School pays tribute to bomb hero Capt Blaney

CHILDREN, civic dignitaries and members of the Royal British Legion gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of a bomb disposal expert.

They were at Salisbury Primary School, in Manor Park, to honour the sacrifice made by Capt Michael Blaney and nine of his colleagues on December 13, 1940 while trying to defuse a bomb.

Sixty children attended the service, led by Rev Brian Lewis. East Ham MP Stephen Timms, Deputy Mayor Andrew Baikie and Chief Inspector Gary Brown were among those who attended.

Newham’s Heritage and Archives service sent staff, dressed in World War II uniforms, with artefacts to show the children.

Among them was a dummy replica of the bomb that Capt Blaney was trying to defuse.

Many members from Manor Park Royal British Legion laid a wreath on the school railings.

Robert Strong, Chairman of the legion branch, said he was impressed at the children’s knowledge about Capt Blaney.

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Head teacher Andrea Choppy said teachers discussed with children the historical context of war, the development of bombs and the role of Bomb Disposal Teams.

She told the Recorder: “Children read an army incident report of the explosion and a newspaper article about the 60th Anniversary Celebration. They then wrote their own newspaper articles.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for the children to use their literacy skills alongside learning about real history.

“Capt Blaney is a big part of our history. The plaque is a reminder and the link is always made during World War Two teaching.”

On December 13, 1940, Capt Blaney attended the scene of an unexploded bomb at 590 Romford Road, Manor Park. He crawled into the crater to tackle it himself but the bomb exploded and he lost his life together with a number of colleagues and a police officer.

Those killed with Capt Blaney were Lt John James, Staff Sgt Charles Roberts , Lance Cpl Douglas Mills, Sappers Stanley White, Edward McLaren and Joseph Maycock , Drivers John Lauchlan and John Pickering, and Police Inspector Henry Lane of Capel Road, Forest Gate.

Capt Blaney was aged 30 when he died and he awarded the George Cross posthumously for his actions. It reflected his extraordinary courage in defusing a series of unexploded bombs in London.

Just weeks earlier, on October 20, an unexploded bomb fell in Park Avenue, East Ham. Capt Blaney personally defused this bomb, working alone.

In the early hours of September 18, 1940 an unexploded device landed in Manor Way, a short distance away from the junction with East Ham and the Barking by-pass. Capt Blaney was called and removed the bomb, allowing thousands of war-workers to continue on their way to work.

A road in East Ham was named Blaney Crescent after his death.