The Chronology: Page-37
Saturday September 7th 1940
The Aftermath

As the first light of September 8th1940 started to break through, the picture of the experiences of the lateafternoon bombing and the continued onslaught throughout the night beganto emerge. The East End probably suffered the worst, but serious damagewas done to areas south of the River Thames as well as the outer city areasbetween Aldgate and Ludgate Hill.

Fires were still raging in bond storesand the dock areas around North Woolwich, nothing escaped the tons of bombsand incendiaries that were dropped. The Royal Albert Dock, Queen VictoriaDock and King George V Dock were burning infernos, ships were damaged andthe industrial areas of Custom House, Silvertown and Canning Town werestill burning fiercely as raw materials added fuel to the timbers and structureof the many buildings. Places like John Knights (Soapworks), Tate and Lyles(Sugar refiners) and Silvertown Rubber Works were among the factories badlyhit. Others included an ink factory, a tarpaulin company and a fuel depot.On the other side of the road, now called Silvertown Way that separatesthe industrial factories from the residential areas, homes were demolishedand others so badly damaged that they became uninhabitable. The damagewent as far inland as Barking, East Ham, West Ham and Bethnal Green, areasthat were highly populated and classed as residential.

South of the Thames, the situationwas almost as bad, and what made this worse, was the fact that most ofthe south side was residential until reaching Deptford. Again, as northof the Thames, houses were demolished, others became unrecognisable aswalls and roofs lie in shambles in back gardens and in roadways.

We got thered alert as was often the case when an impending raid was approachingfrom the Thames Estuary. But the usual practice was for the bomber formationsto split up near the Isle of Sheppy and they then set course for the RAFaerodromes north and south of the Thames the we would revert back to ayellow. But in this case we was under a 'red' for longer than usual andmessages started to come in that the bombers were seen coming up the Thames.Well, I went up and I have never seen anything like it. A thick blanketof black bombers which must have been two miles wide following the Thames.

Our stationwas almost at the road junction that now goes down to the Woolwich ferryand we had an excellent view of what was going to happen. I think the firstbombs were dropped just before the dock areas and the right side of theformation would pass right over us. We could do nothing but get back toour posts and pray like mad. The sound was deafening, the building shookand dust from walls and ceilings started to envelope our desks, we coulddo nothing while the raid was on although a few phone calls came through,'this street got it' and 'so and so building has got a direct hit. Thensilence, slowly the phones died, lines had been cut and we knew that onceit was all over we would have to rely on messengers.

William'Bill' Thompson Civil Defence Woolwich
The huge pall ofsmoke bellowing from the warehouses and docks could be seen for miles.Fires raged right up to London's Tower Bridge where the St. Katherine'sDock which lies almost adjacent was engulfed in flame. The area of Wappingwhere hundreds of bond stores and shipwright stores are built on top ofeach other separated only by a network of narrow streets. Firemen and ambulancemen had a terrible time in this area as many of the streets had been blockedby fallen brick walls and burst water mains.

[ Document46. How a Daily Telegraph Reporter saw the Scene ]
After a sleeplessnight, while their Anderson shelters rocked with the explosion of bombsand the crash of guns, the people of East London carried on to-day withtheir usual amazing spirit. Several hundred began their search for newhomes as soon as the “all clear” sounded. Whole streets had been destroyedand many other houses demolished. But people gathered their possessionstogether and piled them into perambulators. With children in their arms,they started their walk to friends or relatives.

Their moralewas astonishing. As they were walking to their new homes many were laughingand joking amongthemselves.Some families took care of children whose parents were dead or injured,and made long journeys across London to escort them to the homes of relatives.Women went on preparing the Sunday dinner, even though they had no wateror gas. They borrowed water from more fortunate neighbours and lit firesto roast the joints. One of them, Mrs. W. Johnson, who had spent the nightin a shelter, was preparing her meal in a house where the dividing wallbetween dining-room and drawing-room lay in chunks across the floors.

In a docklandtavern, where every window had been blown out by a bomb which fell acrossthe road, they were collecting for a Spitfire fund. The licensee of a hotelgave up his saloon bar for housing people whose houses were no longer tenable.In several streets neighbours were making a whip-round for those who hadlost their belongings.

