Wartime Petersfield was busy. Over two World Wars, the area opened its doors to troops, evacuees, refugees and wounded soldiers.
During World War One, owners of large houses converted them into hospitals for around 5000 wounded soldiers. Others hosted some of the many British troops for whom local garrison towns like Aldershot didn’t have enough space.
In World War Two Petersfield was considered a safe area and hundreds of households accepted evacuees. Any available building was used as a classroom, canteen or space to entertain stationed soldiers from across the world.
The buildings where you are standing had their own part to play. The police kept ration books locked in the cells. If the town was ever invaded, the Courthouse would have been Petersfield’s Command Centre.
Did you know?
Joan Norris lay unconscious under the rubble after a bomb hit the Petersfield Workhouse next door. Luckily Rex the Labrador was on hand and went to fetch help. The RSPCA awarded him a collar for his heroism.
In case interpretation
Wartime Britain didn't sacrifice style to save fabric. London's top fashion designers were called upon to create a brand-new, affordable style using regulated 'utility' material with minimal embellishments.
Clothing made according to these standards, like this dress and shoes, was stamped with the CC logo. This one stands for Controlled Commodity 1941.
In 1937, around 200,000 volunteers across the country signed up nationally to help ensure people were safe at home in wartime. ARP Wardens made sure lights were out during the blackout, reported bomb damage, delivered gas masks and organised air raid shelters. They even put out small fires, using buckets kept at Petersfield police station.
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World War Two 1939 – 1945
Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Steel helmet
FAP stands for First Aid Post.
Civilian duty gas mask
ARP wardens received a higher grade of gas mask. It had separate eye pieces, an exhalation valve and could fit a microphone.
Government Evacuation Scheme register of accommodation, reproduction, 1939
Before war broke out, the government conducted a survey of accommodation to find out how much space was available for evacuees. 7610 could be accommodated in private houses across Petersfield Rural District Council.
‘Mickey Mouse’ gas mask
Walt Disney helped design a gas mask that looked like Mickey Mouse for children in America. British ‘Mickey Mouse’ gas masks didn’t resemble the cartoon character, but were brightly coloured, light and easy to wear.
Plan for 100-person public
Air Raid Shelter on College Street, reproduction
06 – 07
Fire bucket and ARP first aid case
ARP wardens were usually the first at the scene after an air raid, putting out small fires and administering first-aid.
Blue crepe day dress with CC41 utility label, 1941
The ‘CC’ utility logo marked clothing made from government-approved material with few embellishments. This dress, however, features a rare, early zip.
Whitened leather ‘Dolcis’ shoes with CC41 utility label, 1941
Clothing ration book, reproduction 1947 – 1948
Clothes rationing came to an end in 1949, four years after the war ended. This ration book belonged to Jill Powell from the nearby village of Froxfield.
World War One 1914 – 1918
Cigarette cards: Victoria Cross Heroes
Ernest Horlock was living in Langrish when war broke out. He received the Victoria Cross medal for bravery after he returned to his gun twice, despite injury. He later appeared on collectable cigarette cards.
Letters from William George Applebee
William Applebee is the youngest person on the Steep war memorial. He joined the Navy in 1918 and died two weeks after his 17th birthday, of complications from Spanish Flu.
Cap badge, 6th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
The 6th Hampshire Regiment were a Territorial Battalion, part of which was based in Petersfield.
Handkerchief signed by patients at Heath Lodge Hospital, Petersfield
Soldiers at Heath Lodge Hospital gave this handkerchief to volunteer nurse Winnie Bray. She received a medal for her wartime work.
Roger Powell’s military compass
After joining the army aged 19, Roger Powell served in Egypt and Palestine. He returned home to Froxfield in 1919 and went on to become ‘the leading bookbinder of his day.’
The war diary of Edward Thomas, 1917
Reproduction courtesy of The National Library of Wales
The poet Edward Thomas found beauty even in warfare. He writes: ‘Enemy plane like pale moth beautiful among shrapnel bursts.’