Meadway War Office (16th February)
3321 Miles Hammond Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 27 Meadway War Office (16th February)
3350 Olive Mary Turnham Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 21 Reed Pond Walk  War Office (16th February)
3352 Mcleafe James  Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 25 Reed Pond Walk  War Office (16th February)
3358   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 37 Reed Pond Walk  War Office (8th February)
3359 Flo Claske  Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 39 Reed Pond Walk  War Office (16th February)
3366   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 36 Risebridge Road  War Offices (16th February)
3369 Ernest Morris Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 22 Risebridge Road  War Offices (16th February)
3377   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 6 Risebridge Road  War Offices (8th February)
3379 Duff Chas Dornton Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 3 Risebridge Road  War Offices (28th February)
3409   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 33 Parkway War Offices (1st March)
3417   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises Beverly, Hare Street War Offices (18th December)
3438   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises Red Gables Balgores Lane War Offices (18th December)
3461   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises Oakleigh Balgores Lane War Offices (18th December)
3463   Gidea Park Ltd Out Buildings and Studio Balgores War Offices (18th December)
3464   Gidea Park Ltd Schoolroom Balgores War Offices (18th December)
3476   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 31 Danesbury Squirrels Heath Avenue War Offices (18th December)
3480   Gidea Park Ltd House and premises 35 Squirrels Heath Avenue  War Offices (18th December)
3485 Lewis Sidney Win  Gidea Park Ltd House and premises Shacklepath Squirrels Heath Avenue  War Offices (8th February)
3572 War Office Baskllan The Mansion Hare Street  
3574 War Office Baskllan Land Hare Street  
3575 War Office Baskllan Land and Farm Building Hare Street  
3576 War Office Baskllan Cottage Hare Street  
3577 War Office Baskllan Stabling and yard Hare Street  
3578 War Office Baskllan House and premises Hare Cottage  
Romford UDC Rate Book 3rd April 1916
Rate Number  Name of Occupier Name of Owner Description of Property Name Or Situation Of Property Notes/New Occupier details and date
3278 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises East Wing Gidea Hall  
3279 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Cottage In yard Gidea Hall  
3280 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Cottage In yard Gidea Hall  
3281 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises West Wing Gidea Hall  
3289 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 14 Heath Drive  
3292 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 17 Heath Drive  
3299 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises The Hut 41 Heath Drive  
3313 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 36 Meadway  
3318 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 26 Meadway  
3332 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 7 Meadway  
3336 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 17 Meadway  
3341 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 27 Meadway  
3370 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 21 Reed Pond Walk  
3372 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 25 Reed Pond Walk  
3378 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 37 Reed Pond Walk  
3379 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 39 Reed Pond Walk  
3386 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 36 Risebridge Road  
3389 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 22 RiseBridge Road  
3390 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 20 RiseBridge Road  
3391 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 18 Risebridge Road  
3397 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 6 RiseBridge Road  
3399 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 3 RiseBridge Road  
3429 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 33 Park Way  
3437 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Beverly Hare Street  
3459 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Red Gables Balgores Lane  
3482 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Oakleigh Balgores Lane  
3484 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Out Buildings and Studio Balgores  
3485 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Schoolroom  Balgores  
3498 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Danesbury Squirrels Heath Avenue
3502 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 35 Squirrels Heath Avenue  
3503 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Heath Cottage Squirrels Heath Avenue
3507 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Shacklepath Squirrels Heath Avenue
3577 War Office Sir H H Raphael Hockey & Cricket grounds* Hare Street  
3595 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Woodbine Hare Street  
3687 War Office Houghton & Byfield  Land North of  Great Eastern Railway
Romford UDC Rate Book 8th October 1918
Rate Number  Name of Occupier Name of Owner Description of Property Name Or Situation Of Property Notes/New Occupier details and date
3300 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Grounds East Wing Gidea Hall  
3301 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Cottage In yard Gidea Hall  
3302 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Cottage In yard Gidea Hall  
3303 War Office Gidea Park Ltd   West Wing Gidea Hall  
3304 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 20  Gidea Close  
3315 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 17 Heath Drive  
3322 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises The Hut 41 Heath Drive  
3452 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises 33 Park Way  
3455 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises Hazeldene Hare Street  
3458 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises Parkside Hare Street  
3459 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises Summercourt Hare Street  
3460 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises Beverly Hare Street  
3479 War Office Matthews House and Premises Red Gables Balgores Lane  
3502 War Office Gidea Park Ltd   Oakleigh Balgores Lane  
3504 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Outbuildings and Studio Balgores  
3505 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Schoolroom Balgores  
3507 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises Plot 1106 Balgores Crescent House number unknown
3520 War Office Y Mare cott House and Premises Danesbury Squirrels Heath Avenue
3521 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises Writtle Cott Squirrels Heath Avenue
3524 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises 35 Squirrels Heath Avenue  
3525 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Heath college Squirrels Heath Avenue
3527 War Office Gidea Park Ltd House and Premises Nyth Squirrels Heath Avenue  
3529 War Office W Hunnable House and Premises Sticklepath Squirrels Heath Avenue
3591 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Shop and Premises At Rear Hare Street  
3592 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Shop and Premises Hare Street  
3623 Bishop Sidney Hubert H H Raphael House and Premises Northey Hare Street War Office (22nd  October)
3624 War Office H H Raphael House and Premises Woodbine Hare Street  
Romford UDC Rate Book 1st April 1918
Number  Name of Occupier Name of Owner Description of Property Name Or Situation Of Property Notes/New Occupier details and date
3507 War Office Gidea Park Ltd Schoolroom Balgores  
3628 War Office R May House And Premises Woodbine Hare Street  

