The night of Wednesday 16th April 1941 saw an especially heavy raid on London, all the more shocking for the comparative calm of the last few months. During the raid, a mine (a powerful explosive suspended on a parachute) landed on buildings on the south-west side of Paddington Station, closest to Eastbourne Terrace.
I have found one report of what happened, in Tim Bryan’s book, “The Great Western at War 1939-1945”:
“[I]n the early hours of 17th April … a landmine exploded in the departure roadway, close to the station manager’s office … causing extensive damage. The Company board room and part of the general offices were demolished and severe damage was also sustained by the waiting room on Platform 1, which unfortunately was kept open at night. A number of passengers were trapped beneath the rubble and debris from the blast, and despite the actions of the rescue services a number were killed. In total, 18 people were killed including six members of staff, and a further 97 were injured.
Almost the whole of the side of the station adjacent to Platform 1 was affected by the blast and in reporting the incident to the board, the General Manager listed a number of other offices and premises on the station that were damaged or destroyed in the raid. This list included property occupied by Boot’s the Chemist, Lyons and Wyman’s, as well as Company offices for season tickets, urgent parcels and passenger enquiries. The No. 2 booking office was also wrecked, as was one of the station’s buffets. When the landmine exploded at 2.46am, as ARP and first aid parties went to the scene, other Company staff immediately began the task of clearance and demolition work. With so many casualties, Paddington Borough Council sent additional rescue parties to assist in the removal of the injured from the rubble of the waiting room; further help was given by a detachment of Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps.
Clearing up operations proceeded at high speed, allowing the work of the station to proceed remarkably well … on Friday [the 18th] the main booking office had received enough repairs to allow operations to restart there. Such was the destruction that for the following four days No.1 platform road was taken out of use, and used to stable wagons into which debris and rubble could be loaded directly.”
Photo 1 - looking north up the side of the station along the departure road. The gap in the buildings on the right and the pile of rubble mark the site of the explosion. The people injured in Eastbourne Terrace would have been in the houses on the left; the street entrance is Chilworth Street.
Photo 2 - from the street level, above Photo 1 and to the left but otherwise in the same direction. The scale of the destruction is now more apparent.
Photo 3 - taken in 2011, this shows the gap left in the buildings
Photo 4 - a screen capture showing the area on bombsite.org. The red circle with the white parachute in the centre of the screen marks the site.
In modern terms this is where the Crossrail works are taking place, with Eastbourne Terrace entirely closed off. Up until 2011 this was where you would have got in a taxi. From within the station it is halfway up Platform 1, under the prominent clock facing onto Platform 1, where there is a statue to Brunel. (This entrance is known as The Clock Arch to distinguish it from The Horse Arch which is next to Sainsbury’s – both closed at present due to building work).
Photo 5 - a modern view of Platform 1 on the left of the concourse as you look towards the trains. The clock is on the left of the picture, just beyond the Macdonalds sign
In the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list of civilian war dead sixteen people (civilians) died or were fatally injured, thirteen in the station and three in the houses opposite on Eastbourne Terrace. Bryan says 18 people died and as a mainline station it is very possible some servicemen or women were also killed as they passed through which could explain the difference in numbers.
Bryan also refers to passengers being the victims but scrutiny of the people listed by CWGC tells a different story because 6 of the 13 people who died at the station had home addresses within a mile of the station (some much closer) and it seems likely some of the rooms were being used as a shelter during the raid, possibly for people who felt unsafe in their own homes. (The underground, a shelter option in other parts of London, was useless here: the line at the station on Praed Street is only just below street level and many people had been killed here six months earlier (on 13th October 1940).
The six locals were:
William Monteith Brown, a single man aged 25 from 163 Sussex Gardens. He was the son of William Young Brown, a foy boatman from South Shields, and Sarah Maria, who lived in New Barnet.
George Clayden, aged 65, from 14 Formosa Street, Maida Vale (the other side of the modern Westway). He had married Emily Hawkins on Christmas Day 1897 at St John the Evangelist Church in Kensal Green. They had at least three children, at least one of whom died as an infant. George was a ‘provisions warehouseman’ on his marriage certificate and in the 1901 and 1911 Census returns so it is possible (speculation) he could have been working at the goods depot at the station in 1941.
Kathleen Margot Dawe, 29, living at 14 London Street. Born in Croydon the youngest of four childen, her father was a civil servant working for His Majesty’s Stationery Office. Her mother, Edith Madeleine Taplay was the daughter of a confectioner, but died at the age of 43 when Kathleen was five. Her father remarried eight years later.
Robert Heller, from 158 Westbourne Terrace. Robert’s father was a Dutchman Hans Heller, and Robert’s wife was called Malvine (possibly Lustig or Lull), and does not appear in UK birth records. He thus seems to have spent at least the early part of his life in Europe, most likely the Netherlands, although CWGC does not list him as a Dutch citizen. Marvine continued to live in London after the war, working as a dressmaker.
Herbert Hindes and Ivy Doris Hindes, from 155 Praed Street. Herbert was born in 1902, son of a builder’s labourer, living at 8 Kingsgate Road in Kilburn. He married Emily Amelia Poole in 1923 and two years later their only child, Ivy Doris, was born. They were not a wealthy family, Herbert left Emily effects worth £170. Father and daughter died together, strengthening the impression local families were using the station buildings as an ad hoc air raid shelter.
