1939-1945: Kew at war
The 1939-1945 war also brought change to the Gardens and its management.
As before, lawns were dug up to plant vegetable crops and women
replaced most men in the workforce. Rare and valuable books, paintings
and irreplaceable Herbarium specimens were temporarily stored in
Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Kew's public advisory role expanded to include demonstration vegetable
plots, designed to show the public how to grow food. Households
were encouraged by the Government to 'Dig for Victory' and try to
become self-sufficient in vegetables through use of allotments and
garden vegetable patches.
Kew was also central in the search for replacements for important
vegetable products now denied to Britain by the war, and specialised
in the growing of pharmaceutical plants.
The Pagoda's sturdy construction - Joseph Banks had said it was
"built of very strong bricks" - was proved when it survived
a close call from a stick of German bombs exploding nearby. This
was ironic, since at the time, holes had been made in each of its
floors so that British bomb designers from the Royal Aircraft Establishment
could drop 'small bomb shapes' of their latest inventions from top
to bottom to study their behaviour in flight. These holes still
All in all, the gardens and buildings survived the war relatively
unscathed. About 30 high explosives had fallen within the Gardens,
breaking glass in several buildings, including the Temperate House
and the Palm House. The Tropical Water Lily House was severely damaged.
The most significant effect of the war, however, was that the years
of reform and development were slowed.
Sadly, Sir Arthur Hill was killed in a riding accident in 1941.
Edward Salisbury was finally appointed as his successor in 1943
and it was he who saw the Gardens through the final years of the
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