Thanks, for the memory (2)

Sunday, 30 August 2015

This is the second of two postings, summarising comments on some of the articles that have appeared on this blog, since its inception.

Please see the opening paragraphs of last week's blog - immediately under this - for the rationale for running these pieces.

And - if you have memories relating to any of the articles that have appeared on this website, we'd be delighted to hear from you (by name, or anonymously). Simply type away in the 'Comments' section at the end of each article.

The rise and decline of Forest Gate's Jewish community

Original article link: here, date:20 November 2013

This is one of the site's most visited posts and has certainly provoked the largest number or recollections from visitors. Below are edited highlights of a number of them. A visit to the original posting on : xxxx is highly recommended for more detailed memories.

1. Anonymous

My grandparents, aunts, my mother, a cousin, my father all lived in Forest Gate. Three or more marriages at Earlham Grove shul 1933 - 1961. There were many that had moved from Whitechapel. Granddad worked as a presser and in the evenings finished suits that were sold in a shop in Green Street... It was all tough work. My mother told me she remembered in the late 1930's coming across graffiti: "All Jews are rich". This was far from the truth.

Earlham Grove synagogue

2. Anonymous

I grew up in Forest Gate and remember my childhood with fondness. When we moved to Forest Gate from Clapton the Earlham Grove Synagogue was full to capacity over the Jewish New Year and we had to use the Youth Services building. The Simchat torah party was very lively. My mother was on the ladies guild and I used to go with her to prepare for the party. I remember buttering so many bridge rolls. Laying the tables for 200 and a lady called Big Bloomah scared the life out of me. The parents association always took the kids from the Hebrew classes out every summer, usually to Westgate, and we went to the Norfolk Hotel for lunch. They were good times, never to be repeated.

3. Anonymous

My father was caretaker at this Synagogue from 1961 - 1963. I was only a five month old baby when my mum and dad moved here. I can remember it as if it was yesterday. Rabbi Shnider was so lovely, but Cantor Blackman wasn't very nice. There were 2 Irish sisters who helped my dad with the upkeep of the 2 shuls, 1 hall and the grounds. I remember the children coming into the Hall for lunch. There was a school over the road from the Synagogue, and a men's gym in the basement of one of the buildings.

4. Anonymous

I grew up in Forest Gate my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins were all members. I remember some very happy times going to the synagogue for the Sabbath, High Holidays and Hebrew classes... I of course remember Rabbi Waller, who was a wonderful teacher, Rev Schneider, Mr Woolf, Mr Weinburg, Mr Barnett all the committee and Ladies Guild. The most upsetting thing was when the fire burned it down.

5. P Shapiro

I grew up in Green Street, but my best friend lived in Earlham Grove and my sister married a man from Earlham Grove and got married in that shul. Back in the 50's and 60's it was a very close community. There were several kosher shops and a large Jewish population who had moved from the East End. I used to attend the Youth Club, which was held in the shul hall. A reunion a few years ago brought back many memories. From Stratford Grammar School in Upton Lane, my friends and I went to Kosher dinners at the shul too. They were not very good, but oh! that jam and coconut tart!  My mother had a stall in Queen's Road Market, down Green Street. Recently that was saved from redevelopment. It is now called "Queen's Market" and there is a support group. Nobody had a car in my family and I remember very clearly the long hikes between Oakdale Road and Earlham Grove, which seemed a never ending length! Happy days.

Fascists in 1930's Forest Gate

Original article link: here, date:16 April 2014

A number of posts on this site have provoked family recollections or stirred an interest in delving into family history. This one provoked one of the most painful stirrings (see second comment below).

1. Birdman

I remember Higgs the furriers extremely well and used to go past it on my way to school in the 1960's. I had no idea of its links to British Fascism. I know the wife of the Jewish landlord we had kept her furs there, so perhaps she didn't know of the link either.

471 Romford Road - from fascist furrier's
 to Islamic charity shop, in one generation!

2. Kate Higgs

James William Higgs was my great grandfather and although I know he was a racist and an eccentric, I had no idea about his fascist history!!  I'm completely shocked and unsettled by what I have just learnt. Especially as I was brought up by his grandson in the complete opposite way - to stand up for human rights, equality and to respect others religious beliefs - which I am so incredibly grateful for. This has inspired me to learn more about my family history and to write it down for the future generations. If anyone out there has information on (or photos) of my great grandfather (nicknamed Jimmy) and the shop Higgs Furriers please contact me at I'd be so grateful! Thank you for putting the information up.

Kenny Johnson and the Lotus Club

Original article link: here, date:17 September 2014

1. Eddie Johnson (Kenny's brother)

It might interest people to know that Norman Arsonsohn, the owner of the former skating rink that found renewed fame as the 'Upper Cut' first approached me about what to do with the premises. I passed him to my brother, Kenny, who was enthusiastic about opening a rock venue, he produced detailed plans for Aronsohn and it was a cause of much angst when a deal with the Walker brothers was signed and they seemed to follow Kenny's plan, probably given to them by Norman Aronsohn. Aronsohn was a shadowy figure in the world of high finance and it was often said that he was the 'Mr X' behind many of George Walker's schemes.

Kenny Johnson, in the cloakroom
 of the Lotus club, 1960's

Forest Gate's proud suffragette legacy

Original article link: here, date:6 March 2015

1. Jean Bodie

I am trying to research old 'Granny Baldock' for whom my mother worked as a young girl when she lived in Hamworthy. Minnie Baldock lived across the street from us when she was old and we were afraid of her because she wore long black dresses and we thought she was a witch. It was my mother who told us that she had been a suffragette when she was a younger woman. Now that I am older too, I am pleased that I knew her, despite the fact that as a kid I went scrumping on her property.

Minnie Baldock, c 1908

I'm wondering if she sold the land (in Poole) to the Labour Club, or they were sponsoring her to live at 73 Rockley Road, where the Labour Club was built. I just cannot remember when it was built; do you know?

Forest Gate short-changed

Original article link: here, date:20 May 2015

Cllr Rohima Rahman - still missing,
 but not collecting £6,000 for it.

1. John Walker (posted two months after a critical article attacking the inaction of Cllr Rohima Rahman as the Mayor's "Advisor" on Forest Gate, at £6,679 per year).

