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Bournemouth's Second World War 'Big Effort'

Listing the Bournemouth Borough archive reveals the efforts and experiences of Bournemouth people during the Second World War; from a report about the courage of survivors of the Blitz to strange finds amongst bundles of paperwork.

The Bournemouth Borough archive (ref: DC/BH) covers nearly a century of records, from the late 1800s to the late 1900s. Staff listing the collection have made some interesting discoveries relating to the efforts of the town during the Second World War.

Bournemouth's 'Big Effort' in the Blitz

Mrs A M Larcombe, a member Women's Voluntary Service (WVS), wrote a report (pdf, 2Mb) (opens in a new window) concerning 'Bournemouth's Second World War Big Effort' (ref: DC/BH/Item 49). As part of the WVS, Mrs Larcombe was asked to accompany the donations of the people of Bournemouth and Poole to Woolwich. The idea was that towns that had escaped the most severe of the air raids 'adopt' a devastated area of London and donate much needed household items.

Mrs Larcombe explains how she thought she understood the Blitz in London until she arrived; both shocked by the devastation and amazed by the courage of those who suffered through the bombing. Not only that, but the generosity of those who gave what they could - furniture, crockery and other items - which were received with great gratitude.

Mrs Larcombe's writing (pdf, 2Mb) (opens in a new window) paints a vivid picture of the post-war devastation and the spirit of the survivors in East and South East London:

"The human touch became very poignant when on a closer look you saw a child's broken toy, or a piece of clothing.... These silent witnesses told a more vivid story than the most eloquent of speakers"

"...what struck a visitor was the placid cheerfulness of them all - no grim careworn expressions that one might expect, but people very much alive and alert, carrying on and determined to get things done... and all most thankful that they had escaped with their lives"

"Many, when told no payment was required, asked if they might - even out of the smallest earnings - contribute to the war effort, but of course this was refused... Those friends in Bournemouth who had contributed so generously to the gift scheme would have felt more than repaid if they could have seen the gratitude of the recipients"

Bombs dropped on Bournemouth

Bournemouth had also suffered its fair share of air raids, illustrated by an unusual find included in the Bournemouth Borough collection. A piece of shrapnel and two small ammunition shells along with an assortment of trolleybus souvenirs was sent to the Borough attached to a piece of cardboard by Mr E Dorey (ref: DC/BH/Item 376).

The shrapnel, according to the note, was from a bomb dropped on Hambledon Road. This was one of the first bombs to be dropped on Bournemouth and the two shells were recovered from a trolleybus during the large air raid that destroyed Beales department store and the Metropole Hotel.


For a more detailed picture of the courage and effort of those in Bournemouth during the war, we recommend 'Bournemouth and the Second World War 1939-1945' by M. A. Edgington, available in the local studies library.

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