Tag Archives: Sandhurst Road School

VE Day in Lee and Hither Green

Friday 8 May 2020 sees the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, VE, Day and would have been celebrated both locally and nationally if these were normal times – it was to be one of the themes of the 2020 Hither Green Festival – maybe this will be re-visited later in the year.  We’ll look at what happened that day in 1945 with a local perspective.

After Berlin was surrounded by Allied forces and Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, the end of the war was quite rapid.  A week later, on 7 May 1945 Germany accepted an unconditional surrender of German Forces in most of the areas that they still occupied in the Netherlands and northwest Germany and the surrender came into effect the following day.  A further surrender document was signed with the Russians on 8 May.

Running Past has covered many of the areas of the Home Front in recent months (for the 70th anniversary of war breaking out); the winding down of the Home Front was rapid in early May – public air raid shelters were closed down, as was the air raid warning system and plans were made for the return of evacuee children and mothers by the end of May (1).

Over a million people took to the streets on 8 May in celebration throughout Great Britain to mark the end of the European part of the war.  Many massed in central London, particularly in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace as featured in the video footage (the sound levels are a bit variable, so beware!)

Many celebrated locally though; South Park Crescent (above and below) had been built as part of the Verdant Lane estate in the early 1930s and was the scene of a large party.  No doubt the celebrations were tempered there though by memories of 5 children from there and neighbouring streets who were amongst 38 children and 5 teachers who died at Sandhurst Road School.  There had also been a V-1 flying bomb that hit the junction of South Park and Further Green Road less than a year before at 16:48 on 12 July 1944 which injured 15 (3) –  several houses were destroyed and lots damaged – perhaps including the roofs of those pictured below).

In and around Hither Green, there were several other street parties including ones in The Woodlands and neighbouring Blashford Street.

Lee too saw several street parties, mainly in the working class streets.  Taunton Road had seen a lot of damage in the Blitz with several lives lost.  There was a posed picture probably taken close to the park entrance, the road in the background is Wantage Road.

Just around the corner in Brightfield Road (below) there was another street party in the part of the street that was built by John Pound and had originally been called Robertson Street.  As can be seen from the photograph, the party wasn’t  held there until early June 1945. 

Brightfield Road had seen some damage from the V-1 flying bomb that hit the junction of Lenham and Lampmead Roads.  In addition, there was Blitz damage to houses close to the bridge over the Quaggy, with several destroyed and several seriously damaged; along with three houses on the southern side of the bend which were damaged beyond repair (3).  The houses destroyed in Brightfield Road were never rebuilt, a new entrance to Manor House Gardens was created in their stead and those damaged beyond repair suffered a similar fate – they were to become an entrance to, what became after the war, Northbrook School and is now Holy Trinity

The street scene is now markedly different – the attractive bank buildings at the end of the street were lost after the war either to Penfold’s or Sainsbury’s expansion – more on the building another day, as there is an interesting story behind it.

While there were dozens of parties, as Lewis Blake noted, ‘for all the public display, it may be assumed that a majority of people stayed quietly at home.’ (4)

In addition to the celebration of the end of hostilities, there will have been a relief that bombing and rocket attacks were over – roads like Springbank, Taunton and Aislibie Roads had been badly affected by the Blitz, with V-1s hitting lots of local streets – including Nightingale Grove, (pictured below) Fernbrook Road, between Springbank and Wellmeadow Roads along with Leahurst Road, and as we’ve mentioned the Lenham/Lampmead junction.

A couple of days after VE Day, Lewisham was visited by the King and Queen who stopped in a packed town centre to survey the damage caused by the V-1 flying bomb from 10 months before (it’s at about 4:10 into the film, which is sadly silent).

Other than the rebuilding which was to continue for the best part of 20 years, the other element of wartime privations that was to linger on for almost another decade was rationing, which didn’t officially end for meat until 1954.

If you have personal or family local VE Day memories, please do post them either in the Facebook thread you reached this post from or in the comments below, if you haven’t commented here before, it may take a few hours for your comment to be approved.  I will hopefully add some of the comments into the main post.

In early May 2020 we don’t have the potential for street parties, but oddly, despite the lock down, we are probably contacting and seeing more of our neighbours than any of the generations since the end of World War Two. Every Thursday evening with the #ClapforCareWorkers most of our small street come out to clap and bang pots and pans; if we are typical, people often stay out in the street to chat, keeping social distancing, of course.  Neighbours are checking in with each other by phone with shopping bought for those having to stay at home.  Perhaps, for now at least, this is the World War Two type spirit we should embrace and celebrate, the parties will have to wait.

Notes

  1. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 -1945 p62
  2. From ARP Logs held at Lewisham Archives
  3. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p119
  4. Blake, op cit p66

Credits and Thanks

  • Thank you to Andy Wakeman and Clive Andrews for allowing the use of their family photographs of the South Park Road party – the photographs remain their families’ copyright;
  • The photgrpahs of Brightfield Road and Taunton Road are part of the collection of the Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright;
  • The photograph of the destruction on Nightingale Grove is from the collection of the Imperial War Museum – it is used here on a Non-Commercial Licence

Woodlands Street – A Hither Green Street

Woodlands Street is a Hither Green road that has been touched on a couple of times before – notably in relation to its builders, WJ Scudamore who completed work on this and the neighbouring streets of Benin and Blashford at the end of the 19th century.  This post looks at what was there before the the street was developed, Hope Cottage, the early residents along with the impact of the war on the street along with recent changes.

Hope Cottage was built on farmland in around 1840; it was described initially as Wood Cottage in the 1841 census. While it was called a ‘cottage’ it was anything but and was located on what is now the forecourt of the shops of 272/274 Hither Green Lane (1). Unlike many of the large houses in Hither Green and Lee, there was no complicated history of ownership and tenants to unravel, Hope Cottage was built for, and inhabited by, the same family throughout its life. The Ordnance Survey cartographers got to name wrong when they surveyed the area in the mid-1860s – describeing it as Oak Cottage.  The real Oak Cottage was further south off what is now Verdant Lane.

It was built for William and Eleanor Butler (both born around 1785), the former was a wealthy grocer and property owner who hailed from St Pancras. It was an area they seem to have stayed in as all the children were born there.

In the 1861 census, what was then referred to as Hope Cottage was described as being in ‘Brightside’ – a lane down the side of the property to a property of that name, it is a name which lives on in the relatively nearby Brightside Road.  Hope Cottage was home to the now retired Butlers, William and Eleanor along with their adult children Charles (42, born in 1819) and William (56, 1805) who were both fund holders and Eleanor (45, 1816) who didn’t work.

Eleanor (Snr) probably died in 1870; but everyone else had remained at Hope Cottage, with Richard, born in 1819 having moved back to the house. William (Snr) died in 1876.  By 1881, all the younger Butlers were still there and had been joined by their younger sister Elizabeth who was widowed, all were described as having an income derived from houses and dividends.

By 1891 there was just Charles, Eleanor and Elizabeth remaining, all described as ‘living on their own means.’  In the latter years of the three siblings, the city was rapidly encroaching on what had been originally a country house:

By this stage Charles was the only remaining Butler, Elizabeth had died in 1893 and Eleanor in 1896. Charles sold up to W J Scudamore soon after Eleanor’s death and seems to have moved in with a nephew in one of the large houses on Brownhill Road – he was there in the 1901 census.

This was one of the earlier sites in the area that family building firm W J Scudamore developed in the area; the work was started in the late 1890s with payments for the connection of the sewers into Hither Green Lane made in 1899. However, the building was probably over several years. In the 1901 Census,  21 – 27 at the south western end (away from Hither Green Lane) were not recorded, with 19 and 20 (the numbering is consecutive) appeared not to be fully occupied and may have only just been let.

Unlike some of the bigger houses on Hither Green Lane along with the bigger Corbett Estate houses, Woodlands Street was a working class street.  Virtually all the houses were subdivided into flats, 3 room flats 6/- (30p) a week with the 4 room variants 7/6d (38p) in 1904 (2) with the homes managed from the Scudamore’s estate office at 1 Benin Street.   It was only the southern side of the street that was built on – the edge of the Park Fever Hospital formed the northern side of the street.

A few houses seemed have singles families, including the Ives at 2 and the Lees at 6, although with each of these it may be that part of the house was empty at the time the enumerators called in 1901.  Some were significantly overcrowded – there were 14 people living at number 4.  That said there were slightly fewer people living there on average than in the smaller houses in Ardmere Road in 1901 – the average there was 7.4 per house, with 6.9 in Woodlands Street with a median (mid-point) of 8 and 7 respectively.

