Unveiling of Memorial to the Victims of the London Blitz
Sited at Owen’s Fields, City and Islington College, Goswell Road, London
On Tuesday 18 October a memorial to the people who died in the Dame Alice Owen’s Girls' School air raid shelter on 15 October 1940 was officially unveiled.
(The following is taken from the memorial programme produced by City and Islington College):
The night of 15 October 1940 was the night of the heaviest air raids of the autumn. Flying conditions were good with a full moon and 400 bombers attacked London, dropping incendiary bombs and high explosives.
On this night about 150 people, who mainly lived in the surrounding area, had come to sleep in the public air raid shelter in the basement of Dame Alice Owen’s Girls' School. The school building stood 50 metres south of the commemorative panels. There were many families with children and elderly people.
At 20.07 hours, as people were settling in for the night, a large parachute high explosive bomb – a land mine – hit the school directly and most of the building collapsed. The explosion also shattered the major water main (The New River) in front of the building, which ran to the reservoir near Sadler’s Wells. People were crushed or trapped in the basement, which began to fill with water.
Local people started rescue work immediately. They were later joined by uniform services, who were dealing with incidents all over London. Some people were rescued, including the school caretaker’s wife, Mrs Burley, who was photographed being carried from the ruins 17 hours after the bomb fell. The picture was sent all over the world and became an icon of the London Blitz. This picture is shown on the panels.
But the majority died in the shelter or afterwards in hospital. The last bodies arrived at the mortuary on 8 November after more than three weeks of recovery work. Seventeen of the bodies were unidentified. The names, which are known of those who died, are recorded on the panels.
Throughout London, 430 people were killed on the night of 15 October and there was huge damage to water, gas and electricity supplies and to five major railway stations.
The organisers of the commemorative panels are already planning phase 2 which is the building of a Peace Garden in the college grounds. If you would like to know more about this project then please contact:
- Councillor Joe Trotter at the Town Hall or
- Tom Jupp (an Old Owenian) who is leading the project for City and Islington College