Life in Burpham during WWII

Moira McQuaide Hall’s history of Burpham

Back on the 8th May 2020 we celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day in 1945. Sadly, we were not able to celebrate as intended, due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. However, it is worth looking back to that time to see what life was like in the village.

Merrow Lane VE Day Party (Ann Keane)

The war years saw many changes in the village. September 1939 brought evacuee children to Burpham as part of Operation Pied Piper, and some of them stayed here for the whole war. Most came from Fulham and they doubled the size of Burpham Primary School overnight. Ron Puttnam remembered coming to live with Mr & Mrs Cutt on the corner of Burpham Lane. Miss Chesterfield, the headmistress, recorded life at the school during the war, including going into the air raid shelter behind the classrooms, and the Government demanding that the iron railings around the school be given up to melt down for munitions – she steadfastly refused to do this and they’re still there today! Jean Menzies remembered playing Hangman while in the air raid shelter. Margaret Woods remembered that chocolate powder was sent from Canada for the children to take home – wonderful for dipping in fingers and licking the powder off. The children also grew vegetables in the school gardens as part of their Dig for Victory campaign.

Children of Burpham School tending their gardens, 1945.

The local Home Guard battalion had its headquarters in the Green Man, meeting upstairs in the Paddock Rooms. The Women’s Institute organised socials to raise funds for the ‘Salute the Soldier Week’ and other war efforts. Italian prisoners from the PoW camp in Merrow worked on the farms and German prisoners cut the hedgerows. Barbara Stone remembered that all the houses had blackout curtains on the windows, and all the children were issued with gas masks – hers was a Mickey Mouse one. Many houses had air raid shelters dug into their gardens and the air raid siren was at the Kingpost on London Road.

There were 11 names on the WW2 side of the War Memorial at St Luke’s Church. Four of them lived in Orchard Road. Aubrey Collins, James Cross, Norman Drake, Jack Dunn, Clive Hammond, Harry Hirst, Derek Lord, Kenneth Percival, Frederick Ranger, Samuel Reid and Peter Vickery. All but three were under 25 years old.

So far there have been no memories told about VE Day parties in Burpham, with the exception of a street party for the children during the day and a dinner and bonfire in the evening on Merrow Lane. Barbara Stone remembered going to London with her mother to join in the celebrations there. In June 1945 the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland held a garden party at Sutton Place, to which many Burpham residents were invited.

If you are willing to share your memories and/or photos to tell us more about Burpham then please contact Moira MacQuaide, either by e-mail ( or by phone or text (07963 756543). My two books (‘The History of Burpham Primary School’ and ‘Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford’) are still available from me for £10 (free delivery locally) or on Amazon.

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