“It was an experiencefar worse than the Silvertown explosion in the last war,” Mrs. Cook, whowith her husband and five children escaped injury, said to me. “The heatfrom the fires was terrific. We do not intend moving from the district,despite this ghastly raid.” The morale of the people was summed up in thewords of one Mayor, who said: “They have taken it on the chin.” [1]

Tulip Streetbetween Custom House and Silvertown, was a street that housed the typicalworking family. Most were regarded as poor and lived from one day to thenext. The houses could only be regarded as slums, being with earshot andsight of the industrial dockland area. A number of houses had been hitduring the earlier raids in late August, but this September day was thelast that was to be heard of Tulip Street. The long rows of terraced housesstood as nothing but empty shells, roofs had disappeared leaving a wallstanding alone with a broken staircase rising leading to nowhere. Upstairsfloors were dangling in space being only fastened to one of the half demolishedwalls. Beds and bedroom furniture hung precariously waiting for the floorto give way, up the street bedroom furniture and long tin baths litteredthe roadway amongst the rubble and debris. Not one house was left standingand soon Tulip Street would be gone forever, never to be rebuilt.

“On theSaturday afternoon, the Luftwaffe decided to come to London and bomb. Wehad been called to the top of Pepys Road and were putting incendiariesout that had fallen on houses. We had finished and were walking by theside of our appliances shouting Any incendiaries to put out?’

Quite a numberof the elderly people, mainly women, had lost budgies or canaries and wehad done our best to console them. They were very shaken.

We got backto 40Y and were just in time for tea. I can remember having a piece ofegg and bacon when the bells went and my appliance, a heavy unit, was calledto Surrey Docks. It must have been about 5.30pm. We arrived at the docksand had to put out about four large stacks of burning timber. It was uselessbecause every time we put them out and went to another stack, the firstcame alight again.

The mostamazing thing I saw was the roadway. The roads were lined with tarry woodenblocks. and these were floating on top of the water which we had put thereabout,some 12” deep, all in formation as they had been in the road.”

Bill WardAFS Fireman London

“SaturdaySeptember 7th was sunny with a light westerly breeze. At 4pm, we on our Emergency Fireboat were ordered down to Tilbury. As we approached TowerBridge we  saw vast volumes of smoke on its eastward side rising whiteinto the sunlight. We passed under Tower Bridge and soon were on the edgeof an inferno. Everything was alight  tugs and barges were flamingand sinking in the river. All the timber of Surrey Commercial Docks wasblazing furiously.

The sun haddisappeared and darkness was as of night. A strong wind was whipped upby the great fire heat which caused small flaming planks of wood to beblown about like matchsticks, and the river itself was as turbulent asa whipped-up small sea. Small crowds of people were here and there at thewater’s edge crying out for rescue. Warehouses and all sorts of  buildingswere burning on both sides of the river. Not until we were near Greenwichdid  we see the sun again and then only as a pale disc through thegreat ceiling of smoke. There I saw a gasometer alight. To my surpriseit did  not explode but went as one great blue flame, like an enormousgas jet lasting only a minute.”

