For many years after the Second World War, food remained in short supply.  Many organisations and individuals from former colonies chose to send food parcels to Britain, to show solidarity and gratitude for help during the War.

On 3rd December 1945 a notice appeared in the London Evening News informing the public that thousands of Christmas puddings were on their way from South Africa, and that in order to claim one, pensioners should write to their local council.

Staff at the Local Studies Library & Archive have this week discovered a file of correspondence relating to these Christmas puddings, and the many other food gifts sent to Richmond Borough from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Many local pensioners wrote to Richmond Council to apply for a pudding.  For example, Isabella Palmer of 20 Maze Road, Kew, wrote on behalf of her 81-year-old sister-in-law Annie, to say she would not be able to afford such luxuries under normal circumstances.

Christmas Presents from the Colonies
Letter from Isabella Palmer

Leopold Nye was 70 years old and working at the Stuart Hotel on Richmond Hill, ‘doing odd jobs for a little cash’.  In his letter (shown below), he describes his life as a sailor in the First World War, and how he was shipwrecked twice.

Christmas Presents from the Colonies
Letter from Leopold Nye

Sadly, due possibly to an administrative error, it seems the Christmas puddings never arrived in Richmond.  However, the Council did eventually receive 48 cases of raisins and 24 jars of jam from South Africa, which it proceeded to distribute among local pensioners.

Martha Flood, of 55 Sheen Road, Richmond, was one of the raisin recipients, and sent a thank-you letter saying ‘in these difficult times, it is very pleasing to see our Empire thinks of us old people.’

Christmas Presents from the Colonies
Letter from Martha Flood

The food gifts correspondence file covers the years 1945-1949, and can be viewed in the Local Studies search room at the Old Town Hall, Richmond.  Local Studies houses thousands of documents that tell the story of the Borough and its people.

[ by Felix Lancashire, Archivist ]