Woolwich & Districts
Lorna Chudasama (nee Riches) Remembers
1896 to 1934 : Rippolson
Road, Army Flats at Artillery Road and Red
Barracks in Francis Street
My family’s story starts around 1896
when my great grandfather Robert Anderson Ingram
(a Scotsman) left the Westminster Police. He had
served some twelve years as a police constable
and resigned to take up a job in Woolwich as a
Tram Driver. A studio photograph (below)was
taken at this time showing my great grandparents
Robert and Sarah with their daughter Margaret
(my grandmother) and son, also named Robert. My
grandmother was about 14 years old and her
brother some six years younger.
My great Grandparents, Robert and Sarah,
with their children Margaret (my
grandmother) and Robert Circa 1896.
Margaret from the
photo left, notice the detail
of the dress!
In 1903 Sarah died at the age of 48.
My grandmother at this time had been apprenticed
to a tailor. The family were living at 20
Rippolson Road, Plumstead. My great grandfather
thought it would be best to send his grieving
daughter to stay with her mother’s relatives in
Grayshott.. A short time later my great
grandfather remarried. There were no children by
the second marriage, although the couple adopted
a nephew (related to the wife).
This is a photograph
of my grandmother, Margaret Anderson
Ingram taken in a Woolwich Studio
when she was about 18.
I believe her mother died
soon after this photograph was
This photograph was provided by a
third cousin who lives in Scotland,
Alistair Ian Ingram.
This is a photo of my
grandmother Margaret Anderson Ingram
taken circa 1903 in the grounds of
Windwhistle House, Grayshott when she
was employed by Dr Lynton and his wife
My grandmother stayed with her older
half sister who was employed as a housekeeper to
a wealthy Doctor and his family. The same family
employed my grandmother as they valued her
sewing skills. A few years later (1908) she
married Alfred White. There were four children
by this marriage. There is an old photograph
taken in 1915 (see below) showing her with the
children. Alfred was killed in action the same
year. His name appears on a monument at
Grayshott. Following the news of her husband’s
death, my grandmother returned to Plumstead. She
stayed with her father and stepmother briefly,
then rented rooms nearby.
1915. My grandmother, with her four
eldest children. Robert is on her right,
Dennis is standing on a bench behind
her, Margaret is on her left and baby
Alan is sitting on her lap.
This is a studio
photo of my grandmother Margaret
Anderson Wilson taken circa 1938 when
she was in her mid fifties.
My grandmother remembered this five
year period in her life as dreadful and hard. To
support her young family she took in sewing,
doing repairs and alterations at home. She
worked all night while the children slept. I am
not sure how she met my grandfather (a career
soldier) but most of the sewing work undertaken
was for the nearby army personnel.
I do not know the story
behind this photo or where it was
taken other than it was in the early
stages of the First World War and both
brothers were on sick leave. Walter is
wearing a tie (it would have been red)
which would indicate he was a hospital
patient and both have sticks. There
was a severe epidemic of flu sweeping
Europe at that time.
This photograph was sent to me by my
mother's cousin, Anthony Brown, a
nephew of Thomas and Walter Wilson.
Anthony devoted much time tracing the
footsteps of Walter Wilson who
tragically was unable to keep up with
his patrol in the desert when his
camel became lame. It was concluded he
had been killed by the enemy. His name
appears on a monument in Jerusalem.
On marrying my grandfather, Thomas
Wilson, the family moved to Army Flats (13C
Block Artillery Place, Woolwich). My grandfather
was an ex miner from Wales, he was also a boxer
and for a short while continued boxing for the
Army. There are several photographs taken early
in my grandfather’s army career, and two taken
at different times in the Gym at Woolwich
presumably following a team display c1918/19.
When my grandparents married (1920), my
grandfather was an Army Instructor at the
Military College of Science which was housed in
the Red Barracks, Francis Street, Woolwich.
These barracks were unusual in that the rooms
opened out on to a veranda which spanned all
sides of the building. It was thought there had
been a mix up of plans, and that the barracks
had originally been planned for abroad, most
initially made his name as a fairground
boxer, then for a period boxed for the
My grandfather, Thomas Wilson.
Circa 1918 Army Gym Team.
