Object Of The Week : L is for Lamps and Lillies

Tuesday 30 June 2020

Whilst the Museum is closed and our collections unable to be seen by visitors, we have created a weekly virtual museum with an Object of the Week feature from our collections.

Object of the Week :  L is for Lamps and Lillies

There are many Wartime related items in the Museum’s collection and this week, two objects have been selected connected with this period of history.

The first is a hooded lamp used by ARP wardens during the blackout. The hood prevented the light from shining upwards but was still bright enough to be useful. The lamp could be carried by hand or clipped onto a belt.

The second is a flier for a performance of Lillies On The Land at the Ark Theatre in 2012.  The play celebrates the Women’s Land Army of World War II. It was a story based on letters and interviews with original Land Girls.

So what was happening in Elstree and Borehamwood during Wartime?  A number of significant events occurred.  The Army took over Elstree Preparatory School to use for billets and training.  They also requisitioned British International Pictures and Gate Studios for use as stores, whilst the Ministry of Health claimed the newly completed Amalgamated Studios.

The Thatched Barn became the centre for the Special Operations Executive (SOE).  By June 1942 it was a busy hub of activity for the Inter-Services Research Bureau and because of its sensitive nature ‘did not exist’.  But, had you glimpsed inside at this time, you might have seen SOE parachutists jumping off the restaurant balcony and a small submarine undergoing tests in the swimming pool!

Elsewhere, A.B.P.C Studios acted as a store for materials including decoys.  Aeroplane parts were constructed in what was to become MGM Studios.  Laing’s factories along the Elstree Way also produced aeroplane parts and in Lyndhurst House, the army had set up a wireless interceptor station.

In 1940 when an invasion appeared imminent, many local men volunteered for the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers or Home Guard).  Locals referred to the area as a ‘garrison town’ because of the large number of troops stationed here.  A house in Shenley Road was hit by a bomb and a house on the corner of Cardinal Avenue and Hillside Avenue was destroyed by a high explosive bomb, and in 1944 a V1 (doodlebug) flying bomb fell in a field near Tennison Avenue. 

A family of four were killed instantly when a landmine hit a house in Fortune Lane, Elstree in 1940.  The Handbury family (Ralph Handbury was Managing Director of RKO Radio operations) came up to Elstree from Hampstead to escape the London Blitz, only three weeks before. The house, ironically called The Fortune, was destroyed.

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