Record reproduced by courtesy of Havering Libraries-Local Studies Library

 

At the beginning of the war, Sir Herbert Raphael applied to the War Office for permission to raise his own battalion. On being granted permission, he formed the 18th KRRC (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) whose strength was over 1,000 and who were encamped at Hare Hall. He later raised another battalion, the 23rd. In 1915, although 56 years of age, he joined the 24th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (2nd Sportsman’s Battalion) as a private, the first Member of Parliament to do this.

Whilst in training with the Sportsman’s Battalion, he was stationed at Grey Towers, Hornchurch, . At the end of the war, he was given the rank of Major. Sir Herbert ultimately became Assistant Provost Marshal at Folkestone.

The Essex Times reported “an announcement was made by Mr. Ronald McNeill in the House of Commons that Lady Raphael was in receipt of a War Separation Allowance of 16s. per week. Members laughed heartily and were gratified that the War Office had put her outside the possibility of destitution”. The money was donated to charity.

The Artists Rifles Officers Training Corp trained 10,256 officers from 1914 to 1918. Many went into the regular regiments (1635 in total), 936 officers went into service in the RFC. The biggest group of 3,090 went into the new armies which came about from various recruitment drives. Many of these young officers would die on the battlefields, going over the top with their men.

The regiment itself has a grand history starting its life on the 28th February 1860 as the 38th Middlesex (Artists) Rifle Volunteer Corps with its headquarters at Burlington House, London. When WW1 broke out NCOs of the Artists Rifles were selected to be officers and sent to other regiments, known as “The First Fifty”. Massively outnumbered, many of these men would die before the year ended, as they fought to stop the German advance. Their training was second to none but still the sheer number of the German military was no match. The Kaiser himself said that the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) was a “contemptible little army”. While some saw this statement as a slur, it was in fact meant to be praise, as such a small army had managed to stop the German advance in its tracks.

In 1915 selected officers and Non commissioned officers (NCO’s) were transferred to run an Officers Training Corps (OTC) at Hare Hall, Gidea Park which is now the Royal Liberty School. During the Great War the regiment received 8 Victoria Crosses and many battle honours. Hare Hall camp trained many artists including Paul Nash, Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas, Alfred Leete and Noel Coward, to name just a few. Both Wilfred Owen and Edward Thomas would die on the battlefield. Whilst training with the Artists’ Rifles, Wilfred Owen was billeted in Balgores House, Balgores Lane in the building that had been used as the tea rooms for the 1911 Exhibition and is now the home of Gidea Park College. Some of his letters refer to his time at Balgores House.

