Thursday 29 January 2015

The last word shall not be with the destroyer: West Hendon: then and now

Updated 9th June, and now 15th June: see below

It was early evening, Thursday, February 13th, 1941. 

No air raid warning had been sounded; few people had gone to their shelters. 

Light gunfire was heard, and the sound of a plane.

Suddenly, a fearful rushing, roaring noise, like the sound of an express train passing high up in the air. 

Lower it came.

People were blown off their feet as The Thing passed overhead. 

Then a terrific crash and roar, and three roads in West Hendon were laid waste. 

Over 70 people were killed, there were 150 casualty cases, eight people missing, many more suffered minor injuries, and upwards of 1,500 people were rendered homeless.

This is from the beginning of an account in a pamphlet published by the Hendon and Finchley Times, in 1945, describing a terrible event that happened only four years earlier in the recent war, an incident almost forgotten now, just before the seventy fifth anniversary, next year. 

Almost forgotten, because the memory lives on in among the people who live there now, in the council estate in West Hendon, their homes, their community, about to be obliterated as surely as those streets of houses destroyed by enemy bombing in 1941.

The memory lives on, preserved as oral history, tales told by older residents, and those who grew up in the area, and because of a certain place, an open space, endowed with special meaning by the local community, the park by the waterside of the Welsh Harp which they believe to be dedicated as a memorial to the many lives lost that night. 

I knew about the story of the West Hendon bombing, as my own father had served in the Auxiliary Fire Service, as a volunteer fireman, during the early part of the war, in the Edgware and Hendon areas, and then in central London during the worst of the Blitz. He witnessed the aftermath of direct hits on civilian targets, and would talk about the West Hendon incident, and the mysterious, massive bomb that took so many lives. 

In fact we know now, from official records, exactly what the mystery bomb was: 'an SC2500 kg maximum heavy explosive bomb, the equivalent of two V2 rockets' - as described in 'Hendon and Golders Green Past', by Hugh Petrie, the Barnet Borough archivist. The bomb was dropped by a Heinkel He 111: aiming possibly for the many factories in the area, or, as Hugh suggests, perhaps the Welsh Harp itself, in a sort of 'Dambusters' style assault to try to cause widespread flooding. It is believed a seaplane was kept on the reservoir throughout the war, in case of the need urgently to evacuate Churchill - or possibly the Royal Family: perhaps that was a factor too. 

Whatever the reason, the impact of the explosion was truly devastating, and widespread: forty houses destroyed outright; 160 in need of pulling down, 170 too badly damaged to be repaired until after the war; 400 more suffering various degrees of damage - and in one moment, 1,500 people had been made homeless.

The human cost in lives lost was extreme: seventy one dead, eight missing; as Barrett Newbery, the editor of the Hendon & Finchley Times, commented - it seemed that in some cases, whole families had been wiped out. He tells us the stories of some of those people: men, women and children, whose names he patiently lists.

In the borough's Archives, there are still the yellowing pages of the mortuary records of the residents of West Hendon who lost their lives that night. They make for deeply poignant reading.

The first three records, for example:  first of all the details of Edith Brine, who lived in Ravenstone Road, right at the epicentre of the explosion, identified by her stepdaughter, from a photograph, recognised by the lace on her vest, through which the ribbon ran, and which she had crocheted herself.  

Next was another middle aged woman, Agnes Bond, also from Ravenstone Road: then there is four month old Elizabeth Aldiss, identified by her grandmother. 

Newbery asks if anyone remembers 'little Charlie Watkins, who stood each night at the corner of Station-road, West Hendon, selling the evening papers? Courteous to everyone, was Charlie - and he always 'knew the winners'. His name you will find in the list above.'

In another instance, a baby's cradle was found, blown high up on top of a pile of debris. By some miracle, the baby was alive, although orphaned by the explosion. In another house, three sisters were fatally injured.

A Mrs Halliday was killed 'when a wall of her house was blown in upon her, but her husband pushed their two children under the kitchen table when the bomb was heard, and this saved the children's lives'.

One little girl, four years old,  was found in the wreckage of her home, her mother lying dead: rescuers tunnelled in to reach her. 'I can't come out', she said, I have no clothes on' - Her clothing had all been blown off.

In another house, a mother refused to go to hospital, until her trapped children had been freed ... the children's lives had been saved by a heavy dresser which fell on top of them and took the weight of the falling house.

Apart from fatalities, there were of course many, many casualties, including those seriously cut by glass, and in order to deal with these, before removal to hospital, an emergency casualty station was provided at the Deerfield Club: the community centre which has been acquired now by Capita, for demolition, and due to be built on.

