The London Metropolitan Archive

The London Metropolitan Archive in Islington houses the Civil Defence records from The Second World War. The following is based on notes made during a visit to the LMA on Thursday 27 April 2000.


There were five documents at the Archive that related to bombing raids on the night of Saturday 8 March 1941

The London Fire Region recorded a summary of incidents on the evening LONDON FIRE REGION OCCURRENCE BOOK 103/3/9 MARCH 1941

11 occurrences reported between 9pm and 10pm.

Air Raid returns that night also only offered summaries, although these are accompanied by times. AIR RAID FIRE REPORTS DAILY RETURN. LCC FIRE BRIGADE.

Between 20.58 and 22.20 “fourteen minor incidents in these thoroughfares” including Coventry Street.

This Air Raid report was called in by the Warden for N0. 72 station and was signed by H R Lucas. The report contains no records of any killed or injured. AIR RAID REPORTS 8/3/41.

238 Reports of Air Raid Occurrence recorded on the evening of Saturday 8 March, mainly between 8.30pm and 11pm. Coventry Street area: 14 incidents, 9 due to incendiary bombs, 5 due to High Explosive bombs.

The London Fire Region reports were made at the end of each 12-hour shift. The report covering the evening of March 8 actually starts "For the 12-hour period from 06:00", but as there was no report for the preceding shift, this could be an error.

The two serious fires were at Glico Petroleum Works in West Ham and Brixton Road SW9. The figures for the fires were later amended to 2 serious, 51 medium and 364 small. 

LONDON FIRE REGION SITUATION REPORTS MARCH 1941.

(Regional Fire HQ Albert Embankment SW1, F W Jackson, Regional Fire Officer) 

For the 12-hour period from 06:00 9/3/41 406 fires of which 2 were serious (11-30 pumps), 48 were medium (2 – 10 pumps), 356 were small (1 pump). All extinguished.

 

The information contained in the London  Metropolitan Archive Reference  FB/WAR/LFR/1/23 is where most details of the events of that night can be found.

The London Civil Defence Report actually names the Cafe de Paris as a bomb hit, and gives numbers of casualties. The report is divided into two parts, the first giving a summary of the night, and the second detailing specific incidents, as well as numbers of killed and injured.

Up until 6pm on the evening of Saturday 8 March 1941, there had been no incidents to report. However, from then on, the report talks of the worst night of air raids in some time.

There are reports of both High Explosive (HE) bombs and Incendiary Bombs (IB) falling in many areas of London. It was also the night that a new kind of IB was reported to have hit London, in Barnes and Croydon.

Five HE bombs hit the area in and around Buckingham Palace, resulting in two deaths. This is not mentioned in The Times report on the following Monday. Presumably saying that a restaurant in London was hit leaves the detail open, whereas saying that a Royal palace was hit is more specific. It would have been a tremendous blow to morale if the public had been aware of this, especially as there had been fatalities.

The second part of the report contains the times of the incidents, together with the area, sometimes as specific as the street. The incidents shown on the right have been rearranged from the original report into chronological order.

Railways were an inevitable target, with Liverpool Street Station being hit, a line near Rollins Street in South East London, and Guy's Hospital, which is next to London Bridge Station. The Bishopsgate telephone exchange, close to Liverpool Street Station, was also a target.

From 9.30pm until 11pm, The Glico Petroleum Works in West Ham underwent sustained bombing, with high explosive and 110 incendiary devices causing 43 casualties. This was the heaviest single concentration of bombing on the night.

At 9.40pm, the bombing of the Cafe de Paris is specifically mentioned. The location is Coventry Street in Westminster, and figures of 34 killed and 82 seriously injured are given. 

Just before 10pm, a further incident involving high explosive bombs falling on  nearby Dean Street is described, which resulted in 10 dead.

It was probably the incident in West Ham that took priority, resulting in a serious fire due to the sustained bombing that the Petroleum Works suffered. But the Cafe de Paris undoubtedly suffered most casualties as a result of a single bomb.

LONDON CIVIL DEFENCE REGIONAL REPORT (LCDR SITUATION REPORTS 103/1/9) 

Situation Report As At 18.00 (9/3/41): There is nothing to report.

Situation Report As At 0600 hours 9/3/41.

Part I

This was the worst air raid since early January, but was not on the scale of many last year. London was at alert from 1948 to 0003. All groups and 55 local authorities were affected, but the main weight of attack fell on the centre of London. HE’s were mixed with IB’s from the beginning of the raid, and although many IB’s (some stated to be of a new type – see below)* were dropped, fire raising did not appear to be the first object of the raid. IB’s were put out very quickly and only two fires required more than 10 pumps. All were under control by midnight.

Preliminary casualty reports show a total of 129 killed, 152 seriously injured and 310 slightly injured for the region.

The worst single incident occurred at the Café de Paris where so far 34 dead and 80 casualties taken to hospital have been reported.

*Barnes and Croydon Fire Brigades reported what appeared to be a new type of incendiary bomb, which exploded on impact throwing up a number of rockets to a height of about 200 feet, the rockets dying out before reaching the ground. Lewisham wardens report I.B’s burning with red glare which were more difficult to extinguish than the usual type. One of these are (sic) available for inspection at Lewisham Police Station.

5 HE fell on or near Buckingham Palace, and one demolished North Lodge at 20:56. Believed 2 casualties.

Part II

20.45 – 20.55 3 HE Church Street Kensington. 4 killed 36 injured.

21.15 7 HE’s hit Hornsey 3 killed, 10 serious, 8 slight.

21.30 Liverpool St Station was damaged by H.E. which fell between Platform 4 and 5. Railway working is further impeded by UXB in local sidings which fell at the same time. 9/3/41: 3 platelayers were killed when a D.A.B. exploded.

Rollins Street railway embankment damage – up line damage.

Bishopsgate telephone exchange damaged by HE and is out of action.

UXB has caused the evacuation of the surgical ward of Guy’s Hospital.

21.30 – 23.00 21 HE’s & 110 IBs and one oil bomb hit West Ham (Glico Petroleum Works) 43 casualties.

21.35 Cloak Lane Police Station in the City demolished, 2 killed, 12 injured.

Westminster: 21:40 Café de Paris Coventry Street. Casualties:- 34 killed, approximately 82 seriously injured.

21.58 HE Dean Street. 10 killed. Damage to property.

London was classified by groups, each of which consisted of a number of areas. The casualty tally for the evening of Saturday 8 March 1941 is shown in the table below. The Cafe de Paris bomb in Group 1 accounted for over 20% of the total fatalities.

GroupAreaKilledSeriousSlight
1 Kensington, Fulham, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Westminster 5612325
2Islington, Paddington, St. Pancras, St. Marylebone1716 14
3Hackney, City, Stepney, Shoreditch, Holborn 26 66 114
4 Greenwich, Lewisham, Deptford, Bermondsey 11 25 21
5 Wandsworth, Battersea, Lambeth, Camberwell, Southwark 35 71 60
6 Hornsey, Cheshunt, Hayes, Staines, Harrow, Finchley, Hendon, Heston, Wembley, Feltham 24 37 37

Totals 159 338 271

Other London groups for which no casualty figures were shown for that night were Group 7, made up of West Ham, Chingford, Dagenham and Leyton, Group 8, Chislehurst, Penge, Beckenham and  Bromley, and Group 9, Croydon, Coulsdon, Richmond, Barnes, Mitcham, Banstead and Kingston.


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