Hare Hall Camp
Second World War 1939 - 45

War was declared on 3rd September 1939.

In October 1940 Romford Golf Club’s professional shop and clubhouse were requisitioned for military purposes and the Club used “The Homestead” 19 Gidea Close, overlooking Gidea Park Tennis Club, as its clubhouse. One of the tennis courts was used as a car park for members. It was reported by the secretary that a downstairs room was provided as a mixed lounge, with a dartboard for the men. Ladies were not allowed to remain in the bar, however, and the upstairs rooms would be for men only, except when meals were served. The club’s furniture, not needed at “the Homestead,” was stored in the Mews Cottages next to the entrance to the golf club. One night, incendiary bombs set fire to the roof of the Mews and the stored possessions were ruined by the water used to extinguish the blaze (the Golf Club moved back to its premises in November 1945).

In response to a request from the Civil Defence authorities, members volunteered for work to render the golf course unsuitable for the landing of enemy aircraft. This was done by digging additional bunkers, stringing wire ropes 30 to 40 feet in the air between suitably placed trees and putting other obstacles on the course. Several concrete emplacements for Bofors anti-aircraft guns were also constructed on the course, the remains of which can still be seen today.

(“The Homestead,” 19 Gidea Close, played one more role after the war as it became the home of George Patchett. George Patchett had been working in Europe on munitions when the war broke out and was spirited back to England and worked at the Sterling factory in Dagenham. He helped design a machine gun (Sterling Mark IV) which went into production in 1956 and a year later a second version, the Sterling Patchett Mark V, a silenced version of his original gun, was adopted by the British Army.)

London was, of course, the target for the German bombers, but, because of the proximity to the capital and the fact that the outer ring of barrage balloons and anti-aircraft gun defences were just to the west of the town, Romford received an undue proportion of attention from the enemy. Those bombers unable to penetrate the defensive ring around London would jettison their bombs in turning for home, many falling in and around Romford. Indeed, between the first high explosives and incendiary bombs in 1940 through to the flying bomb and rocket attacks of 1944 and early 1945, only a few hundred of the borough’s 18,000 houses escaped damage. Several hundred people lost their lives. Although there were few of the concentrated heavy attacks suffered by other areas, the constant threat of bombing in this area was probably far more stressful to the local inhabitants at the time.

At the time of the 1911 Exhibition, Sir Herbert Raphael had given land at the end of Heath Drive (now No. 10) for a new fire sub-station. This station was still in use during the Second World War.

14 Heath Drive (1911 Exhibition house by T. Millwood Wilson), on the north corner with Elm Walk, was destroyed in the bombing (on 21/10/40) and rebuilt in 1946 to the exact specification of the original house.

71 Main Road, on the corner of Heath Drive was also destroyed on 1st November 1940 (This had been the first Romford Golf Club clubhouse from 1894 – 1898).

                                71 Main Road demolished 1st November 1940

Our Secretary, Joyce Leicester, remembers commuting to London to work and seeing in the evening, from the unlit carriages of the train, many fires resulting from the bombing . She also recalls the sound of the anti-aircraft guns each night, which sounded as loud as the bombs, and, on her way home from the station, taking refuge in a stranger’s house to shelter from the shrapnel.

Joyce also recalls being evacuated while an unexploded bomb was defused at Gallows Corner and having RAF personnel billeted in her family home, in Upper Brentwood Road, from an RAF base at the sports field at the junction of Gallows Corner and Main Road. Her mother had a lucky escape when All Saints Church, in Squirrel’s Heath, was flattened at 11 p.m. on 10th November 1941, her mother having been preparing refreshments for a party at the Church that afternoon.