The Dulwich Society will unveil a commemorative plaque to World War II victims of Lytcott Grove, Playfield Crescent and Melbourne Grove on Saturday 12th January 2013 at 12 noon (at the junction of Melbourne Grove and Lytcott Grove)

In commemoration of those killed in an air raid on 16th September 1940

GRACE BUSBY  68,  ANNIE HINTON  41,  ELLEN HINTON  64,  JANET HINTON  36,   KATHLEEN HINTON  34,  WILLIAM HINTON  69,  OLIVER PITCHES  60,  SARAH PITCHES  61,  CHARLES WRIGHT 48

And those killed in an air raid on 17th January 1943

EMILY AYERS  62, CHARLES BRACE 60, CHRISTOPHER DIX  31, EVAN EVANS 46,  LILY EVANS  41,  GERTRUDE MASON  62,  WILLIAM PHEASANT  60,  ETHEL ROBERTS  58,  WINIFRED ROBERTS  30. ETHEL SPELLER  55,  HARRIET WALES  65

Lytcott Grove, Playfield Crescent and Melbourne Grove 17th January 1943
Alan Woodfield’s Story

Between the Blitz (the nightly bombing of London and major cities during 1940-41) and the flying bombs and rockets of 1944-45 there were few air raids.  In London, in 1942, bombs were dropped on 13 August and there was an air raid alert but no bombs on 31 October.  As a result of this comparative lull in enemy air attacks many evacuees returned to London.  My family was one of these.

My father was a schoolmaster and had obtained a post in East Meon in Hampshire and had evacuated to there in 1940.  Our home, to which we returned in 1942 was 43 Playfield Crescent, a road behind Alleyn’s School playing fields in East Dulwich. Our family comprised Father, Mother, Peter (10), Margaret (7), Olivia (1_ ), Gilbert (16) and myself (17)  Gilbert and I were both employed in London at the time; Philip was away training in the Royal Artillery, another brother, Owen,  was still evacuated with his school in Lancashire. 

On Saturday night 16 January 1943 British bombers raided Berlin in force and Hitler immediately ordered two revenge attacks on London.  Twenty-five to thirty bombers came over between 8-10pm on Sunday 17 January and the same number between 4.30-6.00am on Monday 18 January.  At 8pm the air raid warning sounded, followed immediately by the noise of continuous, furious, deafening anti-aircraft fire.  We did not have time to hurry down the garden in the blackout and climb into our Anderson shelter.  In any case, as will be seen, it would have been risky to do so.  The traditionally safest place in a house was in a cupboard under the stairs, but there wasn’t room for the seven of us.  Five managed to crowd inside.  Gilbert was in the front room and I was in the back room.  The only bombs the German planes managed to drop on London that night came down on us – all seven of them – four in front of the house and three at the back.

Gilbert managed to get down in time as the blast from the front blew in the windows and hurled a wireless set on to the floor, the acid from its battery burning a hole in the carpet.  I crouched down against the dining room wall near the cupboard as the blast from the back blew in the window, tore down the blackout curtain which wrapped up all the glass and carried it across the room, avoiding our canary in its cage suspended from the ceiling and hitting the wall just above my head.  When the All Clear sounded we inspected the damage.  The front door had been blown along the hall.  In the upstairs front bedroom all the window glass was shattered and rows of jagged shards were sticking out of the wall on the opposite side of the room.  Large lumps of plaster had fallen off the ceiling onto the bed.  Father went to have a look round outside and reported seeing several bodies, obviously dead.

The family couldn’t stay the night so Mother and the three younger children went to stay at her father’s house in Crystal Palace Road, and took the canary with them.  Father, Gilbert and I spent the night moving all the furniture into the room downstairs ready for storing it elsewhere.  Then, at 4.30am the air raid warning sounded again.  This time we managed to get into the Anderson shelter.  The guns from local batteries were again making a deafening noise and for an hour and a half as we shivered in the cold.

Later that morning the street was a hive of activity.  With the entire area uninhabitable, neighbours were lowering their furniture from upstairs windows by ropes into the street. The whole of Lytcott Grove, a stone’s throw away, was utterly devastated.  A few doors along from our home, the complete side wall of a house leant at an angle across an alleyway against the next house. That same day Mother, Father, Peter, Margaret and Olivia moved to friends at Guildford where, in 1939, I had been evacuated with Strand School.  Gilbert and I went to stay with our grandparents in Norbury.

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