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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

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Working with the Americans 1953-1962

A talk with Don Ross, 28th April 2011

A trip down memory lane to 1953.

While I was at Isleworth Grammar school, my parents saw an advert to become a cartographer for the War Office. I applied, and was sent to the War Office in Bushy Park. The Americans were there working, producing maps for the RAF. This work was carried out from 1947 on the American base. The Americans were there from 1942 onwards.

I had no experience of cartography. There were strict academic requirements. They wanted science, maths, geography and a strong talent in drawing. I passed the drawing test and started work in September 1953. I was trained in photography, lithography and cartography. In addition, they sent me to Kingston College of Technology, as it was then known (now the University), to do course on Town Planning and Cartography, and I also learnt Russsian., as it was our task was to transliterate Russian maps into Anglicised version.

It was amazing, becoming a cartographer and a civil servant. My first month’s money was £12. That’s the equivalent today of 2 hours on the minimum national wage. My salary was £144 per annum in 1953. Those were austere times. Rationing had stopped, but things were still hard to come by.

On entering the American Base, it was like going into utopia. The Americans were generous to us. They gave us Turkey and all the trimmings and other things like lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, even Coca Cola which was unheard of in England at that time.

I passed the 12-month rigorous training course where we had to draw on enamel zinc (a stable medium). We drew the contours, drainage, air routes (‘reporting points’) while the senior draughtsmen stood over us, supervising.

In total, there were 132 of us in the War Office: printers, plate makers, cartographers. Amongst those, there were 30 Polish draughtsmen. Polish soldiers were with British forces during the war, but could not go back to Russia. Some had horrendous tales to tell. Many used to work in Ealing. To this day there is a strong polish community in Ealing. The highlight of our month was to be invited to a Polish Birthday, drinking vodka and eating salami sausage, which was then unknown here.

The Ordnance Survey maps were derived from a collective term for artillery – accurate mapping to enable the military to function. The Baseline for these types of maps was measured with glass rods as they did not expand carried out by General Roy.

I started work at the height of the Cold War. The Americans involved us in all sorts of things to do with their space programme. We had musical accompaniment to our work. Bushy Park was home to the ‘751 US Airports Band’, the base at Bushy Park always had concerts.

It was an extraordinary time for us school leavers. I was only there for 2 years and National Service beckoned. I went to Cyprus and I surveyed and drew maps of Cyprus. We did this to an accompaniment of unrest. I had been stoned, by children, for the first time in my life. We were all armed to the teeth but what can you do when children are throwing stones at you? We beat a hasty retreat.

Many thanks to Don Ross for his informative talk.

Emma Morrison, April 2011

Why we need more Friends

With more members our voice is stronger when we campaign to protect the Parks, and with more subscription income we can do more to provide information and education about the Parks, their wildlife and their history.

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Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Thursday, 26th Oct 8:00 pm

The wonders of Fungi – talk by Brian Spooner, former head of Mycology at Kew

Latest report

A perimeter walk of Home Park led by Nicholas Garbutt was enjoyed by over 45 people on 2nd September.Walk in Home Park- 2nd September

Full report...

Information Point

The Information Point next to the Pheasantry Welcome Centre café is where our volunteers help visitors to find out more about the parks and where visitors can purchase souvenirs of your visit to support our work.

Click this panel to visit our Information Point section and also to find out how you can get involved as a volunteer.