Ickenham Home Guard Photo – Can you help?

During World War Two (1939-45) the Home Guard, made up of men aged 17 to 65 who could not serve in the front line, were charged with Britain’s final defence in the event of German invasion.

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 The photo can be seen at Hillingdon Local Studies, Level 6, Uxbridge Library without prior appointment. Just quote reference ADB.17.09

Last week Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives and Museum Service were donated this photo of Ickenham Home Guard. Known as ‘A’ company, 14th Middlesex Battalion, they were formed in May 1940 and had their HQ at Church Farm, Swakeleys Road. They were led by Major W ‘Sandy’ Sanderson (front row, 6 from the right). The only other member we can identify is Lance Corporal George Elam (front row, far right).

Can you help us identify any other soldiers from the photo? Do you have any other information about Ickenham’s Home Guard? We know John Monk, Jesse Castley, Douglas Watt and Harry Fairbairn were also members, but whether they too are in the photo is unclear.

By Paul – Local Studies Team


Work Experience in Local Studies: WW2 – What are those?

Wartime objects at Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives and Museum Service.

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Everyone thinks they have a pretty good grip on World War Two history. It’s been passed down for generations and all young people learn about it in schools, but there are still bits and pieces that will make you wonder.

This was my first impression when I came across a piece of shrapnel in the Local Studies collection while on work experience. It was made of metal, with a long heat-fused part next to a tap-shaped end. I held this object – once an ordinary household item – in the curve between my first finger and my thumb and the most surprising thing was that it felt like it had been made to sit there.

Local Studies holds many other objects from World War Two, including an incendiary bomb. This bomb is perfectly safe but I was fascinated by the markings around the side and on the end of it. I managed to decipher most of them, despite some damage from corrosion, but it still left me confused as to what they could all mean.

Blog 2The last items that intrigued me were two helmets which looked very similar in shape, colour, and style. However, one was marked ‘FG’ for Fire Guard and had the reference A.M.C. 5 1941 inside; the other had no letters to say who had worn it, but again had a reference inside – this time 1941 B.M.B.  Perhaps ‘1941’ (at the height of the Blitz) referred to the year they were made.

All of these things prove there is much more about the war and the people who lived through it than most people ever read about.

By Rachel, on work experience with Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives and Museum Service

Check our online catalogue http://www.heritagebuildsbridges.org.uk/heritage/Search/index.htm for more World War Two objects in our collections. Just give us 3 days’ notice if you want to see any of them.

Work Experience in Local Studies: The Witch Who Walked Free

From transcripts of the 16th and 17th century Middlesex County and Sessions Court Records, available at Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives and Museum Service in Uxbridge Library


A white witch meeting with a black witch, who is leading a devil.

In everyday life there is always a sense of mystery and coincidence. A lot of people would shrug this off as nothing and continue with their lives; others would put it down to fate and leave it. However, back in the reign of Elizabeth I, things were extremely different. There was a widespread belief in magic; any coincidence was no coincidence at all; and this made all the difference in the eyes of the law.

We have all heard the terrible things that used to happen to people who wouldn’t confess to being a witch, even under torture, and how it was almost impossible to escape an accusation. However, going into the County and Sessions records, you find that a lot of the cases in Middlesex actually ended with no real punishment.

One such case was a lady named Agnes Godfrey, who was accused of murdering three people and seriously harming a fourth. When she came to trial she pleaded not guilty, even with the dates and manners of death being strikingly similar – and having had one of these charges as a spinster, she got all of the indictments against her acquitted. She walked out a free woman and not a witch.

Magic or no magic, she was a lucky woman to have got out alive – and who knows maybe she did use a little magic to change the jurors’ minds.

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By Rachel, on work experience at Uxbridge Library. (The print is not from our collections).

The Middlesex County and Sessions Court Records are also on British History Online, on the public PCs at Level 6, Uxbridge Library.

Literary Challenge 2017 #2 Science Fiction



Hillingdon Libraries Staff continue their Literary Challenge 2017. We read and review a fiction book on a set theme every month. This time it’s Science Fiction, a whole genre. Some of our readers even gave their books more than 5 out of 5 stars! You can find a separate Science Fiction section in all our 17 libraries.