George WilkinsAFS Fireman London
There would bethousands of stories to come out of London on the first day of intensebombing. Stories of courage, and stories of hardship. Some would tell ofbravery while others could only mention despair. What wonderful deeds andacts of courage were performed by members of the Civil Defence, the AmbulanceService which then came under the London County Council, the AuxiliaryFire Brigade and the London Fire Brigade. But courage and determinationwas also shown by those in the air. The pilots of Fighter Command.
"It hadbeen an easy flight up from the Thames Estuary and along the Thames. Therewas no opposition and we felt that we had the whole sky to ourselves, wewere at 5.000 feet. The docks at Woolwich stood out almost as if beckoningfor us to release our bombload. Through the glass canopy I could see tallcranes and the long square shape of the three main docks, I lined themup carefully, and as I pressed the release button I looked elsewhere atthe huge mass of buildings and warehouses below then just caught a glimpseof the sticks of bombs as they kinked from side to side as they fell towardsearth.
Helmut Staal, of the leading fightof bombers of II KG/76
Squadron LeaderA.V.R (Sandy) Johnstone who was flying out of Tangmere with 602 Squadronwas one of those brought up from the south coast to give protection toLondon. He had the surprise of his life when he first saw the vast armadaof bombers heading for the capital:
All we couldsee was row upon row of German raiders, all heading for London. I havenever seen so many aircraft in the air all at the same time. . . . Theescorting fighters saw us at once and came down like a ton of bricks, whenthe squadron split up and the sky became a seething cauldron of aeroplanes,swooping and swerving in and out of the vapour trails and tracer smoke.A Hurricane on fire spun out of control ahead of me while, above to myright, a 110 flashed across my vision and disappeared into the fog of battlebefore I could draw a bead on it. Everyone was shouting at once and theearphones became filled with a meaningless cacophony of jumbled noises.Everything became a maelstromof jumbled impression — a Dornier spinning wildly with part of its portmainplane missing; black streaks of tracer ahead, when I instinctivelyput my arm up to shield my face; taking a breather when the haze absorbedme for a moment . .
SquadronLeader A.V.R (Sandy) Johnstone, 602 Squadron, Sept 7th 1940.
All day, SquadronLeader D.R.S. "Douglas" Bader had waited for action as he had done on manyoccasions before. But it looked like that on this bright sunny Saturdayhe was not to see much action at all. Like most other squadrons scatteredaround southern England, he had resigned himself to the fact that the Saturdaywas to be a 'no contest'.
On 7 September,following Hitler's declaration that London would suffer as reprisals forBomber Command raids against Berlin, Goring switched his bombers from RAFsector stations, and other airfields, to London and its sprawling docks.Towards five o'clock on that evening, more than three hundred bombers,and many hundreds of fighters, arose from their airfields across the Channel,swarmed into a dozen formations and, without feint or decoy, crossed thestraits in two broad waves and headed for the capital. Because of theirheight, above 20,000 feet, and a stiff headwind, the bombers took a longtime to reach London, but although RAF controllers found it easier thanusual to intercept, the enemy fighter escorts seemed bigger than ever.

There wereso many enemy fighters, layered up to 30,000 feet, that a Spitfire pilotsaid it was like lookingup the escalator at Piccadilly Circus. ‘Near Cambridge the Duxford Wingof two Hurricane and one Spitfire squadrons had been at readiness all dayand Bader, anxious to lead thirty-six fighters into action for the firsttime, had been agitating for hours about getting into the air. At lastthey were scrambled...

Pilot OfficerJ.E."Johnnie" Johnson 616 Squadron from his book Full Circle
It was at 1655hrsthat the Op's room telephone rang at Coltishall. "Scramble" came a voiceout of the window and a body of pilots ran towards their waiting Hurricanesincluding S/L Douglas Bader. The aircraft thundered across the grassy airfieldand as they pulled their sticks back the noses of the Hurricanes startedto point skywards and the Duxford station commander Wing Commander A.B.Woodhallcalled over the radio "Hello Douglas. There's some trade coming in overthe coast. Orbit North Weald. Angels ten, and if they come your way, gofor them." . Bader thought that 10,000 was a little too low and disobeyedWoodhall's instructions and made 15,000 feet as "100 bandits to your 10o'clock" message came through. The enemy was coming from the River Thamesand heading north at about 5,000 feet higher and Bader instructed the 'wing'to gain height at full throttle then requested permission to engage theenemy. There was a mixture of Do17s and Bf110s in a mixed formation withBf109s at higher altitude waiting to pounce.

Squadron LeaderB.J.E.Lane led 19 Squadron towards North Weald where anti-aircraft gunfireindicated enemy action was evident. Soon, the Spitfires of 19 squadronwere weaving and twisting amongst a number of Bf110s.

A 110 divedin front of me and I led 'A' Flight after it. Two Hurricanes were alsoattacking it. I fired a short burst as well as the other aircraft. Twobaled out, one parachute failing to open. Enemy aircraft crashed one mileeast of Hornchurch and one crewman landed nearby and was taken prisonerof war.
SquadronLeader B.J.E.Lane, 19 Squadron, Sept 7th 1940

The 'Wing" wastrying in vain to gain height, most of the Spitfires were lagging a littlebehind as they did not climb as well as the Hurricanes. Only Sub-LieutenantR 'Dickie' Cork was up front, and this is what happened as soon as theyclosed in on the enemy formation:

Attackingin a straggle from below with the 109’s on top. No chance to break themup. No time for tactics. He closed fast and the flanks of the Dornierswere darting by. A quick burst, but the Dornier had only flashed acrosshis sights. Turning under the tails of the rear section, streams of tracerwere streaking at him from the rear gunners. Cork was with him—then ”Crow“—the others well back. He lifted his nose and a 110 floated in his sights.A quick squirt. He fired again and his eyes caught the yellow spinner ofa 109 in his mirror. A second to spare for one more quick burst at the110 —triumph as smoke streamed from it, and then a horrible jarring shockas cannon shells slammed into the Hurricane and jolted it like a pneumaticdrill. Instinctively he broke hard left as fear stabbed him, horribleparalysing fright like an ice-block in the chest. Crashes and chaos andthe cockpit suddenly full of reeking smoke. For a moment he was frozenrigid, then thought and movement switched on—he was on fire and going down!His hands shot up, grabbed the twin handles of the cockpit hood and hauledit back. Must get out! Straps first! He yanked the pin of his straps andsuddenly the cockpit was clear of smoke—sucked out by the noisy slip-stream.No fire. Must have been only cordite smoke. No panic now. He was all right,but furious at having been frightened he slammed the hood shut and lookedback, hunted and sweating. No Messerschmitt behind.

The Hurricanewas in a screaming diving turn and he eased her out. A 110 was slidingbelow and he peeled off in chase. It seemed to move towards him as he overhauledit and fired three sharp bursts. The 110 fell away on one wing, nosed straightdown, and seconds later dived into a field by a railway line and exploded.

Paul BrickhillReach for the Sky Collins 1954 p210
When Bader metLeigh-Mallory the next day he stated that " didn't come off yesterday"even though between them they claimed eleven enemy aircraft, he explainedthat they were too low. "Again" he told Leigh-Mallory "we got the calltoo late, if we had got the call earlier we would have had time to getthe bombers while the Spitfires covered us from the 109s." Bader told hisCO that it was no good, that they have to be scrambled when the enemy bombersare first detected over the French coast and not after they had passedthe south coast of England. But Leigh-Mallory informed Bader that the callwas by 11 Group, they make the decision and they think that we should waituntil the Germans begin to move in.

But while DouglasBader was displaying his anger towards 11 Group, in the south some twentyof Parks squadrons were engaged in combat with the enemy. 249 Squadronwho earlier had flown out of North Weald, the airfield that Bader and his"Wing" had been instructed to patrol were in the thick of the action overMaidstone:

Fighter Command Combat Report7.9.1940

No.249 Squadron

At 1622 hours on 7.9.40, 12 aircraftof 249 Squadron left North Weald to patrol first Maidstone and then Ashfordat 15,000 feet to intercept Raid 15. They were then sent back to Ashfordand ordered to intercept Raid 22.

About 30 He111s and Do17swere seen heading for London at 19,000 feet. escorted by at least 100 fighters,mostly Mel09s stepped up behind to 25,000 feet Enemy bombers were in threeparallel lines of 3 vics in line astern. Our fighters attacked broadsideon and one vic of three enemy bombers was seen to be left straggling behind,smoking, but it was impossible to say which of our pilots were responsible.Enemy formation turned aside from London went east, just south of NorthWeald aerodrome.

The original claims wereonly 2 Mel09s destroyed, but these have now been increased.
P/O Neil (Yellow 2)destroyed an Mel09 which broke up and turned over and went down smokingover Maidstone, although he did not see it crash.
Red 2 (P/O.Barclay)destroyed an Mel09 which emitted brilliant flames and black smoke fromthe cockpit. It dived steeply and pieces fell off, but he did not see Itcrash; this was south of Maidstone. The Mel09s were coloured yellow backto the cockpit.
Red 2 also damaged aDol7 and an He111 He force-landed in a field, his a/c having been hit.
F/Lt Parnall finishedoff an He111, which two other unidentified Hurricanes had disabled, butapparently lost in the smoke. He saw it crash near Grain.
P/O Beazley (Green Section)finished off a Do2l5, which already had its starboard engine fired. Itcrashed near a main road south of Ongar.

