Saturday 13 February 2021

We will not forget - The 80th anniversary of the West Hendon bomb

Saturday, the 13 February, marks a dark day in our local history. On this date in 1941, the Luftwaffe dropped a massive SC2500 bomb on West Hendon, killing 80 people and making 1,000 people  homeless. At the time West Hendon was the beating heart of the UK's manufacturing industry and war effort. Such areas were targetted for night bombing to try and disrupt the UK's war effort. Sadly in those times, civilians were seen as fair game by both sides as they sought to develop the concept of total war. To the best of my knowledge, this was the most devastating bomb in the Borough of Barnet. My research found a fascinating theory on the Wembley matter site,  that the site was deliberately targetted to test the new bomb on an area of housing, to assess its effectiveness

"It was not those key targets that were hit during the Welsh Harp’s worst bombing raids of the Second World War. Early in 1941, Germany was testing new designs of high-explosive bombs, and dropping a single bomb in a raid, so that its effects could be seen afterwards. One of these exploded above the Ravenstone Road area of West Hendon on the evening of 13 February 1941, flattening 40 homes, killing more than 80 people and making around 1,500 homeless. At the opposite end of the reservoir, a V2 rocket hit one end of Wykeham School in March 1945. Luckily no children were there at the time, but seven people were killed in nearby homes."

Normally at this time of year, residents gather at the spot to mark the moment and recall the loss. Like many things, this year it won't really be possible. Those residents still around from the time will be shielding. During memorial service held at the time, the Dean of Hendon said.

The last word shall not be with the destroyer. That is the meaning of our service, and of the simple Cross under which we stand ... Such scenes of desolation as this form a terrible monument to the wickedness of those who pursue brute force without reference to the God of Righteousness, and Justice and Love, before Whom they must one day render account for their deeds.

The 'Little People' of London's suburbs, whom they sought to smash, live on bearing the unquenchable torch of Freedom, and the rough wooden Cross at West Hendon remains as a symbol of the spirit that prevailed against the greatest peril of oppression humanity has ever had to face.

I find his words fascinating at this moment. The simple wooden cross provided a beacon of hope back then. We need a beacon of hope in these times. The vaccines offer something, but we do need a symbol.

Sadly, the memorial cross has been long lost. Back in 2018, the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London tried to solve the mystery of the missing memorial cross. Sadly the mystery remained unsolved. If you are interested in the subject, there are a few articles that are well worth a read. Local community activist Jasmine Parsons, an old friend of this blog was interviewed by the Guardian on the matter in 2016.

 Rev Roy Hutchinson, Vicar of St Johns, West Hendon has recorded  a reflection on the events, as he couldn't hold a service at the site. We are pleased to be able to share this with you.

Watching the film again, I recalled the words of the Dean. Things change, things stay the same.

The 'Little People' of London's suburbs, whom they sought to smash, live on bearing the unquenchable torch of Freedom

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