Tag Archives: V-1

The Hither Green Station V-1 Rocket Attack

Running Past has covered several of the almost two hundred V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks on Lewisham, including the ones on Lewisham High Street, Lewisham Hill, Lenham Road, Mercator Road and Hither Green’s Fernbrook Road.  They are important to remember both in terms of the death and injuries caused to ordinary Londoners whose stories often get forgotten, but also in terms of their impact on the urban landscape – both in the short-term and longer term.

Another was on the opposite site of the railway to Fernbrook Road around the junction of Springbank Road and Nightingale Grove, very close to the station at 6:18 on the evening of 29 July 1944. The photograph that is part of the Imperial War Museum collection (produced here on a Creative Commons) shows the devastation all too clearly.

The V-1 would have exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.  There were memories from someone living at the edge of this attack of gardens ‘full of bits of shattered china and pottery from the houses affected by the bomb blast’ many years later.  The map below  produced by the London County Council during the war (1) shows this well – the darker the hand-colouring, the greater the damage.

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

The worst destruction was in Maythorne Cottages and northern end of Springbank Road along with the adjacent ends of Ardmere and Beacon Roads, where, as the photograph shows, there was almost complete destruction.   Although a degree of caution needs to be used with the maps as a few properties that show as destroyed were able to be repaired – notably the former off licence on the corner of Ardmere Road – covered in an earlier post on the street.

There was damage too along  Nightingale Grove from opposite Maythorne to Brightside Road at the southern end. At this end were purpose-built maisonettes and, which seemed to have been built as ‘railway workers cottages’.  There was considerable damage, with the upstairs maisonettes having to be largely rebuilt.

Many of the houses destroyed were homes to some of the poorer residents of Hither Green, as was covered in the post on Ardmere Road.  Given the scale of destruction it is unsurprising that there were deaths in the attack, the casualties seem to have all been at Hither Green Station:

  • Emily (25) and Jean (1) Chapman – a mother and daughter from Walworth;
  • Violet Kyle (25) of 11 Morley Road, who died in the Miller Hospital in Greenwich;
  • Gerald Hill (17) of 278 Brownhill Road, who was in the Home Guard; and
  • William Pontin (38) of Weybridge.

Emily (nee Keleher) was living in Huntsman Street in Walworth when war broke out, and at the time was listed as a Solder Machine Hand.  The Bermondsey born Emily married James Chapman in 1940, although they were probably living together in 1939 with James’ parents.  Jean was just 22 months old when she died.

Violet was from Lewisham although when the 1939 Register was drawn up was living in a shared house in Circus Street in Greenwich.

Gerald had been born in Lewisham in 1927; at the time the 1939 Register was drawn up he would have been around 12 and was not listed locally as he had presumably been evacuated in September 1939.  Assuming that he was still living at home, his parents will have moved during the war as 278 Brownhill Road was vacant when the Register was compiled.  William Pontin appears to have been working as a brewer’s clerk at the outbreak of war in 1939 and was a lodger in a cottage in Weybridge.  The reason for his visit to Lewisham was probably to visit family – a William Pontin of the right age was born in Lewisham and in 1911 was living in Hedgley Street – where his younger brother Ernest still lived in 1939.

A further 17 people were reported as injured as a result of the attack (2).

There were initial reports of the tracks being blocked by debris at the station, although by the following day local lines were running and by 31 July the track was back to full operations.

The post-war rebuilding was a little more piecemeal than in some of the other sites with V-1 rocket damage locally.  One of the early responses was to clear the site and erect prefab bungalows; what is perhaps surprising is that only 9 were built given the area covered and level of destruction.  Those at the southern end of Springbank Road were replaced in the late 1950s or early 1960s by permanent bungalows built by the Borough of Lewisham.

Beaver Housing Society, which seems to have been formed in the 1920s, appear to have owned the houses at the eastern end of Ardmere Road – they rebuilt some of them in the mid-1950s and added a terrace of red-brick houses on the corner of Nightingale Grove.

Both are resplendent with the blue glazed ‘Beaver’ panel, sadly, this is all that remains of Beaver – they were taken over by L&Q in the early 2000s.

