Plaque Unveiled In East London For 13 Victims Of First Day Of The Blitz

By David Prudames | 09 September 2005
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Shows a photo of a green plaque with black writing on it. It is attached to railings and there is a posy of flowers next to it.

The plaque was unveiled on the railings outside the Abbey Road Depot which is still used by the local council. Courtesy London Borough of Newham.

A plaque was unveiled in east London on September 8 2005 in memory of 13 men killed at a council depot on the first day of what would become the Blitz.

The Abbey Road depot in Bridge Road, Newham suffered a direct hit on September 7 1940 and collapsed killing workers and some of the firemen who came to rescue them.

With the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War as inspiration, Grant Fenwick, the grandson of one of the men who died that night, suggested the creation of a memorial to the local council. The London Borough of Newham, which still uses the site, duly obliged.

"It was a day I’ll never forget," Grant told the 24 Hour Museum. "I feel that local people might now be aware of the sacrifice my grandad and the 12 other men made that night,"

Shows a black and white photo of severe bomb damage in a street.

The devestation at the Abbey Road depot. Courtesy London Borough of Newham.

It was on September 7 1940 that what became known as the Blitz began. Attempting to make way for a German invasion of Britain, the Luftwaffe embarked on a constant bombing campaign that lasted until May 1941.

In the late afternoon 348 bombers accompanied by 617 fighters attacked London. The day became known as Black Saturday as 1000 bombs and thousands of incendiary devices were dropped on the docks and industrial centres.

In total 448 people were killed. Among them were 13 men, who died when a bomb hit the Newham Council depot in Bridge Road at 7.15pm.

Known as the Abbey Road depot, it was being used as an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) cleansing station – in case of gas attack – and as an ambulance station. The bomb caused it to collapse killing workers and some of the firemen who attended the scene.

Shows identity papers with a black and white photo of a man and his address written on it.

Matthew Fenwick's identity card. Courtesy London Borough of Newham.

Matthew Fenwick, 35 at the time and a resident of nearby Plaistow, was an ARP warden based at the depot and was among the dead. His son Brian was just eight years old when it happened and had been evacuated to Cornwall. Almost exactly 65 years later he returned to the spot, alongside his son Grant, to see the plaque unveiled.

Grant explained: "It was a particularly proud moment for me, not only that my grandad is remembered for what he gave, but also to do it for my dad. He is a very proud man and just appears to accept what happened without a problem."

One of the firemen called to the depot in 1940 was also at the ceremony – with a little help from the 24 Hour Museum.

Cyril Demarne OBE is now 100, but back then was a sub officer with the National Fire Service. He went on to become Chief Fire Officer at West Ham and has recently been involved in a London Fire Brigade Museum project to record the memories of firemen who fought the Blitz.

Shows a photo of a group of people posing in front of the plaque.

Guests included former West Ham Chief Fire Officer Cyril Demarne, 100, (second left) and Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales (third left). Courtesy London Borough of Newham.

When looking for survivors of the Abbey Road depot bomb who might want to be at the unveiling, Grant Fenwick spotted an article on the 24 Hour Museum about the project. He contacted the site and a quick email exchange with the London Fire Brigade Museum served up Cyril’s phone number for him.

On the day, Cyril spoke for 15 minutes about what had happened at the depot. In particular he remembered the death of fellow fireman and friend Wally Turley.

Asked why he felt it was important for such incidents to be remembered Grant explained: "it should be taught and remembered so these things will never happen again. The sacrifice should be remembered – not only the dead, but the living as well. I also think history is part of our culture and children should be aware of our past, good and bad," he said.

"I have the utmost respect for that generation and will try to pass certain of those values onto my children."

The plaque commemorates:

Alf Bridgeman ARP rescue squad leader
Fred Chilvers ARP rescue squad
Hugh Dicken AFS
Ted Dunn ARP demolition squad
Matthew Fenwick ARP warden
Fred Jones ARP warden
Bill Long AFS
Sid Lowings ARP light rescue squad leader
George Odell ARP rescue squad
Wally Porter ARP rescue squad
Frank Swift ARP messenger
Wally Turley AFS sub officer
Bill Willis ARP stretcher bearer

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