Saturday, 16 January 2016

Parker Street, 15th November 1940 - a bomb beside London City Airport DLR Station

On 15th November Coventry smoldered from the intense attack the night before but the attack was not renewed.  The Luftwaffe returned to London with the docks high on the list of targets.
I have not been able to find an account of what happened in Silvertown that night but this photo shows the aftermath:

Seemingly taken several years later (one source says 1944) it shows Parker Street, looking north to the Royal Victoria Dock.  The gap on the right hand side seems to be the site of cleared buildings that had been bombed.
Today, we might be more familiar with the view looking back towards the wartime cameraman from the docks, which now form London City Airport:

Planes are visible at the bottom of the photo, with the DLR railway station in the centre; just above that and to the right is the silver-coloured school building, and Parker Road runs to the right of the school and playground as we look at it.  The proximity in wartime to factories at the top of the photo, as well as the dock (now airport) are obvious.  This photo was taken by a Luftwaffe reconnaissance flight on 29th October, seventeen days before the bombing:

Factories and the dock facility are marked as targets.

The CWGC register of civilian war dead shows two people died in Parker Road that night and it seems likely a third person was fatally injured:
Annie Louisa Kerr died at 5 Parker Street, aged 35.  She was probably born Hannah Louisa Moles in 1905 in Silvertown and in 1911 she was living with her family in Silvertown where her father, Jim, was a general labourer in a rubber works.  She was known as Louisa and the family of seven lived in a three room house at 49 Andrew Street.  (Andrew Street may have partly disappeared under Silvertown Way but the remnant could be renamed Camel Street.  The area seems to have been popular with people moving from Ireland and one branch of the Moles family is found in that country).
By 1940 her parents lived in Woodford, about 7 miles north.  She was the wife of Walter E Kerr (probably Walter Edward Kerr born 1902).  They had been married 17 years and probably had two children Walter and Mary who would have been 15 and 14 at the time of the bombing.
Walter, her husband subsequently married Violet Moles, presumably a relative of Annie, four years later; and after the war they lived in the same street as Annie’s parents.  Walter died on 25th September 1948.
Elizabeth Maycock aged 75 and a widow died next door to Annie at Number 7.  CWGC only gives her husband’s first initial, J.  The 1901 Census shows John and Elizabeth Maycock living at 37 Ashburton Road, just the other side of the Royal Albert Dock, with their baby Alfred and adopted son Edward Booseby (born 1898).  John was 54, his wife’s age was said to be 36.  Sadly baby Alfred died shortly after the Census.)
They had been married on Christmas Day 1895, John was a widower (and the son of a soldier), while Elizabeth was a spinster aged around 35.  She was born Elizabeth Poolten but when her mother remarried she seems to have used her stepfather’s surname, Morris, for some time.  She may have been born in Mauritius in 1861 although the 1901 Census says she was born in Cape Town, South Africa; the family travelled around, younger siblings having been born in Gibraltar.
The CWGC record shows Elizabeth Larn died at Royal Albert Dock Hospital on the same day and her home address was 9 Parker Street; it seems reasonable to presume she was injured at home and died in hospital.  She was born Elizabeth Benmore on 9th December 1899 in Poplar.   In the 1901 Census the family lived at 5 West Street, Poplar, in the parish of All Saints, and her father’s occupation was general labourer.
The 1911 Census entry is unusual because Elizabeth lived at 1 Oak Road, Canning Town with her mother and 4 siblings; there is no mention of her father but further investigation shows him registered at 5 Oak Road with 7 others!
Her mother died in 1916 and her father (by then a ship’s fireman) died of pleurisy and pneumonia one year later.  On his death certificate Elizabeth was given as the informant and they were living at 41 Anne Street, Plaistow.
She married Thomas R Larn in 1921, and they had eight children: Thomas Charles (1921-1949); Thomas J b 1922; twins Doris and Winifred (1923-1923); Rosina b 1924; Frederick J b 1926; Sidney Alfred (1927-1978); and Irene E (1931-1932).

While I could not find an eye witness account of this particular riad, this is the story of one resident of Parker Street:

Note he refers to a bomb which deafened one of his sisters, and another sister almost falling into a bomb crater; these may have been the 15th November attack.

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