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Fred Bowden interview: More impressions of Wimbledon



It was completely strange to me. What puzzled me, oh there was trams, of course, tramlines, right up into Wimbledon. What puzzled me was that you could go to London. I come from Swansea which is by the sea. That way was water, that way was land. But in Wimbledon which way to London? You could go that way or that way. It used to puzzle me. Anyway, that was the thing, by way of the route marches we soon found out and got our bearings and Wimbledon it had large houses. We were billeted in one of them. Another company was billeted in a house in Calonne Road. Another one was billeted in East Hill House which is in Church Road opposite Belvedere. It’s no longer there. All these places have been demolished except one.

Headquarter Company was in Gifford House, which is over Roehampton way. Battalion headquarters was Inner Park House which is on Parkside, again demolished. What else can I remember? Support company with their vehicles - Bren carriers, mortars and anti-tank guns - were all in Exeter House in Roehampton Lane. It’s still there. And some were down in the tennis courts, actually billeted in the tennis courts - in the buildings. I think they had tents down there as well. But we did very little walking round. It was the Common that we used to walk around and we knew the town, shops, but it was just a strange place really because we were on the edge of a village. We didn’t realise. I knew nothing about villages in those days, coming from Swansea, which is docks. It was a village with mixed population, not like it is now, you can’t buy into the place now. In those days it was working class up to the occupants of the large houses. All the houses on the hill were these old mansions. Then they’ve all been demolished and these other places built. It’s all changed. I can’t say more than that really. We didn’t travel around a lot.