The trades were all manual work, a lot linked to the building industry – it will be remembered that the Corbett Estate was still being built and while the Archibald Cameron Corbett used some of the smaller houses in streets such as Sandhurst Road to house workers, the demand for housing will have spilled out into estates such as this.  Some of the tenants may also have been employees of the Scudamores. There were several bricklayers, a pair of plumbers, a house painter and a trio of carpenters.  Several worked on the railway, perhaps based at Hither Green.

In the early years there were a few cases of crime – several of these involved neighbour disputes and included one of tenants of 24 being convicted for throwing a flower pot at child of the other tenant of 24, while it missed, the court fined her 5/- (25p) (3).

There were a fair number of cases of drunkenness; George Fowler of 10 was convicted of being drunk and disorderly, using abusive language towards the police and fined £1 or 2 weeks in prison (4). His neighbour at 11, Andrew Smith,  was arrested for being drunk and disorderly at the Black Horse in Catford in 1905 and was fined as a result (5).

Richard Sancto of no 7 was charged with being drunk and disorderly and assaulting Joesph Gibbs of Ardmere Road and a police Constable who tried to break up a fight in Courthill Road. Sancto was sentenced to two months hard labour in the summer of 1907 (6).

There were thefts too, some local, some a little further afield – Fanny Gotts of 13 was charged with the theft of two pairs of trousers in Greenwich – pleaded guilty and sentenced to 21 days hard labour (7).

By the time the 1939 Register was collected just after the outbreak of World War Two, the nature of employment on the street had changed markedly.  As was the case in Ardmere Road, the number employed in the building industry had dropped sharply – this was not surprising as, other than a few small infill sites, there wasn’t much new housing being built in the area.  Work was almost entirely manual amongst the men, with around 1/3 being given the ‘heavy work’ suffix which attracted additional rations during the war.  There were lots of labourers, a few lorry drivers, and several working on the railways.  Other than those who were unmarried, very few women worked – amongst those who weren’t married there were several cleaners, a couple of telephonists, a typist, a tie packer and a knitting machinist.

In the 28 houses (48 households) six were working on war preparations with the navy in Deptford, RAF Kidbrooke and the Royal Arsenal.  In addition three of the residents on the street had already been recruited to Air Raid Precaution work – Albert Chambers at 15 and Albert Hudson at 18 were part time ARP Wardens with Frederick Cook at No 2 recruited on a full-time basis.

There were more children in the street than perhaps expected – eleven with ages and another 22 redacted cases (anyone who may still be alive is blacked out on the Register).  Most children had been evacuated, including from the school site that many of the boys will have received their education at Catford Central Boys School, Brownhill Road Boys School which was split into infants and juniors.

One other point that has already been alluded too was that these were still shared houses.  The levels of overcrowding were not as great as in 1901, although this is probably largely explained by evacuation.

Key: black=total destruction, purple=damaged beyond repair, dark red=seriously damaged (doubt if repairable), light red=seriously damaged (repairable at cost), orange=general blast damage (non-structural), yellow=blast damage (minor), green=clearance area

There was some damage to the street as a result of World War 2 attacks – Woodlands Street is around the centre of the map above; it is coloured red which means that the homes were ‘seriously damaged (repairable at cost)’ – given that the Park Hospital next door was a one of the two specific targets of the Luftwaffe, along with the railway marshalling yards behind Springbank Road (8), it is perhaps surprising that there wasn’t more collateral damage during the Blitz.

In fact, the main damage came in an awful day time raid on 20 January 1943 when a number of FW190 planes got through defences with indiscriminate shooting  at numerous civilians, killing 6 people and injuring 14 others.  Each plane had a 500 kg bombs; one of these was dropped at Sandhurst Road School at 12:31 killing 38 children and 6 teachers.  Another landed in Woodlands Street 4 minutes later– the impact must have been in the street itself as none of the houses were destroyed, and just 2 injured.  The ARP Log notes that the road was closed due the scale of debris and that 66 houses were severely damaged – this included houses in neighbouring streets too.

