The impact of the Silvertown explosion still felt 100 years on
PUBLISHED: 15:00 19 January 2017
When the Brunner Mond Works went up the effects were felt for miles around, with reports the sound of the explosion could be heard as far away as Salisbury, almost 100 miles west.
Two miles away, 16-year-old Ted Walker, cycling to work through Canning Town, was blown off his bike by the force of the blast.
For Ron Pearce, Ted’s nephew, hearing the story of his uncle fascinated him as a child.
“It was such a shock for him. He wondered what had happened, but knew it was a major disaster,” Ron said.
A retired minicab driver, Ron, now 89, had uncles in the trenches, but for the youngster, Ted’s story struck him more.
“He only had a couple of bruises. But somehow that explosion caught my imagination and has survived until today,” Ron said.
“I was really impressed. It happened somewhere I knew and had walked through.”
Years later, Ron picked up a passenger who also had memories of the day that shook Silvertown.
“One of my regulars happened to menton the Great War and I asked if he had heard of the disaster.
“He said, ‘Heard of it? I saw and heard it.’”
Ron discovered his passenger was shopping with his mother in Powis Street, Woolwich at the time of the explosion.
His passenger told Ron: “A great glow filled the sky. A bang I hope never to hear again stunned our eardrums.
“I have never lost that feeling of pity for those poor victims.”
Now Ron hopes those who died will be remembered.
“It’s something I will never forget,” he said. “We must remember the civilians who were doing their bit for the war.”