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The Isle of Dogs During World War II by Mick Lemmerman

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Last year I reviewed a book called The (Old) Isle of Dogs from A to Z by Mick Lemmerman, I am pleased to say that Mick has just published another book entitled The Isle of Dogs During World War II . Mick with colleagues Con Maloney and Peter Wright are well known for their work on Island history and have been responsible for collecting photographs and documents about the Island and  making them widely available on a number of websites. Mick also has his own blog called Isle of Dogs – Past Life, Past Lives.

In my time writing this blog I have written about various aspects of the Isle of Dogs in the Second World War. However, Mick has written probably the first comprehensive account of the Island at this time that places the many personal accounts in their historical context. Mick acknowledges his debt for the personal accounts to Island History Trust who collected and published many WWII memories of Islanders.

Mick makes the point that on the eve of the war, the Island was essentially a self contained community little changed in generations, the pubs and the churches were hubs of support and entertainment and work was often available in the docks or other industries.

The book then looks at the preparation for war, it quickly became clear that the docks would be a prime target for German attacks and certain Air Raid Precautions were put into place. However, at the start of the war, there were no purpose-built shelters which would have tragic consequences. Originally trenches were built but were soon seen to be inadequate. The local council allocated public shelters in warehouse basements, church crypts  and railway arches, the danger of these approaches would soon become apparent.

Mudchute became the base for a Anti-Aircraft Guns battery and Barrage Balloons became a common sight around the docks. For all the preparations, it was probably the evacuation of the children of the Island community that caused the greatest upheaval. Many parents were aware the docks would be in the front line and sent their children away.

The wisdom of this approach was made clear with the First Night of the Blitz, the book shows in detail the damage sustained and people’s memories of the Blitz and the aftermath. The horror and bravery of the people and services in those dark days are illustrated by the stories of those who had to deal with death and destruction on a daily basis. The Cubitt Town School Disaster and Bullivants Wharf disaster were two of the worst events on the Island with multiple fatalities. After surviving the Blitz, the danger was not over with subsequent raids and the V1 and V2 rockets.

During the war, the Island population fell to around 9,000 , after the war, even with this smaller population, the damage to the housing stock was so severe that Prefabs were built to provide temporary accommodation. This housing shortage had a number of long term effects that would change the character of the Island.

Reading this well written and well researched book underlines the way that the Second World War changed the Island forever, many of the close knit Island community were scattered over London, the country and the world. Many children evacuated never returned to their Island homes but went with their parents to new homes elsewhere. Most of the churches and pubs, formerly hubs of community life were now destroyed. This important historical record pays testament to the courage of those who survived and picked up the pieces to carry on to rebuild their lives and lists the memorials around the Island to those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

If you would like to find out more or buy a copy, visit the Amazon website here

 

The (Old) Isle of Dogs from A to Z by Mick Lemmerman

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Photo Cover, (Peter Wright)

Regular readers to the blog will know that I often refer to another Isle of Dogs blog called Isle of Dogs Past Life, Past Lives run by Mick Lemmerman,  Mick (who was born in Whitechapel, but moved to the Island when he was eight) with colleagues Con Maloney and Peter Wright have been responsible for collecting photographs and documents about the Island and making them widely available on a number of websites. Mick has recently started to collate all this information and now has produced a book that gives a comprehensive view of the people, firms, schools, churches, buildings, streets and landmarks on the Isle of Dogs.

As well as concise descriptions and interesting nuggets of information, there are a large number of historical photographs of people and places.  For example many Islanders remember the Glass Bridge, the book gives the following history.

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Photo Glass Bridge, Jackie Wade (nee Jordan)

Glass Bridge   When the dock company stated at the end of the 1950s its intention to close the Glengall Rd. bridge over Millwall Docks, protests and support from the council lead to the construction of a high-level footbridge across the docks, very quickly referred to as the Glass Bridge due to its glass enclosure.
The bridge became a target for vandals and pedestrians were so intimidated that few used it. Severe damage to the glass and the lifts in 1975–6 caused the bridge to be closed and it was demolished by the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1983.

One aspect of the Isle of Dogs is that it is always changing and the book lists many of the streets, buildings and landmarks that have disappeared over time. The ever changing nature of the Island  is especially noticeable when considering  the Island pubs, many now a distant memory but fondly remembered by many. One of my favourite illustrations is the ill fated actress Jayne Mansfield serving a pint in the George, which is still with us but pubs like the Anchor and Hope are in a sorry state awaiting demolition.

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Photo Anchor & Hope, (Peter Wright)

The book also offers some original photographs  of  well known Isle Of Dogs landmarks such as Mudchute.

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Photo Mudchute, (Mick Lemmerman)

Mudchute (aka Muddy)   The name derives from it being the former dumping ground for mud dredged from the Millwall Docks which had to be regularly dredged to prevent silting up. A novel, pneumatic device was employed which pumped the liquefied mud through a pipe over East Ferry Rd. (close to the George pub), dumping it on the other side.

However looking through the book  it is noticeable that many of the streets on the Island have changed almost beyond recognition. Cuba Street being a prime example.

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Photo Cuba St, (Peter Wright)

Cuba St.   Name changed from Robert St. (after Robert Batson) in 1875. As with other streets in the area, it was named after places in the West Indies (a major source of sugar imports into the West India Docks).

This book would appeal to people who have lived in the area all their life and to the new residents who want to find out more about one of the most interesting parts of East London. It will also appeal to anyone with an interest in the area and the people and would like to  find out more. Even those of us who think we know a bit about the Island will find in the book a number of genuine surprises.

Mick has provided a valuable resource to the many people and amateur historians interested in the Island. This together with the Island Trust books are invaluable for understanding the amazing history of the Island.

If you would know more  about the book or would like to buy a copy in either print or eBook , visit the Amazon store here

 

A New Blog for the Isle of Dogs

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Isle of Dogs

We are very fortunate on the Isle of Dogs to have some great websites and blogs that cover the Isle of Dogs.

The work of Eve Hostettler and the Island History Trust is well-known , but probably the website that has the widest range of photographs of the Island is the Isle of Dogs Heritage and History website.

The Isle of Dogs Heritage and History website was set up by three ‘ Islanders’ who have a shared passion for the ‘Island’ . Their mission is to capture images of the buildings , streets and landmarks of the ‘Island.’ They also capture important documents, reports and maps to make available to everyone.

Their site and the Island History Trust are  important resources for anyone with an interest in the history of the Isle of Dogs.

Mick Lemmerman , one of the founders of the Isle of Dogs Heritage and History website has decided to create a blog that will tell some of the stories behind the photographs on the site.

His first post tells the story of the Waterman’s Arms, one of the most famous Pubs on the Island.

Mick’s reasons for starting the blog are sentiments shared by many who write about the Island.

The history of the Isle of Dogs is a remarkable story. Before the closure of the docks and the development of the shiny new financial centre around Canary Wharf, most people – including Londoners – had never heard of the place. Further back, before 1800, only a few people lived around the edges of this marshy wasteland. Yet, this small area of East London, hidden away behind high dock walls and the embankment of the looping Thames, was the birthplace of an uncountable number of industrial innovations and mighty enterprises. Its people, isolated from the rest of London for close to two centuries, had their own character, a character that is still there, if you know where to look for it.

Mick has joined a long line of people who have contributed to the telling of the Isle of Dogs story and I wish him great success in his new venture.

To visit the new blog click here

Isle of Dogs Heritage and History is available here.