Chelsea Blitz 1940 to 1945. Part Two- First raids 28th August to 9th September 1940.


The key day when the Blitz really came to Chelsea was Monday 9th September 1940. It began in the early hours of the morning- the end of the weekend.

Everyone in the Borough knew the Luftwaffe had begun the bombing attack on London as all the noise and reports of the blitzing of the docks and the East End from Saturday 7th September were ever-present.

It was possible to see the glow rising from the fires when standing on Battersea, Albert and Chelsea Bridges and the roofs of tall buildings Saturday and Sunday nights.

War-time censorship meant the headline for Monday was ‘Bombs on West London- Some miraculous escapes.’

This was certainly a ‘Black Monday’ in terms of the blow to the human spirit.

Chelsea had never experienced so much death and destruction coming from the rain of high explosives crashing down from the sky.

It may well have been just two planes which wrought the terrible devastation.

Everyone knew the German airmen were not seeking military targets.

It was regarded as wanton bombing of largely defenceless civilians and non-combatants.

The first Luftwaffe bomber to drop its deadly ordnance on 9th September flew over Chelsea just a few hours after midnight and with the Borough in complete darkness.

It is estimated five bombs were dropped stretching from the Fulham Road border with Kensington to the Beaufort Street area, and to Milman’s Street near the Chelsea Embankment and River Thames which the pilot probably used to bank its return and route home to an air-base somewhere in France.

At this time there was no anti-aircraft fire at night. Only searchlight crews trying to pick up and trace the bombers in the sky as a guide for the night fighters.

The first bomb fell on houses in South Parade at the end of Chelsea Square, only yards from Chelsea’s main fire station. Three teenagers aged 15 and 16 were killed.

More bombs fell in the King’s Road opposite Paulton’s Square, further up near Beaufort House at the junction of Beaufort Street and then continuing a sequence of high explosive blasts at Mulberry Close, and a direct hit on one of the newly built brick and concrete public air raid shelters between Cadogan and Winchester Houses.

Another landed at the top of Milman’s Street near the Embankment, smashing a water main and the windows of many houses in Cheyne Walk.

The municipal flats in Cadogan and Winchester Houses, Beaufort Street were specially designed for elderly people and in some cases small families.

The sirens had sounded earlier on Sunday night.

Most of the residents of Cadogan House had decided to hurry to what they hoped would be their purpose built refuge from the bombing war in front of the building and below the level of the street pavement.

These shelters were strongly and heavily built with ‘attendant facilities’ for those staying there.

One resident of Cadogan House had gone into it on Saturday 7th September with her suitcase and not left it.

High explosive bombs had the power to easily penetrate concrete roofs and the one which struck the Cadogan House shelter on September 9th came through like a stone in water.

Nothing was ever recovered or found of the elderly lady who went into the shelter on the Saturday.

The bombing of the Cadogan House shelter and the carnage it caused is fully detailed in the foregoing narrative.

At the time, the killing of aged folk and children was regarded as one of the most ruthless bombing attacks by the enemy.

The sequence of five distinct explosions followed each other in rapid succession.

They struck buildings, smashed water and gas mains, and destroyed the lives of more than 60 people.

The force of the blast blew out thousands of windows and shook neighbouring houses to their foundations.

ARP Wardens, rescue squads and people living or sheltering in the vicinity of Cadogan House, including a local Rector ‘fought strenuously to rescue those fortunate enough to escape the full force of a direct hit.’

A local reporter interviewed an elderly woman whose stepson and wife had been killed who told him: ‘I was blinded by dust and deafened for an hour afterwards by the noise.’

She gazed forlornly for hours afterwards watching the rescue operation hoping that by some freak of chance her relatives had not been killed.

She would be disappointed and heartbroken as were so many others.

Clifford hall’s ‘Dug Out : an air raid victim rescued from the debris’ painted in Chelsea sometime in 1940.

Dug Out : an air raid victim rescued from the debris (Art.IWM ART LD 2647) image: A group of uniformed air raid wardens carry a distressed woman between them in a bombed street. Behind them a man climbs down into a hole amongst the rubble. Copyright: � IWM. Original Source:

This was an ‘indescribable disaster’ as hour after hour the scene was populated by more wardens, demolition workers, amblulances, the fire brigade, police and members of the Home Guard all working in minimal light much of which was supplied by the gas main fire.

The discovery of delayed action bombs meant evacuating hundreds of people from their homes to safer streets at breakfast time on Monday morning.

These bombs were detonated a few hours later.

A crane had to be brought in to help remove the heavy masonry in the debris.

Auxiliary Fire Service crews extinguished fires started by incendiary bombs.

The fractured and blazing gas main from the blast and huge crater near the Paulton’s Square trench shelters shot up flames almost to the roof of the houses

These scorched the fronts of a row of shops in the King’s Road and almost shattered their windows.

If the bomb had strayed a few yards in another direction and hit the shelters, it is likely there would have been huge loss of ife.

Trench shelters were simply slits dug into the earth shored up with wood and covered with corrugated iron and earth, or concrete.

A direct hit on a trench shelter in Kennington during the Blitz killed scores of civilians and highlighted how little people were protected in them.

Less than 15 hours later, this time in daylight, on Monday 9th September 1940 a German bomber jetissoned its bombs while being pursued low over Chelsea and eventually shot down by a Spitfire.

It also unleashed machine gun fire on the streets below.

The casualties this time, although very serious, were miraculously few in comparison to the slaughter at the Cadogan House shelter.

Dr Richard Castillo’s house at the top of Bramerton Street collapsed like a pack of cards. He was working with the fast response medical unit from St Stephen’s Hospital in another part of the Borough.

His wife and two children had been sheltering in the basement. Only one would be pulled out alive.

Neighbouring homes had been demolished and a small boy trapped in the debris was described as ‘particularly plucky’ when he provided a running fire of witticisms to his rescuers including the immortal line ‘What you doing. Digging for Victory?’

He was extricated largely unharmed.

The top floor of what had been his building had been stripped of its outer walls revealing a number of lady’s dresses hanging in open wardrobes and a nearby shelf bearing a clock still ticking as if nothing had happened.

One of the bombs dropped in this raid struck the roof of a small building situated between two of the eight story blocks of Swan Court.

The largely affluent and glamorous residents of Swan Court were considered ‘very lucky’ to have escaped injury or death.

All of the windows up to the top floor had been smashed and the walls of the ground, first and second floors blown in revealing the interior of the apartments as if a doll’s house had had its front or sides removed.

An Air Raid Shelter in Chelsea by Anthony Imre Alexander Gross painted sometime in 1940

An Air Raid Shelter in Chelsea (Art.IWM ART LD 629) image: A crowded underground shelter propped up by large columns. Men, women and children line benches which stretch the length of the room. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

An attendant of Chelsea public baths and a soldier who were standing at the entrance to the baths had been blown back into the building almost to the door of the swimming bath itself nearly 20 feet away.

The Deputy Town Clerk of Chelsea Town Hall had had a miraculous escape. The large window frame of his office had been blown completely in and onto his table where he had been sitting only minutes before.

The entrance to the Chelsea Public Baths opposite Swan Court where a soldier and Bath attendant were blown 20 yards inside by the high explosive bomb stripping the fashionable mansion block of many of its outer walls.

Chelsea Town Hall staff came out of their building when the all-clear sounded to find the door of Chelsea’s Methodist Chapel completely blown off its hinges and shop fronts along the King’s Road thoroughfare badly damaged.

In the evening shop staff swept away all the broken glass, restocked their windows again and carried on by putting up ‘Business as Usual’ signs for the Tuesday morning opening.

28th August 1940.

Burton[s] Court. Two high explosive bombs. One unexploded bomb.

It is perfectly conceivable to stand in the Burton’s Court gardens and grounds between The Royal Hospital and Royal Avenue and actually say ‘this is one of the places where the Blitz on London started here on Wednesday 28th August 1940.’

This was another example of a stray Luftwaffe bomber offloading its high explosive bombs over London by mistake.

It had happened over the City of London a few days earlier and this had provoked Prime Minister Winston Churchill to order the RAF to retaliate by bombing Berlin.

The first bombs to fall in neighbouring Westminster had been four one kilo incendiaries In Belgravia just on Chelsea’s border before 11 p.m. Friday night 30th August.

Again, it is assumed this was another stray bomber off target.

On the night of 25/26th August, 81 RAF bombers attacked Berlin and stoked Hitler’s rage.

Such was the intensity of his wrath, he was goaded into ordering Hermann Goering to destroy London.

In a speech made on 4th September and reported in neutral countries, Hitler said:

‘The British drop their bombs indiscriminately and without plan on civilian residential quarters, and farms and villages. For three months I did not reply because I believed that they would stop, but in this Mr Churchill saw a sign of our weakness. The British will know that we are now giving our answer night after night.’

In this way the power and impact of the German air attack was diverted from the damaging raids on RAF air-fields.

These were diminishing and degrading the country’s air defence infrastructure to such a dangerous extent, there were fears the tipping point of more loss of pilots and aircraft could outstrip supply.

Burton’s Court as it is now

4th September 1940.

28 Lowndes Square. Unexploded anti-aircraft shell.

28 Lowndes Square as it is now

7th September 1940

On this day WW2 artist Frances Macdonald painted this scene in the Paulton’s Square trench shelters in Chelsea.

