Baked Beans and Air Raids – Brixton during World War II

Brixton remained a remand prison during the second world war.  Among its inmates were deportees, prisoners of war, conscientious objectors and debtors.

The local magistrates still inspected the prison weekly.  Their duties included monitoring general cleanliness and the quality of the food.  But they were also responsible for investigating any complaints the prisoners had.

Their reports for the period leading up to and during the second world war suggest it was a place of relative comfort which was clean, if in places a little smelly.

29th September 1937  Number 2/32 complained that because beans are being served during the weekend when the men are being confined to their cells, it causes an organic reaction resulting in a “very bad smell” in the cell.  The complainant however did not complain about the actual food.

12th August 1940  Visited all parts of Prison.  Found the prison very clean in all parts.  I heard a few complaints mostly from aliens awaiting deportation.  Otherwise everybody seemed comfortable under circumstances.

23rd May 1941  Cell doors opened during air raid.

29th September 1941  Estaban complained about his meals.  I asked him to bring me his meal for the day, but this meal smelt so very appetising that I should have eaten it myself quite willingly.  Estaban admitted that it was really quite good, but said that I ought to come on Tuesday and Wednesdays.

26th March 1942  Prisoner 1416 suggested that he had an idea for an improved type of airplane and asked for leave to send his ideas to the air ministry.

May 8th 1943  I visited all section of the prison between 11 and 11.30am.  I found every part exceedingly clean and tidy, the food smelt so good that I fully understand why so many of the prisoners were looking so healthy and happy.

24th May 1943  Several minor requests which appeared to have no merit.  H L Roditi alleged he had been bitten by a rat  – inspected the bites, and agree with medical officer that these were self-inflicted.

12th November 1943  I made an inspection of the prison this morning and found the usual cleanliness and good order and discipline.  There was a particularly good dinner being provided to day.  Baked fish, onion sauce, potatoes and treacle pudding.  A really good dinner.

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