We are delight to report that Cllr Rahman has now been replaced, without public comment, by Robin Wales as his Forest Gate Advisor. The new post-holder is Forest Gate North councillor, Rachel Tripp.

Turning the Pages of history

Original article link: here, date:27 May 2015

1. (Cllr) John Gray

I have lived around the corner from the rocket impact for 26 years and never knew about it.

A V1 rocket, of the kind that hit Dames Road

2. Richard40

I lived in Bective Road through the war, Page was our local shoe mender. I also remember the V1 incident vividly. It was a sunny day, we children were all playing in the gardens, our mothers all chatting over the fences, when suddenly someone shouted. There above us was the V1, it passed us as we scrambled into the Anderson shelters. It hit the top of a large Sycamore tree in Gobbells Bakery, breaking the top off, carrying on to Dames Road, where the damage was caused. Although we had little damage in our road, we had plenty of real scares, with a prisoner of war camp a few yards away, our mothers were always on edge.

3. Brian Arthur

I was born in Pevensey Road in 1948 and my mother spoke about the doodlebug hit on the trolleybus. They eye-witness account really conveys the full horror of the event, which would have been hushed up at the time. Before the new houses were built, opposite the Holly Tree pub, an infants schools occupied the site, which I attended.  Half of the playground was still a bomb site when I was there and I remember playing on it - great fun for a little boy!

Forest Gate's role in WW1, the Hammers battalion (1)

Original article link: here, date:5 June 2015


William Busby was my great-grandfather.... Thank you for posting such interesting pictures and stories about the men. It was wonderful to see the homes of the Page and Holthusen families as they are now.  We live in the United States and I've been researching Forest Gate/William's life, your blog has been wonderful to learn about Forest Gate, then and now.

William Busby - hero then,
 cherished now

Thanks, for the memory (1)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

If journalism is the first draft of history, websites like this have a good claim to be the second. So, in most of the articles, we try to give a flavour of what the press had to say about a particular event and add context to it with the hindsight from public records, official histories and published maps, photographs etc.

Apart from the odd extract from autobiographies that we reproduce, there are rarely accounts of how the participants, observers and those directly affected by events felt about them. We believe these are vital in coming to a rounded understanding of history, but won't bore you with treatises on the nature of history, here.

So, we are delighted to receive comments on the articles that we have published, from those directly involved or affected by the events covered - whether it was World War 11 bombings, attendances at Upper Cut gigs, or life within the rapidly disappearing local Jewish community.

They, in many senses, give "reality" and authenticity to what we publish.

They are often contributed many months after the original article was published, so it is highly likely that regular visitors to this site will not catch up with them - having already read the substantive article, and feel no need to revisit it - thus miss the comment.

Similarly, for us, it is an absolute delight when a blog provokes or adds to a reader's family story, and we have had a fair number of these, since we began publication.

So, this is the first of two articles in which we round up some of the comments subsequently made to original articles.  We find it illuminating and that the comments add real value to the original piece.

For the future, we would be delighted to hear from those directly affected by all of the pieces that we write about, and if the response is appropriate, we'll be delighted to run similar 'comment round-ups', in future.

The headlines below are the original title of articles published and the comments below are edited extracts from comments related to them, with a hyperlink to the article, itself.

Fire guts famous gym

Original article link: here, date: 17 April 2003

1. Anonymous

Well said mate .. I went there today (26 September 2014) and noticed that the lamp post is still standing! ... It will soon be demolished ... I think someone should take that lamp post as a memory of the gym and all it stood for! ... or it will end up in a skip very soon ...
As predicted by the
commentator - now gone

ed note: Somebody took this poster at his/her word.  The lamp post (pictured) has subsequently been "removed", by whom, we do not know.

When Otis played Forest Gate

Original article link: here, date: 27 May 2013

1. Ron Smith-Galer

I was there that night.  Sam and Dave were electric and the singers wore pastel coloured suits that soon showed huge sweat stains. I was 18 and nobody could eclipse Sam & Dave that night ...

Until this big black guy came on and barely moving, with that gentle sway and  gracefulness that some big guys manage started to sing. Otis, a true giant of music.


Every picture tells a story

2. Pat Morrissey, Dublin

I travelled from Dublin on my own, without a ticket for this gig. It was St Patrick's weekend. What an innocent time. No problem, I just paid on the door about 7.30pm and walked into the venue. Could you, or would you, ever try to do that today. Incredible gig that I still recall today. They all played for about 15/20 mins and when Otis came on, he was amazing.

Then it was over! My main concern was to get back to Euston to my B&B.
It was one of my most memorable gigs ever. The others were The Beatles in Dublin in 1963 at The Adelphi and the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. What a very lucky person, born at the right time.

3. Steve Cook

I saw the Stax show having travelled up to London, from Southampton... We saw it at the Hammersmith Odeon then 2 shows at the Upper Cut. Asked if they could get my newly bought copy of a Booker T album signed, and to my amazement was invited in to meet Booker T .. they all signed the album label.

Booming Woodgrange Road

Original article link: here, date:12 June 2013

Opposing views on recent developments, from two posters:

1. Carol Hale

So pleased this little bit of East London is regenerating in such a positive way.  My daughter and myself have noticed a really upbeat quality in the area (which was badly needed) having lived in the area for 20 yrs with its fair share of bad press. I hope this lovely area continues to thrive and I hope I can also get involved with the market.

CoffeE7 - the good bit of the facelift

2. Anonymous

Sorry to say that the shopping experience in Woodgrange Road is really depressing. I only shop in the local butchers, co-op and fishmonger. The betting shops and chicken shops are a real let down and the various grocers all sell the same stuff. Thank goodness for the lovely new coffee shops.

The Sound of Music from Earlham Grove

Original article link: here, date:19 June 2013

1. Frontier Publishing

Curwen professionally thieved Sarah Anna Glover's intellectual property, expressly without her permission, (he had asked) and attempted to pass off the whole Sol-fa phenomenon as his own. He profited greatly from his deceit and even today people are not aware that Curwen ripped off Glover's work - his feeling being that she couldn't take it further (perhaps true) because she was a mere woman. The forthcoming book about Glover by Dr Jane Southcott will confirm the true attribution of Sol-fa and permanently expose Curwen for the cheat he was.

