How Chiswick Survived The Blitz And The V2 in Staveley Road

Talks and exhibition on WWII mark the opening of Chiswick Book Festival this week

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This week marks two important dates relating to how London was affected by aerial bombing in World War II.

It was 75 years ago, on September 7th 1940, that the aerial bombing blitz on London began. And 71 years ago, on September 8th 1944, the first V2 rocket landed in Staveley Road in Chiswick. Both events are commemorated this week in an exhibition and discussion in the Burlington Pavilion at Chiswick House & Gardens on Thursday 10 September which marks the opening of the 7th Chiswick Book Festival.

Hogarth’s House was badly damaged in the Blitz. The effect on daily life in Chiswick was recorded in the book A Vicarage in the BlitzThe Wartime Letters of Molly Rich 1940 – 1944 . Images of both feature in the exhibition, together with wartime posters, documents, letters and newspaper cuttings.

Molly Rich was the vicar’s wife at St Nicholas Church on Chiswick Mall, and the book is beautifully illustrated by her daughter, the artist Anthea Craigmyle.

“The letters were written to Otto, a 20-year-old refugee from Vienna who came to live with us at Chiswick Vicarage early in 1939 and quickly became part of the family,” writes Anthea in the introduction. “Fourteen months later, as Hitler invaded Europe, Otto was arrested as an Enemy Alien and sent to internment camps in England and then Australia. Otto was considered a fifth child by our mother, who wrote to him throughout the war.

“She described the life of an ordinary family living in a part of London that suffered badly during the Blitz. While trying to keep the household clean and clothed and doing a great deal of parish work, our mother dug the lawn to grow vegetables, created an air-raid shelter in the cellar and helped the Women’s Voluntary Service and the Mothers’ Union, often after a long night of fire-watching. She managed all the cooking with wartime rations and did the shopping on an old racing bike.”

Copies of the book, signed by Anthea, will be on sale at the exhibition, and so will some of her original sketches. You can read an interview with Anthea which was published in in 2013 when the book was launched.

The crater left in Staveley Road

The ‘Chiswick, the Blitz and the V2’ exhibition has been compiled by James Wisdom and Val Bott of the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society, with the help of the Local Studies department at Chiswick Library.

The exhibition also records the event that put Staveley Road into the history books -when the first V2 rocket landed a few hundred yards from Chiswick House, killing three people and leaving an enormous crater. A memorial was erected in Staveley Road on the 60th anniversary on September 8th 2004, by the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society and the Battlefields Trust.

Alongside the exhibition, a ‘Books and the Blitz’ discussion will take place where five authors will talk about the Blitz, its effect and its importance in our history: Sonia Purnell (First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill); James MacManus (Sleep in Peace Tonight, a novel set in the London Blitz); and Sue Elliott and Steve Humphries (Britain’s Greatest Generation, from the BBC Two series). The panel will be chaired by Diana Preston (A Higher Form of Killing, about new forms of warfare in World War I).

Buy tickets – £10

The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939 - 1945 by Max Hastings will continue the theme of World War II. On Saturday 12 September 2015, introduced by Festival Director, Torin Douglas, he talks about his new book which examines the espionage and intelligence stories of World War II, bringing together British, American, German, Russian and Japanese histories. In The Secret War, Max presents a worldwide cast of characters and some extraordinary sagas of intelligence and resistance to create a new perspective on the greatest conflict in history. Bar open from 6.30 pm St Michael & All Angels Church, £10,

Tickets are now on sale for all events which will take place from September 10 th to 14 th 2015.

More than 50 top writers will be speaking on a wide range of topics, including history, politics and economics, fiction, crime, memoir, biography, sport, music, food and books for children and young adults.

Speakers include former cabinet minister Vince Cable, Masterchef presenter John Torode, actress and comedian Helen Lederer and Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas will join established authors Max Hastings, A N Wilson and Ferdinand Mount; Poirot actor Hugh Fraser; novelists James MacManus and Rosamund Lupton; and Sally Green, winner of the teen category in the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Books Prize.

Chiswickbuzz tv have interviewed Festival Director Torin Douglas


Other authors and experts speaking at the Festival include Cathy Rentzenbrink, Matt Haig, Colette McBeth, Tim Marshall, S J I Holliday, Sonia Purnell, David Shreeve, Bonnie MacBird, Peter Oborne, Sandy Burnett, Sue Elliott, Steve Humphries, Jo Pratt, Michael Parker, Graham Holderness, Caroline Goyder, Helena Coggan, Sarah Leipciger, Andrew Gimson, Martin Rowson, David Miller, Andrew Biswell, Stephen Cooper and more.

