A Family Story

The Ken Johnson Pages moved  a reader to send in this fascinating family account.


My wife's late aunt, Margaret Dawson, was mortally injured in the Cafe de Paris bomb of 8 March 1941 and subsequently died 13 March in Charing Cross hospital.

The story in our family is that Snakehips had been asked by her husband Ftl Lt Jack Dawson to play Johnny Oh Johnny and on the second verse the explosion occurred.

It was said 2 bombs hit the cafe de Paris directly going down the main kitchen chimneys. The first bomb exploded, the second did not and its contents were scattered all over the dance floor.

The stairway going onto the dance floor was modelled from the Titanic and those who survived were seated on tables above the dance floor area.

After the building was evacuated many of the deceased and dying were left in Coventry Street. Because of the extent of the Blitz that night (one of the heaviest for months) there was chaos and many waited for nearly 1 1/2 hours for ambulances to arrive.

It is said there was considerable theft that evening with many of the bodies being looted for jewellery and watches etc. Certainly all were wearing evening wear.

Margaret was only 19 when she was killed. Jack Dawson went on to become a legendary Group Captain in the Western Desert Air Force as a fighter commander and became highly decorated. It was always said he didn't care whether he lived or died and never really recovered from losing his bride in his arms whilst dancing a few feet away from Snakehips that terrible evening in March 1940. Jack Dawson was killed in Italy on 7 Oct 1943 in his fighter in Italy.

I placed an "In Memorium" in the Telegraph last year [2001] to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the Cafe de Paris remembering all those who were killed or injured.

Well done with your website. Ken Johnson was clearly a popular and talented musician.

Yours ever

Blaise Morris

Editor's Note: Margaret and Jack Dawson are fictional names. The real names have been changed at the request of Blaise Morris.


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