In some locations where World War 2 damage is easy to spot with replacement houses in a different style or large areas of different bricks used – there were brick shortages post World War Two and it was often to get exact matches. The tell-tale signs are less clear here – in a few houses bricks the red brick detail around square bays of the yellow London Brick Co ‘Stocks’ is missing.  But the only really obvious signs are on one house above with different window styles and a missing pointed roof to a bay window.  That said, a lot of houses on the street are  rendered or have painted brickwork which hides what happened underneath.

The street outlasted the hospital next door which closed in 1997.  The hospital site was redeveloped over the next decade or so mainly by Bellway – ‘badged’ as Meridian South (the Prime Meridian passes through the end of Woodlands Street).  The Woodlands Street part seems to have been one of the later phases and was developed for a housing association.

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green, The Forgotten Hamlet p35
  2. Kentish Mercury 05 February 1904
  3. Woolwich Gazette 15 July 1904
  4. Kentish Independent 11 September 1903
  5. Kentish Mercury 06 October 1905
  6. Kentish Mercury 09 August 1907
  7. Kentish Independent 13 March 1903
  8. Smith op cit p63

Credits

  • The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland.
  • Census, 1939 Register and related data is via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The ARP Log was accessed via the under-resourced, but always helpful, Lewisham Archives
  • The bomb damage mape is via Laurence Ward’s ‘The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945’ published in 2015 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives, to use the image here

Preparations for World War Two – ARP Wardens, Sirens and Black Outs

As part of the 80th anniversary of World War 2 breaking out, Running Past has been looking at some of the preparations for war on the ‘Home Front.’ So far, this has included Lewisham children being evacuated to Kent then Surrey and the variety of shelters used to one of the key elements try to keep the civilian population safe during air raids. We return now to the Civil Defence services set up to try to keep the civilian population that remained in London and other urban centres as safe as possible from the air attacks that were expected soon after war broke out.  This post looks in particular the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) service.

Like the building of shelters, the roots go back to the interwar period. The ARP Department of the Home Office was set up in 1935 (1),  although appeals for volunteers were not made until 1937 – the approach was based on studying the impact of fascist bombing of Republican areas of Spain and the measures that were employed on the ground there (2). A second appeal for volunteers was made in March 1938 (3).

In the months before war broke out, it was agreed to pay full time ARP personnel £3 per week, although only £2 for women, with recruitment posters stressing the desire for ‘responsible men.’ Later in the year payments for some part time personnel were agreed (4).

Some of the early work that ARP wardens had to contend with was enforcing the blackout that was introduced on 1 September 1939 and lasted until April 1945 (5). Shop windows were darkened from 6:00 pm as were houses – requiring heavy curtains or blankets to ensure that no light escaped. Streets in almost darkness were dangerous with a large increase in injuries – 20% of the population reported as having suffered blackout related injuries in the first 4 months that they were in operation.

Road deaths increased around 40% when compared with pre-war fatalities. Regular readers will recall that a few years earlier Lewisham streets were noted as being some of the most dangerous in London.

Source ebay March 2016

Their control centre was in the basement of the old Town Hall in Catford (above) and, after January 1940, was funded through the rates, a predecessor of Council Tax (6). Every bombing, incendiary and related incident was phoned through to the ARP control centre who effectively acted as an emergency call centre.  They would find out about injuries, deaths, those trapped or missing, any fires that couldn’t be controlled locally (7) and look to send emergency services to assist.  On nights where there was heavy bombardment or large numbers of incendiary devices dropped these were not always available, as we saw with the fire that destroyed the original Church of the Good Shepherd in Lee, below.

Below is one small part of the Lewisham ARP log for the period between Christmas and New Year in 1940, while there had been a lull on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, hundreds of high explosives and incendiary bombs were dropped over the next few days, many around Lee. We’ll explore these attacks in much more detail in later posts.

At the level below the control centre, Individual wardens were based at schools and some purpose built concrete ‘pillboxes’ (8) around the community. They each served a population of 2 to 3,000, typically with a complement of six wardens, mainly part time (9).

One of the ARP posts in Lee was at what was then Hedgley Street School, pictured above (it was later Northbrook and currently Trinity Lewisham School) on the corner of Taunton Road. Running Past has covered the Noble family, who started the war at 49 Lampmead Road, a number of times before, including in relation to 1920’s play and the ‘Sunday Constitutional.’ Several of the family members worked for the ARP – Phyllis was briefly a warden with a navy battledress and steel helmet with a large white ‘W’ on the front (10). Her brother Joe and a cousin, who also lived at 49 Lampmead Road, worked as messengers based at the School – while in theory there were telephone links to Catford, cycle and motor cycle based messengers were used too in case lines came down.