Another Army Gym Tea. Thomas Wilson is
on the far right of the front row.
The girl in the centre
of the group is Maggie Wilson, younger
sister of Thomas Wilson (my
grandfather). Maggie looked after many
of the family photographs when my
great grandmother, Elizabeth Wilson
died. Maggie, in turn, left them to
her sons, Anthony and Ashley Brown.
Anthony and Ashley
kindly lent them to me some ten years
ago when I was trying to locate pictures
of my grandfather who died a few months
before I was born. The wonderful thing
about all this was through Anthony
Brown, my mother and father made contact
with Walter Blake after so many long
My mother, Leonora Wilson, and her
two sisters were born in Woolwich and baptized
at The Royal Garrison Church of St George. All
the children, now numbering seven in the family,
initially attended the nearby Garrison
Infants school and went to Sunday School.
My mother and her sister Winnie were in the same
class at the Garrison School (see photograph
taken c1926) in New Road close to St Peters
The three bedroomed army flat must
have been very cramped. The four girls shared
two double beds (mother was asthmatic and
remembers being afraid of her big intolerant
sister Margaret who was unkind). The boys shared
a double bed in the second bedroom. She
remembers her mother being very strict and the
children were made to keep as quiet as mice.
From an early age they shared the housework. The
girls were taught to sew and knit. They knitted
their own vests and socks with their mother
doing the difficult bits like the heels and
necks. Their mother made their dresses, skirts
and coats. The cooking was done on a range which
was in one room serving as a kitchen, dining
room and lounge. There was a toilet but no
bathroom in the early years. A large tin bath
hung on the wall. This would be taken down and
filled with hot water from the copper. Later,
the flats had a bathroom added. This was very
cleverly done by enclosing the veranda/balcony
to each flat and converting it into a bathroom.
My Grandmother Circa
1924 with all seven of her children. My
mother, Leonora Wilson, is the middle
child at the front. Winnie is on her left
and Nancy is sitting on my grandmother's
lap. Alan is on the left with Dennis
beside him. Behind them is Robert and
Robert White; he
lost his father in 1915 but despite the
several set backs in his younger life, he
achieved much and was a high ranking army
officer when he died.
My mother’s eldest brother, Robert
Alfred White is about 14 or 15 years old and in
uniform. He was a cadet at the nearby Royal
Artillery Barracks. There is another photograph
taken a couple of years later, known in the
family as “the three angels”. My grandmother
made the girls dresses. The last photograph in
this series is of my grandfather and his three
daughters, all in similar hats. Again my
grandmother made their coats.
Circa 1927. My mother, Leonora Wilson,
is on the left, Winnie in the middle and
Nancy on the right.
Thomas Wilson, and his three daughters.
My mother and her sisters were taken
to visit their grandfather and his wife now
living at 51 Rippolson Road. My mother’s father
enjoyed visiting his father-in-law as both were
partial to a good bottle of whisky which was
meant to be shared. In 1932 my great
grandfather’s health deteriorated and he died in
St Nicholas Hospital.
My great grandfather,
Robert Anderson Ingram (circa 1930)
standing in the back garden of
51 Rippolson Road.
Around 1934, my grandfather retired
from military service. The family left the Army
Flats and moved to rented accommodation. My
grandfather did, however, continue to work at
the Military College of Science and in his
civilian role, he began to organize club
activities, keeping ruffians off the streets and
teaching them to box.
1934 to 1944 : Woolwich -
144 Eglington Road and Military College of
On leaving the Army Flats, the
family moved to rented accommodation at 144
Eglington Road. The army had helped locate the
terraced property which was large and spacious
with a garden at the back. Access to the front
door was via steps with railings on either side.
Inside the house for the first few hours the
younger girls raced up and down the stairs, a
novelty. Later that year Winnie Wilson started
work at a Sports Factory called Gradiges (my
mother doesn’t know how its spelt) and the
following year in 1935 my mother joined her
there. She was aged 14 and it was her first job.
(At the outbreak of War the factory closed).
There is a photograph of some of the staff taken
outside the factory which was a subsidiary of
My mother Leonora
Wilson aged 14 second lady on the right,
middle row. The lady on my mothers left is
Florrie Sullivan. The man kneeling on one
leg front row on the left is the Manager,
Jack Walker, the lady beside him is
Margorie Coombes. Next to her is Joan (who
married Neil Flynn). The photograph was
taken in 1935 outside the Sports Factory.
