Our house in Westfield Road is end of terrace only because several intervening houses were completely destroyed, or badly damaged and subsequently demolished, owing to a bomb that fell in the middle of this row of terraced houses in 1940…so what really happened in West Ealing in World War Two?
Pre-war civil defence initiatives in place prior to 1938 included plans for evacuation of the population of London in the event of war; setting up of Air Raid Precautions (ARP) groups, initially composed of volunteers and the issuing of gas masks. There were also plans for blackout (preventing lights being seen from the air) and trenches for air defence were dug in local parks, including Walpole, and school grounds.
When Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of September 1939, the declaration of War on Germany came from Prime Minister Chamberlain at 11am on 3rd September, but the first bombs were not to fall on Ealing until a year later. In the interim there were several false alarms of air raids, and defensive measures went on, with Ealing Hospital protected with sandbags, a deep underground air raid shelter constructed in Dean Gardens and evacuation of several thousand children to the West Country via Ealing Broadway station.
After Germany’s defeat in the Battle of Britain, bombing of civilian targets began in September 1940 and lasted until June 1941; this was the famous London ‘blitz’ (from the German for lightning). In December 1940 a parachute mine, exploding in mid-air, on Broughton Road caused extensive damage, killed 14 people and injured 75; in the last four months of this year Ealing saw 73 nights of bombing. By the end of the blitz over 600 high explosive and thousands of incendiary bombs had fallen, causing the deaths of 190 Ealing residents and serious injuries to many more.
The years 1942 and 1943 were relatively quiet in Ealing, but in early 1944 the bombing of London increased greatly again with the launching of the German secret weapons, the V.1, or flying bomb (‘doodle-bug’), and in September the V.2 rocket, the first of which landed in Chiswick. This ‘baby blitz’ shocked the residents of Ealing with a series of noisy, dangerous nights, as fewer but much larger bombs fell, and ground defences were fully deployed. The worst incident occurred in Ealing on the 21st July when a bomb on Uxbridge Road between Hartington and Drayton Green Roads caused a huge explosion that destroyed five shops and caused heavy damage over a half-mile radius; 23 people were killed and many shoppers and shop workers injured.
With the end of war, celebrations were widespread across the borough, with hundreds of street parties, special services in all the churches, and a large bonfire in Walpole Park fuelled by packing cases from Ealing studios, park benches and deck chairs. Incidentally, our West Ealing neighbour Mr. Head survived the bombing of his house in Westfield Road; I have a photograph of him grinning and giving thumbs up from the shattered ruins!
(My father, then 16, and staying with his father at the Carnarvon Hotel on Ealing Common, remembers his first task at the outbreak of WW2 was to sandbag the windows of the hotel bar to keep the drinks safe! (David Highton)
Photo: VE Day celebration in Hessel Road
Copyright Ealing Central Library