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Home Front - Impact of WW2 on SE London

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Evening Gents,

I'm not sure if this is the right section (if GMIC had a Home Front section then it would be! ;) ), but I have got round to scanning something which brings into focus the impact of WW2 on the average Londoner.

This is a programme from the Victory Thanksgiving festivities in Lewisham, Southeast London. It's in fact very rare and I have never seen another: it's printed on flimsy paper but has a rather nice depiction of the V1 morphing into the Dove of Peace, drawn by an illustrious member of the Lewisham Arts Society (founded in 1943 and still going).

It shows a stylised view of the very real destruction that Lewisham suffered during the blitz and the later rocket attacks: it's closeness to the Docks and its light industry facilities made it a tasty target.

Edited by deptfordboy
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And here's the impact of the war in black and white: the figures show that you were far more likely to be directly affected by the war than not. I live near Lewisham and we recently had a surveyor in (who happens to be my neighbour) to look at some structural damage to our house, which turned out to be repaired bomb damage! Similarly, it's easy to spot the 'gaps' in Victorian streets where the period house was destroyed and replaced by a new one.



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They were tough people. Perhaps not, as the trite American clich? has it "the greatest generation" but certainly able to endure and prevail without knowing when it would all be over-- or how it would all come out.

Compare that with the whining and complaining and self-righteously indignant BOREDOM of today's human species...

obviously evolution is not a one way process.

I'm glad that I am old enough to have known that generation when they were younger than I am now. It always stuns me when the young speak of this period as if Hannibal was still leading his elephants across the Alps.

What the WW2 generation went through rather puts things in perspective for us, doesn't it?

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I used to play on the Lewisham & Brockley bomb sites as a kid, when I lived in Cranfield Road, Brockley & later when I'd moved to The Old Kent Road as my grandmother still lived in Chalsey Road & I went to school on Hilly Fields. So many of these sites were still around 30 years after the war & there are still some left undeveloped now.

I remember walking with my grandmother along Adelaide Avenue when she mentioned that she had walked past the flats we were passing one morning during the war & that bodies were laying all around in the street due to a bomb.

They're long lost, but I once found a bullet head & a few pieces of shrapnel just outside a garden in Comerford Road - the rain or something like that must have just shifted them off the soil of the garden & onto the pavement.

I think a number of casualties in Lewisham were caused by a V2 landing on a cinema, were'nt they?

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Ta, I'll check the link out, I did a little bit of checking on the V2 a few weeks ago when I aquired a Soldbuch & other papers to a NCO in a V2 unit, but I only checked up to get a list of the rockets fired by his unit & their landing places.

Just checked - M & S in Lewisham copped a V1, I had an idea that somewhere in the vicinity of Cheesemans was hit by "something" - looking at the photo, is the clocktower off out of frame to the right?

Was M&S rebuilt on the same spot or nearby?

I remember now that my old primary school - Brockley Primary, was bombed & / or machine gunned during the war while the kids were on lunch break I think?

Again, something that my grandmother mentioned once, but nobody ever seemed to talk about anything like that - I think they just accepted it as something that came & went & was'nt very important anymore.

Edited by leigh kitchen
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This is more than interesting.

The last time I saw my Nan she was telling me that once when she lived down Thurston Rd., she had to go out, and left someone looking after my Dad. This person didn?t do their job as my Dad escaped from his cot, filled his nappy a few time and then played with the mess.

My Nan wasn?t home more than 30 minutes doing some washing and scrubbing when an incendiary landed in the garden, blowing out the windows in the room she was living in. She had to move in with the family downstairs after that as it was too cold without windows. Obviously cleaning up was more important than nipping to the shelter.

Leigh, I grew up in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey and used to live down Rotherhithe New Road; small world. The railway bridge down Ilderton Rd. was full of holes when I was little, said to have been done by German machine guns.

At the danger of hijacking your thread Gilbert, I?ve attached a paragraph from a book I have called Bermondsey in War 1939 - 1945.