The Barracks are in the background.
12 May 1937 was King George V1 and
Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. It was also the
day my mother met my father, Jack Riches. He was
on leave for the occasion, with a bunch of
friends. They were all dressed in “civvies”. My
mother also with a group of girls, wouldn’t have
spoken to him otherwise as she, the daughter of
a soldier, was not allowed to speak to soldiers.
The group bumped into each other outside the
Rushgrove Gym and introductions were made. My
father was at the Military College of Science
and mustered at the end of that year in
December. There are two photographs of my father
taken around this time.
My father, Jack Raymond Riches, 1937.
Outside the Military College of Science.
My father, aged 18,
December 1937. This photograph was taken
the day he mustered at The Military
College of Science.
During this year the family were
pleased to receive a visit from Walter Blake who
was a nephew of Thomas Wilson. Walter had no
brothers and sisters and made the long journey
from Wales several times to see his uncle.
This photograph was
actually taken in 1937. Front row from L -
R, Nancy, Leonora and Winnie. Back row
Walter Blake and my father, Jack Riches.
My Dad, Jack Riches in
In 1938 my mother’s eldest sister,
Margaret, married a colleague she worked with at
Marks & Spencer His name was Stan Powley. A
photo of the wedding group was taken in the back
garden of 144 Eglington Road. All the family are
in the picture apart from Dennis who we think
may have taken the photograph. Also in the photo
is the family dog Trixie who belonged to Dennis.
Taken in the back
garden at Eglington Road. Margaret's
Wedding Day. Front Row, L -R the girls
are Nancy, Leonora and Winnie. The men
are brothers of the groom. Middle Row,
my grandfather and grandmother, my Aunty
Margaret (the bride) and Stan Powley
(the groom) Stan's mother and sister.
Back Row, my Uncles Alan and Bob. The
other gentleman is Stan's brother-in-law.
There are several photographs taken
in the back garden of No. 144 Eglington Road
which was one of many properties owned by the
Burrage or Burbidge family. The entire terrace
was owned by this family who used the house next
door as a maintenance office. My grandmother who
was quite religious discovered an Aunt of the
family had been her Sunday School teacher and
following this conversation, the landlords very
generously reduced the rent and gave part of the
next door garden to my mother’s brother Dennis
to cultivate. Dennis was a very keen gardener
who grew vegetable as well as prize roses and
This is me in the
back garden of 144 Eglington Road, 1941.
This is my mother's sister, Winnie with
Lorna with Trixie
at 144 Eglington Road
War was declared in September 1939
and the following January 1940 my parents were
married in Gosport prior to my father rejoining
his unit with the British Expeditionary Force in
France. My mother returned to work at the
Arsenal. In May that year my father was
successfully evacuated from Dunkirk following an
initial failed attempt (the first craft sank and
he had to swim back to shore).
Thomas Wilson had been looking
forward to being a grandfather as my mother was
now expecting me. Sadly he died unexpectedly in
May 1941 of a heart attack. Owing to fears for
the safety at the time of my mother’s
confinement, the Nursing Home for Mothers and
Babies in Samuel Street, Woolwich temporarily
relocated to Lord Podmore’s House in Paddock
Wood, Tunbridge Wells, Kent where I was born in
During this year, my mothers’s
second eldest brother, Dennis White married
Edith and moved into a home of his own. Her
eldest brother Robert was already married and
living in Army Married Quarters. Her brother
Alan was still living at home. Alan had tried to
enlist but was refused as he was on the reserve
list for Seimans where he worked. Nancy was
working for the War Office at the Arsenal.
In November 1941 I was baptized at
the same St Georges Garrison Church as my mother
and her sisters. This Church suffered a direct
hit in 1944 and all that remains to this day is
a shell (see photograph). The Church is still
consecrated and occasional open air services are
My mother and my
aunts were baptised at this Church. I
was also baptised here on 16 November
1941. The Church suffered a direct hit
in 1944 and the above photo shows how it
This is my Baptism
Certificate from The Royal Garrison
for a detailed view of the church. My
mother tells me the church suffered bomb
damage a few years later.