Photo 6 - an aerial view of the site, the grey roof of the station in the centre; Eastbourne Terrace runs along the left hand side from top to bottom of the screen with orange machinery in place for the Cross rail works. Just under halfway up the side of the station is a gap in the buildings fronting to the street, and this was the site of the explosion. Praed Street runs left to right at the bottom of the picture; the impressive white building at the Praed Street entrance to the station is the Hilton Hotel.
Seven people who died at the station came from further afield
Evelyn Elsie Bishop was aged 20 and lived in Wraysbury, then in Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire, just west of Staines and the M25) with her mother, Evelyn. (Her Father William John was still alive but is not mentioned by CWGC.) Born in 1920, she had married in the closing months of 1940. Her husband, Ernest Thomas George Bishop (1921-1991), was serving in the RAF.
Francis Connolly, known as Frank was an Irishman having been born in Cavan in 1883. In 1911 he was a lodger at 847 Govan Road, Glasgow, working as an assistant in a spirit shop (presumably alcoholic spirits). At some point he married Anne (born 1900 in Edinburgh, and 17 years his junior) and they had two children. In 1941 they were quite poor, Frank’s effects being valued at £145. They lived at 15 Cornwall Street in Lambeth.
Frederick James Mitchell, lived at 28a Willow Road, South Ealing, with his wife Mary Elizabeth Louisa (4/7/1905-1986); I can’t find any evidence they had children. Frederick was born in 1902 the son of James, a railway carman, and Sarah; as we know six railway staff died in the 1941 bombing this makes him a good candidate to have followed in his father’s work. His effects were valued at £198.
Joseph Alexander Peddle was one of two teenagers to die in the explosion. He was born in 1923, and his father, also Joseph, was a builder’s labourer. His mother’s name is unclear but her maiden surname could have been either Todman or Trotman. By 1941 he was living at 9 Sefton Avenue, Harrow Weald, with his father. He was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service.
Ernest Seeney was aged 49 and lived at 11 Albion Road in Dagenham in 1941, but beyond this very little is known about him. He may have been born in Stratford in east London in 1892. In 1901 he may have been living in the Northamptonshire countryside and in 1911 he may have been a butcher’s roundsman living at 16 Seven Sisters Road in Islington.
Arthur John Taylor was a GWR policeman, presumably the forerunner of the British Transport police. He was born in Uxbridge on 26th June 1912 in Uxbridge, son of Edgar Harry (1879-1949) and Fanny (nee Russ, 1878-1958), the third of four children. His father was a carriage washer in 1899 on his marriage certificate, but by1905 he was a cloakroom porter.
One note on ancestry.co.uk says, “We believe he had red hair and by all accounts was a very pleasant and charming young man. “ Arthur was known as Jack and married Phyllis Elizabeth Williams in 1939 in Uxbridge; in 1941 they lived 22 Barnhill Road, Yeading Lane, Hayes.
A contributor to ancestry.co.uk also says Jack fathered a child in 1933 with Emma Hilda Trafford (born 1914).
Another contributor wrote, “I am fairly certain that I saw a TV programme quite a while back that recalled the incident of Arthur John returning to his office on Paddington station to get some papers. He need not have done this and lost his life because of it. He should have gone to the air raid shelter.” (http://trees.ancestry.co.uk/tree/23650712/person/1412411855/comments?pg=32768&pgpl=pid)
Frederick Charles Willoughby was 50 when he died and lived in Feltham in Middlesex. He was born in Camberley, son of Charles and Emma (nee Froom). His father was a servant at the Royal Military College, Camberley. In 1911 Fred was an assistant postman in Camberley. Little is known of him after that. At some point he married a woman whose first name began with an E.
Photo 7 - a view of the station in the 1920s looking towards the east. In the bottom left corner, a puff of white smoke from a steam train entering the station can be seen. The station itself is the large building running left to right in the middle of the picture, just below the centre. The street in front of the station is we look is Eastbourne Terrace .
Photo 8 - in a view similar to Photo 7, we see the view in 1947, two years after the end of the war. The gap in the station buildings onto Eastbourne Terrace is evident.
In the street outside the station, one person died and two were fatally injured:
At number 34, Marjorie Elsie Warwood was killed. She was born in the early months of 1915 in Alcester, Warwickshire; she had one elder brother. She lived with her parents Frederick Arthur (1880-1969, a firewood manufacturer) and Effie May (nee Laight) at 10 Chilworth Street, a few yards from where she died. She was an Air Raid Warden.
At number 39, Joan Katherine Belcher was injured; she died later that day at St Mary’s Hospital, just the other side of the station. She was the youngest victim, just seven years old. Her parents were William John (1889-?) and Florence Lilian (nee Leney, 1890-1963). Having married in 1910, her parents were 45 and 44 when she was born; they can hardly have expected to out-live her.
Probably at number 33, Conrad Mackay was injured and died at St Mary’s Hospital three days later, on Sunday 20th. Very little is known about him apart from his age, 22, suggesting he was born in 1919. One possibility is that he was born in Cambridge, son of a woman whose maiden name was Rooks.
Photo 9 - a view from the hotel across the station roof to the gap in the buildings
Photo 10 - 2014 and a view of the Cross rail works and the gap site
The only other account I have found is in a book called “Waiting for the All Clear” by Ben Wicks. A first aid worker called Tom Bard recalled: “A bomb dropped on Paddington Station and trapped a man behind a huge pile of debris. A small opening was formed - it could not be too large because of the danger of collapse – and the man was told to lie down, put his arms through the opening and be dragged through.
He was told to be perfectly still while this was being done because of the debris, but ignored the warning and twisted from side to side. Just as he came through the opening he continued twisting and drove a nail through the side of his head and died on the way to hospital.” (page 79)