Harpenden: A Village at War

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John Cooper's latest book on Harpenden

By Rosemary Ross

John Cooper's latest book, Harpenden: a village in Wartime, has just been published, to coincide with the solemn focus on the centenary of the Armistice that ended the Great War in 1918. Drawing on a wealth of photos - some familiar and some from his own extensive collection of postcards - John links the two World Wars with a picture of the tranquil but growing village of the 1920s and 1930s.

His coverage of the second world war, for which few local photos exist, widens to the the testing of tanks made at the Vauxhall factory in Luton in the surrounding countryside, and to the role made by secret activities at Rothamsted Manor which linked with the code-breaking at Bletchley Park. The bombs which fell on Harpenden, following the railway lines, were most probably intended for the Vauxhall works. Sirens from Abbott and Anderson's factory and from the water tower alerted the population to expected raids, but there no surviving records that we have found of how often the public air-raid shelters were used. Now, as a result of a Town Council project to fill them with foam concrete they will never be used again.

Some captions, such as for the Glen Eagles Hotel (p.53) and St Helena's College (p.65), could mislead future readers, as both have been demolished though rebuilt with features reminiscent of their predecessors. We hope that readers will supplement their browsing this fine collection of photos with browsing this website for more information.

John's book is timely and attractive. Available from outlets in Harpenden.

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This page was added by Rosemary Ross on 06/11/2018.

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