Cheltenham At War

Gloucestershire Libraries have shared with us some of the WW2 images from their collection held at Cheltenham Library. The following images are from the Cheltenham Chronicle & Gloucestershire Graphic and show different aspects of life on the Home Front for children growing up in Cheltenham during the Second World War.

Cheltenham Children Celebrate VE Day!

EVACUEES. Children living in large cities like Birmingham and London were evacuated to quieter towns like Cheltenham. You can see the evacuee children in this photo are arriving by train to Bishop’s Cleeve wearing name labels and carrying their possessions in a small cardboard box.
WASTE NOT WANT NOT Food and resources were hard to come by, so residents were asked to recycle and mend what they could to help the war effort. Metal items including the WW1 tank that used to stand on Lansdown Road and much of the ornamental ironwork in the town were taken away and melted down. Even kitchen scraps were left in communal bins to help feed the pigs.
KEEPING SAFE: Air raid shelters were built in gardens, public spaces and even inside people’s homes. This photo shows St Paul’s Infant school practising using their gas masks and taking shelter.
MAKE TEA NOT WAR. Cheltenham didn’t escape the Blitz and was bombed in December 1940 and July 1942. Residents of bomb damaged Sherbourne Street gather on their doorstep for a cuppa to keep their spirits up after an air raid and the YMCA serves tea to residents and rescue workers in Brunswick Street.
DIG FOR VICTORY Cheltonians of all ages helped to grow much needed food for local families. This photo shows children helping turn the Old Cemetery in the Lower High Street (now Winston Churchill Gardens) into allotments.











One response to “Cheltenham At War”

  1. Keith A G Jones avatar
    Keith A G Jones

    Many of my contemporaries will remember, in some detail, what they were doing on 8th May 1945. However, for me, there are the additional memories in that it was not only my eleventh birthday but my father’s birthday as well.
    Sometime, in the week before the 8th, there had been many rumours of the then inevitable surrender. We had been told that there would be two day’s holiday. First, on the day the surrender was signed and then on the following day.
    During our afternoon practical chemistry lesson (Form 2A at the Cheltenham Grammar School) on Monday the 7th, it was confirmed that ‘’the war was over’’. Curiously, there was an air of disappointment in class, as we would be on holiday only on the Tuesday. Disappointment turned to elation when we learned that the surrender would take effect at one minute past midnight on the 8th! I would get my birthday off and another day as well.
    My abiding memory of the day was the re-occupation of the Queen’s Hotel. I am sure many other Cheltenham folk will recall that event. Our famous hotel had been used as an American Officers Club from very soon after their entry to the war.
    Combined with that, for me, was the meeting with my mother’s friends who ran ‘Maison Kunz’ opposite the long garden in the Promenade. I can see still the special chocolate eclairs and other cakes., Where on earth did they get the ingredients? My mother was a Flemish refugee who had come to the UK in 1914 and the Kunz proprietors had Belgian connections. Mum’s family were in Antwerp and the Red Cross had told us that Grandad had died during the occupation.
    It seemed that ‘everybody’ was in the Prom that day. A decade later, I learned that my wife had been there and that her mother was amongst those people who had invaded the Queens.
    It was a day of excitement and exhaustion. We had walked from Fairfield Park Road in the morning and back in the evening. Perhaps the Number 3 bus driver and his conductor were having a well-earned holiday as well.
    We live in difficult times and the 75th Anniversary of the end of WW2 in Europe might not seem important to some folk. We cannot celebrate together with street parties and dancing. But, we can celebrate a togetherness that was seen equally in that conflict. Celebrate the sacrifice that is being made still both individually and corporately as it was in that time. Celebrate that we will get through these times as we did then.
    For many of us, we recognise this season between Easter and the traditional Whitsun holiday as a time, almost 2000 years ago, when a much smaller group of people were locked down in fear. But, a few of them had had already an experience that had given them a great hope. Their troubles were not over but the battle had already been won. They were then given peace and strength to overcome what they were to meet in the coming months and years. The assurance that someone had experienced great suffering and hardship on their behalf because He cared for them individually, led them to share that hope which so many of us have today.
    I shall post this nearer to Friday on my Facebook page

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *