Home » Human Life » The First Day of the Blitz on the Isle of Dogs – 7th September 1940

The First Day of the Blitz on the Isle of Dogs – 7th September 1940

bombing docks

A few days ago was the 74th anniversary of the First Day of the Blitz, for the people who were not alive at the time it is difficult to envisage the shock and horror people had to endure.

To give some idea of the scale and scope of the first day , I am posting an eyewitness report by an Islander, Doris Lilian Bennett and the reports of bomb damage undertaken mostly by the Fire Brigade service.

On September 7, 1940, London was completely unaware of the threat massing on the other  side of the channel, however the relative peace was shattered at around 5.30pm when some 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters pounded London until 6.00pm. Using the many burning fires as targets, a second group attacked with more incendiary bombs two hours later.

According to the London Fire Brigade reports the first incident in the Isle of Dogs  was logged  at 5.52 when an oil stores was damaged on West Ferry Road. The attack continued for the next couple of hours causing widespread damage and a number of casualties.

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One of the Ack Ack Guns now at Mudchute Farm

Other than the Royal Air Force, the Island defences consisted of  four Ack Ack Anti-aircraft guns located at the Mudchute. Although the guns were fired by remote control using Radar, the station was manned by 154 Battery of the 52 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery .  It was a dangerous occupation, the day after the first night of the Blitz the Guardroom, canteen and stores was destroyed by landmines. Luckily there were no casualties.

Unfortunately that was not the case elsewhere, although we have no figures for the first night on the Island, but over the period of the Blitz an estimated 430 people were killed on the Isle of Dogs .

In all of London  on the first night of the Blitz, 430 civilians were killed and 1600 seriously wounded. Worse was to come, between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941 there were 71 major aerial raids  on London which caused one million London houses to be destroyed or damaged and over 20,000 civilians were killed.

On that fateful first day , Doris Lilian Bennett of the Auxiliary Fire Service was stationed at the bottom end of the Isle of Dogs and later wrote about what happened.

It began on Saturday 7th September 1940 at around tea-time, there had been one or two night time warnings during the previous week, but of short duration and no consequence. That Saturday was a warm, sunny Autumn day. In the late afternoon we of the Auxiliary Fire Service, stationed at the at the bottom end of the Isle of Dogs were standing in the Station yard watching the vapour trails of aircraft high in the sky when it was suggested we might get a better view from an upstairs window. Watching from the window towards Greenwich, across the Thames, we suddenly saw aircraft approaching, quite low, their shapes black against the bright sky. We watched, mesmerised, until someone said, uneasily, “I think we’d better go downstairs, these blokes look like they mean business” They did. We closed the window and were walking, unhurriedly down the stairs when suddenly came loud rushing noises and huge explosions. Bombs! we were being bombed! We huddled together in a corner of the stairwell until the noises ceased, then pulled ourselves together and made our way down the rest of the stairs.

Downstairs all was in darkness. Big, burly L.F.B. Sub-Officer Smith was marching about bellowing “First bomb lights went out, lights went out first bomb.” This simple fact seemed to please him enormously. The Emergency Lighting System —candles- had been put into operation and by their flickering light we made our way to our Control Room and took our places in front of the telephones. The first call came very quickly, from V Sub-station, my telephone. They had been called out to attend a fire at a wharf on their ground. I noted the time of the call, wrote the message on the pad, and handed it to Sub-Officer Frost, our Mobilising Officer who put the Mobilising Board into use for the first time For Real. During the previous months, whilst awaiting Enemy Action, we had many exercises to get us accustomed to what would happen if and when air raids began and we all knew what we had to do, but this was the first time it was happening for real. From that first call, calls came in thick and fast, Discs were shuffled about on the Mobilising Board and coloured-headed pins denoting fires and appliances attending there at were put into a map of the Island on the wall next to the Board. Appliances were ordered out and any who reported back after fires they had been attending were brought under control were swiftly ordered out again. It was organised chaos.

The Island was a prime target. Around the edges close to the river were timber yards, paint works, boiler making and engineering factories, and other factories producing jams, pickles and confectionery. Across the top of the Island were the three large West India Docks, down the middle were the Millwall Docks, the docksides lined with shipping from all over the world, their warehouses stuffed with the cargoes those ships had carried. At the bottom end of the Millwall Docks were MacDougalls flour mills,
their tall silos an outstanding landmark, all close together, the whole of the Island highly inflammable. Jerry was well aware of this.

The air-raid continued, unabated, as well as the noise of the bombers and their bombs was the noise of the Ack-ack guns, four of them, on the Mud-chute, pounding away, the noise of their shells going up competing with the noise of Jerry’s little offerings coming down. We in the Control Room carried on with what we had to do, taking and relaying messages. At some time during the evening our W.A.F.S. Sub-officer, a good and efficient lady, organised some tea for us in the W.A.F.S quarters across the Yard. We went, two or three at a time, wearing our tin hats (our battle bowlers), when my turn came I found I had no appetite, but gratefully drank two cups of tea, then we went back to carry on taking and relaying messages until one by one, the telephones were put out of order as wires were cut. We then relied on the young Messengers and our two Despatch riders ,on their motor-bikes to fetch and take.

It must have been around midnight when the Guv’nor called us together and said the way things were there was no point in all the girls staying on duty, we were to divide ourselves into two groups. This we did, he pointed to one group and said “You stay”, to the other group he said “You go”, to the shelter in the Yard. I was one of the Go lot. We collected tunics and tin hats and went to the back door to make our way across the Yard. It was after midnight, I had expected to walk out into the blackout we had grown accustomed to but the night was as bright as day from the light of the fires all around us flickering on the walls of houses and tall buildings. I had known, from the map of the Island in the Control Room that there were fires all around but it still came. as a shock to see it. For a moment I stood, watching, thinking that if the bridges were hit, as they quite well might be, we would be isolated in this ring of fire, but then I saw the other girls, strolling across the Yard as though on a Sunday walk in the Park, they didn’t seem at all worried, so I thought, “Oh well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, and I did. The shelter was made of four or five corrugated iron Andersons bolted together, making one very long shelter, half buried in the soil of what had been the Station garden, the soil that had been dug out to receive it had been spread on and around it as reinforcement. The floor had been boarded, and kapok quilts, intended to cover engines and keep them as warm as possible in very cold weather, were spread upon the floor. We arranged them, and ourselves, not very comfortably, and tried to get some sleep. I suddenly thought of all the things I had been afraid of before this night, they were all so trivial compared to this that they were just not worth worrying about…..

The days that followed took the same pattern, sirens every night at about the same time, the raid lasting until the early morning Houses, shops, factories all received bomb damage, some irreparable. People moved away from the Island, as my family did once our home had been made uninhabitable. The London Blitz continued until mid-may 1941, ending with a spectacular fire-bombing. I was at home that night, sitting quietly with the others until Dad went outside and called us all to come out. The sky over London was scarlet from the light of the fires Jerry had started. The following day on my way back to the Station the bus from Ilford stopped somewhere just before Stratford, the road from them on being impassable. I walked, along could hardly believe the damage that had been done. Whole streets of houses beyond repair. Back at the Station, I was now back at V Sub-station, the girls were tired out after a hectic night. There was no water, but they had managed to get a bucketful from a standpipe and they were all attempting to wash in the tepid water, and not feeling too happy about it.

However that was the end of that particular time, it will never be forgotten by those who experienced it.

‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC.

This archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’

kids

Kids clearing bomb site on the Isle of Dogs

The  following records of the London Fire Brigade are found on the Bomb Sight website

175  .17:52.  West Ferry Road, Millwall, E14, London, UK  EB &IB  Thames Oil Wharf, Ltd. 1000, 45 gallonmineral oil drums and three oil tanks (40 tons each) and two, 2 foor buildings, contents and machinery all damaged.

176  .17:52.  West Ferry Road, Millwall, E14, London, UK  EB &IB  Timber storage. 2 Tarpaulins burned and a 20x 10 stack or timberand an iron shed all damaged

208  .17:59.  West Ferry Road, Millwall, E14, London, UK  EB  20 ft of railway track and a building of one floor80x40 damaged
29  .18:00.  39 Saundersness Road, Cubitt Town, E14., London, UK  EB  20 houses damaged
230  .18:00.  Nos. 81-8 Yarrow House, Glengall Grove, Millwall, E14, London, UK  Eb  Three 4-floor buildings, and contents damaged
231  .18:00.  8 Maudesley House, Glengall Grove, Millwall, E14, London, UK  EB  Rest of street of 48 houses damaged by breakage
232  .18:00.  8 Hibbert House, Glengall Grove, Millwall, E1, London, UK  EB  Rest of street of 48 houses damaged by breakage
233  .18:00.  332 Hibbert House, Glengall Grove, Millwall, E1, London, UK  EB  Rest of street of 48 houses damaged by breakage
244  .18:01.  Westferry Road, Millwall, E14, London, UK  EB  Lead and Zinc Manufacturers. 40 x20 of wharfside and a 60×40 building, office and machine room, damaged
256  .18:02.  Manchester Road, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB  40x 30 roadway damage. And Three houses each of 8 rooms and contents damaged
257  .18:02.  Manchester Road, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB  40x 30 roadway damage. And Three houses each of 8 rooms and contents damaged
266  .18:03.  Dudgeons Wharf, Manchester Road, Cubitt town, E14, London, UK  EB  40×10 brickworkand damaged
267  .18:03.  Transporter Yard, East Ferry Road, Millwall, E14, London, UK  IB  20 Timber shed buildings each 10 x 6 ad 1 acre of undergrowth burned
280  .18:04.  Glengall Grove, Millwall, E14, London, UK  IB & EB  Lancashire Freight Services Ltd. 1,2 and 3 floor buildings covering 500×500 used as warehouses. Severely damaged

293  .18:06.  97 Stebondal Street Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  IB  Shop on ground floor and contents severely damaged
294  .18:06.  48 Stebondale Street, Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  IB  Front room on first floor and contents severely damaged
295  .18:06.  75, Stebondale Street Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  IB  Front room on first floor and contents damaged
308  .18:07.  86, Manchester Road, Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  EB  Caterer-A building of 3 floors about 40x 20 ft used as refreshment bar, swelling and store, upper part and contents damaged.
330  .18:10.  113-149 Stebondale Street. Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  EB  39 houses each of 6 rooms including 4 shops and contents severely damaged
331  .18:10.  156-194 Stebondale Street Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  EB  39 houses each of 6 rooms including 4 shops and contents severely damaged
332  .18:10.  101-111 Stebondale Street, Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  EB  6 houses each of 6 rooms and contents damaged
341  .18:11.  A Yard, Millwall Dock E14, London, UK  IB  A warehouse of 1 floor about 150x 150 feet and contents severely damaged. Basement used as messrooms, dormitories, offices and store, and contents damaged
342  .18:11.  84a, West Ferry Road, Millwall E14, London, UK  EB and IB  Timber Importers-A range of brick and corrugated iron shed buildings of one floor covering an area of 400x 200ft. About 1/2 of contents severely damaged
358  .18:14.  Carlton Works, Glengall Grove, Millwall, E14, London, UK  IB & EB  Walter Voss and Co Manufacturing Chemists. 200×200 used as laboratories, store and contents severely damaged
359  .18:14.  Carlton Works, Glengall Grove, Millwall, E14, London, UK  IB & EB  Speedy Metal Castings Ltd. 200×60 Machine Room, workshop and contents damaged
366  .18:15.  Methodist Church, Stebondale Street, Cubitt Town E14. 151-163 Stebondale Street Cubitt Town E14. 100-124 Stebondale Street Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  EB  Church and 20 private houses each of 6 rooms, including three shops and contents severely damaged
367  .18:15.  North Side, Import Dock, West India Docks E14, London, UK  IB  “C” shed- about 60×60 ft or roof damaged
368  .18:15:00.  Lying at North Side Import Dock, West India Docks E14, London, UK  IB  Part of London Authority-A vessel of 3,000 tons gross, laden with general cargo, poop and contents damaged
375  .18:16:00.  West Ferry Road, Millwall E14, London, UK  eb  About 30×30 feet of paving damaged and 4″ gas main fractured by explosion in yard
377  .18:17.  Samudas Wharf, Manchester Road, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB and IB  Transport Contractors -A range of buildings of 2 floors covering an area about 800x300f (used as machine rooms, workshops, offices and store) and contents and some stock in yard including a number of motor lorries severely damaged.
378  .18:17.  Samudas Wharf, Manchester Road, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB and IB  Engineers-A range of buildings of 2 floors covering an area about 800x300f (used as machine rooms, workshops, offices and store) and contents and some stock in yard including a number of motor lorries severely damaged.
379  .18:17.  Samudas Wharf, Manchester Road, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB and IB  Stone Merchants-A range of buildings of 2 floors covering an area about 800x300f (used as machine rooms, workshops, offices and store) and contents and some stock in yard including a number of motor lorries severely damaged.
392  .18:19.  Tooke Street, Millwall E14, London, UK  EB  30x 30 roadway damaged. 11 Private houses and one shop damaged
393  .18:19.  11 Tooke Street, Millwall E14, London, UK  EB  30x 30 roadway damaged. 11 Private houses and one shop damaged
395  .18:20.  Import Dock, East India Docks, Poplar E14, London, UK  IB  Part of London Authority- A builing of 2 floors about 100 x 50 ft and contents including hydraulic crane and electric meter cupboard severely damaged. Building used as a hydraulic pressure house slightly damaged. Doors and window glass by breakage. Building of one floor 40 x 30ft about 4/5 severely damaged. Most part of roof damaged.
403  .18:24.  24, Maria Street, Millwall E14, London, UK  EB  8 Houses, 6 rooms each, severely damaged
404  .18:24.  52 Malabar Street, Millwall, E14, London, UK  EB  Remaining houses are also damaged
418  .18:27.  poplar Docks, Preston Road, Poplar, E14, London, UK  EB  60×60 railway track damaged.15 acre 4 floor builing including vehicles in yard and machinery all damaged.
