I heard that a producer on the BBC’s World Service was investigating what life was like in this country in 1938, the year before the Second World War broke out.

What I remember of that time was life going on much the same but the BBC did broadcast extracts of some of the speeches of Herr Hitler, as they respectfully called him at that time.

It was so different later on. The dire warnings of Winston Churchill about Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler were listened to, but some newspapers dismissed them as warmongering.

To remind myself of those pre-war days, I looked up the Middlesex Chronicles of 75 years ago to see the reports of what was going on in this area.

An account of the Middlesex County Council meetings in January that year tells us that plans for a cinema, to be known as the Astoria in Ashford, were provisionally approved, as was a cinema on the corner of London Road and Amyand Park Road, Twickenham, which became the Regal Cinema.

Building consent was given to Morgan and Sons in Hounslow High Street to build a shop and showroom with flats above and terms of settlement to W. J. Drinkwater and Sons on the construction of a service road and footpath between Helen Avenue and Rosslyn Avenue in Feltham.

However the Parliamentary Committee had under consideration the special duties contained in the Air Raid Precautions Act and an officer had to be appointed to work with local authorities in the county.

It was agreed that Mr. R. A. Robinson should leave his present post in the public control department to become administrator officer for air raid precautions with a budget £40.000. This is the first recognition of the danger of bombs being dropped on the capital.

In March the Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare made an appeal on the radio for one million voluntary workers of both sexes to join the Air Raid Services.

This received a good response in the Borough of Heston and Isleworth. Officials of the borough council experienced a hectic time answering telephone calls and taking the names of dozens of volunteers.

In a number of cases women were giving the names of their husbands who were unable to call in person.

In September the newspaper recorded with a headline in a box “Premier Peace Flight: Scenes at Heston”

 

Heston Airport had many air services to the continent at that time and was more private than Croydon.

Neville Chamberlain arrived at 8.28 am where a large crowd had assembled and it was said that he took off in one of British Airways’ fastest machines.

His message was that he was going to meet the German Chancellor to try to ensure peace. Despite the outcome of the talks, the country began to gear up for air raids. Schools and council offices were opened for the fitting and issue of gas masks and 84,000 were distributed in Heston and Isleworth and 36,000 in Feltham, Bedfont and Hanworth.

With further recruiting for ARP services a total of 1,340 were recorded for the borough. On September 24, a public meeting was called at the Hounslow Council House to which over 1,000 people turned up.

For those who could not obtain admission, an overflow meeting was held in Treaty Road. At the meetings, arrangements for air raid precautions in the borough were outlined and residents were advised to dig trenches in their gardens and the council would arrange for them to be dug in parks.

Later Morrison shelters became available for back gardens and surface shelters were built in parks and school playingfields.

In Feltham the Clerk to the Council Mr. H. G. Dodd was appointed air raids precautions officer and the organising
officer was Major R. Whyte.

Lectures on first aid for men were organised at the Minimax Offices and for women at the New Parish Hall behind the Playhouse Cinema. Even in those enlightened days it was felt that first aid tuition should not be shared by the sexes.

Training in ARP was given at Bridge House, particularly in the use of a stirrup pump. It was here that I arrived with two friends to learn the art of putting out a small fire with one of these pumps, which proved effective.

I still hold a certificate to say I can enter buildings to save persons or premises from the danger of fire. Thank goodness, I have never had to use it.

The year of 1938 gradually came to a close to enjoy a festive if not concerned Christmas and New Year, the last in peacetime for a few years.