With the anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War coming up in September our London walks Blitz Blog is currently telling the story of the events of 29th December 1940 when London was set ablaze by bombs.
Yesterday we left the London Fire Crews battling against impossible odds to bring the flames of the Blitz under control.
Today we join them again for another installment of our London walks Blitz Blog.
As the evening continued, separate fires became area conflagrations. In the narrow thoroughfares of the City flames arced across the street to join hands.
Firemen had to be tied to strong points to prevent the winds caused by the intake of air to the fires sweeping them away. A fireman collapsed with an IB embedded in his back.
Others were blinded by smoke or flying sparks. Strange events were occurring; a crew fighting a massive blaze suddenly found it extinguished by the blast from a high explosive bomb landing nearby.
In King William Street, Cyril Demarne and his fellow officers from West Ham were laying hoses from the Thames north past the Bank to Moorgate, with relay pumps every regulation 700 feet.
By morning the fire hoses would be three feet deep along this route. Demarne was also learning lessons in sexual politics: he had set up a control point, a desk in the open on King William Street, and was giving directions to a queue of firemen.
A firewoman stepped forward and Demarne told her he was too busy to deal with her trivia at present. She went to the back of the queue. When she made it to the front again Demarne dismissively asked her her problem; she replied that she had a 500 gallon petrol tanker parked across the road (to refuel fire pumps) and would like to know where to deliver it!
In his memoirs Demarne tells us that it was at this point he realized the situation of the firewomen: not allowed to take the glory of fighting the fires, but able to drive through an inferno in a mobile bomb!
The bombers continued, wave on wave, until 11.40pm when the last incendiary bomb was reported at No 5 Creed Lane.
A few minutes later at 11.50pm the all-clear sounded out to the dismay and disbelief of the firefighters on the ground. They knew from previous raids that a second wave would surely follow, dropping HEs to stoke up the fires and cause further fatalities among the firemen.
This was indeed General Sperrle’s plan. But now the weather had further deteriorated over northern France and some of the returning bombers crash-landed on their airfields.
Hauptmann Aschenbrenner knew there would be no second sortie and went to bed.
was outraged to receive orders for a second strike and tried to have them rescinded. He pointed out that even in good weather his crews would be dog-tired by now and it would be suicidal to attempt take-offs and landings in these conditions.
He was told to re-arm. Major Shulz-Hein did not expect to survive the night. However, at 12.30 orders came through to stand down: the second wave was cancelled.
Our London walks Blitz blog will continue tomorrow and will describe the feeling of relief that engulfed the Fire Fighters as they realised the bombing had ended for that particular night.