The Goose Green Story - Another War
In this month of remembrance we recall the local war-time losses both here and overseas
By Christine Camplin
On 3 September 1939 Britain declared war against Germany. Conflict had been anticipated for some time and plans for civil preparations drawn up long in advance. There was an acute awareness that this was a war which would not just be fought overseas.
War at home
Camberwell was to become the fourth worst-bombed Borough in London. Ninety per cent of houses suffered some degree of war damage. This is a summary of some of the incidents in St John’s parish and nearby.
The London Blitz began on 7 September 1940. The first raids targeted the docks but were largely indiscriminate and rarely hit targets of military value. That first night there was damage from an explosive bomb around Bellenden Road, Danby Street and Choumert Road. The following night ten people were killed in Bellenden Road.
September 9: Albrighton Road Shelter, Dog Kennel Hill Estate. Two high explosive bombs simultaneously hit the air raid shelter killing all 29 people inside. In 2013 this was the first of 12 plaques installed by the Dulwich Society to commemorate civilians killed during World War Two.
The following week saw further fatalities: in Anstey Road (3), Fenwick Road (5) and Crawthew Grove (2).
September 15: Six people were killed at Goldwell House on the Dog Kennel Hill Estate.
September 16: Ten died when a bomb fell on the corner of Lytcott Grove and Melbourne Grove.
September 28: Denmark Hill School, Grove Lane, was being used as an auxiliary fire station. It was hit by a high explosive bomb killing 13 of the 16 inside. One of them was Richard Roullier, a Leading Fireman and a volunteer, aged 31.
In early October bombs fell in Oglander Road and on Friern Road School killing three people.
October 19: St John’s Church was hit for the first time. “. . . a load of incendiaries was dropped over Goose Green and four separate ﬁres were started in the Church roof. With the help of the National Fire Service men stationed in Adys Road School, we managed to get them all out and soon had the roof repaired and the church clean.”
(Revd Frank H Bishop, Vicar 1939-1945)
October 20: Four killed at Hindmans Road. They included George Burrell, aged 65, a former butcher on a Merchant Marine ship who lived at no. 4 with his wife, Amy.
December 8: “another load [of incendiaries] of a larger variety, some of which were explosive, descended. We were inside the church within one minute of their coming down. But only one had come through the roof. Many must have remained in it for almost at once it was alight from end to end. There were fires everywhere that night, and it was three quarters of an hour before the ﬁrst appliance arrived and about another four or ﬁve hours before the ﬁremen had got the ﬁre out. Meanwhile we salved what we could from the church and emptied the vestries lest the ﬁre should spread to them.”
(Revd Frank H. Bishop)
From then on St John’s services were held in Epiphany Church.
December 27: Incendiary bombs fell in Fenwick Road and a land mine exploded in the back garden of the King’s Arms. The pub was destroyed and there was devastation over a wide area, but only four people were killed.
Camberwell borough had a respite from bombing for a few months.
May 11: This was the last major attack on London by aircraft. Camberwell cemeteries recorded the burials of 95 people who died this day including in Avondale Rise (6), Danby Street (4) and Grove Vale (6). No. 65 Grove Vale was the home of Frederick and Annie Nash. Annie’s siblings, Rosa, Alice, Mary and Tom Vowles, with Alice May, Tom’s wife, were also staying there. All of them, except for Frederick and Tom, were killed immediately; Tom died later in Dulwich Hospital.
17 January: 11 people were killed by a parachute mine in Lytcott Grove and Playfield Crescent.
March 22: The King’s Arms corner and East Dulwich Road were hit again and five died.
By now Germany had developed a more destructive weapon and launched the first V1 on 13 June 1944. This was a pilotless plane; but they were easy to detect and many were shot down.
On June 20 a V1 fell at the junction of Lordship Lane and Friern Road fortunately just causing property damage. However on June 29 five died in Kinsale Road and Peckham Rye, and on July 1 seven houses were demolished and 60 badly damaged in Costa Street and Waghorn Street and six people were killed.
July 29: The King’s Arms and Kinsale Road were hit again. The V1 demolished four houses and seriously damaged four others. Four people were killed including one at Peckham Lido.
August 5: The most devastating local incident happened on a busy Saturday afternoon when a V1 hit the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society shop in Lordship Lane. 23 people were killed and 42 seriously injured. Damage extended for 700 yards; the Co-op and six other shops were demolished, 20 houses damaged in Lordship Lane and 40 in Shawbury Road.
On 8 September 1944 a wave of V2 bombing began. The V2 was rocket powered and supersonic. St John’s parish fortunately escaped serious incident
On 8 May 1945 Germany surrendered.
Over three quarters of a century after the
war it is sometimes difficult today to appreciate the impact of the bombing, but the parish continued to count the cost as many young people never returned from serving overseas.
The names of six young men from the congregation, killed in action, were added to the bottom panel of the triptych by the Lady Chapel and also engraved on the six High Altar candlesticks.
Only one of the six men has a known grave.
William Fletcher, aged 22. Sergeant (Wireless operator and air gunner) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was shot down on 24 December 1942 two days before returning to England to become engaged, and was buried in Bergen, Norway. William was a Boy Scout and altar server.
Walter Messenger, aged 21. Gunner, The East Surrey Regt. Anti-Tank Regt., Royal Artillery. He was wounded in action at the time of the Dunkirk invasion and reported missing on 26 May 1940. Walter was engaged to be married and had also been a Boy Scout.
Harry Young, aged 22. Sick Berth Attendant on H.M.S. Li Wo, Royal Navy was killed on 14 February 1942 after the Japanese invasion of Singapore when the HMS Li Wo was sunk.
Patrick Dowling, aged 25. Leading Airman on the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Formidable, Royal Navy. He died on 4 May 1942 and was buried at sea off Madagascar.
Charles Durrant, aged 28. Signalman on H.M.S. Lively, Royal Navy. The ship was sunk off Tobruk on 11 May 1942 by German JU-88 Bombers while trying to intercept an enemy convoy. Charles was married.
Frank Newson, aged 23. Flying Officer and navigator with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. His aircraft with its crew of seven were reported missing during a training exercise over the UK on 21 January 1944. They had taken off during daytime from Faldingworth, Lincolnshire. No wreckage was ever found.
Each year on Remembrance Sunday the names of these six men are read out together with eight local residents killed in bombing raids. They are just a few of the many parishioners who died during the Second World War.