Some photographs were taken in 1942
of me and my cousin Judith Powley at the front
of the house in Eglington Road. In the first, we
are sitting on the steps. The railings were
later taken down as the materials were needed
for the war effort. In the second Judith is
taking me for a walk, with our proud grandmother
1942. This me
(Lorna) sitting on the front steps with
cousin Judith. The railings next to
Judith were later taken down as the
materials were needed to assist in the
Circa 1943. Judith
taking me for a walk with our proud
grandmother looking on.
1943. This is a
studio portrait of my father, Jack
Riches, with me (Lorna) and my mother
(Leonora). My father was at this time in
the R.E.M.E attached to the 51 Highland
In June the
following year he left Stokes Bay for
the beaches of Normandy as did thousands
of brave soldiers, including my uncle
Stan Powley. Much later we learned Stan
had been killed in action.
In July 1944 my mother’s sister
Winnie married Victor Hinds at a Church in
Herbert Road. The marriage had been brought
forward as Vic had come home on leave. His ship
had been damaged in Bombay and had limped home
earlier than expected. Despite luxury items
being hard to get, the neighbours had rallied
round to make the wedding a very special
occasion. Between them they provided a splendid
feast. There were a lot of sailors at the
wedding who made a great fuss of me. Apparently
I was very merry, joining in the singing. This
rather worried my mother who was heavily
pregnant. I do not remember any of this but what
happened a few months later is a vivid memory.
July 1944. My
mother's sister Winnie has married Vic
Hinds at a Church in Herbert Road. On
Winnie's right is my mother's brother Alan
White and next to him is my mother's
| Vic & Winnie
outside the church in Herbert Road but my
mother does not now recall the name of the
church. Apart from my mother’s wedding,
most of the family marriages took place at
Our home at 144 Eglington Road was
destroyed by a doodle bug late one night in
October 1944. I woke up to a loud rubbling and
crashing sound. I was coughing and struggling to
get my breath. There was thick dust and debris.
My brother was only a few weeks old, something
had fallen across his cot but fortunately not on
him. I was barely three and remember being
carried outside by a fireman. I kept asking what
has happened to my Nana’s house. The gas main
was alight and there was a lot of activity. The
fireman holding me was handed a tin mug of tea
from which I took several sips before being
placed in an ambulance with my mother and
brother. The ambulance was driven by a woman who
took us to a hospital. My ears were syringed and
my brothers eyes were bathed. His eyelids were
swollen. We were relatively unscathed and
discharged a few hours later. We were taken to a
Rest Centre where we spent a couple of nights.
The Rest Centre was at Slade School. Here the
Salvation Army gave us soup and distributed
items from parcels sent from America. We were
given scented soap and talcum powder as well as
clothing and bedding. The clothing was new and
my baby brother had a beautiful blue knitted
suit. My grandmother joined us at the Rest
Centre and was given several beautiful sewn
quilts which had tickets on them indicating they
were gifts from the Ladies Guild of Ohio. My
grandmother had not been at home when it was
hit, she had gone as usual to the shelter where
she slept each night. I had been repeatedly
asking what happened to my Nana’s house but no
one told me until at last my grandmother said it
had been knocked down by the apples and pears.
Strangely enough, that explanation satisfied me
for a few years.
Our home had been looted, so only a
few items were salvaged. What remained was badly
damaged. We were very fortunate to have survived
unhurt, a neighbour in the terrace lost two
members of her family.
Early in the war, Walter Blake had
been seriously wounded and spent years in
hospital. Upon recovery towards the end of the
war, he returned to Woolwich planning to visit
his cousins. He was shocked to find the site had
been cleared where the house had stood. He did
not know where the family had gone and decades
were to pass before contact was re-established.
1945 - 1956 : 74 Shrewsbury
Lane, Plumstead and Nightingale Place Woolwich
After we had lost the roof over our
heads, we (my mother, brother and myself) stayed
temporarily with my grandmother Riches at
Gosport. My grandmother Wilson and my mothers
sisters Winnie and Nancy moved to a large semi
detached house in Plumstead. This was 74
Shrewsbury Lane, Shooters Hill, Plumstead. They
were soon joined by my mother’s eldest sister
Margaret Powley (now a widow) and my cousin
Judith. Aunty Margaret took charge of the
household and organized the living arrangements.
ship to China" on the Brittanic
sailing to Singapore.
