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Monday, April 22, 2024
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Harrow during World War II

Our nation’s historical trials never seem to cease. Though I doubt there’s a moment in our history of more tragic significance than our participation in World War 2.

The catastrophic effects of the war, at the time, were felt nationwide. However, this piece hopes to explore how the conflict, in all its devastation, relates directly to the borough of Harrow. We’ll uncover the major sights of decimation whilst delving into some personal accounts of World War 2 victims in an attempt to give context to Harrow’s unfortunate entanglement in the war.

According to bombsight.org, in totality the number of bombs dropped from 1940 to 1941 in all of Harrow was 339, with 2 parachute mines and 337 highly explosive bombs. However, as this number does not account for the devastation in the years that followed, up till the end of the war in 1945, I can only imagine the actual figure to be far greater.

The number of bombs dropped on Harrow on the Hill in the same time frame were 28. However, at an especially low point, a part of Harrow on the Hill was completely under German occupation as they made arrangements to strike Northolt Aerodrome.

There are numerous accounts from the unfortunate souls that endured the countless hardships during World War 2. They tell their tales of having to evacuate across the country, leaving their loved ones behind, their struggles with rationing, along with the traumatic experience of having to suffer through the worst of the blitz.

Though a story that really struck me was one which involved an unnamed eight-year-old girl, originally a resident of Harrow at the onset of the conflict, who had to subsequently relocate to Wales to avoid the worst of the war, at the age of 12.

Harrow during World War II Harrow Online
Allies during World War II. Credit: John Atherton

Whilst reading her account I couldn’t help but think what a perturbing experience it must’ve been to grow up in the midst of a war! She describes, almost merrily, the experience of having to take shelter from the raids at night, whilst in the morning joining the local children in a competition to find the largest pieces of shrapnel.

Of course, however, she does go into detail about the panic her neighbourhood endured amid the conflict. She tells of how, at a point, she feared for the security of her home after a neighbour of hers had a landmine implanted in theirs, with a parachute still suspended from their roof, the subsequent evacuation of their residence, meanwhile accounting how the nature of the German invasion had progressed so rapidly in taking Harrow on the Hill in hopes of targeting Northolt Aerodrome.

At 12 years old, she was evacuated to her grandparents’ home in Wales. Though it’s not an uncommon experience amongst evacuees to feel ostracized by locals, homesickness had her demanding to be returned to Harrow.

Not long after returning home, she describes being a direct victim of the V1 and V2 missile strikes, the pavement itself erupting before her knocking her down. She tells of the following panic and devastation, in getting victims to safety.

Harrow during World War II Harrow Online
One of Harrow’s war memorials, located in Harrow Weald.

Though, this unfortunate victim does not go into great amounts of detail in her story, it’s undeniable that the helplessness, disconcertment, and general confusion that overcomes one having to come to grips with life amid conflict, is firstly something no child should have to endure but secondly, a sentiment that’ll resonate with anyone who’s home has been ravaged by war.

The borough of Harrow, like much of the nation, has felt the hardships and bore the brunt of the worst of World War 2. However, despite this, now stands two shine-esque memorials in Harrow in commemoration to all the unfortunate lives lost during the war.

One memorial, a chapel within a church building, who’s responsibility falls under the School of Harrow, relays the unfortunate loss of 343 victims.

Another monument that lies in dedication to the victims of World War 2 stands in Harrow on the Hill, the large war memorial on Grove Road, and is listed as a grade 2 on the National Heritage List for England by Historic England.

These shrines will prove to be a worthy reminder of the boroughs reverence towards those who, despite themselves, chose to fight the good fight, in honour of their country.