On this night in 1940 at 9.12pm, an oil bomb was dropped by German planes on Chigwell Road, Wanstead, landing in the river. at 10.15pm, two high explosive bombs fell on Wanstead Flats.
On this night in 1940 at 8.19pm, incendiaries dropped by German planes caused many small fires on Elmcroft Avenue and Southview Drive in Wanstead. Then at 10.58pm, high explosives injured three people in Woodlands Avenue. At 11.15pm, three houses were damaged, also by high explosives, on Aldersbrook Road between Blake Hall Road and Park Road.
Police have confirmed the rumours which have been circulating Wanstead that the attack on Robins Pie and Mash shop was arson, which may well mean that it wasn’t a brick but a petrol bomb thrown through the window. They have also said, according to the Wanstead Guardian, that there were attacks on three consecutive nights – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
On this night in 1940 at 7.36pm, high explosives landed on Aldersbrook Road outside the cemetery. They left six craters.
Seventy years ago, for people living in Wanstead, like all areas of London, each day must have seemed like a been a daily dance with the possibility of having a bomb landing on your house. Records show detailed times and addresses of where the bombs fell during the traumatic few months from September 1940 until May 1941, when that particular phase of the Blitz stopped. Flying bombs and long-range rockets were to arrive later in the war, but it’s the Blitz and the civil defence which it inspired which captivates such strong emotions.
As the table below shows, by this date in October 1940, several streets in Wanstead – part of Churchill’s constituency – had already taken a pounding. But even at this point – six weeks into the bombing – things were only just beginning.
For us today it’s hard to imagine the stresses this must have placed on daily life. As an exercise in what that uncertainty might have felt like, over the next few months, Wansteadium will be recording those days on which parts of Wanstead were hit. You are welcome to join in – particularly if you know exactly where or can even photograph where a bomb hit on a particular street. (Clue: it’s usually quite obvious where the gaps in the older houses are.)
The details for this project have come from It Happened Here – the Story of Civil Defence in Wanstead and Woodford 1939-1945 by Stanley Tiquet. Thanks to the local studies department of Redbridge Libraries for their advice.
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It always did feel authentically East End to have a pie and mash shop in Wanstead High Street. The brick-shaped hole in the front door, which appeared overnight, and the subsequent police cordon does nothing to spoil the effect.