We did not join them as in 1945 we
moved into Married Quarters at Gosport. The
following year we boarded the Britannic (a
luxury cruise ship used as a troop carrier) and
sailed to join my father in Singapore. Whilst we
were in Singapore, my mother’s youngest sister
got married and left with her husband for South
Africa. Many years were to pass before we saw
In 1948 we left Singapore and sailed
on the *Empire Windrush (this was a troopship
which a few months earlier that year had brought
immigrants to Britain). I have fond memories of
this ship as I celebrated my seventh birthday (5
October) on board. The Captain invited me and
some chosen friends to have a tea party in his
cabin and a tour of the bridge. We arrived back
in England in time to spend Christmas with my
grandmother in Plumstead. It was the first real
Christmas I can remember. Judith and I received
identical dolls which had two front teeth and
closed their eyes. Judith very kindly knocked
the teeth out of my doll so we didn’t get
muddled up. She need not have troubled as our
Aunt Winnie had knitted dresses, hats and
booties for the dolls. Mine was dressed in green
with a crimson trim. This went some way to
pacify me for the loss of my old toys which I
had tried to reclaim. The few that had been
retrieved from Eglington Road had been given to
my little cousin Elizabeth (daughter of Aunty
Winnie and Uncle Vic), including a big Airedale
dog on wheels which could be sat on or pushed
This is my lovely
grandmother in the garden of 74
Shrewsbury Lane. As my father was a
career soldier, we frequently moved
around the country and abroad joining my
father wherever he was posted. I loved
visiting my grandmother, her home was
familiar and welcoming. She remained at
this address for the rest of her life.
She died in 1956.
I thought my grandmother’s home in
Shrewsbury Lane was the best ever. I liked the
gardens with its fruit trees and pretty flowers,
the busy road with the horse and carts trundling
by. There was the milkman and the rag and bone
man calling out. Any steaming horse manure
deposited in the road was soon collected by
residents for their gardens. We had woods, parks
and commons nearby. Up the lane a couple of
doors from our house was a tennis club. This was
quite noisy in the afternoons. Further down the
Lane there was a horse trough and another
opposite the fire station. The fire station
fascinated me, I would stare at the red doors
willing a fire engine to come out. We passed
this often as we turned to go down the steep
hill to the shops. Although it was a long walk
and my grandmother had troublesome ankles, we
never caught the bus.
I remember thinking my Aunty
Margaret was rich. She had a telephone and a
lovely carpet in the front room. There were nice
ornaments and a television in a cabinet. We were
rarely allowed in this room or her dinning room
which was next to my grandmother’s sitting room.
My Aunty Winnie and Uncle Vic had their own
large sitting room which was also used as a
dinning room, they always made us welcome. The
kitchen was shared, as was the bathroom
upstairs. The hot water in the kitchen and in
the bathroom was heated by noisy Ascots which
frightened me. There was an outside toilet and
an upstairs toilet. My grandmother made lovely
rice puddings which we had often. She also made
bread and butter puddings. I liked anything my
grandmother made, particularly the apple pies.
My Aunty Margaret occasionally made a fruit cake
and I was always surprised at her skill in
cutting the slices so thin. We were allowed one
slice each. We stayed with my grandmother for a
few months. I went to Plum Lane School. The
school was at the bottom of a steep hill. Half
way down the hill there was a wooden tuck shop.
We stopped there to buy sherbet and liquorice.
My cousin Bobby (the son of my uncle Dennis
White) went to the same school. He was a few
months younger than me but in the same class.
