Friends of Gwendwr Gardens [FoGG]
Gwendwr Gardens are dedicated to the damage caused by enemy bombing, particularly by the raid on the night of Sunday, 20th February 1944.
Excerpt from "Fulham in the Second World War" by Leslie Hasker
Also in 1943 British and American bombers had been carrying out increasingly
heavy attacks on Germany. This mass bombing destroyed extensive areas of the
large cities, and was no longer claimed to be precision bombing. Some people felt
deeply concerned and criticized the strategy. The Bishop of Chichester, George
Bell, spoke out several times. In the House of Lords in October 1943 he said: `To
bomb cities as cities, deliberately to attack civilians quite irrespective of whether
they were contributing to the war effort, is a wrong deed whether done by the Nazis
or by ourselves.'
In November 1943 Hitler gave orders that there were to be reprisal attacks
against England. London was to be the primary target. The German bomber force
in the west was at a low ebb, and the Germans withdrew all the air strength they
could spare from the Mediterranean and Russian fronts. It was intended to make
considerable use of incendiary bombs. A new type of container had been devised
which could hold as many as 620 of these devices. At intervals during its fall the
layers of incendiaries would be released to give an even spread over a large area.
The main attacks on London started on January 21 and continued intermittently
until the end of March. Fulham's turn came late on the evening of Sunday
February 20. In less than one hour twenty high explosive bombs fell as well as an
estimated seven thousand incendiaries. The official record says that `less than half'
the incendiaries ignited, but these `caused twelve serious fires and a great number
of lesser fires dealt with by Fire Guards'. The furniture from bombed-out houses
stored at Queens Club caught fire and there was a spectacular blaze. New
arrangements had to be made for such furniture. At one time and another use was
made of the closed Grand Theatre by Putney Bridge, shop premises at 1-10 Jerdan
Place and Fulham Council's premises at 122-126 New Kings Road for storing
furniture. A large proportion of the incendiaries contained explosive devices,
something of which the Fire Guards had been waned. They had to take extra care
when approaching a blazing incendiary in case it should blow up.
There was some concentration of high explosive bombs in the West
Kensington and Barons Court areas, and along the riverside. North End Road
School was severely damaged and caught fire. The Home Guard had a Company
Headquarters in the school, and quantities of hand grenades, detonators and fuses
were hurriedly removed from the burning building. Subsequently the Home Guard
established its replacement Company Headquarters in Lillie Road School. Bombs
falling in the vicinity of North End Road School resulted in the deaths of fourteen
people. Although of such short duration the effects of the bombing in Fulham that
night had been serious. A total of seventy-six people had been killed and 194 were
detained in hospital. Ninety-five houses had been demolished or badly damaged,
and another 2,500 houses had suffered damage in varying degrees. The rest
centres were crowded with people whose homes were uninhabitable. Fulham
Palace Road School was still the main centre for the homeless.
At the junction of North End Road and Lillie Road a container of incendiaries
landed in the roadway. It had faded to open during its descent, and caused an
explosion sufficient to split open the roadway and set a gas main alight. Three
phosphorus incendiary bombs, falling at various places in Fulham, all faded to
explode and were cleared away some days later. Phosphorus bombs had been
introduced by the enemy in 1942 but this is the first record of their falling in Fulham.
Identical in shape with the small (50 kg) high explosive bomb, the original
phosphorus bombs were filled with a mixture of phosphorus, crude oil, wood
shavings and other incendiary material. As soon as the phosphorus was exposed to
the air the filling burst into flames. By 1944 the contents of phosphorus bombs had
been changed and consisted of a sticky mixture of phosphorus and rubber. In
general, these bombs do not seem to have been very effective. A parabomb in the
Hurlingham Club grounds also failed to explode, and was recorded as having been
the first unexploded parabomb in the London Region. Part of Rivermead Court had
to be evacuated. Parabombs were delayed action bombs which floated down on
There was some feeling in Fulham that bombs falling in the West Kensington
and Barons Court areas were intended for St Pauls School which was situated in
Hammersmith just across from Fulham's northern boundary. The School was a
large building facing Hammersmith Road, and it suffered a good deal of bomb
daniage during the War. The boys had been evacuated to Easthampstead in
Berkshire on the outbreak of hostilities, and the Army took over the building.
Eventually it became the Headquarters of the 21st Army Group which was
responsible for planning the invasion of Europe. A study of the exact points at which
bombs fell in Hammersmith on that evening of February 20 does not support the
theory that St Pauls School was the intended target. Many officers working at the
School were billetted in flats in West Kensington and Barons Court. Perhaps they
were the target.
On Wednesday evening February 23, Fulham had another short `hammering'
which started soon after 10. 30 p.m. and was au over within half-an-hour. A line of
four high explosive bombs in the north-west comer of Fulham resulted in numerous
casualties, both dead and injured. Many houses wered estroyed. Two heavy bombs
caused particular devastation. One fell in the centre of Skelwith Road some way
west of the junction with Rannoch Road. The other was recorded as having fallen at
15-31 Chancellors Road. In the centre of the Borough, in Felden Street and other
streets just north of it, there was a concentration of incendiaries. The explosive
type caused a nunber of casualties. There was a fatality in Felden Street caused by
an exploding incendiary, and several people were injured by incendiaries in nearby
Fernhurst Road and Radipole Road. In Reporton Road a woman was struck and
killed by a falling incendiary. An incendiary bomb container, which had failed to open
properly and still contained its load, landed on an air raid shelter in Rosaville Road
killing five people. The biggest fire was at the riverside in the Shell Mex Depot at
Lensbury Wharf. It ranked in London terms as a major fire and forty appliances
were directed there to bring the blaze under control. Explosions from the Depot
could be heard all over the southern part of Fulham. Phosphorus incendiary bombs
proved to be as ineffective as ever. One fell in Bishops Park and another in Fulham
Cemetery. Neither could have done much harm in those locations, but in anyc ase
both failed to ignite. Something new in Fulham was an unrotated projectile which
came down in the Gas Works having failed to explode at altitude. This was the type
of rocket which had caused the alarm at Bethnal Green Underground Station the
previous year. It was cleared away from the Gas Works a week later. These Z battery
projectiles were steel tubes about seven and a half feet long. There was a
fuse in the head, a propellant in the tail, and a high explosive charge in the main
length of the tube.When they fell the projectiles came down almost vertically and
penetrated very deep. Bomb Disposal Units found them troublesome things to deal
with. A total Of ten high explosive bombs fell in Fulham that evening and fifty-five
people were killed. Sixty had to be taken to hospital and detained there.
Approximately two thousand people were rendered homeless. Eighty-four houses
were wrecked or badly damaged, and 2300 others sustained some damage. The
Germans were using much bigger bombs than had been the case earlier in the War.
This must explain the considerable amount of damage.
The general impression in Fulham was that the heavy casualties in these two
February raids were caused by the reluctance of many people to go to the air raid
shelters in good time. There had been a long lull in the bombing. Many evacuees had
come back from the safe areas, and most of the local schools had re-opened. All this
resulted in a relaxed feeling that the worst was over. Only the more cautious took
shelter as soon as the sirens sounded. The majority waited until they heard bombs
nearby. Then it was too late.
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