Remembering Black Saturday

Remembering the Blitz-70 years on

The service at St Luke’s Community Centre, Canning Town, on Tuesday last week was designed to remember the start of the aerial bombardment – and the victims of September 10, 1940, when a bomb hit South Hallsville School, Agate Street, Canning Town.

It killed families waiting in the school to be evacuated. The official death toll was put at 73, though many argued that as many as 400 perished in what became one of the country’s worst civilian disasters of the war.

The bombing occurred three days into The Blitz – the Luftwaffe’s onslaught against British cities which began on September 7, in which the East End fared particularly badly.

The service was led by the Rev Canon David Wade and included a short silence, hymns and the reading of a poem by children from Hallsville School, Radland Road.

Pupils from St Luke’s Primary School, Ruscoe Road, Canning Town, read a short extract from the New Testament.

Local residents and members of the Royal British Legion also took part in the service.

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Les Haines, former chairman and president of the Legion’s South West Ham branch, was 14 at the time of The Blitz. He lived in Kempton Road, East Ham, and was working as a delivery boy in Hornchurch and Upminster on September 10.

He recalls that the air raid sirens went off and his colleague dropped him off in High Street North, East Ham.

He said: “There were bombed houses everywhere and people walking about with shocked faces.

“There were fires raging in the docks and there was a lot of smoke. The fires from the docks were reflected in the sky, which was all red.

“The whole of High Street North was a sheet of broken glass.’’ Les added: “We spent the night in a shelter but that wasn’t the end of it because it went on night after night. “When I think about it now, I’m amazed – there would be bombing at the weekend, but come Monday we went to work like it was a normal day.”

St Luke’s Community Centre also hosted an exhibition featuring memorabilia from The Blitz.