The Air Raid Shelter, Paulton’s Square, Chelsea (Art.IWM ART LD 1736) image: A woman sitting in a shelter in a corridor with a ladder at one end. She sits on a bench with a blanket over her head. A bottle is placed next to her on the bench. Further along the bench are other figures, including a man in a hat, a woman with a child on her lap and another man lying on the bench. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

River Thames off Flood Street. Two high explosive bombs.

River Thames off Flood Street as it is now

8th September 1940

27 Pont Street. High explosive bomb.

37 Pont Street. High explosive bomb.

Pont Street as it is now

Chelsea Barracks. Incendiary bomb.

Chelsea Barracks site as it is now

Chelsea Barracks- early 20th century and how they looked in 1940 though there would have been piles of sandbags at the entrance.

108 Pavilion Road. High explosive bomb.

108 Pavilion Road as it is now

22 Cadogan Square. High explosive bomb.

2 Cadogan Square. High explosive bomb.

Cadogan Square as it is now

33 Pont Street. High explosive bomb.

33 Pont Street now

5 Shafto Mews. High explosive bomb.

5 Shafto Mews now

Moravian Close. Oil bomb.

Moravian Close now

Royal Hospital. False report of an unexploded bomb.

Royal Hospital as it is now

Civilian Casualty

57 year old Thomas Robert Eells of 733 Wandsworth Road, Clapham died at the Brompton Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest from injuries received as a result of enemy action at Victoria Railway Station.

Victoria Station as it is now

Mr Eells had been caught up in Westminster’s first major Blitz attack just after 11 p.m. on Saturday night 7th September. A stick of five high explosive bombs fell in the vicinity of Victoria Station and Victoria Street just after closing time in the pubs. Four of them detonated on the Victoria Station buildings. People were killed and wounded and this was the West End’s first experience of the ghastly smell of smashed and powdered plaster, brick and fractured coal gas mains and the scree of shattered glass across pavements and roads.

Victoria Station front concourse during the Blitz of 1940

Vauxhall Bridge Road and Buckingham Palace Road had been full of people waiting to pick up the late night buses and trams- many in the direction of neighbouring Chelsea. These included the number 11 and 39 buses. Saturday night was consequently filled with the cacophony of ambulance, stretcher and rescue vehicles and the cries of the wounded and injured emanating from the wreckage of large parts of Victoria Station.

A 6,000 volt electrical cable at Smith Square had been severed. The breaking up of London’s power infrastructure was an early education on how to repair quickly and effectively water, gas and electricity supplies.

Inside Victoria Station October 1940- roof damaged by high explosive bombs and signs telling passengers where to go in the event of another air raid.

The rescue work through the early hours of Sunday morning 8th September had been mostly carried out in hand-held torch-light. For stretcher and ambulance workers, many of them women, this was a bracing initiation into the carnage of Blitz killings- one or two reported being physically sick back at the depot after the night’s work was done.

9th September 1940

22, 23, 24 and 25 South Parade. High explosive bomb. Much damage and casualties.

Civilian deaths

16 year old Charles Merrick Wilson, a printer’s clerk of 23 South Parade. Son of Mrs. Alison Wilson, a widow and usherette who was 40 years old. Died at 7 South Parade.

15 year old Joan Rosalind May Plowright, a librarian of 23 South Parade. Daughter of painter Robert G. Plowright and Josephine Whippe (Plowright). Injured at 23 South Parade; died same day at St. Lukes Hospital.

15 year old Betty Jean Bennett. Daughter of Florence Jane Chown (formerly Bennett), of 13 Delaford Street, Fulham, and of the late Arthur Bennett. Died at 23 South Parade.

South Parade as it is now

King’s Court North. High explosive bomb.

King’s Court North as it is now

Mallord Street at the Flaxman Telephone Exchange between the Vale and Old Church Street. Oil bomb.

Mallord Street as it is now

King’s Road, near Paulton’s Square. High explosive bomb, igniting gas main and causing fire and damage to shops.

This scene is very likely the subject of Chelsea artist Anthony Imre Alexander Gross’s pen and ink picture of ‘A Gas Main on Fire in Chelsea.’ It was painted/sketched in September 1940.

A Gas Main on Fire in Chelsea (Art.IWM ART LD 632) image: A street scene with colonnaded shops in Paulton Square. The buildings are bomb damaged. Low flames are burning in the street. Warders and on-lookers watch the blaze. Some men are digging a hole in the road. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

King’s Road, near Paulton’s Square as it is now

Milman’s Street. High explosive bomb close to the Chelsea Embankment, smashing open a water main and shattering windows to houses in Cheyne Walk.

Milman’s Street as it is now

Beaufort Street. Convent. High explosive bomb.

Beaufort Street Convent site as it is now

Beaufort House, King’s Road. Oil bomb.

Beaufort House, King’s Road as it is now

Beaufort Street, Mulberry Close. High explosive.

Beaufort Street, Mulberry Close as it is now

Beaufort Steet, Cadogan House. High explosive bomb on air raid shelter.

Beaufort Street, Cadogan House as it is now

See the detailed narrative for all the Beaufort Street incidents in the Beaufort Street posting

There were twenty bombing incidents in Beaufort Street during WW2 and six incidents impacting on Beaufort Mansions.

In the worst, around 50 people were killed when there was a direct hit by a high explosive bomb on the concrete air raid shelter built in Cadogan House on 9th September 1940.

Its complete collapse and inability to actually shelter those evacuating there from their flats demonstrated the inadequacy of protection offered to Londoners during the Blitz.

During the raid on 9th September a total of two high explosive bombs and one oil bomb fell in the Beaufort Street area: one on the Convent causing a fire and some damage; one on Beaufort House and setting fire to it and causing the death of one resident, and the third as already mentioned on the shelter in Cadogan House.

The three blasts from Beaufort Street were recorded at 3.47 a.m. and described as ‘awful’ by air raid warden Jo Oakman who was working in the Chelsea Town Hall control room.

Gas mains had been shattered and there were jets of fire coming out of the road at the junction of King’s Road and Beaufort Street.

When she got to the remains of the Cadogan House shelter to help with the rescue operation, she saw a scene of carnage. Victims were ‘crushed beyond recognition and in pulp.’ It was difficult to properly ascertain the number of people killed. At first they thought they had pulled out 41 victims. But two days later the number of body parts recovered raised the possiblity there may have been nearly 57.

She recalled seeing the remains of one of her colleagues, the ARP Warden allocated to the shelter, Jean Darling, whose ‘head had been blown in.’ Jean was Chelsea Council’s well-known and popular housing manager.

A more detailed and equally graphic description of the aftermath of this air-raid in Beaufort Street was written by Irene Sylvia Haslewood who was a driver for a unit of stretcher bearers.

She would work with other civilian rescue squads at the scene of the most challenging incidents during the Blitz in Chelsea in 1940.

The job of her mobile group was to act as a kind of triage. Sort out the living from the dead, administer first aid to the wounded or in severe shock. Place injured people on stretchers to put into the London County Council ambulances when they arrived.

And check out surrounding buildings to make sure there were no casualties lurking in doorways, flats and houses who had wandered from the scene in a daze.

The depot for the five person Hillman vehicles was in the Carlyle grammar school for girls building in Hortensia Road. The school’s children and teachers had been evacuated for the duration of the war.

Each car was crammed with four stretchers, first aid equipment and gas decontamination suits. They had been trained for the nightmare of Hitler ordering his planes to drop poisonous gas and chemical warfare bombs.

In writing her account Irene did not want to ‘pile on the agony’ of what she did and saw, but she did not think there was any point ‘whitewashing some of the results of modern warfare.’

Going to the Beaufort Street shelter disaster was the first time she had ever seen dead bodies.

She saw herself as the general dogsbody in the team. She was the driver tasked to get them to the scene of incidents as quickly as possible.

She had a street knowledge of Chelsea equal to that of a cab driver. And she’d been renting a bedsit at 9A Cresswell Place near the Boltons for several years before the outbreak of war.

When the bombing became intense in September 1940 she would move to a flat in Nell Gwynn House, Sloane Avenue, a 1930s Art Deco mansion block known for its extra steel-framed and concrete engineered structure with a reinforced underground basement and car-park- ideal for air-raid sheltering.

She was also the only woman in her stretcher-bearer team. Beaufort Street would be a baptism of horror.

When writing up their accounts afterwards Irene Haslewood and Jo Oakman would sometimes be so lost for words they would revert to softened curses or minced oaths- ‘God! God help them!’ and ‘Dear God!’

It might have been early autumn and the early hours of darkness, but the scene was lit up with a huge fire in Beaufort House. A 36 inch gas main was in full blaze.

Irene and her squad were directed by ARP Wardens to park their vehicle.

They then ran up Beaufort Street in the Battersea Bridge direction, past the Adoration and Reparatrice Convent with its huge Roman Catholic Chapel at number 28 on the left and then to Cadogan House to be confronted with a picture of death and devastation in its courtyard adjoining the next block of flats, Winchester House.

The public communal shelter for Cadogan House had been a square concrete roofed single storey building with red brick walls. It had taken a direct hit with a small gas main burning brightly on the edge of the crater.

One stretcher squad, ARP wardens, demolition men and people from all the neighbouring flats were at work tearing through the debris searching for survivors.

Chelsea’s popular General Practitioner, Dr. Richard Castillo, originally from Malta, was attending with his mobile paramedic squad from St Stephen’s Hospital.

Large slabs of concrete trapped a mound of mangled bodies all blackened and covered in the dirt of blast and dust.

Body parts were scattered in puddles of water which glinted with the colour of blood and dirt in the shimmering light from the gas main fires.

