The memories of WWII and the Battle of Britain are kept alive by the local paper.

The bombing of Church House on the 16 April 1941 saw the demolition of the the No 19 Group Bromley Centre. The duty Crews moved to the nearby Telephone Exchange and kept the plot running throughout. Some of the many unsung heroes of the Corps in those dark days

Terry R A Giles

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form The Times Thursday April 14, 2011 page 19

Dawn broke on a tragic scene of destroyed churches,
shops in ruins and lives ended


• Dunn's furniture store in Market Square was destroyed in a fire following the raid

Wednesday April 16, 1941, was the blackest day in the history of Bromley. Soon after dark on this spring evening the air-raid alert sounded and an attacking force of more than 650 bombers flew over Kent en route for London.

The bombers released their load over Bromley and the first to receive a direct hit was St Peter and St Paul Church. A 550-pound bomb caused so much damage that only the tower was left standing. Huge pieces of masonry and timber were hurled into the gardens of nearby properties, killing an 18-year-old sixth-former, Hazel Kissick, who was on fire-watching duties.

Four more high explosives fell in Church House Gardens and further bombs completely wrecked Church House.

The majority of the population had taken cover but so heavy and prolonged was the raid that 74 people died, more than 200 were injured and fires were everywhere. It was impossible for the 146 appliances, which attended, to maintain any kind of control.

The all-clear sounded at 4.30 and dawn revealed the tragic scene. As well as the parish church, St Mark's, Bromley Congregational Church, the Methodist Central Hall and the Robert Whyte Memorial Hall were all destroyed. Also hit was Dunn's furniture store in the Market Square, Bromley bus garage (damaging 60 vehicles), St Mark's Chapel of Ease in Westmoreland Road, a printing works in Green Lane, Penge, a row of shops in Risdale Road, Penge, and a block of flats in Southover on the Downham estate.

Flames

In the borough of Bromley more than 140 people died, including Lord Stamp of Shortlands, his wife, his elder son and three daughters.

Church House was a command centre for the Royal Observer Corps and it had been manned day and night since August 1939. As flames engulfed the house, fired by a stick of incendiaries, the men wisely abandoned their post and sought shelter. Firefighters got close to the scene but could not help because Church Road had been blocked by the ruins of the parish church. This well known mansion was virtually obliterated.

Twelve high explosives fell on the Bromley Common area, many harmlessly in fields by Crown Lane, Magpie Hall Lane and Prince's Plain School. Another hit an Anderson shelter behind 3 Jackson Road, killing four people. High explosives fell on Hayes Common close to an AA
gun encampment. .

Elsewhere bombs fell in Palace Road, Kinniard Avenue, Wendover Road, South View, Plaistow Lane and Mason's Hill School. Great fires burned at Bromley Court Hotel, the Homeopathic Hospital, the Duke's Head public house and the old telephone exchange. The County Court was damaged by a bomb in College Road.

For the fire service, the ARP wardens, the ambulance staff and hospitals this was the most harrowing night they had ever experienced and, in the words of the Civil Defence Controller, "brought a test of a magnitude not exceeded in any town ... having regard to our size and population".

Princess Elizabeth laid the foundation stone for a new Church of St Peter and St Paul on October 13, 1949, and,on December 14, 1957, the Bishop of Rochester consecrated the new building.

More recently an organ, built in 1991 by JW Walker and Sons and considered one of the finest built in England during the 20th century, was installed in the church.

Those readers who remember clearly that tragic date in Bromley's history - April 16, 1941 - may care to write to me with their memories.


[18apr11 23:00]