The school was hit while Phyllis’ younger brother, Joe, was working there and partially destroyed. He was to be the only one injured – a bruised ankle from a falling fireplace (11). The ARP post presumably moved to an undamaged part of the evacuated school.

On the ground, the local ARP wardens would deal with whatever was needed, this ranged from providing first aid to those injured in incidents, directing people to shelters and help in getting the dead and injured out of bombed premises, this was both for hits on houses as well as the larger scale destruction of incidents like the attack on Sandhurst Road School in early 1943.

In front of St Stephens Church in Lewisham is a tall metal post with what looks like a pair of speakers attached to the top. It is easy to miss, particularly when the adjacent trees alongside the Quaggy are in leaf. It seems to be Lewisham’s last remaining air raid warning siren – one of around 25 around the then Boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham (12).

Once the warning sounded ARP wardens ensured that residents took cover in one of the air raid shelters; they sounded on over 1200 occasions during the war. Other locations seem to have included a former police station on Catford Hill, Catford Police Station on Bromley Road and Sandhurst Road School. The survival of the Lewisham one probably relates to its location next to the Quaggy and has a residual use as a flood warning siren.

The chilling sound of the air raid warning siren and, at the end, the all clear sound is on the YouTube video.

Finally, it is worth remembering that many ARP wardens lost their lives during the war; across London around 300 perished (13).  Those that died serving their community in Lewisham included (14):

  • Albert Brown (64) of 1 Eliot Hill was Injured at 14 Montpelier Vale on 8 March 1945 in the aftermath of the V-2 attack on Blackheath and died later the same day at Lewisham Hospital (pictured below);
  • Henry Cottell (52) was a Senior Air Raid Warden of 41 Manor Lane Terrace was injured at Lee High Road on 29/12/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Barbara Fleming (16) of 20 Farmfield Road in Bellingham was injured on 16/04/1941 at Warden’s Post, Ashgrove Road; died same day at Lewisham Hospital;
  •  Douglas Hardisty (44) ; of 70 Vancouver Road in Forest Hill who was a Captain in the  Home Guard as well as being an ARP Warden was Injured 21 March 1944, at corner of Vancouver Road and Kilmorie Road; he died at Lewisham Hospital;
  • Kenneth Smith (33) of 251 Burnt Ash Hill was injured at Methodist Chapel, Burnt Ash Hill on 13/10/1940 and died same day at Lewisham Hospital; and
  • Marjorie Wickens (19) of 7 Taunton Road died at the Albion Way Shelter on 11 September 1940.


Running Past will return to the fire watchers, the expanded fire service and other elements of the in later posts on World War Two.

Notes

  1. Mike Brown (1999) Put That Light Out! Britain’s Civil Defence Services at War 1939-45 -Stroud, Sutton Publishing p2
  2. ibid p3
  3. ibid p5
  4. ibid p7
  5. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945 p12
  6. ibid p28
  7. ibid p28
  8. ibid p27
  9. ibid p27
  10. Phyllis Willmott (1988) Coming Of Age in Wartime – London, Peter Owen, p42
  11. ibid p45
  12. Blake, op cit, p41
  13. ibid p29
  14. These are based on records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Picture Credits

  • The recruitment poster comes from the collection of the Imperial War Museum and is used on a Non-Commercial Licence.;
  • The photograph of Hedgley Street School & the ruins of the Good Shepherd come from a booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p16 and it used with the church’s permission;
  • The picture of Sandhurst Road School is via The Newsshopper;
  • The postcard of the Town Hall is from eBay in March 2016;
  • The ARP Log is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives, it is used with their consent and remains their copyright;
  • The photograph of Blackheath is of an unknown source, although given its age is probably a government one and would thus be out of copyright; and
  • The ARP helmet is via Wikipedia and is on a Creative Commons.

 

The Bombing of Sandhurst Road School

Perhaps the most depressing and bleak of Lewisham’s World War Two memorials can be found in Hither Green Cemetery on Verdant Lane – it is to the 38 children and 6 teachers who perished in a daytime bombing of Sandhurst Road School on 20 January 1943.