1. The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

the-ship-carey-coverI read this book with a reading group. It wasn’t popular with everyone, but I enjoyed it. It raised so many questions in my mind – What would really happen if… There was no food in the supermarkets, no fuel for transport, no fresh water, no emergency services. How would we behave towards each other if we had to fight for everything we needed to survive. Money would be useless. Food and shelter are your absolute priority.

Lalla has grown up in this world. She is kept safe by her Mother and Father. Her parents are her only influence. Her Father is a very clever man. He has spent years gathering together a stockpile of food on a ship which is kept hidden on a dock somewhere in London. The only disagreement between her parents is that her Father wants take 500 carefully chosen people and with his family out to sea, where they can start a new chapter in their lives. Mother believes there must be another option. Things will get better, eventually. Mother gets shot and the decision to leave everything Lalla has ever known is made there and then.

If our world ever got as bad as this book suggests there is no bright future. Who would want to be a scavenger, fighting for food and shelter. On the other hand, would I want to be cast out to sea for the rest of my life with 500 other people, knowing I could never step back onto land? Yes I would have food to eat and an endless supply of fresh clothes, but what sort of future would this be. Every day would be the same – staring at an endless sea. No news, no events. Nothing. A dilemma I would never want to face. Lalla is the only ‘guest’ on The ship who does not idolise her Father, the man who has saved 500 lives. These people have been asked to forget the past, but how can Lalla. Her mother has been killed. How can all these other people be so agreeable to everything her Father wants? Lalla rebels in every way she can. This book is disturbing in places and I felt quite uncomfortable thinking about how I would react under the same circumstances.

4 out of 5 stars. Barbara – Ickenham Library

2. The Prestige by Christopher Priest

prestigeAlmost genre defying, what with a plot about rival Victorian magicians in London, epistolary narratives and some very Gothic goings on, but at heart this is the very essence of science fiction. Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier are bitter rivals, the stakes raised when Borden unveils a seemingly impossible magic trick called The New Transported Man. Angier can’t figure out how he does it, but he seeks the help of inventor Nikola Tesla to better the original, using the modern science of electricity to transport matter from one place to another. In A Flash is the more impressive spectacle, but is it a magic trick? And is it what it seems? What are the costs to both magicians in keeping their secrets so closely guarded? The books theme of duplicity, obsession and deathly ambition are perfectly served by the events, and the structure allows for a gradual, thrilling release of information that makes this an intelligent page turner. There’s an elegant mirroring of the fates of the two main characters, and so many potential spoilers that I need to stop writing about it and just urge you to read it! (The Christopher Nolan film version is great, too, with some very different plot decisions that Christopher Priest was very impressed by).

5 out of 5 stars. Darren – Uxbridge Library

3. Anthem by Ayn Rand

6ea37cfa1f7ecf6236a7e282bf6c244eWritten in 1937, this short novel anticipates the horrors of Nazi-Fascism with disturbing precision. The male protagonist, Equality 7-2521, lives in a future world where people bear numbers instead of names, and centuries of cultural and technological regression, together with linguistic engineering, have created a colourless and static society. Love and friendship are forbidden. No electricity, no printing, no mirrors. Science itself has lost its meaning, and any idea, or even evidence, which is not supported by all men will be discarded. There is no space for individual acts, no room for solitude and independence. A striking line shows the dangers of conformism: “What is not thought by all men cannot be true,” said Collective 0-0009.” I found it an inspiring reading, ambitious and rich. Ayn Rand could have developed this novella in a full-length novel, but this is not always necessary when an author writes about such powerful ideas. After 80 years ‘Anthem’ is still a relevant book.

4 out of 5 stars. Federico – Northwood Library

4. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

i-am-legend-cover001The very first zombie apocalypse story and by far the best. When Robert Neville finds himself the last person on earth not affected by a new disease turning everyone, living and dead, into vampires, he boards himself up in his house to keep them out and stay alive. By night naked infected women prostrate themselves outside, trying anything they can to get him to come out, and his old neighbour Ben Cortman relentlessly keeps on calling him “Neville… Neville”. He descends into alcoholism and paranoia, hoping beyond hope that just maybe there are other people like him. Then he finds Ruth and everything changes.