I still haven?t read it but it does mention 38 V1s falling on Bermondsey; with Lewisham only just down the road, it may give some idea of how many landed there too.


Edited by Tony
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an incredible and thought-provoking thread....

ricky is quite correct regarding the relative sense of

loss or inconvenience many americans have. the

desperately few who know any history at all are

becoming an anachronism...

this is the stuff of an historical education, rather

than the pablum doled out in too many schools

around the country.


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I?ve just called my Nan and asked if she was still in Lewisham at the end of the war, she said yes. So, I asked if she remembered the V2 and she told me; "they were always dropping something or other on us and blowing thing down, or do you mean the one at Deptford?"

Yes, that?s the one I said.

"Bloody annoying that was but as I said, they were always dropping something and I couldn?t get a place away from Lewisham till after the war."

She then told me they didn't use a shelter but went to the house opposite instead.

I'll get her to tell me some tales when I'm there in February, I think she might be able to tell you a few stories too Gilbert.

The devastation caused by that V2 must have been quite different from the V1s for her to remember it like that.


Edited by Tony
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Check out this site re V2 launches, it's really interesting:


And you can tell your nan here's one of the buggers that lobbed that V2 On Woolies in Deptford on Saturday Nov. 25

Launched by Batt. 444 or Batt. 485, Wassenaar, Duindigt, A4 rocket fired, (time unknown), impacted crowded Woolworth's store in London. 160 killed, 108 injured.

I would imagine your nan would have given him a good handbagging, same as mine would - you can just hear it can't you? - Bloody V2's you'll have someones eye out with one of those if you're not careful".

In fact, never mind the handbag, he probably deserves the hat pin all grannies carried

Anyway, meet Schirrmeister Heinrich Gontgen of Art.Abt. 485 & Art.Rgt. z.b.V. 902 (I bought his soldbuch, this photo & some other documents a few weeks ago).

His unit probably did that one, & they did these - just a few "local" V2's from a quick scan of the site I've posted the link to - Woolwich, Orpington, Greenwich, Chislehurst Beckenham etc


Mar. 03, (12.13 hours) - Batt. 1./485 (Art. Reg. 1./902), Den Haag, Scheveningen, rocket fired, impacted Deptford.

Mar. 08, (12.01 hours) - Batt. 1./485 (Art. Reg. 1./902), Den Haag, Scheveningen, rocket fired, impacted Lewisham. 5 Dead. (*JP)

Mar. 11, (+/- 19.58 hours) - Batt. 3./485 (Art. Reg. 3./902), Den Haag, rocket fired, impacted Deptford. 9 Dead. (*JP)

Mar. 17, (12.37 hours) - Batt. 1./485 (Art. Reg. 1./902), Den Haag, Scheveningen, rocket fired, impacted Deptford Creek, Greenwich. (*JP)

Mar. 26, (15.18 hours) - Batt. 1./485 (Art. Reg. 1./902), Den Haag, Scheveningen, rocket fired, impacted Bromley. 1 Dead. (*JP)

Another "good one" by his unit was:

Mar. 08, (+/- 10.58 hours) - Batt. 3./485 (Art. Reg. 3./902), Den Haag, rocket fired, impacted on the boundary of Finsbury borough and City of London borough. Direct hit on block of Smithfield Market, corner of Charterhouse Street and Farringdon Road. One block totally destroyed, others severely damaged. Gas main and water main fractured, underground railway damaged. 110 Dead, 123 seriously injured. (*JP)

Some estimates give more V2's landing in Holland than in UK, & a noteworthy target was the Bridge at Remagan, apparently Hitler ordered its detruction after its capture & one hit killed 3 American soldiers.

