Old Palace School WW2 Bombing 

This is the account of the Bombing of the Old Palace School in St. Leonard’s Street, Bow during WW2 and the sad loss of 32 Firemen and 2 Fire Women who were tragically killed during this raid.This is still today, the largest loss of Fire Brigade personnel, at one incident, in the History of the service.

Tragically for me, one of those that lost their life that night was my Great Aunt, Winifred Alexandra Peters (nee Wootton).

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Prior to this bombing raid on the early hours of 20th April 1941, London was in the middle of its biggest bombing campaign of the entire war from the German Luftwaffe, known as the Blitz. For eight months, from 7th September 1940 to May 11th 1941 London suffered almost continual nightly bombing, over a period of almost 37 weeks, the British capital was attacked 71 times.

During the war many schools were left empty due to children being evacuated to the country. The Old Palace LCC School in St. Leonards Street, Poplar, was one of these, and was commandeered during the war, for use as a Sub Fire Station, for firefighters of the Auxiliary Fire Service. On the night of Sunday April 20th 1941, Fire Service crews were standing by in anticipation of a heavy raid on the Capital. At precisely 1.53am, a land mine, dropped from a Luftwaffe bomber and landed directly on the school. The land mine landed on the roof of the school and dropped down a stairwell and into the watch room where two women were killed outright. The men waiting outside were caught by the blast, which also demolished two thirds of the school building, and they were buried by falling masonry. Rescue services, already hard-pressed, arrived too late for any lives to be saved.

Thirty-two firemen and two firewomen died at The Old Palace School, the largest number of Fire Brigade lives lost in a single incident, in peacetime or war.

 

 

 

 

Those that sadly lost their lives are as follows:

AFS Firewoman (Telephonist) Hilda Dupree – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 21, of Warwick Road, Walthamstow, Essex.
Firewoman Winifred Alexandra Peters – London Fire Brigade

Died 20th April 1941 aged 39, of Canton Street
AFS Fireman Percy Charles Aitchison – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 27, of Copse Avenue, West Wickham, Kent.
AFS Fireman Ronald Mark Bailey – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 25, of Links Road, Tooting.
AFS Fireman Alan Charles Barber – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 26, of Fairford Close, Shirley, Croydon, Surrey.
AFS Fireman Earnest Reginald Beadle – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 32, of Birkbeck Road, Beckenham.
AFS Fireman Kenneth John Bowles – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 30, of Beckenham Road, West Wickham, Kent.
AFS Fireman John Coleman Burrell – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 35, of North Street, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
AFS Fireman Patrick Joseph Campbell – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 24, of Bannister House, Homerton
AFS Fireman Harry John Carden – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 29, of Mounthurst Road, Hayes, Bromley, Kent.
AFS Fireman Robert John Deans – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 28, of The Grove, West Wickham, Kent.
AFS Fireman Frank James Endean – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 36, of Aviemore Way, Beckenham, Kent.
AFS Fireman Cecil Farley – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 43, of Linden Leas, West Wickham, Kent.
AFS Fireman George John Joseph Hall – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 43, of Warwick Road, Anerley, Kent.
AFS Messenger Bertie James Frederick Harris – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 17, of Brabazon Street,
AFS Fireman Leslie Thomas Healey– AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 32, of Greenview Avenue, Shirley, Surrey.
AFS Despatch Rider Ernest Herbert Henly _ AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 19, of Grange Cottage, Silver Street, Kinton Langley, Chippenham, Wiltshire.
AFS Fireman Sydney Bartholomew Jones – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 31, of Harrogate Road, Hackney.
AFS Fireman Albert Victor Kite – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 36, of Village Way, Beckenham, Kent.
AFS Fireman John Francis Mead– AFS

Died 20th April 1941 aged 29, of Christie Road, Hackney.
AFS Fireman Vernon Joseph Middleditch – AFS

Died 20th April 1941 aged 31, of Hunders Lane, Darlington, Co. Durham.
AFS Fireman Alfred Edward Minter – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 46, of Aylesford Avenue, Beckenham, Kent.
AFS Fireman Norman Richard Charles Mountjoy – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 30, of Ash Grove, West Wickham, Kent
AFS Fireman Frederick George Parcell – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 32, of Love Lane, South Norwood, Surrey.
AFS Fireman Martin Charles Parfett – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 31, of Pickhurst Rise, West Wickham, Kent.
AFS Fireman William Charles Plant – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 26, of Sultan Street, Beckenham, Kent.
AFS Fireman Cyril Bertram Porter – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 31, of Clinton Road, Forest Gate, Essex.
AFS Fireman William Thomas Rashbrook – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 31, of Chatsworth Road, Clapton.
AFS Leading Fireman Leonard Roots – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 31, of Avenue Court, Avenue Road, Anerley, Kent.
AFS Fireman Albert Alfred Saville – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 35, of Harrowgate Road, Hackney.
Station Officer Richard William Sinstadt – London Fire Brigade

Died 20th April 1941 aged 46, of Beccles Drive, Barking, Essex.
AFS Fireman Edgar William Vick – AFS London

Died 20th April 1941 aged 38, of Eden Way, Beckenham, Kent.
AFS Leading Fireman Walter John Woodland – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 41, of Links Way, Eden Park, Beckenham, Kent.
AFS Leading Fireman Herbert Charles Wotton – AFS Beckenham

Died 20th April 1941 aged 30, of Upper Elmers End Road, Beckenham, Kent.

This story remained unpublished because of emergency Defense Regulations.

The full details were finally uncovered six decades later by the Firemen Remembered charity which unveiled a memorial in April, 1997, at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, on the site of the old school destroyed 56 years before.

“In memory of the 13 London firemen and women and 21 Beckenham firemen killed on the night of 19th April 1941 when a bomb destroyed the old school being used as a sub-fire station.”

Two weeks after my Great Aunt sadly lost her life here, my own mother was born and she was named after her Aunt, Winifred Alexandra Wootton.

Many thanks to the following websites which have contributed in the production of this blog.

https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/old-palace-school-ww2-bomb

http://www.firemenremembered.co.uk/www.firemenremembered.co.uk/Stories.html

 

https://www.family-tree.co.uk/how-to-guides/expert-blogs/what-is-family-history-the-alternative-guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Old Palace School WW2 Bombing 

  1. Paul, Although I have heard of the Blitz in all of my history books, I had never heard about these lives that were lost in this building. I am so glad that you took the time to record all of their names. This makes it searchable for anyone looking for these people.

    Like

  2. Hello, I’ve only just discovered this site. My name is Stephanie Maltman and I am the lady who set-up Firemen Remembered and researched the background for that incident and that night. I have a lot more information that I would be happy to share with you. You can contact me at stephaniemaltman@hotmail.com
    Best wishes.

    Like

  3. Hello, I have only just found this site. I am the lady who founded Firemen Remembered and researched the history of the incident at the Old Palace School and that night. I have quite a lot more detail that I would be happy to share with you. You can contact me via my e-mail address stephaniemaltman@hotmail.com
    Best Wishes.

    Like

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