I adore this book. Matheson says so much on themes such as society, loneliness, desperation and resilience. Neville is your ultimate ‘everyman’, instantly relatable and it’s painful to see him relive the death of his partner and child, as well as working non-stop all day just to be able to feel safe at night (which is rare). Yet, the deeper he spirals into depression the harder he works and it’s when he decides to work on a cure to the disease you can see how clever Matheson is. I love the concept of a new society growing out of chaos into something new and without giving too much away it’s this that is the final blow to Neville. The last lines encompass the book “a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.”

All the stars ever. Lara – Harefield Library

5. Do Android Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

DoAndroidsDreamI’m not a huge fan of science fiction in general, finding it tends to the pretentious or the banal, sometimes both at once. Among the shining exceptions, the shiniest for me is Philip K. Dick, who sadly died just before the film of this novel, retitled Blade Runner, brought his futuristic imagination to wider notice. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a much better title, though you can see why they made the change. It encapsulates the humour in Dick’s writing, which is never far from the surface. For instance, an incidental delight of this novel is the concept of kipple, i.e. paper litter which, when nobody is around, reproduces itself. It’s a feature of a world transformed by radioactive dust but strikes a chord in ours too. The basic plot will be familiar to anyone who, unlike me, has seen Blade Runner. A bounty hunter is on the trail of six androids, illegally on Earth after escaping a colony planet. He must subject them to a scientific empathy test to detect their lack of humanity before ‘retiring’ (i.e. killing) them. In the complex process of doing so he finds himself questioning what it means to be human. In Dick’s world nothing and nobody are what they they seem, and in later works his drug-fuelled visions acquired a certain paranoia, but this novel is among his most celebrated. For a serious but not solemn science fiction experience, it cannot be bettered.

Lots of stars, planets, and other heavenly bodies. Mike – Eastcote Library

6. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

9781785033780Science fiction as social commentary is a pretty rich theme and Woman on the Edge of Time is one the greatest, if not the greatest exploration of feminism, race and the future. Starting with the main character, Connie or Consuelo being beaten by her niece’s pimp, you soon learn that her life and those of a poor chicana woman in the Bronx is pretty wretched. Incarcerated against her will in mental institutions, forced into abortions and medical procedures without her consent she isn’t treated as a human. All the while the pimps and men that dominate her life see women as either commodities, punching bags or incapable of their own decisions. Her visions (or are they something more?) of life in 2137 with the androgynous Luciente and the village utopia provide some respite. Their harmonious village of simple living, relative harmony, gender equality and a radical take on the family are the opposite of her life of grinding poverty and exploitation. Covering race, misogyny and environmental catastrophe the novel seems as relevant now as when it was written in 1976. As with all science fiction the utopian future of Luciente is of course not as utopian as it might first appear and questions of gender, sex and violence are not simply treated. Thoughtful, provocative and relevant – this book stands the test of time and is a must read for fans of feminist fiction.

4 out of 5 stars. Stephen – Yeading Library

Have you read any of these? Are you a Science Fiction enthusiast? You can borrow all these books from our catalogue. Thanks for reading!

Dawley Flint and Mysterious Horse Skulls


Among the lesser known items in the Hillingdon Local Studies Service museum collection are around 170 stone age flint tools and animal bones, including a pair of deer antlers and mammoth teeth – echoes of Hillingdon’s long vanished past, and pointers to a time when our ancestors survived by hunting and gathering.

We recently received two boxes of local bones and flints from Newham Museum Service. Besides some tools of the early Palaeolithic period (500,000-70,000 BC) from Dawley, there are two horse skulls – fragile, but fairly intact.

These are a mystery. Are they from ancient wild prehistoric horses, from pre-Roman domesticated animals employed for ploughing or pulling war chariots, or from something much more recent?

We will probably never know – but if you ask me, my money’s on war chariots!

By Paul – Local Studies