Irene felt her stomach heaving but she was determined to stop herself from vomiting. The last thing she wanted to do was bring shame on her unit.

She took a deep breath and got on with searching all the neighbouring flats for walking wounded or anyone in deep shock.

There was an eerie vista of homes devoid of people in Cadogan House, many having left in a hurry with half finished meals and signs of interrupted domestic tasks. Newspapers and magazines open on tables. They were never to return again.

She collected blankets to hand down to rescue men in what was the pit of destruction so they had something to wrap around the bodies.

The tragic irony of Cadogan House is that if everyone had stayed in their flats, they are likely to have survived the bombing.

And perhaps it was beginning to dawn on the rescuers that all these people concentrated in a concrete blockhouse found themselves in a structure which most likely intensified the power and killing of the high explosive blast.

This is something Florence Faviell wrote about in her book on the Blitz Chelsea Concerto.

It was this first mass casualty event in Chelsea that charged the feeling the shelters were not safe and why even Civil Defence personnel began to doubt the wisdom of insisting the public should be using them.

Faviell wrote about ‘digging on this terrible holocaust.’ She was dealing with the walking wounded from Beaufort Street at First Aid Post 5. They were quiet, didn’t want to say much and filled with anxiety for missing family and friends.

Irene Haslewood, police and ARP Wardens at Cadogan House were counting the toll of empty flats and missing people.

The Gurneys in number 11 were gone. Phyllis and her two infant daughters, Jean 3 and Maureen only two months old- nowhere to be seen.

Ellen and Fred Dennis in number 41- empty.

The Jeremys at number 65. Emma was a widow living with her two teenage children who were both working- Henry 17 and Hetty 19. Their flat empty.

Mother and son Agnes and Eric Holland from number 48. Eric’s leave from the army was up. The 21 year old soldier’s uniform was laid out to be worn on his immediate return. Another empty apartment.

The Edwards family lived at numbers 1 and 15. Grandpa Samuel and Grandma Emily were alive, but couldn’t find their son Henry, daughter in law Ivy and 13 year old granddaughter Doreen, or her schoolfriend Kathleen Martin, also 13, from Chelsea Manor Street.

Kathleen had been staying with them at number 15.

It was ominously empty. Henry’s War Reserve Police Officer uniform still on its hanger.

Thomas and Susan Jesser’s flat, a couple in their seventies at number 35, also empty.

Alfred and Violet England, a younger couple in their thirties at number 37 gone. Alfred was in the ARP.

As was William Mitchell at number 17. His wife Margaret and 17 year old daughter Mary, a talented scholarship student still at school studying for her higher certificate. No sign of any of them in another empty flat.

William and Elizabeth Gould at number 61 were missing. And so were their neighbours, the Murtons, Frank and Gladys both in their early thirties at number 60.

Frederick Waller worked in Harrods, but he and his wife Bertha at number 45 were nowhere to be seen. William and Rose Seers had their adult son Frank over at number 9, but again this was now another empty household.

And then all the single people, mainly elderly and living on their own. Absolute silence in answer to knocks on the door or when keyholder ARP wardens opened up and shouted ‘Hello. Anyone at home?’

One among so many poignant and cruel deaths was one of the oldest residents of Chelsea.

Lavinia Rosina Dowsey at number 19 was 99 years old according to her death certificate, and the German Luftwaffe would deny her the dignity, achievement and pleasure of celebrating her 100th birthday in less than a year’s time on 18th July 1941.

Is it possible Lavinia was a little vague about her year of birth and indeed the town where she was born? Census records vary. Was it 1850, 1851, 1852, or indeed 1853? Margate or Ramsgate?

Perhaps this vagueness was one of the privileges of her long life.

And it seems it had been an interesting one. Two return trips to South Africa in 1919 and 1924.

Her husband Joseph had been a railway engine driver.

For a domestic servant by profession she saved well leaving over £181 in probate, the equivalent of around £13,000 in today’s money (29/5/23).

Irene Haslewood must have thought she was discovering the true nature of hell that bitterly cold Sunday night and Monday morning at the Cadogan House air raid shelter disaster.

No sooner had she got used to the grim introduction to human beings being killed in the most horrible way, she had to duck down desperately when the roar of another bomb ripped its way through the night sky to detonate not very far from the rescue scene.

And what shelter did they have? Shards of glass and masonry on the pavements. The doorways of the apartment blocks.

Shortly afterwards another bomb would come down, but not so close.

There would also be warmth and consolation. It seemed everyone had come out of the surrounding buildings to help. Huge steaming jugs of tea and thermos flasks were on offer whenever they needed them.

Irene was very grateful to a lady handing round a bottle of her very best brandy- who might have said something in understated English along the lines of: ‘Times like this when we need something a little stronger don’t you think?’

Irene was 38 years old, single and a much travelled women. In the 1930s she went to Jamaica and South Africa.

She very much appreciated being asked to help haul up an enormous slab of concrete which may have been a large part of the shelter’s roof.

Better to be doing something, to get involved rather than to be dwelling and thinking about the men, women and children destroyed and annihilated so violently and with such cruelty.

Torchlight revealed the body of an old man in the sitting position. His dusty and bloodstained face from a slight wound to the scalp looked quite peaceful.

He seemed relatively unharmed apart from a mutilated hand hanging limply to one side. She hoped he had died instantly.

Seven people were pulled out of the debris ‘more or less alive.’ One was a child who was conscious and with no visible wounds. The dust and grime made it impossible to say if they were were boy or girl.

But the youngster would not survive the journey to hospital. This would be a new kind of death from shock and blast wave.

The picture of people seemingly whole and without any ostensible wound dying in air raids would become all too familiar and common during the Blitz of the Second World War.

One of the heavy rescue workers in the middle of the pit was George Woodward from Herne Hill.

He became one of Britain’s most decorated ARP rescue workers. Monday 9th of September 1940 would be one of the longest days of his life. Later in the day he would go to another terrible incident again where innocent children had been trapped and killed.

He was working class and his diary memoir does not have the educated articulation of Oakman, Haslewood and Faviell. But the facts and remembrances are equally valid and significant.

He recalled how he and his two heavy rescue colleagues Wally Capon and George Pitman from the Carlyle School depot in Hortensia Road took on the main task of extracting the dead from underneath the concrete and brick when others could not bring themselves to do it.

The victims had been cut to shreds and they think they managed to recover 18 from the heap of masonry.

Woodward was particularly indignant when ‘the hun came back and tried to drop another bomb or two on us.’

Irene Haslewood remembered the unceasing and untiring dedication of the rescue teams so respectfully and gently handling what remained of those who had been killed.

Occasionally pausing for a gulp of hot tea or drag on a cigarette.

Horror has an inherent indecency and the ARP and heavy rescue teams used blankets as much as possible to discreetly cover up this stark reality.

Dawn came. The ghastly drone of bombers overhead which Irene described as ‘infuriating’ cleared as the morning light meant there was no need for torches.

At this stage there had been a strategic decision not to fill the skies with anti-aircraft barrages.

There was a hope that night fighters could find their prey.

But the difficulties of finding bombers at night became all too apparent and the clamour for some kind of resisting military gesture, however futile, grew so great.

The anti-aircraft fire would be unleashed- only two nights later on Wednesday 11th September.

This would add yet more terrible sounds to the night sky overhead and send up another rain of shells too many of which would fall back to the ground thus increasing the hazards of living in Chelsea during the Blitz.

In the morning light the grey faces of everyone in Beaufort Street trying to come to terms with what they had lived through looked just a little less grim.

Haslewood and her stretcher team of Corporal Thatcher, Morris Smith, Dai Davis and Graham Court were relieved at 8 a.m.

Back at the depot they had a scanty clean-up, washed their faces and hands in large white porcelein sinks and talked about the tragedy of the Beaufort Street shelter and how they could hardly have had ‘a worse baptism’ into their ‘grim job.’

The police and mortuary teams now had the macabre task in the following days of trying to identify the dead.

One of the reasons why it was at one time feared up to 70 people might have been killed is that there were at least sixteen sets of human remains which in the pre-DNA testing days could not be identified in any way.

Clothing, belongings in surviving pockets, jewellery, body scars and teeth all helped to forensically match with the identity of previously living, thriving human beings.

When there was nothing else deduction was made by elimination, an empy flat and last seen testimony.

ARP Wardens from the Post Don centre in the ground floor of Cook’s Ground School in Glebe Place worked at processing and trying to identify the bodies through the morning. They included Leslie Matthews, Albert George Thorpe, and Jo Oakman.

They all recalled that this was the first time the dust and smell of bomb damage had fully overwhelmed them. All of their training and preparation for the Blitz had been more performance and imagination compared to this sobering and distressing reality.

In the half-light of dawn behind a makeshift curtain of blankets they carried on preparing several bodies for removal and by lunch-time Dr. Richard Castillo, with all his experience of having been a ship’s surgeon and called out to certify sudden deaths in Chelsea since 1924, realised that the civilian workers around him were experiencing and witnessing trauma they had never encountered before.

He kindly advised them to each take a double whisky and get some sleep. Little did they realise that when the sirens woke them again at tea-time they would be summoning them to attend the destruction of Dr Castillo’s own home and the deaths of members of his own family.

Albert George Thorpe would also lose his home in the stick of bombs dropped by the tea-time raiding and low-flying bomber.

And only a few days later he would be killed himself when another high explosive bomb would make a direct hit on the air raid shelter he was managing- this time the basement of Chelsea’s Roman Catholic church in Upper Cheyne Row.

