Brook Road South – the War Years

There has been some publicity recently about a website showing incidents of bombing all over the country during World War 2.

The Local Studies Collection in Chiswick Library holds the records of all the local ‘incidents’ which suggest that 26 people were killed in Brentford due to the bombing, 63 were seriously injured and 149 suffered minor injuries.

The ‘incident’ that caused the most damage in Brook Road happened at 01.40 on September 29th 1940 and was one of 29 occurrences in the borough that night.

High explosives destroyed 28, 30 and 32 Brook Road South, 27, Mafeking Avenue and damaged the Warden’s post in St Paul’s Recreation Ground at the bottom of Grosvenor Road. Two people were killed and one hospitalised in Mafeking Avenue.

The official report says that Mafeking Avenue was blocked, the homeless were accommodated at the rest centre and that the incident had been reported by Post 6 as Post 5 had been bombed.

There was some delay in the casualty services reaching this incident – a report of which did not reach control until 01.59. A casualty unit had been previously sent to Brook Road but there were no casualties at that incident and the ambulance and stretcher party returned to the station without touching the Mafeking Avenue incident. The motor car did contact the Mafeking Avenue incident and took 2 casualties to hospital. The post in whose area the incidents occurred was itself bombed.

There were 5 wardens on duty in the post at the time and despite severe shock and bruises they carried on at the Brook Road South and Mafeking Avenue incidents.  They were Miss Emmerson and Messrs Baker, Horsley, Johnson and Joyce.

 

In February 1993 an interview with Miss Emmerson (by then Mrs Gladys Baker) was published with her memories of the bombing.

‘It’s like the brook that runs through the recreation ground, which I suppose Brook Road is named after. We had a Warden’s Post down there during the war. I was working in there. We’d been out in the cold – we had some guns at Gunnersbury then and there’d been a bombardment, you see. They’d opened up and the plane dropped a load of bombs. Fortunately they weren’t very large, and one hit our post and tipped it up. We were all a bit concussed. Actually I was on the ‘phone and didn’t realise. I was sending my messages through and afterwards, when we came to look back, there was this water rushing underneath. There was this hole there. You can see the brook on the old maps, running straight down to the Thames, and we’d uncovered that. That was my worst experience, being blasted out of our little shelter.

Mrs Baker had originally lived in The Butts but had moved to Lambert Lodge Sheltered Housing when this interview was recorded.

Later on March 14th 1944 when incendiary bombs were dropped, 37, Clifden Road and St John’s School were seriously damaged by fire, the day nursery in Clifden Road was gutted and Phoenix Cottages adjoining the railway line were badly damaged.

The Remarks in the ‘bomb book’ say that there were ‘serious fires in Clifden Road but not so serious elsewhere. The Fire Guard trailer pump stationed at Brentford Football Ground did very good work dealing with fires at the football ground, St John’s School and 37, Clifden Road from 23.05 on 14th March until 01.30 on 15th. Mr Burke, a member of the pump team, sustained minor injuries when he fell through the roof of the Day Nursery. 30 homeless accommodated at St Paul’s Rest Centre. An enquiry bureau was set up at Clifden House’. 

 

It seems the fire at the football ground was a café stall opposite the school and the nursery was known as The Bluebird School and was the infant school attached to the main school in Clifden Road.

Clifden House was a large 18th century house next to the Library which had been been built in its garden.

As the way people lived and shopped changed through the 1960s and 70s the corner shops were converted in to houses and the 4 cottages called Brook Terrace that appeared on the 1841 tithe map were demolished leaving an open space of derelict land for many years until 2 new houses were built to fill the space. The first ones for many years.

It now seems there are to be more.

The Local Archives don’t have any pictures of St John’s School or any early pictures of Brook Road South. If anyone has any that could be copied please get in touch through the Editor.

Previous: Brook Road South – Early 20th Century