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HomeHistoryIn depth historyThe Blitz in Bermondsey

The Blitz in Bermondsey

Due to the docklands in Rotherhithe and factories in Bermondsey, Southwark was a major target for Luftwaffe bombing raids during the Blitz in World War Two.

The two areas were a hive of industrial activity and essential to the war effort, which affectively marked out the whole borough with huge cross-hairs.

From October 7, 1940 to June 6, 1941, there were 1651 bombs dropped on Southwark, plus another 20 parachute mines which were equally devastating.

Bermondsey especially was shattered by the weeks of onslaught, experiencing 395 air raids in the last three months of 1940 alone.

With so many attacks it is nearly impossible to estimate when the unexploded bomb discovered at Grange Walk on Monday was dropped ? although we can make an educated guess.

The area around the Grange was struck several times over the course of the war, including on the very first night of bombing on September 7, 1940.

On that date, bombs fell at Grange Walk and Southwark Park Road, including one at the present-day site of the Harris Academy. The building was evacuated by pupils on Monday and used as a base for the emergency services in response to the unexploded bomb.

The Grange was struck again in January 1941, when homes and the Grange Mission were hit, killing three people. In total, some 400 civilians would be killed by the raids across the borough.

Tragedy marked the Blitz in Bermondsey, partly due to the nature of the soil, which made it tricky to build deep, safe shelters. Make-shift replacements were unfortunately not strong enough to withstand powerful blasts.

On September 7, the first day of the Blitz, a bomb struck a railway arch on Linsey Street. Because shelters had not been built in enough numbers by this stage, the arch was crammed with many people. When the bomb hit the crowded and weak shelter, 23 people died and dozens more were injured.

That same night, 29 other people were killed at Keeton School, which was being used as a rest centre. The site in Keeton Road suffered a direct hit, with horrifying consequences.

After this harrowing introduction to the Blitz, Bermondsey residents suffered 57 consecutive days of air raids, and many more interrupted nights during 1940 and 1941, and again towards the end of the war.

However, in the midst of the chaos and fear, the famous ?Blitz spirit? prevailed and Bermondsey residents responded with humour in the most harrowing of circumstances.

During one incident, a bomb devastated Hawkstone Road, leaving a huge sixty-foot crater. When the dust settled, a lone Anderson shelter was spotted still standing on the very edge of the crater.? Out of it emerged an elderly lady who, after calmly taking in the destruction of her surroundings, shouted to her friend below: “There you are Emily – I told you it was a bomb!?

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