Enemy casualties: 2 Mel09 destroyed
                          1 Do17 damaged
                          1 He111 damaged
                          1 He111 destroyed (shared with two u/i Hurricanes)
                          1 Do2l5 destroyed (shared with u/i friendly fighter or fighters)

Off of Folkestone, 43 Squadron whohad been one of the first squadrons to take off were scrambled with SquadronLeader C.B."Caesar" Hull leading and Fl/L R.C.Reynell and Fl/L J.Kilmartinas his section leaders. By all accounts, the controller had the squadronflying all over the place. They spot about thirty Do17s with an escortof over eighty Bf109s. S/L Hull instructs Fl/L Kilmartin to engage theescort while Fl/L Reynell and himself attack the Dorniers. They climb untilthey are some 1,500 feet above the enemy, and as Kilmartin continues theclimb towards the Bf109s Hull and Reynell take their sections down approachingthe bombers from astern and each aircraft firing all Brownings. Then asthe Dorniers take evasive action each of the Hurricanes pick out theirindividual targets. They weave in and out of the enemy formation as itmakes its way across the countryside of Kent, a couple of the Do17s fallvictim, but Kilmartins section is not having the best of luck as they arehopelessly outnumbered and many of the Bf109s continue to protect the bombers.

At 1645hrs as they were approachingSouth London, a couple of Bf109s come down on both Caesar Hull and DickReynell. the Squadron Leader takes a hit and his Hurricane goes out ofcontrol, it spirals earthwards but there is no sign of the pilot balingout and it finally crashes into the grounds of Purley High School nearCroydon. Dick Reynell also takes a hit and a long tail of smoke bellowsbehind the stricken aircraft. Dick manages to get out of the cockpit andjumps moments before the Hurricane explodes into flames, but his parachutefails to open. His aircraft crashes just south of Woolwich and Dick Reynell,believed to have been wounded in the attack and may have lost consciousnessas he jumped, and this could have been the reason for his 'chute failingto open. His body crashed to the ground at Blackheath.

234 Squadron goes into a deep silencewhen it learns that the squadrons inspirational force, Flight LieutenantPat Hughes had failed to return. Over Folkestone his squadron runs intoabout thirty Do17s and forty Bf109s. They are in front an below and Patorders his Blue section down onto the leading bombers. He is well in frontof the rest of his section when he sees one of the Dorniers lagging behind,so he makes a slight turn and with his number two behind him makes a quarterattack on the enemy bomber. Large pieces start to fly off the Dornier andas it begins to fall sideways, one of the wings crumples and tears awayfrom the body of the bomber.

No one sees the incident except Hugheswingman who saw the bomber start to break up and then sees a Spitfire spinningout of control with half of one of its wings missing. With the rest ofthe section going in after the main force of the enemy formation, the wingmancan only assume that it is his leader Pat Hughes. There is no sign of anyonebaling out and the Spitfire crashes into the ground at Bessels Green. Nothingcan really be certain in a dogfight when there are so many enemy and friendlyaircraft in the air, all seemingly crammed into one little piece of sky.Dennis Newton in his book "A Few of the Few" states that the wingman inferredrather than stated that Hughes collided with the Dornier, which we canonly regard as a submission, or rather it was his belief as he did not seeany actual collision. Was there another aircraft in the air at the sametime? or was it just Pat Hughes and his wingman? When the crash site wasexcavated in 1969 by the Halstead War Museum it is believed that fragmentsof 303 bullets, the same as those that were used by Hurricanes and Spitfireswere found in the cockpit and in the seat. So this leads us to anotherquestion, was Pat Hughes shot down by a friendly aircraft? and if so.....who?