The school between Minard and Ardgowan Roads had been opened in 1904 – midway through the development of the Corbett Estate – it was not that dissimilar to many of the era, including the one on Eltham’s equivalent Corbett Estate.  The opening ceremony was performed by the Chairman of the London County Council (LCC), J Williams Benn – grandfather of the late Labour politician Tony Benn. The LCC had just taken over responsibility for London’s Schools including those in Lewisham, from the London School Board.

While many children had been evacuated from London during the Blitz of 1940 and 1941 most had returned to the capital.  It was to be another 18 months before V-1 flying bombs started hitting south London.  There were though a few sporadic attacks designed to terrorise the civilian population in the intervening period – often in relation for Allied bombing raids on German cities – these became more organised towards the end of 1943 with Operation Steinbock.

The facts as to what happened are quite simple; it was lunchtime at Sandhurst Road School on 20 January 1943.  A group of 28 Focke-Wulf 190 Fighter-Bombers, escorted by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters (totalling about 60 planes), had taken off at around noon in occupied northern France and had evaded air defences and one of them was able to fly low over Catford and Downham. One of the  Focke-Wulfs was seen over Downham Way spraying bullets towards those on the ground; soon after it flew over Ardogowan Road, just above the roofs of the Corbett Estate, it was carrying a single 500 kg bomb.

At just before 12:30 the plane flew over Sandhurst Road School, there were reports that the plane looped around the school with the pilot waving to children in the playground.  On the ground the bell for lunch had just gone – a few children heard a distant air raid warning siren.  Some pupils made their way to the air raid shelter – oddly a bricked up classroom on the second floor.  The sound of the plane was heard and a few outside realised that it had black crosses of the Luftwaffe.

The bomb was dropped and the children in the air raid shelter were

transformed from neatly dressed school girls into ghastly frightening creatures, covered all over in dust which was choking us too and some of us bleeding from cuts …somehow, there was no panic — just bewilderment. Choking, bleeding and with tears streaming down our faces, we made our way out of the shelter, over girders, plaster, bricks, wood, glass ….. through the debris … there was a huge smouldering gap below us were the bodies of those children (who had been queuing up for lunch), some dead, some dying, some in terrible pain.

Initially even some of the children started to try to help with the rescue effort before emergency services arrived on the scene, but by the evening

it seemed that every available man in the locality was there, digging, some with their bare hands, as was my brother, frantically searching for loved ones, hearts and hands torn. Boys in the services home on leave, digging, searching, all through the night. The Red Cross, the women in the church hall just across the road making tea, tending those brought into the hut, even the vicar in his shirt sleeves had been there since the search had begun. All with one motive, even if it meant constant danger from falling rubble — to get those little mites out.

Sandhurst School1

© IWM. Original Source– Non-commercial reproduction allowed

Despite the claims of the pilot waving at children there is some debate as to whether the pilot realised that it was a school – his report on the raid noted that the large building destroyed was block of flats.  However, other local schools though seem to have been attacked by machine gun in the raid, not necessarily by the same plane though, including at the nearby Catford Boys School and at Prendergast (then on Rushey Green) and a little further away on Ilderton Road, off the Old Kent Road.

Sandhurst School 2

Source News Shopper

In addition to the attack on Sandhurst Road School and the indiscriminate machine-gunning of civilians, which killed six and injured fourteen, there were several other local bombings in the same raid – the recorded ones are serious damage to several houses in Woodlands Street, off Hither Green Lane; Woodham’s Yard on Sangley Road (covered in happier times in Running Past in 2017) took a direct hit with six perishing and 14 injured; and four houses were demolished in Glenfarg Road (1).

Most of the victims, 31 children and one of the teachers, Harriet Langdon, were buried together at Hither Green Cemetery in a civilian war dead plot a week later after a memorial service at St Andrew’s Church on Torridon Road.   The photograph of the crowded cemetery from the Illustrated London News, below (2), with the small coffins is perhaps the most poignant one relating to the bombing, much more so than those of the destruction to the school.

Equally moving was a description within one of the press reports from the Daily Herald (3) of one brief encounter with a 14 year old at the cemetery

“Children walked past the grave – snowdrops narcissi, anemones drifted over the silver name plates.

