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World War Two in Whipsnade

For a small community Whipsnade received an unexpected amount of attention from the Luftwaffe in 1940. County Air Raid Precautions Control records [WW2/AR/CO] reveal four separate incidents in the short period of August to September that year. It may be that the zoo, with its large sheds looked like a military installation and that bombers going for other targets, such as Luton, dropped their bombs short.

On 30th August 1940 nine 50lb (110 kg) bombs fell in the parish, some of them did not explode [WW2/AR/CO2/1]. In a separate raid that day eighteen more bombs were dropped [WW2/AR/CO2/1].

On 6th October 1940 eleven high explosive bombs were dropped on Whipsnade Park [WW2/AR/CO2/2] and ten days later an oil bomb and four high explosive bombs fell of Whipsnade Zoo [WW2/AR/CO2/2].

No one in Whipsnade was killed in any of these raids but 56 people in Luton died as a result of the air raid of 30th August. The majority of these were at the Vauxhall Motor Works, which made tanks. As part of the civil defence programme there was a First Aid Post at Whipsnade Zoo between 1939 and 1945 [WW2/AR/C2/17 and 252].

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The record states that there was a hutment hostel for land girls in Whipsnade [HER 18245]. These were members of the Women’s Land Army, doing the jobs on farms otherwise done by men before they were called up. The hutment was adjacent to Chequers Cottages opposite the Chequers Public House and accommodated sixteen land girls from 1943 onwards.