Many of the squadrons stationed wayout of London had been brought in to combat the onslaught. Tangmere hadreleased 43 Squadron and vectored them to the Folkestone area and theyfinished up in combat over South London. 609 Squadron based at Westhampnettwas also brought up to give protection to the aircraft factories at Weybridgeand Brooklands and they too became engaged in the combat over South Londonand the Thames Estuary. One of these pilots tells us:

I went forthe nearest bomber and opened fire from about 400 yards, meanwhile experiencingheavy return cross fire from the bomber formation. After about twelve secondssmoke started to come from the port motor and it left the formation. Ithen waited for it to go down to 3000 feet and then dived vertically onto it and fired off the rest of my ammunition. It kept on going down seeminglystill under some sort of control, until it hit the water about ten milesout from the centre of the Thames Estuary.
Fl/Lt J.H.G.McArthur609 Squadron Warmwell Spitfires on September 7th 1940
Out of the daycame many stories of pilots experience, as more and more pilots got backto their bases, even more stories unfolded. They told of how they saw manyof their comrades go down, crashing to earth without a chance, or theyhad seen someone make a crash landing, but thought that they were alright.'Sandy" Johnson of 602 Squadron had said that he had never seen such ablanket of aircraft in the sky all at once, another stated that he didnot know how the sky could hold up so many of the blighters!!!, but mostof them saw at least once, the great inferno that was unfolding from theEast End to the city. Many told of how, even at great height they wereflying through thick black smoke, and they described how scarlet flameswere exploding within the tall plumes of acrid black smoke.

Whether or notKeith Park knew about the impending attack, he still decided to go to BentleyPriory to meet Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. The raid commenced aboutforty-five minutes before the scheduled time of the meeting, but aftera short conference with his C-in-C they went to the operations room andwatched at the German onslaught continued during the late of the afternoon.Park was in communication with Willoughby de Broke at 11 Group headquarterswho was doing an exceptional job there, but then as Park mentioned in hisautobiography later, that ".....there was none better than him to be ableto leave in charge, I had every confidence in him."

Park managedto reach Uxbridge shortly before the raid ended and, after a hasty discussionwith his controllers about their handling of the fighters in his absence,left for Northolt, where he kept his Hurricane. From there, he flew overthe blazing city to see for himself the extent of the disaster. Appalledby the sight of so many fires raging out of control, he reflected thatthe switch of targets would not be just for a single day or even a weekand that he would have time to repair his control systems and so maintainan effective daylight challenge to enemy attack. He did not fear eithera civilian panic or unmanageable and intolerable casualties in consequenceof the new German policy, and yet Fighter Command was helpless at night.This was graphical demonstrated that very night.

By 8.30 p.m.,not long after Park landed, the Luftwaffe had returned. For the next sevenhours, wave after wave of bombers flew over London, finding fresh targetsin the light of the fires started by their comrades in daylight. They bombedat their leisure, unhindered either by anti-aircraft fire (of which therewas little and that ill-directed) or by night-fighters (of which therewere few and those ill-equipped).

In Park’smind, 7 September was always the turning point. Three years later, he flewto London from Malta and gave his first press interview on the Battle ofBritain. He explained how close the Germans came to victory and how theythrew it away by switching their main attack to London.

VincentOrange Sir Keith Park Methuen 1985 pp107-108
It was on the stroke of 1830hrs, thesun had gone down and while most on Britain settled down to a night ofdarkness, an eerie red glow hung over the eastern end of London with docks,bond stores and warehouses still burning. The next wave of German aircraftneed not have worried about flight paths or compasses as the were guidedto their target by the raids only four hours earlier that left London burning.250 more heavy bombers, this time there was no need for a fighter escort,made for London's East End again, targeting areas that had already beenbombed. With the light now gone, only two Hurricanes of 213 Squadron thatwas based at Tangmere were scrambled to patrol their own airfield. Thenight raid was to last until 0530hrs the next day. Wave after wave of bomberscame across the Channel, as one wave went back, another was coming in.During the night, a total of 330 tons of high explosive bombs had beendropped, 440 incendiary bombs added to what could only be described asa huge land based fireball. Hough & Richards in "Battle of Britain- A Jubilee History" state that 13,000 incendiaries were dropped.

Fighter Command only released a fewnight fighters to engage the bombers, but this was only a spasmodic affair.Just two Blenheims were dispatched from Martlesham, and a further two aircraftfrom the Fighter Interception Unit were also dispatched. The Blenheimsof 600 Squadron at Hornchurch could not take off because of the thick blacksmoke that was drifting in from the London docks covered the aerodromelike a thick smelly fog.