Sarah Anna Glover

ed note: We have not been able to trace any sign of this book being published, by Frontier Publishing, or any other publisher. Neither have we been able to trace a book by Dr Jane Southcott, who would appear to be a lecturer in music history in an Australian University.

Sarah Anna Glover's (1785 - 1867) Wikipedia entry says that she was an English music teacher, who invented the Norwich sol-fa system. She was born in Norwich and developed her learning system to aid teachers with a cappella singing. Her instruction book Scheme for Rendering Psalmody Congregational met with great success. It was later refined and developed by John Curwen and others over the years. The concept became known in popular culture, after it was featured in a song from The Sound of Music.

The Upper Cut Club, part 1 - the rise

Original article link: here, date:24 July 2013

1. Martin Smith

Thanks so much for a great article. After nearly 50 years the Otis/Sam & Dave and the Nina Simone gigs still stand out as favourites for me, partly due to the great atmosphere in the club.  My parents skated there as teenagers.

2. Peter Read

A very good article. Thanks.  I was at the Boxing Day 1966 matinee gig at the Uppercut, with my mate Steve Jolly. Hendrix played a great set (of course) but the advertised Pretty Things did not appear. Instead we saw John Lee Hooker, solo, and Zoot Money with (I think) his band Dantalian's Chariot. JLH was amazing, and very cool, wearing a sharp mod-style suit. I remember thinking it was a cheap entrance ticket for a wonderful bill. Best Boxing Day ever, thanks to the boxer, Billy Walker.

The great John Lee Hooker
 - another name to add
 to the Upper Cut's
illustrious performer list

The Upper Cut Club, part 2 - hitting the deck

Original article link: here, date:31 July 2013

Upper Cut club - after the event

1. Michael Claxton

I played in The Trend, a soul/R&B band from Canning Town - Norman, Frank, Phil and me - and I certainly remember playing the Upper Cut because I had to set my new amp at Spinal Tap volume 11 so that my new Vox Continental organ could be heard - on stage! - in that vast venue. We backed the Soul Sisters and various permutations of the 'Original' Drifters as well as playing in our own right, so it was either us alone or as a backing group. If the former, at a talent evening, maybe? Does someone remember?

FG Good Booze guide - 2015

Saturday, 15 August 2015

This is the third of our popular annual look at Forest Gate's drinking spots. And, this year, it's good news. No closures, a new opening and the prospect of a restaurant selling "craft beers" on the horizon.

The new outlet is, like the longer standing Wanstead Tap, to be found underneath the arches - at 361 Winchelsea Road. Hawkes is largely a cider house and at present only open on Saturdays.

Two years ago we used the price of the then ubiquitous Stella Artois as a benchmark for the pubs at work. Stella is no longer available in all local boozers, whereas draft cider now is.  In view of this we have used cider as our price barometer, and at the end of this blog we produce our first Forest Gate Draftcidrometer.

One other, good, local feature has been the complete refurb and relaunch of neighbouring Manor Park's Golden Fleece - a regular for many Forest Gate locals - so, we've included it in this year's round up.

We've tried to offer a bit more consistency in our descriptions, so are using a common format of features examined. Each drinks outlet, of course, has its own unique characteristics that don't fit this format, so, we've produced a paragraph, or so, on these, for each drinks house examined. They appear in alphabetical order.

Forest Gate Hotel

The only Forest Gate pub not on a main drag - it's on Godwin Road. The pub clearly caters almost exclusively for very local customer base. It has had problems with drugs in the past and now displays many "zero tolerance of drugs" notices. Very quiet pub. Must be tempting for owners to turn into flats - see Holly Tree, below.

Drink: Real ale pumps on display, but look infrequently used.

Food: No menu on display.  Small selection of bar snacks.

Entertainment: Pool table, wide-screen TV, with BT football. Quizzes on Wednesdays and Karaoke evenings.

Garden: Small terraced area with tables and much larger tarmaced car parks area, available.  Mainly for smokers, as no interesting landscaping, design features.

Child-friendly: "No under 18's, after 8.30 pm".

Forest Tavern

Improbable as it may seem, this pub, at the centre, physically and socially of much of the recent regeneration and gentrification of Forest Gate has only been open for two years. Everything about it seems to sum up the "new Forest Gate", from its client base, to its offer.

Drink: Up to eight real ales on tap, plus a couple of ciders.  Trendy enough to get away with selling Pimms in jam jars, and for people not to feel put-off by it.

Food: Menu constantly evolving, with a varied and innovative option currently on offer.  Meals can be taken either in the back, restaurant area, or in the bar.
Standard of food varies a bit, but can be very good; not the cheapest - with Haddock and chips being served at £11.50. Good range of tasty bar snacks on offer, too.

Entertainment: The Tavern has cracked it, and is now reflecting local interests well, with regular free Forest Gap music nights, Saturday record sales, open mike nights, quizzes, all soon to be joined by Swing Patrol on Monday nights - a fusion of two of the more prominent manifestations of the "new Forest Gate".

Garden: Decent back garden that has been spruced up recently. Not an exclusive preserve for the smokers and very pleasant on a summer evening. There are a couple of tables at the front, usually used for smokers - which minimises the smoke pollution in the back.

Child-friendly: Yes, in both garden and pub, although not much to assist with child entertainment.

Fox and Hounds

Sits cheek by jowl with the Forest Tavern, facing Forest Gate station, on Woodgrange Road/Forest Lane junction. The juxtaposition is a mirror image of the shopping centre options in Stratford - one catering for the "new" arrivals in the area and the other - the Fox and Hounds, like the old Stratford shopping centre - for the older established residents. Home drinking base for the Clapton FC Ultra fans.

Drink: Now sells Real Ales, though two of the pumps were out of order, when we visited.

Food: None advertised, other than a small range of bar snacks.

Entertainment: Sky Sports, pool table, regular Karaoke nights.

Garden: Described as a "secret garden", at the back of the pub; small and mainly a smokers' area.

Child-friendly: Nobody under 14 permitted.

Golden Fleece

Capel Road, overlooking Wanstead Flats.  Had a major face lift this spring, from which it is clearly benefitting. Wide range of seating, including nooks and crannies, if you don't want to eat, or join in the entertainment. Packed when we visited, very popular with the shiny black-BMW crew.

Drink: Six real ales, good range of other drinks, including ciders.