Bobby lived in a prefab. Each morning we were
made to have a large spoon of Malt, I didn’t
mind that. We were also made to drink a small
bottle of milk which I hated as it was warm
(being placed close to the radiators). I thought
it smelt and my protests got me into trouble. In
Singapore we had chocolate flavoured milk at
school which was much nicer.
two photographs were taken circa 1950 of
my cousins, Judith Powley and Elizabeth
Hind at Eaglesfield Park, Plumstead. We
accessed Eaglesfield Park via Foxcroft
Road which led into Shrewsbury Lane two
doors away. On the junction (corner) of
Shrewsbury Lane and Foxcroft Road there
was a tennis club. Further up Foxcroft
Road there was a bowling club which we
passed on our way to the Park. We would
cross Eaglesfield Road and walk into the
park. From the park, which was the
highest point for miles around, there
were magnificent views. The other end of
Eaglesfield Road led into Shrewsbury
Lane (much further down the lane from
where we lived) and on the corner of
this junction stood the Fire Station. We
passed the Fire Station each day on our
way to Plum Lane School.
My cousin Judith went to a different
school altogether. She caught a bus to a private
convent school, her place funded by the Army.
She wore a smart grey uniform with a large grey
hat. I liked staying with my grandmother and was
very upset when we moved away to Tidworth.
From left to
right, my brother jack aged 5, me aged 8
and cousin Judith aged 9. The photo was
taken of us playing in the backyard of
our Army Quarter in the Ordnance Depot
at Tidworth. It was the only living
quarter in the Depot, allocated to my
father as he ran the REME workshop which
was on a lower level across the road.
Our quarter was on the brow of a hill,
flanked on two sides by huge air raid
Here is another
1949 photo taken at Tidworth. Opposite
our quarter was the medical hut. The
lady in the nurses uniform was Mrs
Crosby. I was often lonely and liked to
visit her at her work place when she
Here I went to the Garrison School
for a few months, then we moved to another area
in Tidworth. I then went to a small village
school close to the Ordnance Depot where we
lived. Our house was the only one inside the
large Depot complex. My father ran the REME
Workshop there. We had a very large garden and
we kept chickens and rabbits. These were of
course intended to supplement our meat ration
and provide us with eggs but I didn’t realize
that. Each evening my father with myself and my
brother in tow, would take a hessian sack to
gather dandelions and clover for the rabbits.
The Depot was behind tall double gates which
were opened by a guard. In the morning when it
was clocking on time, a siren went. The siren
went again at the end of the day when it was
time for the workers to clock off. The siren
always unnerved me. My cousin Judith spent each
school holiday with us.
I stayed a few weeks with my
grandmother during 1951 when my Aunty Margaret
took Judith and myself to visit the Festival of
Britain. I was very impressed.
Our next posting was to Colchester.
My brother and I started the Garrison School at
Berechurch and found ourselves very disliked by
a group of children. I never understood why we
were subjected to such hostility and still
don’t. We arrived home at the end of the day
with torn clothing and bruises. After a few
weeks of this, we were both transferred to other
schools in the area. Some eighteen months later,
my father went to Korea. My grandmother stayed
with us for a while as my mother had become
unwell. The army children in Colchester whose
fathers were in Korea were invited just before
Christmas to take part in a special radio show.
We recorded messages to our fathers and were
entertained by Max Bygraves, Beryl Reid, Peter
Brough and Archie Andrews (this latter character
was a dummy from the radio series “Educating
Archie”). Boards were held up telling us when to
laugh and clap.
We watched the Coronation on a
friends television and at school we were
presented with a book called “Royalty in Essex”.
I still have mine.
Late in 1953 we left England on the
TSS Empire Halladale, we were to join my father
who was now stationed in Hong Kong. We
celebrated Christmas Day on board, the crew put
on a splendid party. Late the previous night
(Christmas Eve) we had been allowed on shore at
Colombo to shop for summer clothes and sandals.
Because the ship was in port many shops, lit by
oil lamps, had opened specially. We had a
military police escort who made sure no one
strayed and got lost.
We spent a year in Hong Kong in the
New Territories (Sek Kong Valley). I went first
to the small army school in the village and
after passing the Murray House Test (13 plus), I
travelled by army truck to a train station the
other side of the valley, then caught a train to
Kowloon. I was anxious to return home to England
particularly as the 20th Field R.A. (to which my
father was attached) was due to be posted back
to Woolwich. Late in 1954 we boarded the SS
Empire Fowey and another Christmas was spent on
the high seas.
Here is a photo of
myself and cousin Judith
(granddaughters of Margaret Anderson
Wilson) spending a day at Margate
circa 1954. This was soon after
returning from Hong Kong. I was
attending Waverley School and Judith
was at Kidderbrook.
