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New plaque commemorates Kew's wartime history

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New plaque commemorates Kew's wartime history

Plaque commemorating the Kew site's wartime role

Plaque commemorating the Kew site's wartime role

16 September 2009

A new plaque unveiled in the grounds of The National Archives commemorates the wartime history of the site. The Kew Society, the Richmond Local History Society and the National Archives have joined forces to celebrate the important part the site played during the Second World War.

Natalie Ceeney, The National Archives CEO, said, 'I am delighted that The National Archives can play its part in this event ensuring that local history is not forgotten in years to come. This plaque will serve as a valuable reminder of all the activity that took place in this community.'

The site was first occupied by American soldiers, who created many maps in preparation for the Normandy landings, then later housed former Italian war prisoners and, briefly, a group of German POWs.

The GIs and the Italians enjoyed a mixed reception from the locals. The GIs won friends with their generous gifts of nylons and gum, and the Italians with their charm. However, there was also some animosity with local gangs over the local girls; in one family in Kew, no fewer than three sisters married American GIs. And one Italian POW, forbidden to marry his local girlfriend in wartime, came back to marry her after the war. 

Two local historians, Christopher May and David Blomfield, have published the book Kew at War, which covers both the history of the barracks and the experiences of those who survived the blitz, the rationing, and the V rockets in the village of Kew. The book, priced at £4.95, will be available at The National Archives and local bookshops.

'It is wonderful to see how the community has been brought together by this project,' Michael Glazebrook, Chair of Kew Society, said. 'I am delighted that our three organisations have worked in unison on this. We have given Kew's wartime effort the recognition it deserves and its proper place in history.'

You can learn more about the history of The National Archives' Kew site in the podcast GIs and POWs: Kew in the Second World War.


 

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