On a warm September morning in 1939, residents of Epsom and Ewell, like many throughout the country, gathered around wireless sets in living rooms, kitchens and dining rooms. Earlier in the day the British Government had issued an ultimatum to Hitler to withdraw German forces from Poland. No reply was forthcoming and so it was at 11.15 a.m. on Sunday 3rd September that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast that a state of war existed between Britain and Germany.
During World War 2, civilians were mobilised in support of the war effort in what was known as the "Home Front". Everyday life changed significantly as Britain became a highly regulated society with the introduction of rationing and blackout regulations while residents faced direct attack as the enemy attempted to subdue the country through intensive bombing raids.
Epsom and Ewell had undergone significant changes in the decade leading up to the war. A new railway station had been built in Epsom providing an improved service into London. This led to an increase in population and new houses were constructed including the Chase estate, Hookfield, The Wells and the Woodcote Green estate. The Ewell By-pass was built during this period. Stoneleigh station was opened in 1932 and there was significant housing development in the area.
Epsom High Street c.1939 Image courtesy of Epsom & Ewell Local & Family History Centre
Epsom and Ewell Council was established and the district became a Borough in 1937. The Borough Council was soon to play a vital role in preparing for and directing the Home Front effort. The following sections illustrate how Epsom and Ewell confronted the many challenges and local residents rose to the occasion during those difficult war years.