By morning, the situation could besummed up. Thick clouds of belching dark grey and black smoke hung overthe whole of the East End, fires were still raging and in the area wherethe Thames loops around like a huge horseshoe, the area in the middle knownas the Isle of Dogs it was estimated that not a single building was noton fire, the truth was that at least 50% was still burning by morning.Even though this was an industrial area, it was still heavily populatedand many people suffered as a result. A worker describes one situation:

The areaaround Limehouse was badly bombed during the first raids in the evening,but was to suffer again during the night attacks that followed. We weredirected to go to a shelter that had been engulfed in fire during the eveningraid, but we had to cease operations when the night raids got too heavy.We returned at about four o'clock the following morning to see what wecould do. A number of people had managed to get out of the shelter butthey reported to us that there were people still inside and that some ofthem were dead. As we pulled heavy beams out of the way and carefully removedlarge pieces of timber we were stopped once again when it was reported thatsomeone had found an unexploded bomb. The Royal Engineers were called inand we were told that these UXBs (unexploded bombs) were actually delayedaction bombs that were due to explode about ten hours after they had beendropped.

It was aboutmidday before we again went in and tried to excavate the area around theshelter. We knew that there was now no hope of finding anybody alive, butone never knows. Stranger things have happened. When we finally got downto the shelter, we found body over body, people almost burnt to a cinder,the air smelt of burning flesh that had gone rotten, I could take no moreand had to get out, I was proud of the job I was doing, but on this occasionI was not afraid to call myself a coward, I just could not do it, but likeso many others I plucked up courage to go back later. But the situationwas absolutely shocking.

Emma Williamsnee Fredericks Civil Defence Stepney on September 7th 1940
In total, 306 peoplehad been killed that night and 1,337 was the figure given as those seriouslyinjured. Most were civilians, but many were firefighters, wardens and civildefence workers. But we can only ask ourselves, was the bombing of Londona good move on the part of Germany. The Berlin press and propaganda machinestated that the attack on London was a reprisal attack for the Britishbombing of Berlin. They stated that the air raids on London of the 7th/8thSeptember was a great success and that the British people would now befrightened into submission now that the glorious Luftwaffe not only causeda great firestorm from the city to the edge of the Thames Estuary, butduring the afternoon an already depleted British Air Force was overcomeby the might of the Luftwaffe.

The truth was,that although the Royal Air Force did suffer, 28 aircraft had been destroyedor crashed into the sea and about twenty had been damaged and were ableto undergo repairs, the Luftwaffe suffered even worse. Even though theBritish press claimed that over a hundred German aircraft had been broughtdown, the truth was that only 45 bombers and fighters of the Luftwaffewere destroyed. It may have been a moral victory to the Germans, but therewas still one thing that Germany still had to do if they wanted victory,and that was to break the will of the British people. This task would befar greater than setting fire to the dockland areas of London.

As the eveningwore on, the German bombers made up from Gruppes from Hugo Sperle'sLuftflotte 3, most of the daytime bombers had landed back at their bases.The commanders made out their reports which were more than favourable.The result were immediately posted to Göring, who for once felt satisfiedwhen he learnt of the devastation that his bombers had done, and that mostof London was ablaze with the report also that the East End and the Londondocks had been totally destroyed.

So pleasedwith himself, that Göring immediately telegraphed his wife Emmy andtold her that "....the English have had enough, London is on fire fromthe city to the Thames Estuary". He also broadcast on German radioto the German people, that this being the first blow while he had beenin charge of the battle, and over half of London now lay in ruins and thathe had struck a serious blow...straight at the enemy's heart.

During the evening, and probably becauseof the heavy bombing, the signal for invasion went out. The signal forthis alert is "Cromwell", a code name that was used only by the Army. Andone of those Army battalions that were alerted was the 18th AustralianInfantry that was based at Amesbury Abbey. The report came through at about9.30pm. The 18th Infantry Brigade was at this time, only at about halfstrength because half of the brigade was on leave, many of them now trappedin London because of the bombing. But was hard to keep such a secret, churchbells started to peel, road blocks were set up and even plans were putin place for the blowing up of some of the bridges.

For those that were on duty, theywere told to stand by for an immediate move. By midnight, no further informationor orders had been received so the men were allowed to return to theirbillets, but were to be prepared to move at one hours notice should theinvasion be confirmed.

[1] The London DailyTelegraph September 8th 1940

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