Local Interest Marble Hill Remembers

Childhood Memories of World War II

The Research Team were also keen to find new local accounts of World War II from those who lived through it. They did not have to look far as several of the team knew Pauline Wakeford well and she was happy to share her story. The version below gives a little more information than could be shared in the display panel in the Park.

Pauline Wakeford was born at a nursing home in Lambeth on 27 April 1939, a few months before war was declared. Born Pauline Catten, her family lived in Motes Cottages, which have since been demolished, but were opposite the alms houses on Michels Row, near Richmond Circus and the Old Deer Park. The extended Catten family also lived in the area, including her grandfather who had served with the army in the trenches in the First World War.

Pauline’s father in gas decontamination suit. Image courtesy of Pauline Wakefield

Her father worked at the old swimming baths on the site where the Richmond Magistrates Court buildings now are. There were two pools, one for women only. Pauline’s mother was a housewife, running the family home.

During the war Pauline’s father was an air raid warden. The photograph below shows him as early as 1937 wearing protective kit, a gas decontamination suit, which fortunately he was never required to put into service. It is however a reminder of the potential horrors of war. The swimming baths were to be used as a gas decontamination area in the event of a gas attack.

Air raid shelters with bunks were built on derelict land near Pauline’s home. Her family shared their shelter with specified neighbours. One of her clearest memories from the war is of the unpleasant smell of damp earth that was apparent on going down into the air raid shelter.

Another memory is of the shortages of food, and its consequent rationing. Amongst other items this affected meat, cheese, and eggs, and more importantly to Pauline and other children at the time – sweets. On the other hand, she had more than enough of swede.

The final photograph is thought to show celebrations on Michels Row on VE (Victory in Europe) day, the 8th of May 1945, which marked the formal acceptance of Nazi Germany’s surrender. Pauline is the blonde-haired little girl second row from the front, second from the right.

VE day celebrations: Image courtesy of Pauline Wakefield
VE day celebrations: Image courtesy of Pauline Wakefield

Pauline moved with her husband Ron to Amyand Park Road in St Margarets, at the other end of Twickenham Bridge, in 1960.