How The Thunderer reported the bombing of the Cafe de Paris on the following Monday.
The Times of Monday 10 March 1941 carried the news of the bombing of the Cafe de Paris that had occurred on the previous Saturday night. But you had to dig deep to find the story, and indeed to be able to relate it to the incident itself. Wartime reporting maintained a balance between news and maintaining morale, so at first glance the story (see right) seems a little confusing.
Described as 'the bright moonlight of Saturday night', the story seems almost romantic in its style, and referring to one of the biggest raids of The Blitz as 'a noisy night' seems to understate things a little. However, some deaths are referred to in the second paragraph.
It is then that the Cafe de Paris story is introduced, although masked as 'dancers and diners in a restaurant'. The only clue to the location in London is given in the song title, Oh Johnny, which many must have recognised as a favourite played by Ken Snakehips Johnson and The West Indian Orchestra. The band had a residency there, so if you knew the tune was associated with them, you could probably work out which club had been hit. The description of the aftermath, 'dust and fumes, which blackened faces and frocks' is obviously much changed from the reality of what was left, as evidenced by eye-witnesses after the war.
The idea that 'there were many wonderful escapes' again introduces an almost romantic notion of what it was like there. Needless to say, everyone pulls together and does their best to get the injured to hospital.
The final paragraph of the part that refers to the Cafe de Paris continues with the 'spririt of The Blitz'. A night club had been blown up, with over 30 dead and 80 injured, and yet 'people living nearby made tea, and passers-by contributed handkerchiefs'. The cabaret girls mentioned in the report were in their dressing room at the time, waiting to come on for their part of the show, and so were shielded from the main blast of the bomb.
The report then goes on to describe other incidents that occured the same night. By 6pm on the evening of Sunday 9 March, the London Civil Defence Regional Report showed that 159 people had been killed and 338 seriously injured in 238 incidents on the Saturday night. One of the other bombings that went unmentioned in Monday's Times was at Buckingham Palace, where the North Lodge was demolished, resulting in two fatalities.
Original report from The Times of Monday 10 March 1941.
Commentary by Andrew Winton.
HEAVY RAID ON LONDON
MANY CASUALTIES IN RESTAURANT
In the bright moonlight of Saturday night, London had its heaviest air attack for some weeks. It was a noisy night. For some time the throbbing of aircraft never ceased. Nor did the guns; the biggest barrage for some time was put up.
High-explosive bombs damaged houses, shops, and a block of L.C.C. flats, where repair of damage done in a previous raid was nearing completion. One bomb landed in the middle of the road near a crater caused earlier. Fire watchers again proved their value, and incendiary bombs were quickly treated. Fire watchers, firemen, and policemen were among the killed.
Outstanding gallantry was shown by the diners and dancers in a restaurant which was wrecked by a high-explosive bomb.
It was filled with a gay crowd on Saturday evening, many in uniform. The lively band had opened its programme and the floor was crowded with dancers. “Oh, Johnny,” the band was playing, while outside the guns crashed, but here unheard against the accompaniment of cheerful music and chatter.
Then suddenly there was an explosion somewhere above, the ceiling fell in and all but one of the lights went out. The restaurant was filled with dust and fumes, which blackened faces and frocks. Couples dancing had been flung apart; those able to do so struggled to their feet, and many searched amid the confusion with torches and lighted matches for their partners of a second before. Many had been killed; others were seriously hurt.
But accounts by many who were there all agree that there was the utmost coolness and much gallantry. “Don’t bother about me,” people with less serious wounds said over and over again. Rescue work began almost immediately. Civil Defence workers were helped by passing soldiers, who brought out their field dressings. Girls in dance frocks were carried through debris and tended on the pavement or in houses near until motor-ambulances, which travelled quickly to and from hospital, could get all the casualties away.
There were many wonderful escapes, and a fair number of people were able to walk out of the damaged building with no worse hurt than a bruised back or some cuts
All near by helped to ease the lot of the wounded. People living near made tea, and passers-by contributed handkerchiefs. Prominent among the helpers were a young Dutch member of the Fleet Air Arm and a nurse from Chelsea who was off duty. The nurse was able to get some colleagues quickly to the scene by taxicab. All the girls due to take part in the cabaret escaped unhurt. They were in their make-up room, waiting to be called.
In another district three auxiliary firemen and a caretaker were killed when an A.F.S station was hit. Others were buried, but were rescued. In another area one fireman was killed, another is missing, and others were injured, and elsewhere firemen were injured by explosive incendiaries…
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