In January 1955 we arrived back in
Woolwich, staying initially with my grandmother
at Shrewsbury Lane and then moving to army
quarters at Nightingale Place. My Aunty Winnie
and Uncle Vic had at this time moved to Eltham
with their childen. I started at Waverley School
for Girls and my brother went to Bloomfield
School.. I lived close enough to walk to my
grandmothers and did most weekends. I would have
tea in the garden or in her sitting room. She
would be knitting and listening to the radio.
She never missed Dick Barton, Special Agent.
Another favourite of hers was Mrs Dales Diary.
The following year we were moved to
Colchester again and I started my eleventh
school (there was one more school after this,
then College in Kenya). My grandmother became
ill and we returned to Woolwich to visit her in
hospital. She died in 1956.
The house at Shrewsbury Lane was now
too large for my Aunty Margaret and cousin
Judith. They moved to a new maisonette. We
visited them in their new home. Sadly, within
months of moving, Aunty Margaret was hurt in a
car accident and died a few days later. Judith
was following a nursing career at the time. My
father and my Uncle Bob (Robert White) both
offered Judith a home but with the support of
her matron, she declined.
After a few years in Colchester, we
joined my father in Kenya. I only came back to
Woolwich once in 1972 for the wedding of Aunty
Winnie and Uncle Vic’s second daughter. All the
White/Wilson offspring were there apart from my
Uncle Bob who had died of natural causes whilst
still a serving army officer. His widow and
daughters emigrated soon after to South Africa.
My Aunty Nancy was at the wedding with her
husband and daughter Marilyn, they had returned
from South Africa and were living in Hampshire.
I was at the wedding with my parents and
brother. Also with me was my eldest daughter,
Jayshree (see photo) who is the child at the
front wearing long white socks. On the left of
Jayshree is my brother Jack. Beside my brother
(behind Jayshree) is my mother, Leonora Riches.
Judith is at the back wearing a large hat, my
cousin Elizabeth Henry (nee Hind) is on her
This is my parents, Leonora and Jack
Riches circa 1968. They were attending a
wedding. The parents of the bride were
old army school friends of both my
mother and father.
Circa 1971. A
family wedding group outside Woolwich
Town Hall. The bride is my cousin Debbie
Hind, youngest daughter of Winnie &
Vic. My cousin Judith Wilkinson (nee
Powley) is the lady at the back in the
large hat. On her left is my cousin
Elizabeth Henry (nee Hind). My brother,
Jack is at the front on the far left and
you can just see part of may Dad, Jack,
behind him. My mother, Leonora Riches,
is on his right behind my daughter
Jayshree, the child with the white
I had always regarded my
grandmother’s home as my own. It was a familiar
welcoming place. It was my anchor. Although it
suited some, moving around as often as we did
unsettled me and I never felt anywhere else was
Lorna & Judith in the garden of No.74
Judith a bit closer up.
My grandmother Margaret
Anderson Wilson in her back garden c.
*The Empire Windrush sank years
later in March 1954. We were in Hong Kong at
this time and knew several of the army families
who had embarked from the Colony. There were
also wounded on board from Korea. All the
passengers survived having been picked up by the
This photo of my mother
Leonora Riches and father, Jack Riches
was taken in January 2000 when my
parents celebrated their 60th Wedding
Anniversary. The heather buttonhole my
mother is wearing was sent to her by
her cousin in Scotland, Alistair
Ingram. My proud mother is holding a
card from the Queen.
following lunch with mother ... (January 2007)
Today we were looking at lovely bed
quilts in the Gift Shop at our local Garden
Centre where we have lunch every Wednesday. I
remembered and remarked on the lovely patchwork
quilts that covered the beds at my grandmothers
home at 74 Shrewsbury Lane. Mother said the
quilts were all given to us by the Salvation
Army at the Rest Centre after my grandmothers
home at 144 Eglington Road had been destroyed in
1944. She told me after we had received
attention at the hospital, we were taken to the
Slade School where we were fed and given a place
to sleep. Here the Salvation Army distributed
items from parcels received from America. We
were given SCENTED soap and talcum powder as
well as clothing and bedding. The clothing was
new and my baby brother had a beautiful blue
knitted suit. The beautifully sewn quilts had
tickets on them which indicated they were gifts
from the Ladies Guild of Ohio.