445  .18:30.  91 Stebondale Street, Cubbitt Town, E14, London, UK  IB  house and shop and contents
474  .18:40.  Millwall Recreation Ground, E14, London, UK  EB  30×30 asphalt pavement damage
475  .18:40.  Globe Rope Works, East Ferry Road, , Millwall E14, London, UK  EB  200×30 building with machiner room and contents damaged
476  .18:40.  A Yard Millwall Docks, E14, London, UK  EB & IB  Port of London Authority. No, 4, 4a and 5 warehouses, each of two floors and 400×60 damaged with contents
498  .18:50.  30 East Ferry Road, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  IB  Shop and house of 6 rooms, and contents damaged
502  .18:52.  63 Stebondale Street, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  IB  Front room on 1st floor and contents damaged.
503  .18:52.  Glengall Grove, E14, London, UK  EB  60×60 of roadway damaged
504  .18:52.  174 Glengall grove, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB  Off licence. Building of 3 floord 60×20 , used as dwelling and store, contents severly damaged.
505  .18:52.  172 Glengall Grove Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB  Tobacconist, Shop and house of 6 rooms, damaged.
509  .18:57.  176, Glengall Grove, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB  6 houses, 6 rooms each damaged.
510  .18:57.  171 Stebondale Street, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB  8 houses 6 rooms each and contents damaged
511  .18:57.  124 Stebondale Street, Cubitt Town, E14, London, UK  EB  11 houses of 6 rooms ad contents damaged
527  .19:07.  55, Glengarnock Avenue, Cubitt town E14, London, UK  IB  A house of 6 rooms, upper part and contents severely damaged
528  .19:07.  45, Glengarnock Avenue, Cubitt town E14, London, UK  IB  A house of 6 rooms, upper part and contents severely damaged
529  .19:07.  34, Glengarnock Avenue, Cubbit town E14, London, UK  IB  A timber shed building about 12x 10 feet used as store and contents severely damaged
531  .19:08.  Manchester Road, Cubitt Town E14, London, UK  IB  Builders and Contractors- Some stock in yard and motor lorry damaged
543  .19:17.  Folly House Barge Roads, Blackwall Reach, E, London, UK  IB  Seven dumb barges and contents severely damaged
550  .19:25.  102 West Ferry Road, Millwall E14, London, UK  IB and EB  Wharfingers-A range of buildings of 1, 2 and 3 floors covering an area of about 650x 450 feet used as machine rooms, workshops, sorting rooms, offices dwelling and store. About 2/3 and contents, some stock in yard, including 3 motor lorries severely damaged.
551  .19:25.  102 West Ferry Road, Millwall E14, London, UK  IB and EB  General Merchants-A range of buildings of 1, 2 and 3 floors covering an area of about 650x 450 feet used as machine rooms, workshops, sorting rooms, offices dwelling and store. About 2/3 and contents, some stock in yard, including 3 motor lorries severely damaged.
552  .19:25.  104 West Ferry Road, Millwall E14, London, UK  IB and EB  Millwall Ingot Metals Ltd-A range of buildings of 1, 2 and 3 floors covering an area of about 650x 450 feet used as machine rooms, workshops, sorting rooms, offices dwelling and store. About 2/3 and contents, some stock in yard, including 3 motor lorries severely damaged.
553  .19:25.  Glengall Wharf, Millwall E14, London, UK  IB and EB  Thames Oil Wharf-A range of buildings of 1, 2 and 3 floors covering an area of about 650x 450 feet used as machine rooms, workshops, sorting rooms, offices dwelling and store. About 2/3 and contents, some stock in yard, including 3 motor lorries severely damaged.
554  .19:25.  Union Road, Millwall E14, London, UK  IB and EB  Beer Retailer-A range of buildings of 1, 2 and 3 floors covering an area of about 650x 450 feet used as machine rooms, workshops, sorting rooms, offices dwelling and store. About 2/3 and contents, some stock in yard, including 3 motor lorries severely damaged.
556  .19:30.  Hutchings Wharf, Hutchings street, West Ferry Road, Millwall E14, London, UK  IB  Walkers Wharfage and Haulage Co.-A building of one floor about 60x 40 ft used as store and contents and come stock in yard slightly damaged
578  .20:38.  Folly House Buoy, Blackwall Reach, E, London, UK
746  .22:47.  Trinity Wharf Buoy, Limehouse Reach. E., London, UK  IB  2 dumb barges, unladen, damaged
819  .23:45.  Westferry Road, Docklands, London E14, London, UK  COB  Preserving manufacturers- building of two floors, 10 x 40 ft, used as workshops and stores. Top floor and contents damaged

 

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1 Comment

  1. Tim WAugh says:

    Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:05:12 +0000 To: waughtim@hotmail.com

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