Belgium Antwerp 1610

Luttich 27

Hasselt 13

Tournai 9

Mons 3

Diest 2

France Lille 25

Paris 22

Tourcoing 19

Arras 6

Cambrai 4

England London 1358

Norwich/Ipswich 44

Germany Remagen 11

Holland Maastricht 19

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Still in the SE of London. Both my parents lived through the blitz in Romford. Amongst the bits and pieces on my bookshelf is this rather natty little book that must have belonged to one of them (probably mum). It?s only abut 43 pages long but has some interesting info on things like the times the siren went off and damage stats. I think the covers pretty cool as well.



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Fascinating posts guys, it's good to know there's interest in the Home Front! I can only imagine the impact of a V2 in a crowded urban environment, and it's interesting to see how many buzzed over - I was always under the impression that, it being so late in the war, only a few were acutally launched as a gesture, but if they had been pumping them over at that rate a few years earlier, things might have been very different... thank God it wasn't the case!

The pamphlet I own is entitled "The Battle of South London": dated around 1944 was published by the proprietors of 3 South London Newspapers ?Crystal Palace Advertiser,? ?South London Advertiser,? and ?West Norwood Times?.

The bomb damaged places included in this publication are Croxted Road, Dulwich ? Spa Hill, Upper Norwood ? Lordship Lane by Towney Road ? Penge High Street ? Knights Hill showing Furneaux Avenue ? Elmers End Road, Anerley ? South Norwood Hill ? York Hill ? Anerley Hill, Upper Norwood ? Forest Hill ? Lewisham High Street ? The Alexandra Public House In Gibbon road S.E 15. ? Costa Street, Peckham ? Wyndham road, Camberwell ? Lower Sydenham ? Gibbs Square ? Auckland Road ? Lovelace Road ? Norwood Road ? Lordship Lane ? Ivydale Road ? Radnor Street ? Brockley Rise ? Moore Road, Upper Norwood.

I can do lookups if anyone is interested, it has pictures of the devastation as well which I will scan at some point.

Tony, I would love to hear more of your Nan's stories over a pint and a poppadum, see you in Feb!


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Gilbert, I've printed off the pamphlet cover and will show it to my Nan when I see her. She doesn't do emails and has enough trouble with the mobile I bought her (can't hear it when it's ringing), so I will have to wait a few weeks but will also phone now and then.

Leigh, she still carries a hat pin in her bag.

I've just started reading my Bermondsey book and remembered some of my Grandad's stories; he was an ARP and lived off of Jamaica Rd. till being bombed out in September 1940. He was rehoused Between Southwark Park and Peek Frean's (always good for broken biscuits in my morning school break) and used to talk about the fires on the river, wood and rubber floating along burning, uxb's and looking for survivors. This second house was damaged by the last V1 (may have been a V2 as my Mum said it was late 44/early 45) to land on Bermondsey and some bugger looted his tools. The repair/new half a house can still be seen today.


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Thanks Tony, it's always great to hear personal experiences from those who lived through it. I have now dug out this pamphlet "The Battle of South London". It's published in late 1944, and focuses on the impact of the V1 attacks, prior to the increased horror of the V2's.

Leigh, I think it mentions the incident you had in mind: according to the pamphlet, the greatest number of casualties suffered from the V1 campaign resulted from one landing in Lewisham High Street during the peak shopping period (Friday morning), before the alarm could be sounded. 51 people were killed and 216 injured, quite a few of whom subsequently died from their injuries. Here's an extract from the description of this terrible scene:

"The flying bomb...almost demolished a popular chain store (that'll be M&S, I'm guessing). Customers and shop assistants were buried in the debris...People remaining on their feet near the spot where the bomb fell had the clothes stripped from their bodies by the blast. Other passers-by had their clothes set on fire. Rolls of cloth were taken from shop windows to wrap round those whose clothes were on fire, to extinguish the flames. Old age pensioners, drawing their money from a Post Office nearby, were amongst those injured."

Hard to imagine as one walks past the pound shops and chain stores of grubby modern Lewisham, but this was the third most bombed London borough back in WW2.



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Hallo Gents, :cheers:

this is with regards a V1 hit on London, here is a scan of a picture I took while wandering around London a few years ago.