John Torode

Several of the summer’s most talked-about books will be discussed by their authors. They include The Last Act of Love, Cathy Rentzenbrink’s “brilliant, moving memoir” about the terrible impact of her younger brother’s road accident; Matt Haig’s bestselling memoir Reasons To Stay Alive; and Sonia Purnell’s “eye-opening and engrossing” biography of Clementine Churchill.

Rosamund Lupton’s much-lauded The Quality of Silence has just been selected as The Observer’s Thriller of the Month; and two new books about the BBC will be discussed and debated - Roger Mosey’s Getting Out Alive and Charlotte HigginsThis New Noise, along with Jean Seaton’s ‘Pinkoes & Traitors’, which was published in the spring.

The Chiswick Book Festival is based at St Michael & All Angels Church and Parish Hall, two minutes walk from Turnham Green tube station in west London, W4. Other events are held at Chiswick House, Chiswick Library and the Tabard Theatre in Bath Road, W4.


Sir Max Hastings

On Friday evening September 11th, at 5pm, Sally Green will talk about Half Bad and Half Wild, her ‘brilliant and compelling’ books for teens about witches, which won Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2015.

On Saturday morning, September 12 th, there will be a special Alice in Wonderland Extravaganza for children, to celebrate the 150 th anniversary of the book’s publication, including craft activities, a fancy dress competition and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, with special interactive storytelling by poet Oscar Kolkowski as the Mad Hatter. That will be followed by the prize ceremony for the Festival’s annual Young Person’s Poetry Competition. Later, at Chiswick Library, Fran Clark will talk about her new book for very young children, Brett Bear and the Cheeky Chipmunk.

On Saturday evening, Mary Portas will be interviewed by Jane Garvey of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about her moving memoir about her early life, Shop Girl.

On Sunday September 13th, A N Wilson makes another welcome appearance at St Michael & All Angels talking about his latest book, The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible And on Monday September 14th at Chiswick Library, the Crime Readers Association author of the month S J I Holliday will speak about Black Wood with Louise Voss (The Venus Trap)

There’ll also be a feast of crime, including three ‘Crime Watch’ sessions on Sunday afternoon, with Colette McBeth, Erin Kelly and Jane Casey from the new ‘Killer Women’ writers group, chaired by Laura Wilson; crime ‘professionals’ such as Detective Constable Lisa Cutts and criminology lecturer Diana Bretherick; and Hercule Poirot’s Captain Hastings - actor Hugh Fraser, who has written his first crime novel, Harm – talking with Hollywood screenwriter Bonnie MacBird. On Monday at Chiswick Library, Crime Readers Association author of the month S J I Holliday will speak with Louise Voss.

Chiswick schoolgirl Helena Coggan, whose first novel The Catalyst has been published to huge acclaim, will discuss how she wrote the first draft at school at the age of 13 and what happened next. There’ll be a session about Anthony Burgess in Chiswick with Andrew Biswell and Graham Holderness; another about the first Rugby World Cup at the end of the First World War with Stephen Cooper; discussions on th e business of books, e-books and creative writing; and much more.

The Chiswick Book Festival is a non-profit-making community event, raising money for reading-related charities and St Michael & All Angels Church, which organises the Festival.

This year, the Festival will support a new charity, The Doorstep Library which brings the magic of reading directly to the homes of children in deprived parts of west London, through a network of volunteer readers. Announcing the decision, the director of the Chiswick Book Festival Torin Douglas said: "Doorstep Library is a small charity that is doing great work with children. We hope we can help it to raise money and awareness, so it can attract more volunteer readers. It has a lively new website and is building very good contacts with local authors."

This year’s Festival will also raise money for:
- RNIB Talking Books Service and Books for Children, supporting blind and partially-sighted people. Over the past six years, the Festival has sponsored the creation of Talking Books by previous CBF speakers Claire Tomalin, Rosamund Lupton and Andy McNab. Its most recent Talking Book was Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford, which is partly set in Chiswick.

- InterAct Stroke Support, which employs actors to provide a reading service for stroke patients at Charing Cross Hospital.


September 7, 2015