Queen’s Regiment Parade before the Mayor of Guildford
Painted by Reginald Henry Lewis (1894-1973) from a photograph taken of the event in 1945. Credit, Jonathan Hoare, Grandson.
The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment were given the Freedom of the Borough of Guildford in September 1944. This honour was given to the Queen’s Regiment to express Guildford’s pride in its close association with them and to recognise their distinguished history. However, as the regiment were still overseas fighting, the Freedom of the Borough ceremony was postponed until after the war and took place on 29 September 1945. The Queen’s Regiment marched past the Mayor "with bayonets fixed, colours flying, and the bands playing". The painting dates from 1946 as it was painted by the artist a year later from photographs taken at the time.
Guildford's direct connection with the Queen's ended in 1959 when the regiment left its Stoughton Barracks. However, in 1992 the Freedom passed to the Queen's successors, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment which continues to exercise the Honour to this day.
Albert (Mick) Stening and Jack Childs, both of the East Surrey Regiment, became prisoners of the Imperial Japanese Army in February 1942 when Allied forces in Malaya surrendered. They endured at least some of their captivity in Changi Jail on Singapore Island and may have been forced to work on the building of the infamous Burma Railway. Although there is no evidence that the two men were together whilst POWs, the archive material relating to them provides a grim insight into their experience.
Life at Changi (also known as Chungkai) was harsh. In September 1942 there was a notorious incident where 17,000 men were crammed into a barracks parade ground roughly 100m by 200m which formed part of the jail complex. The men were held for days in tropical heat with little water and no food or sanitation until they agreed to sign a ‘no-escape pledge’. Eventually, under orders from their officers, the men signed, mostly using false or made-up names.
212 men of the East Surreys are amongst the 29,000 now commemorated at Singapore’s main war cemetery.
Albert and Jack were ‘lucky’: both made it back to the UK. The details regarding their return is incomplete but Jack was photographed aboard one of the evacuation ships arriving from the Far East, possibly the SS Ormonde which docked at Southampton on 22 October 1945. They would have received letters of welcome from King George VI; were subject to a series of medical checks and intelligence de-briefings before being issued with a travel warrant for the rail journey home. For many, this would have been the beginning of a long and difficult process of returning to civilian and family life. Emotional, behavioural and psychological problems were common as the men struggled with the memory of their experiences.
Thank you to the Surrey Infantry Museum for the text. Image Jack Childs: courtesy of the Surrey History Centre for material supplied by the Surrey Infantry Museum.
Commemoration - Heroes on the Home Front - The Home Guard
Images show: Guildford Home Guard helmet worn by James Gwinn, and two photographs of Guildford Home Guard in 1940.
Menu for Home Guard stand down dinner, 1944: The 4th Surrey (Guildford) Battalion of the Home Guard (‘D’ Company) held a celebratory stand-down dinner on 15th December 1944.
Ragout de Roadblock
Puree de Perimeter
Stop Line Sausage
Pull Through Pudding
Note: The above menu is entirely imaginary and bears no relation whatsoever to what may actually be served.
During the war Edith looked after four evacuees, George, Reggie, Peter, and Mimi, giving them a safe place to live. It is a tribute to the care that Edith gave her evacuees that George, originally from London, remained with Edith after the war and the two had a life-long relationship. Peter, an Austrian Jew who escaped Europe as part of the Kindertransport, joined them in the safety of Edith’s cottage.
Parents were provided with lists of what to pack for the evacuee children; this included types of clothes and how many sets, gas mask, food for the journey.
Potato Pete Recipe Book
Potato Pete was a character devised for The Ministry of Food to encourage people to eat more potatoes as they were easy to grow and cheap to buy. This booklet contains all sorts of recipes using potatoes for every meal from breakfast to dinner. There are even recipes for sweet dishes that could be used for afternoon tea or a VE day street party such as scones, waffles and ‘Middleton Medley’, a piped mashed potato nest baked in the oven and then filled with grated apple and jam. It was based on a savoury dish of mashed potato nest filled with either diced carrots and turnips or cooked sprouts and cheese!
With the majority of able-bodied men serving in the forces many of the jobs they traditionally carried out needed to be picked up by women. From 1941 women were called up for war work which included working in factories, agriculture, forestry and serving in the armed forces.
For women working in the home the impact of war brought added pressures. Shortages of food and clothing brought in rationing, causing the already full-time woman’s role of keeping a family fed, clothed, clean and healthy even more challenging. Women were digging for victory in their gardens and allotments, creating imaginative meals with minimal ingredients, and resorting to ‘make do and mend’ techniques to extend the life of old clothes. As well as this they may also have been volunteering with a range of military and civil services.
When the war in Europe was over it continued in the Far East until 14 August. Approximately 2.9 million army service personnel were located across the world with most of the combat units in mainland Europe and Indo-China.
Apart from having to continue fighting against the Japanese, much of the front-line personnel was needed to enforce law and order, establish and maintain supplies of food, fuel and other materiel in the occupied and liberated territories.
Image courtesy of Surrey History Centre for material supplied by the Surrey Infantry Museum.
So it was that most of the 1945 victory celebrations in which the Surrey Regiments participated took place overseas. Ironically it was returning Prisoners of War from the European theatre, whose repatriation was prioritised, and UK-based, mainly non-combatant, soldiers that represented the Regiments at events in Guildford and across the county.
Thank you to the Surrey Infantry Museum for the text. Images courtesy of the Surrey History Centre for material supplied by the Surrey Infantry Museum.