Mother said she always had wanted to
thank the Ladies Guild of Ohio, their thoughtful
generous gifts meant such a lot to distressed
families. I thought it might still be possible
to do so.
We were fortunate that apart from
losing our home, we were virtually unscathed. My
brother who was only a few weeks old had his
eyes treated - his eyelids were swollen as a
result of the dust. I had apparently inhaled and
swallowed dust and my ears had to be syringed. A
few days later I was violently sick following
constant coughing and my ears were painful and
Discussing this website, our
conversation then went back to my mother’s
Mother and her sisters were born at
the Military Hospital for Mothers & Babies
in Depot Road. She thinks this might have been
part of the Herbert Hospital. They lived in Army
Flats (C13) in Artillery Place. They had a three
bedroom flat which must have been crowded for a
family of nine. The four girls shared two beds
(mother was asthmatic and remembers being afraid
of her big intolerant sister Margaret who was
The boys shared a double bed in the
second bedroom. She remembers her mother being
very strict and the children were made to keep
as quiet as mice. From an early age they shared
the housework. The girls were taught to sew and
knit. They knitted their own vests and socks
with their mother doing the difficult bits like
the heels and necks. Their mother made their
dresses and skirts. She said the cooking was
done on a range which was in one room serving as
a kitchen, dining room and lounge. There was a
toilet but no bathroom in the early years. A
large tin bath hung on the wall. This would be
taken down and filled with hot water from the
copper. Later, the flats had a bathroom added.
This was very cleverly done by enclosing the
veranda/balcony to each flat and converting it
into a bathroom.They all went to
the local Garrison Schools.
My mother recently heard from a
friend who had returned to Woolwich a few years
ago to do a trip down “Memory Lane” to take
photographs. This friend said the Army Flats at
Artillery Place had now been demolished.
This is a photograph taken of staff
outside their workplace. This was mothers first
job. She was just 14 and the family had left the
Army Flats in Artillery Place and moved to 144
Mother worked alongside her sister
Winnie at a Sports Factory close to Artillery
Place. The factory was Gradiges (the name might
not be spelt correctly) which was a subsidiary
of Slazengers. Winnie was not in this photo.
Most of the names my mother has now forgotten
but she rembers the man on the left in the front
row was the Manager, Jack Walker (who was
scandalised on seeing washing hanging on the
lines on a Sunday). The lady beside him was
Margorie Coombes and next to Margorie is Joan
(who married Neil Flynn). Neil is not in the
photo. My mother doesnt remember any other names
apart from the lady next to her (second row on
my mother's left) was Florrie Sullivan. My
mother thinks the buildings in the background
are the barracks. The group are facing their
workplace so unfortunately there is no view of
the factory which closed on the outbreak of war.
The purpose of
this photograph was to capture the rose
garden cultivated by Dennis White
(mother's second eldest brother). The
photo was taken facing the back of 144
Eglington Road. The house was in a
terrace of four.
The entire terrace
was owned by the Burbage family. The
house to the left was used as an office
by the Landlords (Mr & Mrs Burbage -
the spelling might not be correct). My
grandmother discovered an aunt of Mr
Burbage had been her sunday school
teacher - whereupon her rent was
reduced. My mother thinks the Landlords
owned a lot of property and the house
next door was used by building
This is a photo of
me taken when I was a few months old.
Even today, mother is embarrassed she
didnt put a white pillow behind me
instead of a cushion. My grandmother
scolded her when she saw the photo.
This is my
grandmother being mischievous.
The trousers on
the line belong to her son (my uncle)
Dennis White and she is checking his
pocket. The photo was taken in the back
garden of 144 Eglington road.
thrilled when the family left the Army
Flats in 1934 and moved to 144 Eglington
Road where there was a garden. He loved
gardening and was a keen gardener all
After the war he
and his family moved to a prefab which
only had a small garden. He soon rented
an allotment and grew wonderful
vegetables and cultivated roses and
carnations which won him many prizes.
His wife, Edith, bottled the fruit and
made wonderful chutney and jam.