Food: Large and varied menu. Like an upmarket Wetherspoons: e.g. steak and ale pie, £7.99 and regular list of interesting specials, averaging £10.

Entertainment: A very full week of entertainment advertised, see photo.

Garden: Wanstead Flats, to the front! In addition, large, well furnished back garden, with comfortable furniture and very good children's play and climbing equipment.

Child-friendly: Great garden - front and back for children.  Good children's menu on bar food and restaurant.


Under the railway arches, at 361 Winchelsea Road - yards from Wanstead Tap.

The East London based cider-making company started in 2012, and is named after traditional street sellers - hawkers. Forest Gate is its first fixed venue and was opened at the end of July, for the time being, on Saturdays only.
Hours noon till 10pm. Great new initiative for this cider house, who have doubled up with Wanstead Pizza company, Luppolo to provide an enjoyable Saturday night offer - wood-fired, stone-baked pizza and cider, inside or out.. Friendly helpful staff.

Drink: Range of ciders - including their own - made from London apples, spirits and cocktails, mainly. Nice cider sampler 3 x 1/3 pints for £4.

Food: Excellent choice from about half a dozen pizzas: £5.95 - £7.95, from Luppolo of Wanstead, baked on the terrace.

Entertainment: No, but plenty of enthusiastic conversations.

Garden: Front terrace, only.

Child-friendly: Yes, but nothing specifically to entertain them.

Holly Tree

Junction of Dames and Vansitaart Roads. Large, airy pub, with sizeable conservatory area, overlooking Wanstead Flats. Fairly quiet, whenever visited. Occupies large footprint.  Seems only a question of time before freeholders, like those of Forest Tavern, above, cash in and seek planning permission to demolish and replace by £7m - £10m of apartments, in an increasingly sought-after residential area.

Drink: No real ales. Standard range of typical pub beers, wines and spirits.

Food: A limited menu. Lower end price range, e.g. Shepherd's Pie, chips and veg £5.95.

Entertainment: Sky Sports, pool table, Karaoke nights, small library.

Garden: Large garden with over a dozen tables, barbecue area
Child-friendly: Good garden space. Large range of children's equipment now depleted, down to only a couple of pieces.

Hudson Bay

Top of Upton Lane - the only pub in Forest Gate, south of Romford Road. Full story behind the pub's name will be featured in a future blog! A Wetherspoons house, where they pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap.  Always busy; the most multi-racial pub in the district.

Drink: Good range of real ales and ciders.  Regular beer and cider festivals, with lots of guest drinks.  Always good value for money.

Food: Typical Wetherspoons menu: wide choice, low prices. "Special" nights, e.g. fish and chips plus a pint of beer/cider/glass of wine on Fridays,  £6.25! Wetherspoons are, corporately, making a big push to challenge McDonalds and Greggs for the low cost breakfast this year.  Again, very good value.

Entertainment: TV's with sport, but low/no sound. No live entertainment - just a pub/restaurant. Wetherspoons doing, what they do well.

Garden: Back garden area reasonably well laid out, but mainly a haven for smokers.

Child-friendly: Children welcome and able to eat until 8.30 pm.

Wansted Tap

This intriguing local initiative, "underneath the arches" in Winchelsea Road, goes from strength to strength: good drink, food, company and entertainment. Opening hours slightly erratic, not helped by the fact that they are not well posted on the premises. Perfect name for a watering hole, apart from the fact that it's not in Wanstead and most of the drink isn't on tap!

Drink: A wide range (up to 100 varieties) of bottled craft beers and ciders and three barrelled beers, fresh tea and good coffees. Not the cheapest, but by far the widest local selection of drink options.

Food: Regular bar snacks, plus tasty cakes and biscuits.  But the food highlight is the regular hosting of local celebrity chef, Michael Sanders, Invite to Supper nights. Monthly food fests, with 4 innovative and tasty courses for £30, with a complementary drink option for each course.  The food nights have now been extended to include vegetarian and fish evenings.

Entertainment: Great selection of high class evening entertainments: book launches and readings, with the likes of Ian Sinclair and Harper Lee novel launches, in conjunction with Newham Bookshop, good comedy nights, with big names like Simon Munnery and Bob Mills, free film shows, interesting music evenings, occasional historic and other local interest talks. Location for Forest Gate Arts trail exhibit. There's even a library, for dull moments.

Garden: No.

Child-friendly: Very. Comfortable, home-like furniture, children's play things and toys, where involvement is encouraged.  Child-friendly play sessions some afternoons, for thirsty supervising adults! Even children's books in the library.

Off licences

There are approximately 30 supermarkets/off-licenses, selling alcohol, in Forest Gate.

Since we are in a cider vein, we thought we'd try three out, to see what the comparative cider offer is, and include them in our Draftcidrometer table, below.

The excellent Bereket, Woodgrange Road, seems to have strange licensing restrictions imposed on them: they can only sell ciders and beers in minimums of packs of 4. They sell a range of ciders, including many fruit ones.

Co-operative, Woodgrange Road. Half a dozen ciders, including fruit flavoured ones on sale. Often multi-pack offers, at discount.

Tescos in Woodgrange Road, like the Co-op, often have multi-pack discounts and sell their own brand, very cheap ciders, by the bottle.


Forest Gate Hotel: Pint of Magners, £3.50.

Forest Tavern: Pint of Hogans, £3.90.

Fox and Hounds: Pint of Strongbow, £3.40.

Golden Fleece: Pint of Symonds, £3.60.

Hawkes: Pint of own brewed, Hawkes, £3.60.

Holly Tree: Pint of Strongbow, £3.40.

Hudson Bay: Pint of Hawkes Urban Orchard, £3.49.

Wanstead Tap: No cider on tap, but pint of bottled London Glider, £4.00.

Bereket Supermarket: Bottle of Stella Artois cider, £1.99.

Co-op Supermarket: Bottle of Carling cider, £1.25.

Tesco Supermarket: Bottles of Stella Artois, 3 for £5 - i.e. £1.66 per bottle.

V1 and V2 bombs in Forest Gate 1944 - 1945 - second part of bombing round up

Friday, 7 August 2015

This is the second of a two-part post on World War 11 bombs and Forest Gate, covering the last two years of the conflict. The first post can be found below.