The block surrounded by Maythorne, Springbank and the railway was used for offices and related yards. The one on the corner of Maythorne – still survives, home to the building contractors P J Harte.  The opposite corner went through a greater variety of uses – it was last a nursery which closed in the mid-2000s.  It was boarded up by 2012 (see below from StreetView) and new houses completed by the summer of 2017.

The remaining houses were repaired – the differences in the brickwork are obvious in several locations on Nightingale Grove.

Notes

  1. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  2. Godfrey Smith (1997) ‘Hither Green: the Forgotten Hamlet : Including the Corbett Estate’ p64

The Ordnance Survey map is on a Creative commons via the National Library of Scotland.

The marriage and 1939 Register data comes via Find My Past, the details of the deaths are via the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

 

 

https://maps.nls.uk/view/102908716

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The Lenham Road V-1 Attack

Lampmead and Lenham Roads are quiet residential streets coming off Lee High Road, they are mainly Victorian terraces.  There are also several infill homes built by the London Borough of Lewisham,or its forerunner.  There is a story behind their presence in the early 21st century streetscape – they are the indirect result of a V-1 rocket attacks which hit the junction of Lampmead and Lenham Roads on just before 5 am on the morning of 22 June 1944.

Running Past has covered several of the almost two hundred V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks on Lewisham, including the ones on Lewisham High Street, Lewisham Hill and Hither Green’s Fernbrook Road.  They are important to remember both in terms of the death and injuries caused to ordinary Londoners whose stories often get forgotten, but also in terms of their impact on the urban landscape – both in the short-term and longer term.

Six died as a result of the attack on Lenham and Lampmead Roads and no doubt many more were injured.  Those who lost their lives were James Joseph Carroll (20) and Patrick Leonard (26) who died at 34 Lenham Road; Hugh William George Harvey (59) who died at 6 Lampmead, Joseph Daniel Barry (55) died next door at number 8, his neighbour Alfred William Roedear (64) died at no 10 – his wife Annie appears to have survived, and Flora Borthwick (37) perished at 12 Lampmead.

What is perhaps surprising is that of those who died only one, Hugh Harvey, who was a groundsman and coach at the outbreak of the war living at 6 Lampmead Road, had lived there when the war broke out (1).  It is worth remembering that the private rented sector was still dominant at that time – accounting for almost 60% of homes – security of tenure, while perhaps slightly greater than it is now, was still limited.  In Lewisham these landlords included some of the bigger builders in the area – WJ Scudamore and James Watt.

During World War 1 there had been profiteering by some residential landlords which had led to rent strikes and unrest which threatened to undermine the war effort.  These had been repeated in the East End of London in 1938 and 1939. In this context, full rent control was introduced early in World War 2.  However, this seems not to have led to a stable community in this part of Lee – similar issues were found with the Lewisham Hill V-1.

The V-1 would have exploded on impact and a blast wave rippled out from the impact point, effectively creating a vacuum in the centre – the combined impact was to both push and pull buildings leading to large numbers of collapses.  The impact was often spread over quite a wide area with total destruction in the centre with much less damage on the outside.  The map below  produced by the London County Council during the war (2) shows this well – the darker the hand-colouring, the greater the damage.

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)

By the time the Ordnance Survey cartographers surveyed the area in 1949 (see below & note 3), the debris had been cleared and the site filled with 14 prefabs – a small part of attempting to deal with post-war housing needs.

The old Borough of Lewisham put up 1,610 prefabs by 1948 and a further 1,088 by 1955.  They would have no doubt not been that dissimilar to those on the Excalibur estate in Catford (below from 2014).  The prefabs probably lasted until the 1960s when they were replaced with council housing.

As the lower of the two maps above shows, there were several smaller gaps in the neighbouring Aislibie Road (named after Benjamin Aislabie – the last tenant of Lee Place), the result of bombing during the Blitz, the gaps were not used for the prefabs but they too were later filled by post war council housing.

Notes

  1. The 1939 Register didn’t cover armed forces so possible that some of victims had been living there before war broke out, employment details from Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  2. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 – permission has been given by the copyright owners of the map, the London Metropolitan Archives to use the image here
  3. On a Creative Commons via the National Library of Scotland