There were twenty two rescue parties working to save people, as well as firemen dealing with the fires that broke out in the wreckage. The ARP, the Home Guard, local doctors and the local clergy, the Womens Voluntary Service and the Salvation Army all worked so hard that night to do what they could for the people of West Hendon: but perhaps most touching of all are the stories of those residents who put their own lives at risk to try to rescue others: family, friends, neighbours, tunnelling under the wreckage to help them, regardless of the danger, or performing great feats of endurance: 

Twenty year old Peggy Stanley, visiting friends when the bomb fell:

'The house was wrecked, but Peggy held up heavy debris and prevented it burying other people, including a Mrs Horner, and daughter, a 15 year old girl friend, and Peggy's 15 year old sister.'

Mr A Cannon, whose own mother had been badly injured, but thought of their invalid neighbour, 83 year old Mrs Payne, whose house was destroyed, and had lain under the debris for several hours.

Mr Arthur Dade, a warden whose own wife and children were reported missing, but, we learn: 

'stuck to his post all through the night and worked on for several days after the tragedy, until he was literally  ordered off duty. Then he had no home to go to. His was a fine example of devotion to duty, and I am glad to say he had his reward in that his wife and children were found not seriously hurt. He later received a commendation among the ARP honours'.  

In fact it seems, unsurprisingly, others were awarded medals for their courage that night, and rightly so. As the editor of the Hendon and Finchley Times put it, slightly patronisingly, the story of that night was one in which:

 'the Little People of London's suburbs showed the true spirit of the Home Front, while the men and women of Civil Defence and the kindred services demonstrated that calm efficiency and unfailing courage which gave cause for pride throughout London's hardest trials by fire and high explosive.'

After the war, apart from a few temporary prefabs eventually put in place to provide short term housing, the area destroyed by the bombing was left alone, in respect for those who died. 

Some of the land was added to York Park: and then, about forty five years ago, in an era when it seemed social progress meant the creation of low cost housing for local people, a small council estate was built, with houses and flats overlooking the beautiful Welsh Harp reservoir. 

In the late nineteen nineties, the estate was beginning to look a bit tired, and in need of some renovation. By 2002, when a Labour administration was briefly in charge of Barnet Council, it was suggested that the Decent Homes programme might be a way to improve the quality of lives of the residents of the estate, by a process of regeneration.

We all know what happened next, don't we? The Tories took control of the council again: they made all sorts of promises and pledges to the residents of the estate, tenants and leaseholders - and broke them, one by one, in the course of changing a genuine programme of regeneration into a deal with private developers, Barratts, and Metropolitan Housing Trust.

This details of this agreement have been kept secret, all requests to put the financial viability study in the public domain refused, in complete contradiction of the need for transparency, even at the stage of the current government Inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Orders now hanging over the heads of the leaseholders of this estate. 

Because yes: despite the pretence of regeneration, this scheme has become not a replacement of housing for the people who live there, but an excuse for a massively profitable private luxury development, which will see the homes of West Hendon residents taken from them, and demolished, their community destroyed.

Within the past week, it has been confirmed that, as residents believed, Barratts were given the public land on which their private development is being built, while the residents' homes are being taken from them, and demolished. 

Or, as the response to a question from the Inspector Zoe Hill puts it: 'There is no monetary consideration for the land transfer'. 

We are also told only certain of the council's costs will be met by the developer. In my view, and the view I am sure of most residents and taxpayers of this borough, this 'transfer', and the consequent impact on the residents promised regeneration, and new homes, is simply scandalous.

Barnet Council and their development partners made it effectively impossible for any of the current leaseholders or tenants to move on to the new development.

Over the years, the council, through Barnet Homes, has had a policy of placing an increasing number of non secure tenants on the estate, many of whom are vulnerable in some way. Even though some of them have lived there for as long as a decade, the council would not give them secure tenancies, with the effect that they have few rights over the future allocation of any alternative accommodation, once their homes are knocked down, and they are evicted.

There are few secure tenants, but those few that there are, and their children, will be housed in a block outside the area of the new private development, on a former traffic island, with no views of the Welsh Harp, but looking over a section of the Edgware Road, now in a state of extreme decline - and next to two garages pumping out toxic fumes.

Leaseholders have had their properties - belatedly - valued by Capita, to be bought by Capita, at what the owners have stated are clearly way below market value. Capita's valuer, Mr Paul Watling, has admitted that his assessment of value is ultimately a subjective one, based on his opinion. 