Deaths at Cadogan House air raid shelter, Beaufort Street

Maureen Gurney, 10 weeks old, of 11 Cadogan House

Jean Gurney, 3 years old, of 11 Cadogan House

Phyllis Muriel Gurney, 24 years old of 11 Cadogan House

(Robert Walter Gurney either survived the bombing or was not in the shelter at the time. He had the heart-rending responsibility of identifying his wife and two infant daughters.)

Ellen Dennis, 58 years old, a housewife of 41 Cadogan House

Frederick (known as Fred) Dennis, 58 years old, motor cab washer of 41 Cadogan House

Henry Charles Jeremy, 17 years old, commercial clerk working for music publishers of 65 Cadogan House

Hetty Ray Jeremy, 21 years old, a dress-maker/milliner of 65 Cadogan House

Emma Eliza Jeremy, 55 years old, a widow of 65 Cadogan House

Agnes Holland, 63 years old, a widow of Walter Holland resident of 48 Cadogan House

Eric Walter Holland, 21 years old, a bank clerk by profession and at the time of his death a private soldier in the Royal Army Pay Corps. Resident of 48 Cadogan House and son of Agnes and Walter Holland. He has a CWG Commission military headstone in the Brompton Cemetery with the inscription ‘Rest In Peace.’

The death of the mother and son, Agnes and Eric Holland was widely felt in the Chelsea community because Eric’s grandfather had been a leading member of the local Labour Party. His father Walter had worked all his life for Harrods. Eric attended Park Walk elementary school and gained a scholarship to Sloane Secondary School. After leaving with a School Certificate he was employed by the Swiss Bank Corporation in Gresham Street, City of London. He had been an active member of the Baptist Church Boy’s Brigade and was an organist at the Chelsea Baptist Chapel in Lower Sloane Street.

Frederick James Waller, 46 years old, an employee of Harrods of 45 Cadogan House

Bertha Waller, 40 years old, of 45 Cadogan House

Selina Sarah Allen, 78 years old, an old age pensioner of 15 Cadogan House

Edith Gilbert, 42 years old of 44 Cadogan House

Doreen Ivy Edwards, 13 years old and daughter of H J S Edwards War Reserve Police Constable of 72 Cadogan House

Ivy Elsie Edwards, 39 years old, housewife of 72 Cadogan House

Henry John Samuel Edwards, 38 years old, War Reserve Police Constable of 72 Cadogan House. Henry had been a leatherworker before becoming a War Reserve police officer. He was the son of Samuel John and Emily Annie Edwards living at number 1 Cadogan House, Beaufort Street.

Henry Edwards’ father, Samuel passed away in April 1942 and had been in the Royal Engineers during World War One joining up in September 1914. He was badly wounded at Messines in 1916 and subsequently gassed. A second son V. Edwards was a pilot officer in the RAF and serving in the Middle East.

Susan Jesser, 76 years old pensioner of 35 Cadogan House

Thomas Frederick Jesser, 70 years old, pensioner of 35 Cadogan House

Alfred England, 38 years old, contractor’s labourer in Public Works Water Company of 37 Cadogan House. Alfred was in the ARP trained in gas decontamination.

Violet England, 34 years old, housewife of 37 Cadogan House

Mary Nora Mitchell, 17 years old, school pupil, of 17 Cadogan House

William John Mitchell, 54 years old, a carpenter and joiner of 17 Cadogan House. Son of Mary Ann Mitchell, of 51 Brampton Park Road, Hitchin, Hertfordshire. William Mitchell was also an ARP Warden trained in first aid.

Margaret Mary Mitchell, 48 years old, housewife of 17 Cadogan House

Norah Rowena Bains, 59 years old, a Church Sister of 34 Cadogan House. Daughter of Charles William and Anne Isobella Bains, of Dursley, Gloucestershire. Norah was also in the ARP reserve.

Elizabeth Ann Gould, 67 years old, housewife of 61 Cadogan House

William James Gould, 70 years old, pensioner of 61 Cadogan House

There might be some idea of poetic justice in the knowledge that the Lacey family took over the tenancy of number 61 Cadogan House after Mr and Mrs Gould were killed. 20 year old Desmond Lacey joined the RAF in 1942 and became a flight sergeant on Lancaster bombers with many missions over Berlin. He became a specialist flight engineer in a ‘pathfinder” squadron. In 1945 he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal for ‘skill, fortitude and devotion to duty in two tours of highly dangerous operations.’

He flew 45 ‘ops’ where he had the task of marking the target with flares for the bombers to come in afterwards. He had also been on operations over the Ruhr and Koenigsberg. On one occasion his Lancaster returned on three engines with the rudder control shot away and two gunners wounded. They had been attacked three times by a Junkers 88 and only managed to get away when his pilot dived rapidly and then regained control. To get home he had to make repairs in mid-flight and guide the plane to land with one tyre shot away in the dog fight.

Helen Litchfield, 70 years old, pensioner of 43 Cadogan House. Widow of W. J. Litchfield.

Lavinia Rosina Dowsey, 99 years old, pensioner of 19 Cadogan House. Widow of J. Dowsey.

Frank Murton, 32 years old, warehouseman’s assistant of 60 Cadogan House. Son of Charles Cracknell Murton, and E. Murton, of Aspal Cottage, Aspal Lane, Besk Row Common, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.

Gladys Murton, 32 years old, housewife of 60 Cadogan House. Daughter of John James and Alice Rebecca Read, of 56 Cadogan House.

Ada Ellen Lowe, 27 years old, housewife, of 52 Cadogan House. Wife of Reginald John Lowe.

Elizabeth Bowley, 40 years old, housewife of 33 Cadogan House. Wife of Wilfrid Thomas Bowley. Wilfred who was also forty years old and a shop assistant by day was most likely on duty that night in the Auxiliary Fire Service.

William George Seers, 68 years old, pensioner and retired taxi driver of 9 Cadogan House

Rose Harriet Seers, 69 years old, pensioner of 9 Cadogan House

Frank William Seers, 28 years old, gas fitter of 48A Tregunter Road, West Brompton

Ethel Mary Hodgson, 68 years old, domestic cook, of 54 Cadogan House

Dorothy Eileen Forster, 35 years old of 13 Cadogan House. Wife of William John Forster.

Adelaide Reid, 45 years old, daily maid of 38 Cadogan House. Daughter of the late Charles and Elizabeth Reid.

Jean Darling B A, 34 years old, A.R.P Warden of Mulberry Close, Chelsea, also of The Old Rectory, Trimley, near Felixstowe and Ipswich, Suffolk. Daughter of Jane Baird Darling, of The Old Rectory, Trimley, and of the late Austin Major Darling. [The public records indicate Jean’s father as having the forenames ‘Augustine Major’ or ‘Austin Major’, but the biography of his youngest son represents ‘Austin’ as ‘Austen.’ I have opted for the spelling in official records.]

Joan Darling portrait 1939 from RBK&C local studies ‘Ordinary Heroes.’

Jean had been Chelsea’s Council’s much respected housing manager and was well known to all its council tenants. Her funeral was held in St Andrew’s Church, Park Walk and was conducted by the curate of the church the Rev. S.G. Newson assisted by the Rev. R.E. Sadlair the incumbent of Chelsea Old Church. The mourners included Lady Phipps representing the Chelsea Housing Committee, the Borough Surveyor, Mr Gough and several members of Jean’s housing team. Her remains were cremated at Golder’s Green and ashes taken to St. Mary’s Church Trimley. Her grieving mother lived in the Old Rectory in Trimley.

One of Jean’s colleagues at Chelsea Council, Miss J. K. Baker Wilbraham wrote the following tribute for her:

‘The death of Miss Jean Darling, housing manager to Chelsea Borough Council, has come as a great and unexpected sorrow to many. She came to the district in July, 1934, as the first whole-time housing manager to be appointed for the Borough Council’s housing estates and during the last six years she has made innumerable friends.

Her calm efficiency and friendly manner stood her in good stead in the organisation of a new housing department, and she co-operated wholeheartedly with the various public health services and social organisations. The interest she took in her work was unfailing, and the standard she set herself was high. Many who have come in contact with her in their search for accommodation can testify to her sympathy and desire to help them to the best of her ability, though her scrupulous fairness was always apparent. To her tenants she was a real friend, in times of rejoicing as well as in sorrorw, and many will remember the sight of her joining whole-heartedly in the sports at the Coronation parties.

The outbreak of the war found her trained and ready to take the lead in organising a voluntry air-raid wardens’ service in the Council’s largest block of flats. This A.R.P. work, given ungrudingly at the end of arduous days in the office, was typical of her. Chelsea can ill spare her at this time, but she will long be remembered.’

Jean Darling was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College and in a family which placed a priority on education and careers for the girls as well as the boys. Her Oxford educated father was the head teacher of the Castle private school in Tonbridge, Kent, retired in 1919, and moved into the Old Rectory at Trimley, Suffolk in 1927. He was a keen gardener winning national prizes for rose growing and had leading educational roles in Felixstowe before his death in 1938.

When Jean turned 16 she was a boarder in the Cambrey House at Cheltenham and the new principal Beatrice Sparks (1922 – 1937) modernised the curriculum in line with the introduction of the School Certificate and Higher Certificate. She inspired her students to take up careers and pursue the growing equality of opportunity arising out of women taking on men’s jobs during WW1 and the full extension of the franchise for women in the 1928 General Election.

