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The war years

In the First World War the Common became a large army camp and training ground before the troops were sent abroad. It also housed an airstrip near the windmill for the defence of London. The 190th Brigade of Field Artillery was a local volunteer force of 700 men with their equipment depot in Queens Road. They were the last such unit to be set up before the introduction of conscription in 1916. In addition, the Volunteer Training Corps of 600 men had been formed in 1914 for local defence. Like the Home Guard of the Second World War they had to make do with whatever weapons they could find until quite late on in the war.

Local residents were much more involved in the Second World War mainly due to the air raids. In 1914-18 only one bomb fell on Wimbledon, but in the later conflict over 350 bombs fell, killing 150 residents and wounding a further 1071. Approximately 8,000 houses were damaged and 810 destroyed. Preparations for war had already begun in 1937 with the formation of the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) service and shelters were built in 1938. By the outbreak of war child evacuation was already underway. Respirators (gas masks) were distributed which had to be carried at all times.