In theory, there are a small number of properties on the new estate which leaseholders were eventually told they could apply for, in a shared equity deal. They must, however, provide 50% of the value of the new property, a level higher than in other similar schemes in the borough: and they simply cannot afford to do so, based on the low valuations by Capita.

It is clear, therefore, that every pledge made in the original agreement regarding the 'regeneration' has been broken: including one that to the people of West Hendon represents the final insult: the worst betrayal - the promise not to build on York Memorial Park. The council refuses in all its submissions even to refer to it as such, insisting on  calling what remains of it, after the developers have got their hands on it, as merely 'York Park'. There was no memorial status, they say, and dismiss all memories of a stone memorial on what is, ironically, now the location of the carefully placed, off-site block of housing for the lucky few secure tenants for whom the council must provide accommodation.

The promise regarding York Memorial Park, and its breach, has a significance that reaches beyond the bare outline of facts, that is to say an encroachment on land supposedly protected from development. 

To residents, it is symbolic of their humiliation, and an act of contempt from the developers, and the council. 

For the council, and Barratts, it might be considered to be a trophy of war: an act of triumph - a statement of victory. 

They don't give a damn about the history of West Hendon, just as they don't give a damn about the future of the community that lives there.

There is no such thing as community, in their eyes - and history? 

That only began in 2005, when Barratts moved into the picture, and the fantasy that is 'Hendon Waterside' was born.

Throughout the course of the Inquiry, one thing has become absolutely clear: the issue of York Memorial Park has become central to the argument not just for the residents, whose history and identity it represents, but for their opponents, the development partners, as represented by Neil King, QC. 

The subject is a constant matter of reference, for both sides. It was the insistence on constant rebuttal of residents' assertions about the Park, in fact, which first made me suspicious that the Acquiring Authority's case was not substantiated by that thing so dear to Mr King: Fact. He was of course relying on certainty of the information supplied to him by Barnet Council, and the developers.

It appeared to be almost a matter of subconscious betrayal of something, the emphasis on the Park, and the statement, repeated by counsel, that the order lands, as defined within the limits of the Phase 3 properties lined up for compulsory purchase, were NOT within the area bombed during the war. The Park itself, we were constantly told, despite everything the residents claimed, had NO association with any sort of memorial. Fact.

What happened next is explained in the statement I submitted to the Inquiry, and read out on Tuesday morning. I should add I did so under the threat, later dismissed, of putting myself at risk of a claim for costs, apparently for daring to tell the truth, discovered in the course of the Inquiry: that Barnet's planning officers, and Barratts as developers, are seemingly unable to interpret the evidence of their own maps, or verify their claims regarding the history of York Memorial Park though a search of the documentation held in the authority's own archives.

My name is Theresa Musgrove, and I am a resident of Barnet, and I write a local blog, ‘Broken Barnet’, in the course of which I have written several articles about the West Hendon ‘regeneration’.

I should point out that I do not live in West Hendon, and do not belong to any local campaign group, , but have attended some sessions of the Inquiry as an observer, and to report the proceedings. I did not imagine that I would be obliged to take part in the proceedings myself.

I believe the new evidence demonstrates to the Inspector that she has been given information by representatives of Barnet Council and Barratt London which is both inaccurate and misleading.

It is of course up to the Inspector to judge whether that is correct, and if so to speculate why that might be.

In the course of listening to evidence presented to the Inquiry I became increasingly concerned about the lack of documentation supporting the Council and developer’s assertions regarding York Memorial Park, for example, as Mr Thomas Wyld claims in his submission, at point 5.4

"A number of objectors have referred to York Park as a 'Memorial Park' left to the community during the Second World War. In fact, York Park existed prior to 1939 and is shown on Ordnance Survey Maps dating back to 1914. There is no evidence to support the argument that the park was created as a memorial to the Second World War".
Listening to the verbal evidence given by officers to the Inquiry hearing, however, led me to suspect that an objective assessment of the park’s history has not been made, as we believed.

After Thursday’s session I therefore visited the borough Archives, in the library next door to the Town Hall, and asked the archivist, Hugh Petrie, if it was true that there was no evidence to suggest the park had significance as a place of memorial. He immediately replied this was not correct.

Mr Petrie has a particular interest in the history of West Hendon, and in his own book, ‘Hendon and Golders Green Past’, published 2005, refers to the terrible events of 13th February 1941, in which a massive SC2500 kg bomb, the equivalent of two V2 rockets, was dropped on the area by a Heinkel He 111, destroying 40 houses, damaging hundreds of others, and making 1,500 homeless. The centre of the impact, the book suggests, was at 50 and 52 Ravenstone Road: See Appendix 1. The range of destruction wrought by the explosion, however, was far wider.