As we explained in the earlier article, we have pulled together information from a range of official sources, together with some contemporaneous photographs, press reports and eye-witness accounts, to try and provide as definitive a record as possible.

We accept, however, that it is not complete, may well underestimate the scale of fatalities suffered and tries to aggregate different lists measuring different outcomes (see previous post for consideration of methodology and difficulties presented). 

It is presented, however, as what we believe is the first and most likely near-comprehensive account of the affect of World War 11 bombings on the area and civilian population of Forest Gate.

West Ham, as a borough, saw about 14,000 houses - or a quarter of the housing stock - destroyed by bombs in the World War 11. Forest Gate was heavily hit, although considerably less so than the southern part of the borough, which embraced the docks and some strategically important industries and factories.

After the Blitz (1940-41) there was a lull in German bombing of London, while German military engineers developed more horrific weapons to inflict by air. The conceived their Vergeltungswaffe - vengeance weapons - understandably abbreviated to V1 and V2 bombs.

Clearing up after June 1944 Upton Lane bombing

Each bomb was 25 feet long and had a wing span of 16 feet, driven by an engine, that hummed. They were dubbed Buzz Bombs, or Doodlebugs by British civilians who were on the receiving end of them.
The first was launched in June 1944.  Within three days over 500 people had been killed in London. They came to terrorise the city, and their impact were felt on some of the most savage subsequent attacks on Forest Gate.


22nd - (West Ham Cemetery)

29th - Crosby, Knox, Vansitart (Forest Gate Hospital, Wanstead Park Station, Upton Lane School)

30th - Claremont

2nd - Romford x 2

7th - Sprowson

19th - Strode

20th - Tylney

21st - Romford

22nd - Sprowson, Whyteville, Romford

24th - Dunbar, Forest Street, Windsor (West Ham Cemetery)

22nd - Vansitart

18th -Katherine Rd - Trebors 
This bombing does not appear in the ARP listings of bombings in West Ham, but features significantly in the company's official history, The Trebor Story by Michael Crampton. The book publishes the photograph, below and the accompanying text says:

Factory caretaker, Mr G Taylor reported the following, of the night of 18 April 1944 "The building was severely damaged because the bomb landed in the warehouses and set fire to a great deal of tea chests and tins of dry lemonade. A row of shops across the way was destroyed by blast and through the heavy shutters of the garage being thrown across the street. Several of the people in the houses were killed, including one of the firm's stokers.  But there was one miracle. For most of the war the firm had thrown open the basement to the public, and about two hundred of them were sheltering there that night. Imagine my relief on entering the basement to find not one casualty among them.
Trebor factory on Katherine Road, after
 the unreported bombing. Note presence
 of police on far right of photo. He was
 there to prevent looting of sugar

16th - Upton Avenue (Death: May Wright, aged 30, 41 Upton Avenue)
Upton Lane after bombing on 16 June 1944
5th - Osborne

19th - Romford

27th - Dames (Deaths: Gladys Blackman, aged 39, Dames Road; Wendy Blackman, aged 4, Dames Road; Abraham Ince, aged 76, Dames Road; Edith Tilley, aged 41, Dames Road). This was the Dames Road trolley bus bomb, featured at length in the post on the Page family of bootmakers, see here.

The quote from Cyril Marne, who was later to become West Ham's Chief Fire Officer, in that article suggests that many more than the people named here were killed. Indeed, the Straford Express article, covering the incident produces the names of a small, but entirely different group of fatalities of that explosion. They presumably did not live in the immediate local area (see discussion on methodology for explanation).

Doodlebug of the kind that hit Dames Road -
 25 feet long and 15 wide. Unsurprisingly, the
 devastation it created was horrific

28th - Forest Lane (Deaths: Lilian Simpkins, aged 64, 103 Forest Lane), Woodgrange

29th - Junction of Woodgrange and Earlham Grove (Ronald Stuchbery, aged 16, at Rio Cinema, and Robert Scales, ofTower Hamlets Road)

12th - Upton Lane School: Deaths: Ursula Mercer, aged 32, an SRN at Upton Lane School; Kate Skingle, aged 67)

Upton Lane school, hit 12/13 August 1944
Stratford Express reports Upton Lane
 school bombing, without mentioning
 its name, or location. It does,
 however mention those killed.

15th - Wellington (Deaths: Eli Nightingale, aged 63, 133 Wellington Road; Ernest Tickel, aged 59, 20 Odessa Road)

27th - Romford Road

30th - Earlham Grove (Deaths: Clara Hall, aged 69, 7 Earlham Grove; Alice Everitt, aged 66, 7 Earlham; Annie Everitt, 56, 7 Earlham; Ellen Everitt, 64, 7 Earlham; Charles William Hazell, aged 14, 3 Earlham Grove; Edith Read, aged 42, 5 Earlham Grove; Terence Read, aged 7, 5 Earlham Grove; Agnes Turner, aged 55, 3 Earlham Grove; Agnes Turner, aged 24, 3 Earlham Grove; William Turner, aged 13, 3 Earlham Grove)

1st - (Wanstead Flats)


28th - Kitchener (Deaths: Alfred Chamberlain, aged 43, 90 Kitchener; Catherine Chamberlain, aged 66, 90 Kitchener; Alice Dearson, aged 70, 90 Kitchener; George Dearson, aged 87, 90 Kitchener; William Eyre, aged 46, 95 Kitchener; Arthur Finch, aged 32, 100 Kitchener; Ernest Johnson, aged 30, 96 Kitchener Road; Kenneth Johnson, aged 22 months, 96 Kitchener Road; Louisa Johnson, aged 30, 96 Kitchener Road; Patricia Johnson, aged 5, 96 Kitchener Road; Annie Kenovan, aged 41, 98 Kitchener Road; Patrick Kenovan, aged 39, 98 Kitchener Road; Phillip Kenovan, aged 2, 98 Kitchener Road; Albert Poree, aged 30, 94 Kitchener Road; Alice Shekyls, aged 28 99 Grosvenor Road; George Skekyls, aged 30, 99 Grosvenor Road; Mabel Vamplew, aged 55, 94 Kitchener Road; Doris Wales, aged 22, 92 Kitchener Road; Jane Wales, aged 48, 92 Kitchener Road; Margery Wales, 92 Kitchener Road; William Wales, aged 50, 92 Kitchener Road; Eliza Walker, aged 74, 102 Kitchener Road; Harriet Walker, aged 47, 102 Kitchener Road; Joseph Walker, aged 74, 102 Kitchener Road).

