World War II
Unlike the residential and commercial area East Greenwich is today, in the 1940's East Greenwich was a major industrial and shipping centre and was very much a target for bombing. Being sandwiched between Woolwich Arsenal and the London Docklands, the East Grenwich and Westcombe Park area was very exposed to accidental destruction as the enemy planes would often be flying directly overhead.
Ormiston Road experienced one of the worst residential bombing incidents of the war on 12th January 1941, although nothing could truly compare to the horror of the bomb that killed over 60 people sheltering in Bank underground station on the night before. January 1941 was the height of the blitz where raids of 200 planes were taking place almost every night dropping high explosives and thousand of Incendiary Bombs across the capital.
At the west end of Ormiston Road, just before the junction with Kemsing Road, you will notice a row of modern houses on both sides of the street and some very new town houses at the end on Halstow Road.
The London Fire Brigade report of the incident lists 26 houses as demolished or severely damaged as follows:
Ormiston Road (8 Demolished, 15 Severely Damaged)
1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25
2, 4, 6, 8, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26
Halstow Road (3 Severely Damaged, 12 Damaged)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
This map shows how Ormiston Road would have looked before the Bomb.
On the northern side the house numbering no longer follows the pattern shown as all the houses in yellow were completely destroyed and then demolished after the war. The area in the bottom left had houses curving around towards the bridge and all these were destroyed. The houses in orange were demolished by the bomb, but all the deaths occurred on the north side of the road.
The level of destruction indicates that the bomb was almost certainly a SC1000 "Hermann" (1 tonne of high explosive). The damage profile also indicates that it exploded on or near to the ground at the front of the houses 7 and 9. The road is on a slope, with the south side being higher, and this might explain why the majority of the houses severely damaged were along Ormiston Road, with Halstow Road escaping more lightly. In the Channel 4 program "Blitz Street" the destructive effect of a 1000Kg bomb is demonstrated on a row of terraced houses in a shocking restaging showing how devastating this would have been.
The bomb fell at 9:26pm and tragically 10 people died in the four houses 5, 7, 9 and 11. 15 others were severely injured. The 10 deaths are listed below:
|5 Ormiston Road||Price, Annie Elizabeth, age 63|
|7 Ormiston Road||Francis, Herbert George, age 42|
Francis, Lilian Elizabeth, age 39
Francis, Gordon Herbert, age 15
|9 Ormiston Road||Hassett, Richard Arthur Henry, age 51|
Hassett, Ethel Louisa, age 53
Hassett, Nellie Louisa, age 26
Hassett, Violet Ethel, age 20
|11 Ormiston Road||Hunt, Emily, age 55|
Hunt, Melville James, age 22
The fire report contained in the London Metropolitan Archives is replicated below: