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.


1944

January
22nd - (West Ham Cemetery)

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

30th - Claremont

February
2nd - Romford x 2

7th - Sprowson

19th - Strode

20th - Tylney

21st - Romford

22nd - Sprowson, Whyteville, Romford

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

March
22nd - Vansitart

April
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

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

August
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)

October 
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)

November
1st - (Wanstead Flats)

1945

January
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.

March
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).


Conclusion/summary/observations

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.




5 comments:

  1. My mother was the only survivor in the Golding household 6 March, Earlham Grove. She was 14 and was buried alive. She never really recovered as she lost so many family members. I gave her hospital admissions papers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Jacqui - how dreadful for her. I note you are an Adams, this was the family name of a family that lost 3 members, to the same hit, three doors away. Was your father from that badly affected family too? If so, it must have given them an appalling shared heritage, akin to that of holocaust survivors.

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  3. My aunt survived one of the Kitchener Road V2's but lived in Grosvenor Road with a broken neck, the house destroyed but she always remembered the kettle was still on the gas stove.

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  4. Hi Jacqui. My fathers joinery shop was 93 Upton Lane on the corner of Grosvenor Roads J.W.Hurley Shop Fitters. I attended Upton Lane School thank god it was during the night when the bomb hit it split the school in half. I was evacuated to Huntington. They used west Ham swimming Baths Romford Road as the Mortuary.

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  5. Regarding the Dames Road rocket that hit a trolley bus on 27th Sept 1944, with an unknown number of casualties, I have two additional names not recorded so far. I have encouraged my father to write his life story. He's 90 this year (2016), and this is some detail from that event.

    He recalls that he (Harry Paxton) and brother Alec used to work together at Optical Products in Station Road, Forest Gate. Alan and Eric Bunt were workmates who had come up from Cornwall, with their mother and elder Brother, to find work. My dad continues....

    " we all left work together at 5pm, a group of us including Alec and I went south along Station Road, while Eric and Alan went along Talbot Road and left into Dames Road to a bus stop by the Cherry Tree Pub. We heard the loud explosion but thought little of it until the next morning, when we heard about them."

    My father continues that the two lads had simply "disappeared" in the explosion, and that in the years that followed, he often thought of their mother and her loss.

    There are a number of eyewitness accounts, particularly that of Cyril Demarne, a fireman at the time and later chief fire officer for West Ham. The accounts are a bit graphic - but the fire brigade also maintain records that include photos of the destroyed trolley bus itself (chassis 1387). with kind regards, Garry Paxton

    ReplyDelete

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