It reads:





I also wandered around Romford a few times visiting friends but never realised it took so many hits :o

Kevin in Deva. :beer:

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Bermondsey was bombed on 57 consecutive nights in 1940, the target for the first attack and many afterwards were the docks. No doubt neighbouring Deptford suffered badly too. On 18th September parachute mines were dropped for the first time. Does anyone know about this type of bomb?

During the first 55 days of the Blitz, Bermondsey had 229 air raid warnings of which only 77 developed into actual raids on Bermondsey. The 57 consecutive raid took place on 2nd November 1940, the next raid didn?t happen till 7th November.

I used to go to school down Drummond Rd., just next door to Peek Frean?s. I usually grabbed some food at my Grandad?s or the chippy down Blue Anchor Lane during the lunch break, and walked along to the park at St. James's church. This day I met a few kids from school who had found a very small bomb, probably no more than 1 1/2 foot long. This was where the old Victorian terraces were being pulled down either directly on St. James's Rd. or somewhere in Webster Rd. We all had a good look at it and then they took it to school to show it off a bit.

By the time lunch break was over, the school had been cordoned off by the police and the bomb squad was there (not a rare sight in London during the mid 70s). We were all told to go home and I was chuffed to bits.

I now think the bomb may have been an incendiary.

I?ve seen a photo of a B17 named Rotherhithe?s Revenge but don?t know what happened to it. The photo showed the crew and mayor of Bermondsey.

After a quick search I found this site http://www.381st.org/noseart-r.html Rotherhithe?s Revenge made it safely back to the US in September 1945 after completing 122 missions.

Did Lewisham or Deptford have fund raised bombers?

The following link also shows a link for Lewisham market, S. Londoner?s stories and has shown me that the damage to my Grandad?s house was indeed caused by a V2 landing on John Bull Arch on 5.11.44. Not the last to fall on Bermondsey as my Mum told me but the last in her immediate area.


The last two pictures in this link show Deptford, the bottom picture is Woolies at Deptford, the one my Nan remembers quite clearly.


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Bermondsey was bombed on 57 consecutive nights in 1940, the target for the first attack and many afterwards were the docks. No doubt neighbouring Deptford suffered badly too. On 18th September parachute mines were dropped for the first time. Does anyone know about this type of bomb?........

I believe that my grandmother told me that the bomb in Adelaide Avenue was a parachute mine, but what little I've found on the incident does'nt mention the fact.

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It seems the RN was responsible for making parachute mines safe, whereas the army did the rest.

Oil bombs (another new one for me) are mentioned quite a bit too but they don't seem to have been dropped in large numbers.


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I asked my uncle about life back then and although my family is from Bermondsey, it borders Deptford and is only a couple of miles from Lewisham. Romford can?t be that far away by bomber, a couple of minutes may be.

I would think most boys in South London and in fact any other city being bombed, whether by the Luftwaffe or the RAF, had much the same experience.

Rockets in the park are mentioned, these were set up in Southwark Park during the middle of the war and I now know my Grandad was bombed out in May 1941.

We were living at 61, Martins Crescent when the Blitz started in Sept '40. Your mum was born during an air raid but I don't think it was in our house. We didn't have a shelter. So we used to go up the road to some neighbours called the Mc'Guires every night. While Ted and I were in the shelter your mum was being born in the house while all the bombs were falling and the ack-ack guns were going off. I think the house was number 25 or 27, It might be on her birth certificate. Across the road several houses were bombed. I don't know how close that was to mum's birth date. I can still remember the smell of gas and dust in the air when we went out the next day. We used to collect shrapnel and bits of incendiary bombs to take to the scrap merchant.

Number 61 was bombed or suffered bomb damage on the night of 10th/ 11th of May 1941, after the war Gran'pa got compensation of ?135.

Yes, I do remember the rockets round the park. There was a whole battery of them on the oval in Southwark Park along with ack ack guns. There was also a Barrage balloon emplacement next to the grandstand.

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