We spent two hours reviewing relevant material which included maps, some of which, curiously, are included in the core documents but appear to have been misinterpreted, but other resources, such as the mortuary records of the civilian fatalities, example at Appendix 5.

The most important of these I attach as Appendix 2 – a pamphlet published by the editor of the Hendon and Finchley Times, circa 1945: title ‘Hendon and Her Neighbours’.

This document includes a detailed and moving description of the widespread loss of life, and the courage of local residents who risked their own lives in order to save others: see Appendices 2a, 2b, 2c; It also has two photographs associated with the event.

These two photographs, reproduced in Appendix 3, show a memorial service held on the site of the bombing, attended by 3,000 people, with a cross made from a damaged tree. 

This cross, as stated in Appendix 2c stood in the open space where the worst of the destruction occurred, as noted in 1945.

Below the second photograph it is stated that a memorial service ‘has been held on the site each year since’. Although this post-war pamphlet is undated, a brief inspection of the local newspaper archives produced a story from 1950 – see Appendix 4 – which proves that at least nine years after the event, these memorial services were continuing in York Park.

The wooden cross made from a damaged tree was clearly of symbolic status to the people of West Hendon, and memories of a more permanent memorial would make sense, as would the belief that the trees in York Park were planted to commemorate the lost civilian lives.

Another important discovery is that although York Park did exist pre-war, the park appears to have been expanded post-war, in the area south west of what is now Marriotts Close. This would appear from maps and the photograph of the bombsite, Core Document York Park Appendix 1, to be due to the loss of houses destroyed in the 1941bombing, and this land eventually being co-opted into the open space.

Ravenstone Road, pre-war, followed a straight course down to the water’s edge: compare the information from the York Park Core Document Maps etc. It lies partly beneath Marriotts Close.

It would therefore seem likely that the buildings in Marriotts Close that are within the redline zone of the land the developers wish to acquire by compulsory purchase are, as well as part of York Park, and in contradiction to the assertions made by officers and the developers’ representatives, part of the area in which many residents lost their lives in the 1941 incident.

Bearing in mind the nature of the explosion, and references to missing residents, it is sadly possible that this is a place of interment, as well as memorial.

This new material is of immense significance to the Inquiry, as it supports the strength of feeling amongst the local community in reaction to the broken pledge not to build on this ground, and why they see the handing over of this ground to private developers as not only a betrayal of a promise, but as the desecration of a site of memorial.

It seems clear that the council has broken its pledge to residents to protect such a sensitive site, in allowing developers who we now know from a letter from the Secretary of State, in the Core Documents, to have acquired the land for ‘less than best consideration’, to exploit the commercial value of a place of such importance to our local history:  the heart of what is effectively, to the people of West Hendon, their Ground Zero.

According to the ‘Hendon Air Raids’ pamphlet in the aftermath of the bombing, the local Mayor said:

 ‘Bruised and battered they may be, and their little homes in ruins: but there’s no whimpering or grousing. There is the determination that the Nazi barbarians shall not get us down. Here we have people reflecting the real British spirit: they are of the breed that a dozen Hitlers will never smash.’

It seems that British spirit continues in the resilience and courage of the West Hendon residents fighting this development. But the enemy they are fighting now is not waging war from the air, but by a subversion of the democratic process which the wartime generation sacrificed so much to defend.

It is true to say that housing occupies some of the original site of the West Hendon bombing, but that was council housing, and meant to provide decent and truly affordable housing for the local community. The Barratts development has taken that land, and is using it for private profit, whilst dispossessing the local community.

The issue of York Memorial Park is significant in a number of ways: residents refer constantly to it in their objections to the development, not as a technical argument but as something of immense pride and more: a symbol of the loss of tenure they hold over their own history, and their own future. 

This development is not the regeneration of their estate promised so long ago, but a private development of luxury housing, on public land, from which they are excluded, has caused years of distress and now leaves them facing the destruction of their community, and the loss of their homes.

The other significance is that the way in which Barnet Council and Barratts have sought to minimise the arguments put by residents who do not have access to the expensive legal support their opponents are able to obtain. These residents, many of whom are financially disadvantaged or vulnerable in other ways, were not able properly to challenge the planning process, nor the case put before the Inquiry, and I believe there has been a serious inequality in the course of the development process.