The school magazine had an article in 1921 explaining: ‘…a word of advice to girls who are still at school. Whatever your plans for the future may be, do not leave until you have passed Matriculation or an equivalent examination. To be without such a qualification will be a real stumbling block hereafter whether you wish to become a doctor or a cook.’

Jean heeded the advice, went onto Somerville College, University of Oxford in 1924 and gained a BA in 1927. Her success in local government in the 1930s is emblematic of how the decade was spiralling up for the social advancement of women.

Various views of St Mary’s Church in Trimley where Jean Darling’s ashes were interred and the Old Rectory behind it which was the family home at the time of her death. Images 1 to 4 by Tim Crook. Images 5 and 6 of the front of the Old Rectory by Marja Giejgo- June 2023.

By the time war broke out in 1939, the Darling family’s home was well-estabished at the Old Rectory in School Lane Trimley St Mary near Felixstowe, an imposing mid 19th century red brick building now grade 2 listed. She had attended her father Austin Major Darling’s funeral the year before. His award-winning roses in the Old Rectory’s gardens provided a bright and fragrant memory of his devotion to horticulture and active involvement in the National Rose Society.

Jean’s widowed mother was living with Jean’s older sister Margaret who had followed in the footsteps of their father by going into the teaching profession. Jean’s sister-in-law and two young children were also resident with a ‘mother craft nurse’ and three domestic servants attending to their needs.

The Darling family would experience more grieving in January 1942 for Jean’s younger brother Lieutenant Austin Eaton Darling would be killed in action while serving with the 19th Hyderabad Regiment in Singapore. Jean, Austen Eaton and Jean’s sister Margaret, who died in 1975, have a gravestone monument in the Trimley St Mary’s graveyard. See:

Jean and Austin Eaton are also commemorated in a striking stained glass memorial to those who gave their lives for their country in St Mary’s Church, Trimley. See: and a high resolution image by the Suffolk churches historian Simon Knott at

Austin Eaton was killed when his battalion was practically annihilated at the disastrous Battle of Slim River on 7th January 1942. His older brother, Sir James Darling, would later write: ‘He was left by the side of the road, his feet having given out, and having ordered his company to leave him for their own safety. Nothing more was heard of him. It is hard to be altogether forgiving of the Japanese, who might at least have recorded his death.’ His body was never recovered and for some years his family hoped that despite his ‘missing’ status he might reappear alive in some way. He had been in one of the few British Indian Army infantry units relatively well trained in jungle warfare and had performed well in the fighting retreat in north-west Malaya. See:

The Darling family erected a modest monument in front of the gate between St Mary’s churchyard and the Old Rectory garden where Austin Major grew his roses. It commemorates Jean Darling and Austin Eaton (Pro Patria) and their sister Margaret on one side and their parents Austin Major and Jane on the other. (Images by Marja Giejgo and Tim Crook)

Jean’s older brother James Ralph Darling had a distinguished career in education and broadcasting in Australia, serving as head master of the Geelong Grammar School between 1930 and 1961 and then as chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission between 1961 to 1967. He received a knighthood in 1968. For the 1988 Bicentenary, Darling was formally acknowledged as one of 200 Australians who had made the nation great. See:

Some alumni of Geelong Grammar School recalled their experience of being taught and mentored by Sir James in a series of films recorded for the school’s centenary. See: In particular watch the feature with Boz Parsons from 2 mins 14 seconds.

James Darling’s biogropher, Professor Peter Gronn, devotes an extensive paragraph on the impact of Jean Darling’s death in Chelsea in Just As I Am: A Life of J.R. Darling (2017) and provides additional background on her life and achievements:

“In September 1940, Jean Darling was killed. A year erlier, she had received a sadly prescient letter from Eaton in India: ‘I picture you [in London] running from one rabbit hole to another with gas masks at the ready, and a hell of a noise all the time’. His sister’s life was cruelly snuffed out in Chelsea during the Blitz. A bomb exploded on the shelter in which (as an ARP warden) she was huddling. Jean and forty-six Beaufort Street housing tenants were killed instantly. She was thirty-four. She was not disfigured, although a normally composed Margaret had had to gird herself to identify her sister’s body before winding up her affairs. About 120 mourners attended her funeral service. Recently Jean had fallen in love and, since the fall of Paris, had written airily to her mother about her new friend, an older man, Kay (W. Bertram Kennett)- a solicitor, chairman of the Connaught Club, and a fellow warden. After leaving Norwich in 1932, Jean had been a housing inspector, an assistant housing estate manger and, since 1934, a housing estate manager in Chelsea. She was also secretary of the 600-strong Association of Women Housing Managers. Jean was the best of all her children, Jane told her son, because of her nearly perfectly formed character: ‘ I feel God wanted her for something better where she is now’. Scores of condolence letters poured in Corio and Darling was a long time coming to terms with her loss.’I am not trying [to] be angry with the Germans nor to get depressed as I know that I shouldn’t’. He dedicated his ABC radio talk ‘Tradition’, delivered shortly after her death, to her. Two months later her death was still hanging like a cloud over his thoughts of home.”

Professor Gronn also wrote about how Jean’s death had affected her brother Eaton who was her closest sibling. They had been playmates when children: ‘Eaton had been grief-stricken by Jean’s death. (He was the sole beneficiary of her will.) Like his mother, he thought that his sister was the best of the five siblings and in 1941 on the anniversary of Jean’s death he composed ‘Love’, a free-verse poem.’

Jean Darling had a block of flats in Milman’s Street built by Chelsea Borough Council in 1952 named after her and this is still the responsibility of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Her brother Sir James Darling in his 1978 autobiography Richly Rewarding, published by the prestigious Hill of Content of Melbourne, provided another detailed profile of Jean’s life and how he learned of her death having returned to Australia after visiting his family in England between 1939 and early 1940:

‘It was at the end of the September holidays that the first personal blow fell. Margaret and I were staying with Lord and Lady Gowrie at Yarralumla and just making ready to leave when an aide come to tell me that I was wanted on the telephone by Mr Thewlis, the Bursar. It was to tell us that a cable had just been received telling us of the death of my much beloved sister Jean in one of the early raids on London. She was an Octavia Hill house management officer and, having shepherded her charges into an air raid shelter, had remained by the door where she was killed by the blast of a bomb. On my poor sister Margeret fell the task of doing all that was necessary. It was the first of the many blows which came upon my mother during the war years, and which she bore with such stoic resignation and Christian acceptance.

It is hard, even at this date, to write about the death of one who meant so much to us all. Jean was a unique person, the youngest of my three sisters and I suppose the most loved by all of us. She had been the pride of my father’s heart, for besides having a good intelligence, she had been a really distinguished athlete, captaining Oxford at cricket and playing for it at hockey. After taking her degree she had done the Octavia Hill course [pioneering social housing association charity] and was at the time of her death working in Chelsea. She was one of those few people born into the world to love and be loved. She had a whole troop of not very amiable lame ducks, whom she never ceased to help. More than any of the rest of us she held the family together and none of us ever forgot her and ceased to mourn her loss. She was much loved also by her tenants and a new block of flats in Chelsea is named after her. Her death was one of the first to bring home to people in Australia the reality of the ordeal which London was facing.’

Jean Darling left an abiding impression of quality and charisma with the people she worked with in Chelsea and solicitor Ernest Nicholson would write in 1977: ‘Unlike most women Housing Managers, who were usually of the blue stocking type, she was young , pretty and charming, and her death quite early in the blitz came as a shock which survived any of the later incidents.’

Jean Darling House in Milman’s Street, Chelsea

Emily Eliza Huntley, 56 years old, of 32 Cadogan House. Wife of C. H. Huntley

Identified by missing status and bodies which were ‘beyond recognition.’

Cecilie May Steggles, 32 years old of 40 Cadogan House. Daughter of Emily Alice, and of the late G. Steggles.

Mabel Grace Clarke, 49 years old of 47 Cadogan House. Widow of Charles Edwin Clarke, D.C.M.

Florence Evelyn Brooks, 42 years old and daughter of Alfred Horace and Florence Kate Brooks, of 55 Beaufort Mansions, Beaufort Street. Died at Cadogan House Shelter.

Florence Elizabeth Tomlin, 75 years old of 59 Cadogan House

Walter Frederick Curzon, 29 years old of 55 Beaufort Mansions, Beaufort Street. He was killed in the Cadogan House shelter along with his wife. He was the son of Frederick Henry and Elsie Marguerite Curzon, of 16 Bramfield Road, Wandsworth Common.

Olive Phyllis Curzon, 31 years old of 55 Beaufort Mansions, Beaufort Street. She was the daughter of Alfred Horace and Florence Kate Brooks, of Speldhurst, Second Avenue, Wickford, Essex.

Kathleen Elizabeth Martin, 13 years old of 17 Chelsea Manor Buildings, Flood Walk. She died in the Cadogan House shelter and was the daughter of Sydney William and Winifred Bessie Martin.

Percy Alexander Cobby, 38 years old of 21 Langton Street who died at St Luke’s Hospital, Sydney Street on 15th September 1940 from the injuries he received in Beaufort Street on 9th September. He was the husband of Evelyn I. Cobby.

Declaration that Jane McKee, 75 years old of 10 Cadogan House died in the street shelter bombing on 9th September 1940.

She had not been seen or heard of since she was last spotted in the shelter on the night of 7th September 1940.

Ernest Lenton who lived in Winchester House and was the shelter marshall for the Cadogan House block told an inquest held in Hammersmith in October 1941 that Miss McKee had a habit of taking refuge in the shelter during air-raids with her suitcase. He said it was a habit for many of the residents to take their most treasured belongings with them.

