Second World War
Although the date of the incident is unclear during the blitz of 1940-41 two incendiary bombs fell in the road opposite number 2 Anderson Street and on the roof of its shelter.
On 16th April 1941 an incendiary bomb fell on the roof of nummber 15 and on the 8th March 1941 two incendiary bombs were recorded falling into the road.B1E 1 kg incendiary aircraft bomb © IWM (MUN 3291)
I have some affection for this street because it was here my parents were living before leaving for East Africa in 1953. They were bound for Mombasa in Kenya on the passenger ship SS Mulbera of the B.I.S.N (British India Steam Navigation Company) part of the P & O shipping line.
The SS Mulbera had conveyed the Duke and Duchess of York (future King George V and Queen Elizabeth) to Kenya in 1924 and was memorialised by Australians for rescuing five survivors of the Australian iron ore carrier SS Iron Crown in June 1942 which had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.
My parents had entered their address as 3 Anderson Street, Chelsea, London, and John Crook had just accepted a post in the Foreign Office.
Tragedy on the ice
A 17 year old shop assistant living at 5 Anderson Street, Chelsea went frolicking on the ice of the Serpentine, Hyde Park in January 1929 oblivious to the danger of the ice breaking up and falling into the freezing water and being overcome by shock and exposure.
Frank Bridge worked at a pricture frame-maker’s in Dawes Road, Fulham. It was a Sunday, his day off. The winter sun was shining.
John McElroy from Sutton Buildings, Cale Street was walking on the south side of the Serpentine at about 12.30 and noticed Frank sliding on the ice, about 20 feet from the shore.
He was worried about him being the only person out so far and warned him about the dangers, but Frank replied it was quite alright.
Seconds later John heard the bang of cracking ice and Frank thrashing panic-stricken in the water.
He was trying to get out. Another young man lay down on the ice and put his hand out, but he went in as well. People frantically got together scarves and dog leashes to knot together and succeeded in dragging the rescuer out.
Frank Bridge continued leaping up and down but eventually disappeared below the surface.
John McElroy complained that on the Sunday ‘there wasn’t anything in the way of life-saving apparatus. If there had been one coil of rope we could have fished him out.’
Frank’s body was found in 12 feet of water after a Hyde Park boatman with volunteers dragged a boat to launch and broke up as much of the ice as they could.
Every effort was made to revive him. The Westminster Coroner S. Ingleby Oddie gave a sobering narrative of what had happened:
‘People are liable to think that a surface of water covered with ice is safer than it really is. Last week there were some very severe frosts, but extra notices were put out warning people not to go on the Serpentine before the ice was certified by the authorities as being safe.
Experienced people would know that on Sunday the ice was not fit for anyone to go on, because there were large strips where there was no ice. This boy, as boys mischievously will be, was not content with standing on the ice a few feet from the shore where it was safe.
He went out 20 feet, the ice gave way, and he was immersed. A very plucky effort was made by McElroy and others to save him, and one of the rescuers who was immersed was got out, but the deceased apparently got terrified, became exhausted, sank, and was drowned.
I am satisfied that there was no delay in getting a boat out and that gallant efforts were made by McElroy and others to save this boy’s life. I am satisfied that the notices were sufficient, and that the accident was due to the rashness and foolishness of the boy, who boylike, went on the ice in a spirit of adventure.’
Special thanks to Karen White and Chris Pain whose families lived in Chelsea during World War Two and have very kindly encouraged and assisted my research. Special thanks to Marja Giejgo for editorial assistance. Research and archive facilities from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council library services, The Imperial War Museum and National Archives at Kew.