A girl twitched my coat.  She said “Can you see Rodney’s names down there?  I’ve brought violets for him. They’re the first from the garden.

She was June Jarrett.

When the school at Lewisham was hit, she spent hours searching in the debris for Rodney, her six-year-old brother.

Now with violets in her hand she sought him again.”

Unsurprisingly, most of the victims lived relatively close by, within a mile and a half or so of the school; there were still some who lived some distance away – their parents perhaps moving after the child had been admitted to the school. As has been noted in other posts on World War 2 bomb and rocket damage, despite the war there was still a lot of movement between homes in an area where the private rented sector was large and security of tenure limited, but obviously too because of damage to homes in the Blitz.  The biggest concentration was around  South Park Crescent where 5 of the victims lived.

The orange ‘pin’ marks the school, blue pins children, purple the homes of two siblings and red, the homes of the teachers who died (one is off map in Surrey).  The data came from the CWGC website.

There don’t seem to be any equivalent daytime attacks on Berlin schools by the RAF, although attacks tended to be at night time to avoid the German air defences.  There were in total just over 67,000 British civilian deaths during the war – a figure dwarfed by the numbers of ordinary Germans who died – estimates vary from 1.5 to 3 million, including thousands in the Charlottenburg area that Lewisham is now twinned with.  But it seems that this Terrorangriff, terror-raid, may have been a reprisal, demanded by Hitler, for a RAF bombing of Berlin on 17 January 1943.

That so many bombers got through the air defences without adequate warning and allowing such a catastrophic loss of young life to occur seems like an abject failure.  The Air Minister’s explanation was it was initially thought that the raid was heading for the south coast and it was policy not to send warnings to London unless it was certain that the raid was heading that way. Otherwise the Germans could have easily sent Londoners scurrying into shelters every few hours by sending planes over Kent.  It appears that of the 60 planes, it was a smaller group of around 12 that peeled off towards London which was initially missed and as a result warnings were late (4).

The school was rebuilt after the war and remains – there is a memorial garden of remembrance to the victims and a stained glass window.

There are several contemporary videos that include footage showing the devastation of the school, including this one.

There are some memories of a survivors of the attack in a documentary made to mark the anniversary of the start on World War 2.

Finally, it is worth remembering the names of those who died at the school

The children

  • Malcolm Britton Alexander (11)
  • Brenda Jean Allford (5)
  • Lorina Elizabeth Allford (7)
  • Olive Hilda Asbury (12)
  • Joan Elizabeth Baker (12)
  • Betty Ellen Barley (15)
  • Dennis Handford Barnard (10)
  • Ronald Edward Barnard (9)
  • Anne Rosemary Biddle (5)
  • Judith Maud Biddle (5)
  • Kathleen Myrtle Brazier (13)
  • Donald Victor Brewer (10)
  • Joyce Agnes Brocklebank (11)
  • Pauline Feo Carpenter (4)
  • Margaret Kathleen Grace Chivrall (12)
  • Pamela Mary Joyce Cooper (15)
  • Winifred Mary Cornell (13)
  • Eunice Joan Davies (9)
  • Pauline Mary Davies (7)
  • Joan Margaret Day (12)
  • Olive Annie Margaret Deavin (15)
  • Anthony Drummond (9)
  • Janet Mary Dutnall (5)
  • Richard George Fagan (9)
  • Cyril Arthur Glennon (6)
  • Norman Frederick Greenstreet (8)
  • Norah Marie Harrison (9)
  • Sylvia May Ellen Head (12)
  • Iris May Hobbs (15)
  • Rodney Charles Ash Jarrett (6)
  • John Edward Jones (10)
  • Doreen Alice Lay (6)
  • Mary Rosina O’rourke (15)
  • Evelyn Joyce Scholes (11)
  • Pamela Eileen Silmon (10)
  • Clive Derek Tennant (8)
  • Doreen Thorne (12)
  • Edna Towers (12)

And the teachers

  • Ethel Jessie Betts (53)
  • Virginia Mary Carr (38)
  • Mary Frances Jukes (38)
  • Gladys Maud Knowelden (51)
  • Harriet Irene Langdon (40)
  • Constance May Taylor (58)

 

Notes

  1. Godfrey Smith (1997) Hither Green – The Forgotten Hamlet pp63-64
  2. Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, February 06, 1943; pg. 159; Issue 5416
  3. Daily Herald 28 January 1943
  4. Hull Daily Mail 27 January 1943

 

 

Remembering the WW2 Dead in Lewisham, Lee & Blackheath

As Remembrance Sunday 70 years on from the end of the Second World War approaches this week, it is perhaps worth reflecting on some of the local people who lost their lives during the conflict.  I did a similar piece last year in relation to WW1 combatant deaths, but for WW2, I wanted to focus more on those who lost their lives on the ‘Home Front.’

One of the main differences compared with the WW1 is the number of women who died in the conflict.  While there were deaths in WW1 – such as those I have covered in the blog in relation to the Gotha bombing of Sydenham Road and the Zeppelin attack on Hither Green – they were a very small minority. The extent of aerial attacks by both German and Allied sides in WW2 changed this, as did the changing role of women in the armed forces.  A memorial in Whitehall commemorates both the changes in roles of women during the War and their deaths.

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Albion Way Shelter

At about 4 pm on 11 September 1940, a brick street shelter suffered a direct hit, as a German bomber discharged his remaining bombs as he returned to Germany.  Unsurprisingly there were a large number of casualties, with 41 dying inside the shelter and nearby.  Those who died included

  • William Abbott (56) a shop assistant of 8 Murillo Road;
  • Marjorie Wickens of 7 Taunton Road (19), who was an air raid warden; and
  • Elizabeth Grant of 19 Brightfield Road (19)

All three were buried and commemorated at Hither Green Cemetery.

Deptford Central Methodist Hall

The Central Hall was also hit on 11 September 1940, probably in the same raid as Albion Way, 50 were buried in the rubble whilst sheltering in the basement.  There were 26 deaths – including

  • Phoebe Turner of 60 Harvard Road (45); and
  • Lillian Allum of 47 Effingham Road (40).

Lee Park

There were at least seven who died in the bombing on Lee Park on 17 September in 1940 –  which would have been roughly to the left of the picture below, towards the Lee High Road end of the street.  The church was Christ Church which was bombed at around the same time and has been covered in the blog before.  Those who died were:

  • Emily Collins (62) of 35;
  • Ethel (66) & George Crawford (70) of 31a;
  • Ethel Pollard (39), daughter of the Crawfords also of 31a;
  • Maud (30) & Samuel (32) Nuttal at 31 Lee Park; along with
  • Emma Jane Green (98) from 40 Dacre Park who was visiting 35 Lee Park and died of her injuries later in the year.  Emma seems to have been the oldest recorded civilian casualty of the German air raids on Britain in the Second World War (see comment from Clive Gowlett below)

Leepark

Boone Street

George Loader of 34 Boone Street died aged 85 in the Blitz on 21 September 1940. This probably became one of the sites for prefab bungalows after the war.

Sandhurst Road School

A large bomb was dropped during the day of 20 January 1943 killing 45 children and teachers, the casualties included:

  • Anne & Judith Biddle, 5 year old twins from 22 Muirkirk Road;
  • Pauline and Eunice Davies – Sisters of 9 and 7 from 57 Killearn Road;
  • Dennis and Ronald Barnard 10 and 9 from 120 Further Green Road;
  • Mary Jukes (38) from 3a Newstead Road; and
  • Harriet Langdon (40) from 65 Manor Park

There is a poignant memorial to those who died in Hither Green Cemetery – there is more on this bombing in a specific post written for the 75th anniversary of the attack.

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Hither Green Railway Station

There was a V-1 attack on the station on 29 July 1944 – the day after the Lewisham High Street V-1 explosion, which was covered on the blog a year or so ago.  There were four deaths including a mother and daughter from Walworth, Emily (25) and Jean (1) Champion, Violet Kyle of 11 Morley Road, who died in the Miller Hospital in Greenwich, and William Pontin (38) of Weybridge.

Blackheath Village

There was considerable damage to Blackheath Village on 8 March following a V-2 rocket hitting the Methodist chapel in what is now called Blackheath Grove –  there will be a specific post on this in a few weeks, 134 were injured and there were five deaths including Daisy Denny, Alice Drain and Eve Taylor who all lived in and around Blackheath, and Eve Leibe lived a little further away in St Mildred’s Road.

Note

Unless linked otherwise, the source for all the casualty information is the  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.