Wimbledon and Putney Commons in World War II

Wimbledon and Putney Commons - World War II

Whilst VE Day (Victory in Europe) marked the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, many thousands of Armed Forces personnel were still engaged in bitter fighting in the Far East. August 15 marks the day Japan surrendered and so finally ending the Second World War.

This seems a timely moment to remember the part that the Commons played in this war and some of the facts from our history.

In the 1939-45 war, trenches were dug as defensive positions and rows of posts were erected across open spaces to prevent aircraft or gliders landing. Concrete ‘dragon’s teeth’ acted as barriers for tanks, a concrete pill-box was built within the Old Pound on Parkside and heavy anti-aircraft guns were sited near the Windmill adding to defences.

An ammunition dump was concealed in the trees by Queensmere and barbed wire marked the boundaries with the army camp near the Windmill.  Another camp, near Southside Common, housed Italian prisoners of war who tended crops of corn and vegetables grown on parts of the Common not used for army activities. 

The gravel pits and sand dunes about the Common became marked with the tracks of Bren gun carriers which practiced there. In October 1943 the Conservators gave the War Department permission to use Kingsmere, from Monday to Friday, for the testing of waterproof vehicles.

An army assault course stood beside Rushmere pond for troop training and fitness. 

During air raids many bombs fell on the Common, including some that failed to explode and required excavation from a considerable depth.  


The only German aircraft to land was a bomber which crashed onto the Royal Wimbledon Golf Club and scattered burning wreckage over a wide area including the Common.

During winter 1941 Roehampton War Memorial was bombed and badly damaged by enemy action and a replacement was built in 1948.

In February 1944 the War Department requisitioned Queensmere for military purposes.

Although the Commons were not used for aviation during the Second World War, Germany had other ideas. As part of their aviation plans, Wimbledon Common was earmarked to form the main airport for flying in troops and equipment during the siege of London.