Stratford Express covers the
 Kitchener  Road bombing, or
 as they locate it, as "a residential
 district in southern England."
 Official records identify 24
 dead, but this report only 12.

6th - Earlham Grove (Deaths: Joyce Adams, aged 25, 56 Earlham Grove; Edgar Adams, aged 50, 56 Earlham Grove; Beryl Joyce Adams, aged 18 months, 56 Earlham Grove; Hetty Bogansky, aged 31, 62 Earlham Grove; Nathan Bogansky, aged 29, 62 Earlham Grove; Geoffrey Golding, aged 2, 60 Earlham Grove; Hilda Golding, aged 30, 60 Earlham Grove; Jack Golding, aged 23, 60 Earlham Grove; Sadie Golding, aged 22, 60 Earlham Grove; Sarah Golding, aged 61, 60 Earlham Grove; Samuel Hainsville, aged 85, 64 Earlham Grove; David Coles, aged 43, Freemasons Tavern, Romford Road; Ellen Coles, aged 39, Freemasons Tavern, Romford Road; Albert Lucas, aged 63, 104 Kitchener Road; Alfred Lumley, aged 60, Grosvenor Road; Mamie Lumley, aged 54, 97, Grosvenor Road: Bernard Marcovitch, aged 16, 58 Earlham Grove; Rachel Marcovitch, aged 38, 58 Earlham Grove; Rose Schector, aged 62, 62 Earlham Grove)

 Poor reproduction of
a small Stratford Express
 article of 9 March 1945.
 It appeared on page 9
 and in a matter of fact
 way reported the Earlham
 Grove  bombing, in which 19
 people died. The article
 only refers to eight people

11th - Romford Road (Deaths: Nicholas Mackey, aged 43, 342 Romford Road; Rose Seeley, aged 56, 342a Romford Road; Violet Seeley, aged 31, 342a Romford Road; Elizabeth Sharpen, aged 67, 1 Westbury Road).


Although the Blitz (1940 - 41) saw the largest number of hits on Forest Gate during the war, it was the deadly V1s and V2s, in the final eight months of the conflict, that caused the greatest number of civilian deaths in the area.

Between 1940 and 1943 there were a total of 197 recorded hits on Forest Gate, and 54 Forest Gate civilians killed by enemy action. 1944 - 5 only saw a fifth of the number of bombs (38), but 40% more deaths (70).

The most lethal attacks on Forest Gate during the war would appear to have been:

28 January 1945 - Kitchener Road - 24 identifiable deaths
6 March 1945 - Earlham Grove - 19 identifiable deaths
21 March 1941 - Eric Road - 17 identifiable deaths
30 October 1944 - Earlham Grove - 10 identifiable deaths
23 September 1940 - Odessa Road - 9 identifiable deaths
24 September 1940 - Clova Road - 7 identifiable deaths
9 September 1940 - Disraeli Road - 5 identifiable deaths
27 July 1944 - Dames Road - five identifiable deaths - most certainly a gross underestimation of total killed.
17 April 1941 - Claremont Road - 5 identifiable deaths.

German bombing, for the most part, became more accurate and direct as the war wore on. The fact two of the three most destructive hits in the latter stages of the war fell on Earlham Grove brought to mind a remark in Bryan Forbes' autobiography, when talking about his childhood in Forest Gate (see here). 

He referred to Lord Haw-Haw's German propaganda radio messages during the conflict, in which he ranted:
We shan't be dropping bombs on Earlham Grove tonight, we'll be dropping Keating's Powder (a disinfectant).
Perhaps the Earlham Grove bombs, on the road of the West Ham synagogue (Essex's largest) - in the most Jewish area of Newham - were, in fact, deliberately aimed to be a part of the "Final Solution", the Nazi's adopted in their attempt to destroy the Jewish people, world-wide.

In previous posts on this blog (see here, in particular), we have referred to the presence of barrage balloons on Wanstead Flats. They were there to deter low-flying aircraft from bombing locally. 

What is now known as "the village" area of Forest Gate - between Sebert and Capel Roads - was probably the least bombed part of Forest Gate during the war, perhaps this was in no small part due to the effective deterrent effect of those barrage balloons.

We have, similarly, covered the presence of Prisoners of War camps on Wanstead Flats during the war, in previous posts (see here, in particular).

Perhaps the German high command was not too concerned about bombing their own captured soldiers - as the Dames Road Doodlebug refrered to above fell only a couple of hundred metres from the PoW camp location.

Forest Gate during the Blitz

Friday, 31 July 2015

The most significant series of events of the last century to affect the constituent parts of Newham: East Ham and West Ham - including Forest Gate - were the World War 11 bombings.

The whole physical structure of the borough was transformed by the destruction caused. Everyone today "knows" that the East End was badly hit, that local people were "plucky" and that sporadic visits to the sites of destruction by royalty litter the folklore of the area.

Distinctive outline of the Thames
 made targeting East London
 easy for the Luftwaffe, even
 when the radar was rudimentary

No sane person can deny the extent of the destruction.  Anyone with half an eye on architectural styles can spot areas hit by bombs, where late nineteenth buildings have been replaced by post-war structures - the lower east side of Woodgrange Road simply being the most obvious local example.

Whole swathes of the borough - particularly in the south, on the banks of the Thames - where the strategically crucial docks and other war-related industries were located - were flattened by German bombers, as they sought to disable the British war effort and demoralise the local population.

But, relatively little reliable detail of the profound reconfiguration of our area actually survives.

There is no definitive, hit-by-hit history  of the bombing of London in general and Newham, in particular - just lots of fragments, that often don't correlate too well with each other.

Hundreds of books have been published about London, the war and enemy bombings and some give very compelling eye witness accounts of specific incidents, such as Cyril Marne's of the Dames Road trolley bus doodlebug of 1944, recently covered on this site, here. But there is no overarching comprehensive account publicly available.

