During and after the war.
By Kevin Ellis
Growing up in Boxmoor during WW2
I was born in 1937, just 2 years before the outbreak of the second world war and, by the time Germany and Japan had been defeated, I was nearly 8 years old. My birthplace was our family home – 23 Bargrove Avenue in Boxmoor. The Bargrove Housing development was built in the early to mid 1930’s on the site of what had been Bargrove House estate (formerly named Belgrave House in the 19th century). My family’s connection with Bargrove Avenue and the upper part of Green End Road (also part of the Bargrove housing development) was significant as my grandfather bought No. 18 Bargrove Avenue, my parents bought No. 23, and my aunt and uncle – Lena and Bob Cannon – bought ‘Cranmore’ in Green End Road.
I suppose my first recollections of the war were of evacuees. From quite early on in the war there was a steady flow of kids through our house. I have no memory of the evacuees who arrived during the first couple of years of the war, but when the V1 flying bombs started to rain down on London in 1944 we had another intake which included my cousin Joan Carpenter who lived in Cheam, Surrey. My brother Brian was 7 years older than me, and was absolutely mad about aircraft and flying. (He subsequently became a Fleet Air Arm pilot after the war). In the autumn of 1944 we both sat on the roof of the shed at the bottom of our garden and watched a constant procession of aircraft heading east. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the airlift for the ill-fated ‘Market Garden’ operation which was supposed to secure a Rhine bridge crossing at Arnhem.
The village of Boxmoor during and immediately after the war was much as it is today, except that it was not then surrounded by vast new housing estates. When I was a kid, I could stand at the bottom of our garden and look north in the direction of Bourne End and see nothing but allotments and farmland. Other major differences – the Beechfield estate didn’t exist until after the war, and where River Park Gardens now stand was the site of Fosters Saw Mills. Also, when I was growing up there were very few motor vehicles about, and there has been a massive amount of ‘in-filling’ to provide garages where none previously existed.
THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Despite shortages of virtually everything during the war, Boxmoor was able to support a surprising number of retailers, including two butchers (one with its own slaughtering facilities behind the shop), a greengrocers, a dairy, a general store, a chemists, a bank, etc. Most of these have gone, but thank goodness Mansbridge’s bakery still survives. One of the biggest employers in Boxmoor was Fosters Saw Mills where my father worked – initially as a clerk but rising to become Company Secretary in later years.