"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

July 24, 2015

WEST INDIA DOCKS

Photo: londonsriver.com
Fire boats at West India Docks during the Blitz.

West India Docks docks on the Isle of Dogs, which served commercial traffic from 1803 to 1980, were savaged by German bombers during World War Two.

In the 19th Century, the docks mainly traded in rum, molasses and sugar, according to the website Port Cities.

By the 
20th century, the docks also handled grain, meat, fruit, vegetables and timber. 

Today, the Canary Wharf project occupies the site.

***

On Dec. 7, 1940, the first day of the Blitz, the Isle of Dogs was a prime target.


"Jerry was well aware of this," Doris Lilian Bennett who was working at an Auxiliary Fire Service control center on the island, said in an oral history compiled by the BBC.

"Around the edges close to the river were timber yards, paint works, boiler making and engineering factories, and other factories producing jams, pickles and confectionery," Bennett said.

"Across the top of the Island were the three large West India Docks, down the middle were the Millwall Docks, the docksides lined with shipping from all over the world, their warehouses stuffed with the cargoes those ships had carried.

"At the bottom end of the Millwall Docks were MacDougalls flour mills, 
their tall silos an outstanding landmark, all close together, the whole of the Island highly inflammable."

Flames swept the landscape.


"The air-raid continued, unabated, as well as the noise of the bombers and their bombs was the noise of the Ack-ack guns, four of them, on the Mud-chute, pounding away, the noise of their shells going up competing with the noise of Jerry’s little offerings coming down."

That didn't stop the fire brigade.


"We in the Control Room carried on with what we had to do, taking and relaying messages," Bennett said.

"T
he telephones were put out of order as wires were cut.

"We then relied on the young messengers and our two dispatch riders on their motor-bikes to fetch and take."