A website was launched recently to much acclaim.  It locates all the main bomb hits of the Blitz (October 1940 - June 1941), and can be searched by post codes, offering very useful maps to site visitors.  But it only covers a fragment of the war and offers no detail of casualties, the impact of individual hits, photos of the bomb sites, or eye witness accounts - certainly not of the Forest Gate area. Hopefully, these will follow, as the site is developed, over time.

Some official records exist and are in the public domain. The former West Ham Council Civil Defence team published a summary of air raids on the borough, between 28 August 1940 and 8 May 1945. ARP (Air Raid Precaution - the civil defence organisation) records provide details of bomb hits, and they can be analysed by area. 

The War Graves Commission, in 1954, published a list of British civilian dead (including local people), West Ham Council produced its own roll of civilian remembrance from the war. 

Many of these records, however, are incomplete, and do not reconcile with each other. For example, the list of bomb hits obviously refers to the location of the dropped bomb, but the list of civilian dead is by the deceased's address, which is not necessarily where they were killed. 

It is not unreasonable to assume that when bombs fell in the early hours, in a particular road on a given day and people from that road were reported as having been killed on that day, that the deaths were as a result of the bomb in question.

But other people, with addresses elsewhere may have been in the area when a missile struck, and could have been killed, but they would not have been recorded as a victim of that bomb.

That was certainly the case of the Dames Road Doodlebug incident (see above). The eye witness account talks of several bodies being thrown about as the crowded trolley bus was blown up. By definition, most of those people were travelling and may not have lived in the immediate vicinity of the explosion. The civilian deaths would have been recorded by the home address and not the location of the explosion. 

Another dramatic example of this was probably the worst air raid to affect West Ham. It occurred on 10 October 1940.

Several hundred people, bombed out of their homes, gathered in the South Hallsville school, Canning Town, waiting for evacuation. The transport did not arrive and the school received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb.  The official council figure indicates that 73 people were killed and hundreds injured. 

To this day, survivors and their relatives are convinced that in fact many hundreds were actually killed, and the total number was hushed up, for fear of adversely affecting morale.

it is difficult to tell, because of the circumstances, many of those killed did not live in the vicinity of the school, so their deaths would have been recorded at the locations of their homes. It is unlikely, however, that a true total list of fatalities and casualties will ever be established.

This is the first of two articles on WW11 bombing in Forest Gate.  It attempts to bring together the various records and supplement them with surviving photographs and some eye-witness accounts of specific incidents.  It also reproduces some articles from the Stratford Express, which were heavily censored, extremely vague, and again, underestimated the numbers of deaths inflicted.

The opening paragraph of this article
 from the Stratford Express of 25 April
 1941 illustrates the censorship under
 which papers worked under, and how
 little real information readers could
 gain from them. We presume it refers
 to the Eric Road bombing, see below
 - but the road, or even the district are
 not mentioned and the copy is vague in
 the extreme. It reads: "We are now
 permitted to relate some incidents which
 occurred in a violent raid a few weeks ago
. It was more severe than any in the  vicinity
 for some months and resulted in a
 considerable  number of fatalities.
  It carries on in the non-informing way.
 In fact, that bomb resulted in at least 17
 deaths, not that you would know it, or
 the location from the report

This post deals with the first half of the war, up to the end of 1943; it is mainly focused on the Blitz (October 1940 - June 1941). Next week's installment covers the second half of the war - particularly the horrific V1 and V11 bombings.

West Ham Civil Defence statistics claim that although the first air raid was on the opening day of the war 3 September 1939, the first bomb did not land in Newham until almost a year later 28 August 1940.  ARP figures, however, indicate that the first bomb hit Forest Gate six months earlier! Just the first and most obvious lack of reconciliation between different bombing records and accounts.

These, admittedly less than reliable, Civil Defence statistics, suggest that there were a total of 1,227 air raid alerts affecting the borough and 194 actual raids. Many of the raids, of course, resulted in multiple bombings. They estimated that there were 3,221 hits in the borough; about a third of which were high explosive bombs, a third incendiary bombs and the remainder a variety of other missile devices - some of which remained unexploded.

The bombed interior of one of Forest
 Gate's then most recognizable landmarks,
 the former Methodist church building on
 Woodgrange Road. 

Their figures suggest that 1,207 West Ham civilians were killed in these raids, with 2,545 received hospitalisation and 3,322 received treatment at a first aid post. This is almost certainly an underestimate.

What follows is the ARP's listing of bomb incidents in Forest Gate, by date and location. In brackets and italics are the names of civilian fatalities identified by either the War Graves Commission or West Ham council's rolls of civilian dead most likely to have been the result of the bomb hit recorded.

Public spaces, or buildings identified in the records are presented in bold italics.

Using those figures, it can crudely be estimated that there were approximately 245 incendiary devices of different kinds dropped on Forest Gate during World War 11, and 124 Forest Gate civilians were killed during the war. 

But, for reasons explained above, we cannot deduce from this that 124 Forest Gate civilians were killed in the district during the war, or that only 124 people were killed in Forest Gate!

Contemporaneous photographs, and some Stratford Express reports have been inserted following details of some of the most significant bomb hits.

We are sure what follows is far from definitive, so would be delighted to receive any corrections or additional eye witness accounts from the surviving band of war time residents of the area - which we will happily append to this post, with full credit being given to the source (if they wish).

Next week - Part 2 - 1944 - 1945.

WW11 Forest Gate Bomb hits, by road

29th - Latimer Road

29th - Gower Road

15th - Woodgrange

3rd - East London Cemetery

7th - Margery Park, Odessa, Sebert, Station Road, Wellington, Avenue Road, Upton Lane

8th - Upton Lane, Forest Street, Hampton, Latimer (Forest Gate Station)

9th - Osborne, Capel, Clova, Disraeli (Deaths: Ada Louisa Barnes, aged 40, 81 Disraeli; Ada Dorothy Barnes, aged 14, 81 Disraeli; Brenda Beach, aged 12 months, 81 Disraeli,;Dorothy Beach, aged 25, 81 Disraeli; Leonard Beach, aged 24, 81 Disraeli), Dunbar x 2, Upton Lane, Sebert, Wyatt (West Ham Cemetery)

