The War at Home

The shadow of the war stretched across every aspect civilian life and the residents of Hertford, mistaken for London by German bombers, were particularly affected.

The zeppelin raid of 1915 had caused devastation in the area and people reacted differently to the shock of being attacked on home soil. The raid formed part of Hilda Saggers’ first memory. She later recalled, aged 3, being lifted up to the window to see the zeppelin shot down over Cuffley.

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Sydney Bunyan, who lived in Russell Street at the time, also remembered being brought outside to see the Zeppelin burn. “[We saw the] the flames from it… And while we were looking at that all of a sudden we scarpered in because there were two or three more Zeppelins over the top of the trees at the back!”

Grace Law remembered her father taking a different approach to protect her from the raid; “All I could hear was “You’re alright Darling, Dad’s got you” and he had only stuck my head in the water butt! My mother said “You will drown the child!””

Sydney also remembered using the newly completed Molewood Railway Tunnel for shelter from the worst of the Air Raids. The tunnel was not yet in operation during the war so families living nearby often stayed there through the night. “I remember after we had a bad raid, it really shook us all up and we went down there for two or three nights, when it was getting dark, you would see everybody came out of their house with a sack of straw on their back. We used to have to lay on the ground, there was no provision in there, that’s why we used to take them full of straw and lay there until the all clear went”

The town hosted large numbers of military personnel and animals in private homes as well as civic buildings. Horses were stationed around the town and up in what is now The Drive in Bengeo. Large numbers of stones were carried up to the site by lorry to protect the ground from getting too muddy for the horses. Thora Blake’s family lived on Morgans Road, near County Hall: “I was about four when war broke out. The men walked and they commandeered as many places as they could in Fore Street. They commandeered our dining-room. We had stables at the back. They commandeered those. And I remember my Father carrying me down to see these men all sleeping on the big dining-room floor. And the men in charge of the horses slept in the stables with them.”

Hertford Food Economy Committee

The committee, chaired by Mayor William Lacey, opened a ”Central Kitchen” at the Corn Exchange in January 1918, with the support of the local council and the Prince of Wales’ Fund, to “enable householders to economize food, fuel and labour in their homes.” The opening day menu demonstrates that a three course meal of soup, shepherd’s pie, vegetables and rice pudding could be purchased for as little as seven pence, around £4 in today’s money.