ADVERTISER 150: Wartime news reporting is censored, but now we tell what happened 76 years ago...
PUBLISHED: 19:48 12 December 2016 | UPDATED: 20:09 12 December 2016
1940: The Blitz of the Second World War causes death and destruction in the East End, so close to the London Docks being targeted by the Luftwaffe. Our nightly lookback at the big news of the day to mark the East London Advertiser's 150th anniversary reaches September 10, when 15 firemen are killed in the bombing of East India Dock Road...
1940: The “night they got St Geoge’s Hall” when 15 firemen are killed by crashing masonry at the height of the bombing on September 10-11 in East India Dock Road.
The Luftwuffe begin that day’s air-raid around seven o’clock, concentrated on the London Docks between Woolwich Arsenal and Tower Bridge.
The East London Advertiser can report on damage afterwards, but not give away locations or times due to national security press censorship.
It is only years later, after the War, that we can report when the first call to the London Fire Brigade is received at 2.50am on the morning of September 10 to a blaze in Poplar at Carrington’s Bakery, in a parade of shops in the East India Dock Road next to a tailor’s, tobacconist and amusement arcade.
The call to the shopping parade fire is answered by crews from Millwall, Homerton and as far as Camden Town after the bakery is hit by incendiary bombs.
An hour later, a heavy explosive bomb meant for the docks hits the other side of East India Dock Road, No 166, SE Pearce’s Woodstock Garage motor engineers.
Then Woodstock Terrace is wiped out, so close to the docks targeted by Göring’s Luftwaffe where major fires are sweeping the quaysides and wharves. Crews are being drawn in from all over London as reinforcements.
Two crews from Bethnal Green fire-station are returning from the docks when they are caught up in East India Dock Road at 4.06am as a high explosive land-mine explodes, wrecking 70ft of roadway, tram track, paving, 24ins gas main, shops and houses and four fire appliances and towing vehicles. Live overhead trolleybus wires are down. A fire breaks out at Poplar Baths.
Fifteen firemen are injured, buried beneath falling masonry. Most are rescued quickly, although badly injured—but by 10am, none survive. It is the biggest death toll of London firemen of the war so far.
Buildings wrecked include the Recreation Tavern, George Green’s School, Poplar Methodist Church, Poplar Baths and the landmark St George’s Hall. Poplar Baths is the only building that remains.
Years later, the wartime generation of East Enders who survive still talked about “the night they got St George’s Hall”.