The salvage department of Chelsea Council had recovered a case in the debris which included books bearing the name ‘Miss M McKee’ and postcards addressed to ‘Miss J McKee.’ She was the only person unaccounted for from that night’s bombing and the Council was unable to trace any living relatives.

The Coroner Neville Stafford declared under Defence Regulation No. 30A, there was sufficient evidence to certify that Jane McKee’s death had occurred as the result of war operations.

At Beaufort House

Jessie Alan Izat, 60 years old, a Red Cross nurse of 12 Beaufort House, Beaufort Street. She was the daughter of Dr. John Crerar and Catherine Crerar, of Maryport, Cumberland; widow of Capt. Alan Izat, R.E.

At Winchester House

Robert Samuel Chambers, who was 16, and lived at 17 Winchester House had been injured at the Winchester air raid shelter and died the same day at St Luke’s Hospital in Sydney Street. Robert had been working as a junior clerk with the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. He was living with his widowed mother, Mary, who was 58, his 20 year old brother David who was an ironmongery shop assistant, 23 year old sister Muriel who worked in a bakery as a shop assistant and older sister Constance who at 34 was working as a waitress.

It is likely Robert was caught in the blast from the HE bomb landing on the Cadogan House shelter which I understand was adjoining that for the residents of neighbouring Winchester House. The image below shows how close the apartment blocks were to each other.

Winchester House as it is now

Open air service of remembrance for Cadogan House shelter victims September 1941

One year after this deadly raid, the Reverend S. G. Newson of St Andrew’s Church, Park Walk conducted an open air service in memory of the residents who lost their lives in the shelter bombing.

Lady Phipps represented Chelsea Borough Council with a semi-circle of supportive residents from the Sir Thomas More Buildings who had raised a special fund to commemorate their deaths with a floral tribute.

The balance in the fund would contribute to a garden of remembrance in the courtyard where the communal shelter had been situated.

After the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer Rev. Newson concluded with a special prayer he had written for the occasion:

‘Almighty God who art afflicted in the afflictions of Thy people, regard with Thy tender passion the anxious and the bereaved; hear their sorrows and their cares; give them comfort and peace.’

A beautiful pillar of autumn flowers bearing the inscription ‘In memory of neighbours who died through enemy action’ was placed on the site of the bombing and displayed against a background of small Union Jacks.

An aerial view of the Council flat blocks in Beaufort Street, Chelsea as it is now- from More’s Garden flats, Kingsley House, Burleigh House, Dacre House, Winchester House to Cadogan House.

Silent film of army and civilian ambulances and stretcher bearers attending to injured victims of the blitz in London in 1940

23/55 Walton Street. Unexploded bomb- not confirmed.

23/55 Walton Street as it is now

37 Cadogan Place. High explosive bomb.

37 Cadogan Place as it is now

Swan Court, Chelsea Manor Street. High explosive bomb.

Swan Court, Chelsea Manor Street as it is now

14 St Leonard’s Terrace. High explosive bomb.

14 St Leonard’s Terrace as it is now

33 Smith Street. High explosive bomb.

33 Smith Street as it is now

2, 4, and 6 Bramerton Street. High explosive bomb.

Aerial view of 2, 4, and 6 Bramerton Street as they are now

See detailed narrative of the incident in the Bramerton Street posting.

On the 9th of September 1940 a high explosive bomb was released onto Bramerton Street by a low-flying German bomber being pursued by a chasing RAF Spitfire.

It detonated on the even numbers at the top of Bramerton Street, west side, close to the junction with the King’s Road, directly opposite the entrance door of the Gateways Club. (In June 2022 the door was painted a bilious (perhaps only to some) lime green colour, largely because Sandi Toksvig was allowed to paint it so for her television documentary)

2, 4 and 6 Bramerton Street were destroyed and so were many of the people living in them.

Dr Richard Castillo’s wife and son were killed. His family had taken refuge in the basement.

However, his 12 year old daughter Mildred did survive, though Dr Castillo had every reason over several days to compound his grief with the appalling apprehension that he had lost all his family.

Mildred’s cries were heard after four days of digging through the wreckage and her rescue particularly by three members of Chelsea’s heavy squad at huge risk to themselves was the event which inspired the Royal Family to inaugurate the George Cross and George Medal.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the scene and spoke to rescuers only a few days after Mildred was pulled out of the mountain of bricks and debris and went on to have a full recovery.

It was celebrated as one of the early miracles of human survival and endeavour in the London Blitz.

All three men responsible for her rescue: George Woodward, Wally Capon and George Pitman would receive the highest civilian award for bravery available at the time- British Empire Medals. George Woodward would later be awarded the George Medal for another herculean rescue at the Guinness Trust flats disaster in February 1944.

Bramerton Street would be hit two more times during the Blitz of 1940. On 18th September an incendiary bomb struck number 20 causing a fire which gutted the building.

On the 23rd December 1940 an unexploded British anti-aircraft shell struck number 37. This was removed by the Bomb Disposal Squad- no casualties or serious damage to property.

Aerial view of Bramerton Street with Chelsea Rectory and its gardens behind as it is now

A contemporary Google Street view below of Numbers 2, 4 and 6 Bramerton Street with three storey houses and basements. The newer post WWII construction architecture compares with the Victorian style of terraces and building either side and opposite providing stark evidence and location of the bombing on 9th September 1940.

In addition to the devastation wrought on Dr. Richard Castillo’s family at number 4, in number 6 Mr and Mrs Anderson and their 29 year old daughter Olive were killed by the bomb.

Honorine Brown, 32, was the first occupant of number 6 whose body was recovered by rescuers on Wednesday afternoon 11th September. She was identified by her aunt, Emmeline Morris, who lived in nearby Glebe Place.

The Andersons were a working class family.

William Reginald was a retired window cleaner and his body was the second to be pulled out of the demolished building that had been number 6 Bramerton Street on the Thursday morning 12th September.

Mrs Anderson’s body was not recovered until five days after the raid on Friday 13th September. Their eldest son William, 46 years old, and other members of the family were living elsewhere.

He had a career as a porter with Lyons restaurants and showed so much courage in coming forward to identify his parents and sister and could only do so mainly by their effects.

Olive Anderson’s body was recovered a day after that of her mother’s. She was single and had been working as a domestic servant.

Visitors, servants and tenants in both houses also died. Lily Fox was a housewife and found in the wreckage five days after the bombing. She was identified by her brother-in-law.

A similar fate befell Margaret Williams in number 4. She had been the cook and general servant to Dr Castillo’s household. Her husband George had been a foreman bricklayer, but he had joined up as a sergeant serving in the engineers of the British Indian Army.

He was away on duty on the fateful day and survived her. He was able to identify her when her body was dug out of the wreckage six days after the raid.

Dr. Castillo was spared the distress of seeing the bodies of his wife and son by his friend and colleague Dr. Salvatore Ciappara from Holland Road Kensington who undertook the task on his behalf. Dr. Ciappara was also a physician and surgeon from Malta.

Jo Oakman’s experience of the Bramerton Street raid

Chelsea artist Jo Oakman directly witnessed the bombing and tore away at the bricks and debris even before the clouds of dust thrown up by the blast had settled.

This is because Bramerton Street was in her ARP area and she personally knew so many of the people living in the three houses that had been devastated. She was also a doctor’s daughter and trained in first aid.

Jo had been working with the rescue operation at the Beaufort Street air raid shelter disaster until 12.15. She went home to her house in Justice Walk for a bath and then returned to her day-time job in the food office at Chelsea Town Hall in the King’s Road.

It was 5.15 p.m. when the sirens started and she was out on her bike again to do emergency ARP work from the Wardens’ post in the Cook’s Ground Secondary School in Glebe Place.

After the war it would be renamed the Kingsley School.

At around 5.40 p.m. a German bomber dived from the sky because it was being pursued by a Spitfire. The bomber unleashed its machine-guns.

Jo was terrified beyond belief as she was caught out in the open with only her bicycle and helmet for protection.

She leapt off her bike and fled up some steps into a house in Glebe Place.

Somebody had kindly opened the door so she literally fell inside.

As the chasing RAF spitfire got closer and closer to its prey, the German bomber began to release its bombs.

The nearest one to her had fallen in Bramerton Street taking out the walls and backs of numbers 2 to 6.

She saw the houses blowing up like a pack of cards tossed into the air with clouds of smoke, dirt, rubble and plaster.

Her job was to report what happened to the control centre. At least seven people were trapped in the heap of the wreckage. She was the first rescuer on scene.

Quickly followed by the Reverend Gordon Arrowsmith from the Chelsea Rectory on the other side of the back gardens to Bramerton Street.

He had heard the terrible explosion and seen the cloud of debris mushrooming from the site.

He rushed over with a young curate, Charles Roderick. Many years later Charles would recall how he and his Rector at St Luke’s ‘toiled in the rubble to do what we could. Later that evening, in an exhausted condition and when, as we teasingly say, the balance of our minds was seriously disturbed, I proposed to my Rector’s daughter and she accepted me.’

Jo remembered how Gordon Arrowsmith’s hands were soon bleeding as he tore away at the heap of jagged debris and smashed timber to try and get at those people trapped in what had been a row of three terraced houses each with four floors if you included the basements.

Now everything had pancaked into a smouldering heap of ruin.

The first efforts managed to get three people out alive including a 17 year-old lad called Fox who had been one of the ARP messengers for the Warden’s centre at the School which had been designated as Post Don.

