Firefighters march through East End to mark 70th anniversary of Blitz attack
PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 January 2011
FIREFIGHTERS marched through the East End to mark the 70th anniversary of one of the worst nights of the Blitz.
The area from Aldgate to Tower Hill and reaching into the city was turned into an inferno on the night of December 29 1940 in what became known as the second Great Fire of London.
To pay respect to the 16 firefighters and 160 people who lost their lives that night, four vintage World War II engines were led through Tower Hamlets and onto St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday.
Charity Firemen Remembered organised the procession and some members even dressed up in the traditional uniform of the day.
Peter Mansi, borough commander of City of London, said: “The sacrifice those firefighters made was felt deeply by everyone.
“When you look at the equipment they had compared to what we use now, and also the protective clothing, it’s staggering to think about what they did.
“And whatever equipment you’ve got, when you’re dealing with the fires they were, it’s another story.
“The radiated heat would have been absolutely colossal. There were incredible stories of officers who were trapped between buildings and had to go down into the sewers. They had nowhere to go.”
During the Blitz from the German Luftwaffe, large swathes of the city were destroyed but the cathedral escaped the flames.
Founder of Firemen Remembered, Frank Sommerville’s parents both served in brigades in the East End during the Blitz attacks.
Mr Sommerville, who organised the procession, said: “I don’t believe the fire service got full recognition for what they did during the war. We were comparing the kit and engines with today’s equipment at Aldgate and all the firefighters were saying it was unbelievable.”
Other members of the public whose families served in the brigade helped organise the evening’s events.
Six firefighters joined members of the public and led the way past Tower Hill, through Mansell Street, Whitechapel, Aldgate and then into the city.
They then walked through London Wall and into White Cross Street – the site where 35 people were killed in one blaze.
Wreaths were laid at London’s firemen’s memorial outside St Paul’s.
The engines which led the march are owned privately by collectors and were some of the original ones used to tackle the flames.
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