Quiet little country station in Meon Valley hosts world’s war leaders

Winston Churchill and other world leaders posing alongside the royal train (l to r): Mackenzie King (Canada); Churchill; Peter Fraser (New Zealand); General Eisenhower (USA); Sir Godfrey Huggins (South Rhodesia), and General Smuts (South Africa).
Winston Churchill and other world leaders posing alongside the royal train (l to r): Mackenzie King (Canada); Churchill; Peter Fraser (New Zealand); General Eisenhower (USA); Sir Godfrey Huggins (South Rhodesia), and General Smuts (South Africa).
The Royal Pier Hotel, now Rees Hall.

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If you were living at Droxford 70 years ago today and tried to approach its railway station you would have found it a no-go area. For it would have been crawling with soldiers guarding the rural halt.

If you had wanted to catch a train, passes and ID would have been demanded and you would have been asked for your destination.

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For over three days, June 2-4, 1944, some of the most momentous decisions of the Second World War were taken on a train at this little country station in the Meon Valley.

The carriages, comprising LMS Royal Train stock, arrived late on Thursday, June 2 and left on Sunday, June 5 at 6.58pm. On board were those in the photograph here plus President de Gaulle, the French leader in exile in Britain. It is said that on arrival Churchill made sure the train went into a long siding so when de Gaulle arrived he had to walk from the station to board the train.

This famous photograph, said to be taken at Droxford, may in fact have been taken at Ascot as the canopy is a little different.

Unfortunately the canopy at Ascot was destroyed by fire in 1982 so there was no point making a visit to confirm either way.

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I was recently watching the 1950 film Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye starring the great Jimmy Cagney and I was struck by the fridges and shops in the film.

When Cagney goes into a store it looks like a modern shop in England. Shelves were stacked with goods and there was no sign of the austerity Britain faced at that time. The owners of Britain’s corner shops would have marvelled at the range of goods on the shelves of the store across the Pond.

What also impressed me were the fridges in the shop and in Cagney’s apartment – massive chillers which included a freezer cabinet.

I can remember my mother buying her first fridge sometime in the mid-1960s. It was a small Frigidaire, three feet high with just enough room to stop butter melting and milk going off. The ice box could hold a few ice-cubes.

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There was no rationing of course, so while Britain struggled life went on as usual in the United States.

In the two ‘then and now’ photographs taken on the junction of Eldon Street and Sackville Street, Southsea, we see how things have changed in this part of the city since the older picture was taken in 1961.

On the corner is a building about to be demolished before it falls down and in the distance all seems a little bleak.

The Eldon Arms can be seen in the mid-distance on the left and you can still spot it in the modern picture.

A block of flats is now on the corner of Sackville Street.