"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

August 26, 2012

SNAKEHIPS


"Snakehips"

On March 18, 1941, German bombs crashed onto the dance floor at the Soho club Cafe de Paris and killed at least 34 people, including orchestra leader Ken "Snakehips" Johnson.
 
The story goes his band was playing "O Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!" when the bombs landed in the basement venue considered as safe as a bomb shelter.

One account said rescuers found Johnson found horribly mangled in the runs; another account said he was hardly scathed and still had a flower in his lapel.


According to a Daily Mail story commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Blitz:

"The floor was heaving with couples. Suddenly, there was an immense blue flash. Two bombs had hit the building, hurtled down a ventilation shaft from the roof and exploded right in front of the band.  The dead and dying were heaped everywhere. Champagne was cracked open to clean wounds."

Among those fatally injured was Meg Hargrove, a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service, whose name appears on the U.K. Firefighters National Memorial.

The club re-opened after the war and remains in business today.

According to its website:

"In 1939 the Café was allowed to stay open even though theatres and cinemas were closed by order. People gossiped their way through the blackout and the Café was advertised as a safe haven by Martin Poulson, the maitre d', who argued that the four solid storeys of masonry above were ample protection."