In Southwark fear of air raids was greater than the reality.
Zeppelin raids took place over London between May 1915 and October 1917 and were succeeded by Gotha aircraft bombing from June 1917. A memorial in Camberwell Old Cemetery commemorates the 21 known Camberwell victims of aerial attacks; ten of these were killed in a single Zeppelin strike on Calmington Road, Camberwell. St John’s Church escaped damage during the First World War. No casualties were recorded in the parish or vicinity though a women and a child were killed by a bomb in College Road.
The biggest impact on the community, however, was the loss of so many young men. Sixty three names are listed on the memorial inside the church. But these are just those with a connection to St John’s - men and boys with families who worshipped here, who were baptised or married. Many other residents in the parish were killed, and many more returned disabled in mind or body. Each has their own story; space allows for just a few here:
• George Hayden, Builder & Decorator, signed up in July 1915 after his son was invalided back to the UK. He claimed he was 39 years and 5 months old. George was 54 when he was killed the following year.
• Harold Roberts “volunteered for service with the Expeditionary Force Canteens. He was physically quite unfit for ordinary service, as rheumatic fever had left him delicate . . . He was a regular communicant at our Altar, and a very cheery personality. He was engaged to be married.” Harold died in 1916.
• Grantley Adolphe le Chavetois attended, and later taught at, St Olave's school. After serving in France, he went to Palestine where he was shot carrying out a brave mission . He returned to England and appeared to recover, but later died of his injuries in January 1918.
• 2nd Lieut Edward Earle Richardson’s plane was shot down on 9 November 1918 – just two days before the end of the war.
• Private Ernest Sabine was just 16 years old when he died in 1916.
All the inter-war vicars saw military service:
Sidney Featherstone Hawkes (1875-1930) was born in Kensington and ordained priest in 1901. Before coming to St John’s in 1919 he had served curacies at two Exeter churches and Barnsley, Yorkshire, been Vicar of Denaby Main, Yorkshire and Rector of St Mary's Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces in France where he was gassed and later awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal. Unfortunately ill health forced him to resign in 1924 and he moved to Devon as Curate of the Sidmouth Parish Church.
Noel Charles Christopherson (1891-1968) was born in Catford and ordained priest in in 1914. After a curacy at St John's, Walworth, he became a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces (1916-19). He was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross. In 1920 he came to St John's as Curate and on the resignation of Revd Featherstone Hawkes became Vicar. He became Archdeacon of Colombo and Vicar of St Peter's City, Diocese of Colombo in 1929, later returning to England in 1935 as Vicar of Eltham.
John Fleetwood Boodle (1895-1970) was born in Kingston and joined up after leaving school, serving first as a private in the East Surrey Regiment, and later promoted to Lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers. He then went to Oxford University and Cuddesdon College and was ordained priest in 1922. He came to St John’s in 1929 after a curacy at St John the Divine, Kennington. In 1939 he left to be Vicar of Little Houghton with Bradfield-on-the-Green in Northamptonshire.
After the war the Vicar,
Sydney Featherstone Hawkes, instigated a war memorial. The Calvary, designed by H. S. Rogers, was unveiled on Sunday 11 December 1921 by Field Marshall Sir William Robertson and dedicated by Revd. F. J. Anderson, Assistant Chaplain to the Forces. The 17’ high teak crucifix was designed to be reminiscent of the wayside Calvaries seen by British troops on their way to battlefields in France and Belgium. Inside the church is another memorial listing the names of the fallen.
Peacetime life gradually returned to normal. New leisure opportunities opened up:
“By 1920 the King’s Arms had become an up-to-date ‘tavern restaurant’ with ‘sumptiously-appointed tea-room’ where orchestral concerts were held three nights a week. There was a separate garden entrance for ladies and children.”
Imperial Hall was refurbished and renamed the Pavilion Cinema in 1923. It closed in 1935 and was rebuilt with 1288 seats. It was taken over by Odeon Theatres Ltd. in 1937 and later re-named Odeon. Dulwich Hamlet Football club opened the Champion Hill Ground in 1931 with a pitch for the reserves on the original Freeman’s Ground site. Goose Green playground was built in about 1937-38 and indoor bowling introduced at Dulwich Baths in 1937.
The LCC took over administration of local hospitals in 1930. Southwark Hospital became a general hospital and was renamed Dulwich Hospital. The Constance Road workhouse, which had become the Constance Road Institution in 1914, caring for unmarried mothers, the handicapped, the elderly and the mentally ill, became a hospital for the chronically sick, and in 1937 was renamed St Francis Hospital.
There were also post-war changes in local schools. Adys Road School merged with Choumert Road School as Peckham Central School in 1925 and became boys only in 1932. St John’s School was renamed St John and St Clement’s School in 1939.
But as the 1930s moved on, shadows were drawing over Europe again.