10th - Romford x 2, Earlham Grove, Clova

16th - Sidney, Woodford x 4, Woodgrange, Dames, Forest Lane x 3

17th - Upton Lane

18th - Odessa, Ridley, Wellington

20th - Odessa, Sebert, Tower Hamlets (Deaths: Alice Scott, aged 69, 140 Tower Hamlets Road; Isabella Scott, aged 34, 140 Tower Hamlets Road, William Scott, aged 44, 140 Tower Hamlets Road), Wellington

23rd - Cranmer, Hampton, Odessa x 2 (Deaths: Elizabeth Clarke, aged 46, 29 Odessa; George Clarke, aged 46, 29 Odessa; Harry Clarke, aged 14, 29 Odessa; Lily Clarke, aged 8, 29 Odessa; Arthur Clayden, aged 37, 29 Odessa; Lily Clayden, aged 8, 29 Odessa; Margaret Clayden, aged 8, 29 Odessa; Mary Clayden, aged 67, 29 Odessa; Annie Hopgood, aged 26, 23 Odessa), Upton Lane

24th - Capel, Disraeli, Clova (Deaths: George Hamer, aged 87, 70 Clova; George Frederick Hamer, aged 56, 70 Clova; Mary Hamer, aged 79, 70 Clova; Cecil Partridge, aged 52, 68 Clova Road; Daisy Partridge, aged 56, 68 Clova Road; Hubert Partridge, aged 42, 68 Clova Road; Lilian Partridge, 68 Clova Road), Romford (Upton Lane School)(Death: Ronald Harris, aged 17, 32 Wellington)

28th - Windsor

The top of Windsor Road after the bombing,
 and the debris had been cleared
29th - Knox, Skelton

Communal grave of early air raid casualties,
 established September 1940 in East London Cemetery
1st - Sprowston (East London Cemetery)

2nd - Forest Lane, Odessa, Woodford (Forest Gate Hospital : Death: Elizabeth Sinclair, aged 61 at FG Hospital, Wanstead Flats)

4th - Hampton (Deaths: Hilda Humphreys, aged 23, 73 Hampton Road; Joyce Humphries, aged 23, 73 Hampton Road), Latimer

7th - Nursery Lane

8th - East London Cemetery, Dames

9th - St James', Romford x 3, Balmoral, Odessa (Forest Gate Hospital)

14th - Earlham Grove, Sebert, Station Road, Romford, Woodgrange

15th - Dames, Forest Lane, Leonard, Vansitart (East London Cemetery, West Ham Cemetery, Forest Gate Hospital) Deaths: Mrs Sabbon, aged 62, 102 Earlham Grove

16th - East London Cemetery

17th - Dean

18th - Sebert

22nd - Upton

27th - Romford

28th - Glen Parke

15th - (Death: Charles William Bryant, 67, an APR of 1 Dunbar Rd, killed Royal Albert Dock)

18th - Dunbar, Upton Lane x 3, Skelton

23rd - Ridley

3rd - Odessa, Sylvan, Whytevlille, Romford x 4, Woodgrange, Upton Lane, x 2, Kitchener x 2, Knox, Glen Parke, Gower, Green Street, Chaucer x 2, Claremont, Disraeli x 3, Earlham Grove, Clova x 3 (Emmanuel Church)

4th - Clova

9th - Margery Park, St James, Tower Hamlets, Whyatt, Romford x 7, Clova, Crosby, Earlham Grove x 4, Leonard, Upton Lane (Forest Gate Hospital, Upton Lane School)

What at the time was the maternity hospital on
 Forest Lane, after one of the six hits,
 in total it received during the war 
19th - Odessa, Forest Lane

29th - Upton Lane


11th - Disraeli

19th - (Forest Gate Police Station)

29th - Clova, Osborne, Green Street

8th/9th - Claremont x 3, Forest Gate Station,  Vale, Romford x 3, Vale (East London Cemetery)

19th - Wellington, Windsor, Talbot, Sidney, Knox, Hampton, Green Street x 3, Clova, Bignold, Atherton (Godwin School)

20th - Eric Road (Deaths: Albert Clements, aged 15, 25 Eric Road; Joyce Clements, 12, 25 Eric; Sarah Louise Clements, aged 52, 25 Eric; Ivy Denham, aged 26, Eric; Elizabeth Goddard, aged 70, 19 Eric; Frederick Ellis, 41, 161 Station Road; Alfred Middlehurst, aged 35, 20 Eric Road; Babrara Murrell, aged 2, 24 Eric Road; Doris Murrell, aged 18, 24 Eric Road; Dorothy Murrell, aged 13, 24 Eric Road; Rose Murrell, aged 16, 24 Eric Road; Susan Murrell, aged 46, 24 Eric Road; Thomas Murrell, aged 20, 24 Eric Road; Elizabeth Spooner, aged 51, 22 Eric Road; Annie Tallintire, aged 53, 21 Eric Road; Betty Tallintire, aged 14, 21 Eric Road; Charles Tallintire, aged 65, ARP stretcher bearer, 21 Eric Road)

Iconic photograph of Eric Road after
 the bomb. It is a small side
 road, just off Station Road

Parachute mine, of the kind that hit Eric Road

8th - Sebert (Godwin school)

Godwin school, after 1941 bombing
16th - Ridley

17th - Woodgrange (Methodist Church)(Deaths: Lucy Bruce, aged 68, 5 Claremont; William Bruce, aged, 68, 5 Claremont; Myer Cash, aged 65, 6 Claremont; Rosetta Cohen, aged 23, 3 Claremont;  Ruth Cohen, aged 19, 3 Claremont)

Above the bomb damaged Methodist
 church on Woodgrange Road

Once more, the Stratford Express
 report is very vague about location or
 details, but it probably refers,
 in very vague terms to the
 bombing of the church, which
is vaguely mentioned in the third
 paragraph in a small article,
 the week after the hit.

18th - Romford

19th - Earlham Grove x 3, Romford (Princess Alice Pub)

Bomb site left where original Princess Alice
 pub stood, junction of Romford and Woodgrange Roads
20th - Margery Park (Deaths: Herbert Kaye, aged 60, 1 Woodgrange Road)

29th - Romford (Queen's cinema)

Queen's cinema, soon after 29 April bomb
9th - Margery Park


27th - Vansitart


17th - Palmerstone, Romford (Death: Ronald Kirby, aged 18, a firewatcher)

18th - (Forest Gate Station)

3rd - (Forest Gate Hospital)