They had heard and recognised his voice just as they started removing the top layers of bricks.

Fox had been caught at the back of the house.

He was shaking with shock and his white pallor almost camouflaged by the swirling clouds of disintegrating plaster. He was largely unscathed- just cuts and bruises.

Other Wardens from Post Don arrived and then the heavy rescue squads with their specialist equipment took charge.

Jo remembered how they had all become ghostly white figures covered in dust and plaster powder and how they all wanted to carry on helping- ‘We wanted to! Somehow we wanted to…’

64 year old Evelyn Egorstorff, a leading figure in the nursing association, appears to have been another survivor of the bombing and escaped physically unscathed.

Incredibly she would be caught up in and survive the bombing of the basement air raid shelter in the nearby Church of the Holy Redeemer in Upper Cheyne Row only a few days later.

Uppermost in their minds were the whereabouts of at least seven people who were unaccounted for. Where were they?

The other terrible feature of these bombings is that fire would often break out in the wreckage largely because of fractured coal gas piping. Victims when found would inevitably be burned as well as crushed.

All of this had been happening in daylight and this means there was a terrible background cacophony of anti-aircraft guns in what could only be described as sunny and lovely weather.

Frances Faviell was on her way from her flat in Cheyne Place, Royal Hospital Road to go on duty at the Chelsea Town Hall. She was walking there with her Dachshund sausage dog Vicki, though many Chelsea folk affectionately called her dog ‘Mrs Hitler.’

It transpired the other bombs had fallen on Cheyne Walk, and after Bramerton Street, another high explosive hit the fashionable and modern block of mansion flats, Swan Court, very close to the town hall in Chelsea Manor Street.

This had stripped away an entire side of brickwork exposing all of the domestic interiors of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and living rooms as though taking away the whole side of a gigantic doll’s house and opening it up by pulling it away on a hinged door.

But the door of bricks was now scattered over the surrounding streets.

Frances Faviell likened the scene as if all the rooms had suddenly been put on display for the public at the Ideal Homes’ Exhibition at Olympia or Earl’s Court.

More bombs fell on a block of flats, King’s Court North, west of the town hall, in Smith Street and then finally on St Leonard’s Terrace.

Frances saw and felt practically every one of the bombs come crashing down and continued, though absolutely terrified, on her way despite being shouted at by ARP Wardens on bicycles and in doorways to ‘Take Cover!’ ‘Going on duty’ she would retort and ‘Anyway, Dogs aren’t allowed in shelters.’

Noel Coward needed to write a parallel song to ‘Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.’ Frances Faviell inspired something along the lines of ‘Only German dogs and Englishwomen go out in the middle of a Luftwaffe air-raid.’

By the time she got to the Town Hall Control Centre where she was only needed as a reserve, she had ducked and fallen to the ground in time with four crashes of high explosive bombs that had wrecked a sizeable part of the Borough of Chelsea.

The ARP Wardens screaming ‘Take Cover! Get Under Cover! and Watch Out’ had become rather hoarse hurling their warnings in her direction.

It is understood the German bomber would eventually crash near Victoria Station.

Many years later a retired church warden at St Luke’s would say ‘If ever a saint walked this earth it was Gordon Arrowsmith.’ And former Town Clerk Ernest Nicholson who lived in the Rectory with him during the war said the Reverend Arrowsmith would often be the first person at any incident:

‘He would find out where the bombs had dropped and arrive on the scene with remarkable speed. He would plunge through fogs of dust into the heaps of wreckage in a fearless, a reckless way to find and comfort the injured.’

He especially remembered Arrowsmith at Bramerton Street on 9th September 1940 as usual in his dungarees and tin hat:

‘There was a woman and her small son trapped quite near the surface, but in a position where the demolition squad could do nothing without bringing down a lot more stuff and endangering others who might be alive.

Mr Arrowsmith lay half buried for an hour in the rubble with his hand at full stretch holding the woman’s hand and comforting her. There was nothing to be done for her, but he encouraged her and chatted to her until the end. I still cannot think of this incident without a lump in my throat.’

Mabel Lethbridge had survived losing a leg in an explosion at an armaments factory in World War One.

In the late 1930s she had set up a successful estate agency from 55 Oakley Street. She planned to run her home as a boarding house during the Second World War. She had just hired a butler and housekeeper.

Mabel was unaware that the butler had been released from treatment in a mental hostpital only days before.

He was in no fit state to cope with air raid sirens, ack ack fire and bombs raining from the sky.

She recalled hearing and feeling the Bramerton Street bomb screaming and tearing through the air and on detonation smashing glass windows and shattering the china in her kitchen.

It was so close at one point she was convinced the bomb had her name on it and it was heading directly for her with the aim of completing unfinished business from the Great War.

She heard people shouting ‘It’s Bramerton Street!’ which was only two hundred yards away.

And her butler was screaming and howling so loudly with terror while huddling in her basement, people were shouting that ‘Someone is hurt down there.’

Overnight Mabel had nightmares over and over again in which she relived the 1917 munitions explosion which had nearly killed her and left her permanently disabled with a prosthetic leg.

She went to look at the demolished houses in Bramerton Street on the Tuesday morning and recalled: ‘I didn’t know any of its occupants, but I had lived long in the district and I love it. Thus, I felt a throb of tears way back behind my eyes and a queer desolate ache in my heart.’

The 18 year old diarist Joan Olivia Wyndham, who was taking art school lessons in sculpture from Henry Moore in Manresa Road, heard the Bramerton Street bombing and recalled in her diaries of the war years Love Lessons & Love Is Blue: [Some of her language reflects the prejudices of the time she wrote her diary]

‘The guns came nearer. We were in the back room when we heard a loud crash followed by an explosion that shook the room. Rupert, Agnes and I dived for the floor like three ninepins going down simultaneously. The doors rattled and I began to laugh hysterically. Rupert was behind the bed with three pillows on his head and Agnes was saying the only prayer should could remember which was “Gentle Jesus meek and mild, look on me a little cild.” I felt quite thrilled and stimulated, but Agnes was petrified.

As soon as the all-clear went we strode off to find the crater. It was in Bramerton Street, a whole house destroyed, the air full of smoke and dust, and all the inhabitants of that part of Chelsea beetling around the barricades like insects disturbed, pansies and lesbians and all.’

Jo Oakman checked on the progress of the rescue operation at 1.30 p.m. Fire had broken out again in the wreckage. All the missing residents were believed to be underground trapped in the basements. She was told ‘Mrs Castillo’s head has been found. Poor Soul!’

Where bombs fell during the Blitz could be affected and determined by fractions of centimetres, millimeteres, or inches of direction, height, speed of the bombers, the serendipity of navigation and even the speed of wind.

The bomb destroying numbers 2 to 6 Bramerton Street could easily have fallen in the huge open gardens surrounding the Rectory hurting no one.

Instead of hitting the even numbers west side, it could have fallen on the uneven numbers east side and devastated the building above the Gateways Club or killed the hugely respected music critic, composer, author and arranger living and working at number 5- M. D. Calvocoressi, who at 42 years old was described as the greatest living authority on Mussorgsky and a regular BBC broadcaster.

Early 20th century Bramerton Street in a Johns postcard and showing it as it was at the King’s Road end prior to the September 9th bombing. Number 4 appears to have a ‘for sale’ or ‘to let’ sign. The notorious ‘Lord Haw Haw’ broadcaster for the Nazis during WW2, William Joyce, lived at number 37 Bramerton Street for a short period during the 1930s.

The miracle of Bramerton Street

Very few people at the time could have imagined anyone in the basements could still be alive by Friday morning. Nearly four days had passed.

Fires had hampered the rescue operation.

And the blitz around them continued all over Chelsea.

George Woodward and his team had been assigned the grim task to clear the Bramerton Street site and look for the four residents still missing and presumed dead.

They were always the first to volunteer for such horrible tasks. But they were always aware of how important it was for the victim’s families to extract and retrieve the bodies of their loved ones.

George was helping the team working at clearing the debris in the centre of what had been number 4 Bramerton Street.

It was George who first heard the faint cry of ‘Mummy or Mama’ from deep in the wrecked basement of number 4.

He yelled for everyone to be quiet and stop the excavations. Had he been hallucinating?

The voice had to have been emanating from very far down. The ears of the heavy rescue team had been assailed day and night with sirens, gunfire, explosions and human crying.

In his diary George wrote ‘So I said to my boys take no notice of me. “I am hearing things.” I went away to the street to light a cigarette.’ Perhaps the rush of nicotine heightened his sense of hearing.

When he went round to the other side of the remains of the building he heard a young girl’s voice again crying out ‘Mama, Mama.’

George was astonished. How could anyone still be alive in that debris for four days and nights?

He rapidly cleared away some more of the broken bricks, mortar and plaster, and shouted ‘Anybody there? Who are you?’

The weakened and frightened voice replied ‘Mildred Castillo’- and George immediately realised this was the sound of Dr Castillo’s missing 12 year-old daughter they had all been convinced could never have survived the bombing last Monday tea-time.

George shouted to her ‘I will be with you in a minute Duck!’

George Woodward, Wally Capon and George Pitman were the three human moles of the seven man heavy rescue team.

They volunteered to tunnel their way to her. Each fragment of broken house had to be removed ever so gently as everyone was aware of the danger of one wrong move leading to tons of debris shifting and killing them all.

The other four members of the team cleared the wreckage above them and passed blocks of wood to them so they could shore up the walls of a tunnel 20 to 30 feet long in zig-zag formation and only big enough for one of them to squeeze through at any one time.

Woodward said ‘The tunnel was only big enough for us to lie flat on our tummies. We came to a wall and had to turn along it, and often as we pulled struts away, earth fell in.

George Woodward reached Mildred first. It had taken three hours. She was buried up to her neck.

George took with him a flask of hot tea with glucose which he was able to pass through to her in a rubber tube.

He was able to establish which way she was lying with her feet at the point George had burrowed to.

George told Wally Capon to dig down from above to clear the position to her feet and ‘they should have her out in no time.’ Wally worked at the task furiously though sometimes he had to come out to catch his breath when the dust was too bad.

George went in again to find out how she was. He gave her some more tea which was beginning to work as a restorative and counter dehydration.

He also quietly got to work tentatively removing debris and trying not to alarm her.

Mildred asked him not to leave her without a light. For four days and nights she had been lying there in complete darkness while her soundscape was an almost continual black symphony of hell as London’s Blitz raged on.

So George gave her his torch so she would never be in darkness again.

The tea had done its work and she was more alive and said her arm was hurting.

George managed to free it and stop the pain.

The pressure on the rescue team must have been unbearable.

That morning they had expected to be searching for those who had long passed. Now they were rescuing a twelve year old girl – most likely the only surviving member of their friend and colleague Dr Richard Castillo’s immediate family.

Perhaps there was noise or there had been a mishearing when George Woodward told one of his mates in the squad to leave a wooden beam blocking access to the area of Mildred Castillo’s feet.

But he was as anxious and desperate as any of them to get Mildred out alive and as quickly as possible.

He took a saw to it and the area around him collapsed in on him. Valuable minutes were lost digging him out which George Pitman did admirably without causing any collapse on the trapped girl.

Mildred was ok…just.

But however much of the muck they got out, they were unable to see her feet and fully release her in order to pull her out to safety.

The opening to the tunnel created by the Chelsea ARP Heavy Squad led by George Woodward at 4 Bramerton Street which after three hours of digging and shoring with wooden struts would eventually reach 12 year old Mildred Castillo. Image from Illustrated War News 27th September 1940.

She began to get agitated and nervous. All of the burrowing and clawing away of the rubble and passing it from one to the other and the desperation of her situation risked setting in panic and disorientation.

She was fully conscious and could now feel the aches and pains of everything on top of her.

She asked what day it was. They told her it was Tuesday not Friday to save her from shock.

They sang to her to cheer her up. These would have been the popular songs of the time such as ‘Roll Out The Barrel,’ ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and ‘The Lambeth Walk.’

Mildred would sing along with them as well.

She also held the torch and directed the light to help them with the digging operation.

Dr. A F Phillips and a nurse were not very far away providing medical advice and would be on hand to render first aid as soon as she was free.

He passed a sedative tablet to George Woodward to give to her with some more tea, water and biscuits and this helped settle her.

By now Wally Capon had cleared all the debris as far as her chest.

It was at this point George Woodward found himself overwhelmed with emotion. He recalled: ‘ Mate said he would get her out this time. Then I broke down and had a good cry. The officer in charge took me away and gave me some rum.’

This fortified him and on his return he was so pleased to find that Capon had almost cleared all the debris around her.

However, just one of her feet was fixed under the stairs by a mop wedged between her legs. Capon cut it into pieces and sawed out a bit of the staircase.

He managed to manoevre her to the wall when everything seemed to cave in on top of them.

Wally Capon lay over her to shield her from the falling debris which fortunately was more light plaster than masonry.

Now all of Mildred’s limbs were free.

Mildred asked her rescuers to take the rosary from around her neck and place it into her hand and would insist on kissing each of them on the cheek as a thank you when they first appeared before her.

Capon was asked to lay on his face and Mildred told to put her hands round his neck. George Pitman clasped his hands over hers to keep them secure in their hold. And George Woodward was the lead human mole pushing and wriggling all four of them backwards with all the strength he could summon in his tired limbs and muscles through the improvised tunnel.

It was five o’clock on the Friday evening when Mildred eventually first saw the light of day having been entombed for ninety six hours.

The rescue and tunnelling operation had taken seven and a half hours.

Dr. Phillips and the nurse placed her on a stretcher in warm blankets and carried her gently along wooden boards to the pavement where an ambulance was waiting.

A Catholic priest was there and stroked her chin saying ‘God bless, my child. Are you all right?’ She replied ‘Yes, Father.’ She was actually injured about the head but managed to smile as George Woodward placed her in the ambulance.

Reporters from many news organisations had arrived as word of this remarkable rescue circulated in the newsrooms of Fleet Street newspapers and news agencies.

Woodward proudly declared ‘She never cried and showed great pluck.’ He downplayed his role saying : ‘I would like to pay a tribute to the wonderful cooperation we received from all the local rescue squads.’

A few days later on 19th September King George VI and Queen Elizabeth asked to make a private visit to Bramerton Street and meet Mildred’s rescuers. The streets though quickly filled with local Chelsea people who cheered their arrival.

They were driven directly to the scene of the destroyed houses.

There were no reporters invited, but every one from the rescue and demolition squad who saved Mildred were presented and the King and Queen shook the hands of all of the heroes.

One of them said ‘I hope you don’t mind my dirty hands.’

George Woodward, Wally Capon and George Pitman’s tunnelling exploits were explained.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth shaking hands with and talking to the tunnelling rescuers of Mildred Castillo in Bramerton Street Chelsea, Thursday 19th September 1940. Image: Cutting from News Chronicle newspaper Friday 20th September 1940.

Pitman said: ‘We had to use our bodies as shores to rescue the girl. She was conscious all the time and when we reached her she asked for the rosary around her neck. We got her out safely.’

When the King commented ‘You have done absolutely grand work.’ Pitman replied ‘It’s all in a day’s work, sir. We all get the same pay.’

Wally Capon made the Queen laugh when he said ‘People in these days think the old ‘uns are no good, and only the youngsters matter. Now the old ‘uns are showing what they can do.’

Wally was 54 years old. It was on the following Sunday when King George VI broadcast from Buckingham Palace extolling the magnificent work of the ARP services and announced the creation of the George Cross and Medal to rank alongside the Victoria Cross in honour of courage and bravery off the battlefield and on the Home Front.

There is no doubt that the rescue of Mildred Castillo from the devastation of her home in Bramerton Street had been the inspiration.

Shortly after Mildred’s miraculous escape, Dr Castillo would learn of the discovery of the bodies of his wife Gertrude and 11 year-old son Anthony.

On April 24th 1941 George Woodward received a letter from the London Civil Defence H.Q. explaining they had recently drawn the attention of the Minister for Home Security to ‘your gallant conduct on 13th September 1940 when, with Rescue Party Members Capon and Pitman, you succeeded in carrying out a very dangerous tunnelling operation at Bramerton Street, Chelsea, which resulted in the release of a 12 year old girl from debris under which she had been buried for four days. Mr. Herbert Morrison felt that your devotion to duty was deserving of high praise and he took steps to bring the matter to the notice of His Majesty the King.’

They were going to receive the British Empire Medal (Civil Division) in recognition of their exemplary conduct.

On August 6th 1941 Dr. Castillo invited all three men round to his temporary home and practice at 75 Oakley Street so Mildred could meet them again ‘to personally thank them for all that they had done for her and congratulate them on the honour bestowed upon them.’

George Woodward would treasure a signed photograph Mildred later sent to him in December 1941 which he kept in his papers until his death and left to the Imperial War Museum.

Whenever I walk into Bramerton Street I always remember those who died there on 9th September 1940 and celebrate the memory of the courageous and plucky 12 year-old Mildred Castillo who never cried when rescued by the equally brave men of Chelsea’s Heavy Rescue team from the Carlyle School depot in Hortensia Road.

This was where the award of the George Cross and George Medal was born amid so much sorrow, tragedy, death and destruction.

Casualties in Bramerton Street

Gertrude Castillo, 51 years old of 4 Bramerton Street, wife of Dr. Richard Castillo

Anthony Castillo, 11 years old, son of Dr. Richard Castillo, and of Gertrude Castillo. Died at 4 Bramerton Street

Margaret Williams, 39 years old, wife of Sjt. G. Williams, Indian Engineers. Died at 4 Bramerton Street

70 year old William Reginald Anderson of 6 Bramerton Street, husband of Ellen Louise Anderson. Died at 6 Bramerton Street

69 year old Ellen Louise Anderson of 6 Bramerton Street, wife of William Reginald Anderson. Died at 6 Bramerton Street

Olive Lillian Anderson, 29 years old, of 6 Bramerton Street. Daughter of William Reginald and Ellen Louise Anderson. Died at 6 Bramerton Street

Honorine Brown, 32 years old, of 6 Bramerton Street, wife of Bernard Brown. Died at 6 Bramerton Street

47 year old Lily Fox, wife of L. C. Fox. Died at 6 Bramerton Street

3 Smith Street. Unexploded bomb, though turned out to be false report.

Wellington Square. Unexploded bomb. False report.

It is a rather grim observation, but the one area of business in Chelsea during September 1940 seeing a substantial increase in demand was undertaking. The Borough ‘s funeral directors were vying for advertising space in the local press.

Brompton cemetery was the destination for most of the civilian casualties from enemy action in Chelsea during WW2.

This online resource is still being constructed and added to so remains a work of progress until sign-posted as completed.

Special thanks to Karen White and Chris Pain whose families lived in Chelsea during World War Two, and Malachy John McCauley, also brought up in Chelsea, who 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.


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