The inaccurate information put before this Inquiry regarding York Memorial Park should perhaps act as reason to doubt the accuracy and veracity of other claims made by the council and developers, and remind us of the potential conflict of interest arising from Capita’s involvement in both running the ‘regeneration’ scheme and overseeing the planning process.

I believe the Secretary of State may well have been misled at the earlier stage of approving the handover of land to the developers as to the real significance of the area, and the real likelihood of residents being accommodated in the new scheme.

I believe that the new evidence suggests there is a real argument for not confirming the Compulsory Purchase Order of the properties in Phase 3 of this development. It is true to say this will inconvenience the developers, who claim this would affect their return of profit, but that is another unsubstantiated assertion which demonstrates why the viability study that has been withheld from public scrutiny should be presented to the Inquiry.


1. Hendon and Golders Green Past, Hugh Petrie 2005 
2. Hendon and Her Neighbours, Barrett Newberry, circa 1945 
2a – A Mystery Bomb 1 
2b – A Mystery Bomb 2 
2c – A Mystery Bomb 3 
3. Photographs of the Memorial Service in York Park, from same 
4. Article from the Hendon & Finchley Times, 17th February 1950 
5. Mortuary Record, Edith Brine, Ravenstone Road 
While giving my evidence, the counsel for the Acquiring Authority busied himself very loudly with shuffling papers about, and whispering urgently, and rather distractingly, to his colleague. At the end, he declined to ask any questions, which was not surprising, although slightly disappointing. 

According to his biography, Mr Neil King, QC,  is famous for being 'unflappable', and Mrs Angry at least would have rather enjoyed seeing if she could make him flap. 

And to express the view that it was quite extraordinary that she, with her grade three o level in geography, would appear to be more skilled at map reading than the planning officers of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, upon whose Facts he had relied throughout the course of the Inquiry.

But he merely smiled politely, and said: thank you, that was  ... very helpful. Hard to tell, but possibly this was not entirely true.

Certain parties amongst the Barnet, Capita, Barratts contingent sitting at the Inquiry gazed across the room, with interesting looks on their faces: as much as you can tell, from the curiously emotionless expressions they have assumed throughout the Inquiry, with one or two individuals smirking at the evidence given by residents, or even, in the case of one senior officer, falling asleep.

A sixty minute programme from the BBC has been commissioned to tell the story of what has happened here, in West Hendon, and the proceedings of the Inquiry filmed throughout the week. This appears not to concern the attending parties whose development is at the heart of the matter, but it promises to be compelling viewing, in the tradition of that very British theme: the refusal of the underdog to accept defeat, and submit to the enemy.  

As the film maker commented to me: no need to wait to make a film like Pride, or Made in Dagenham, or look back at Passport to Pimlico: here is a story happening right now, in front of our eyes. 

And in my view, it is one that we need to understand, right now, before the next election, and before we launch into another period of government by those who put profit before people, and see communities as expendable, an irrelevance to be removed, and their history eradicated, as if it had never existed.

The wooden  cross that once stood in the wreckage of the West Hendon bombing marked a place of memorial, and commemoration: it was a symbol of defiance, and survival. As the then Dean of Hendon said:

The last word shall not be with the destroyer. That is the meaning of our service, and of the simple Cross under which we stand ... Such scenes of desolation as this form a terrible monument to the wickedness of those who pursue brute force without reference to the God of Righteousness, and Justice and Love, before Whom they must one day render account for their deeds.

The 'Little People' of London's suburbs, whom they sought to smash, live on bearing the unquenchable torch of Freedom, and the rough wooden Cross at West Hendon remains as a symbol of the spirit that prevailed against the greatest peril of oppression humanity has ever had to face.

The wooden cross has gone, and so has the stone memorial: the park remains - and so does the spirit which prevailed, in 1941, amongst the people of West Hendon. 

These are not 'little people': they are magnificent, courageous, intelligent and resourceful citizens, being dealt a terrible injustice, but determined, in the absence of any access to legal support, to defend themselves and their community from the prospect of another form of destruction, from a different enemy.

The next post will report their testimony, given to the Inquiry over the last two days.

In the meanwhile, here, for the record, are the names of the people of West Hendon, who lost their lives in 1941. 

I would suggest to the developers that, as well as giving the residents of the estate justice, and abiding by the promises made to them so long ago, they make penance for their failure to respect the status of York Memorial Park, and pay for a new memorial, with all these names inscribed, in time for the seventy fifth anniversary, next year.

Violet Kathleen Adams
Alice Susannah Adams
Jacqueline Alldis
Peggy Joan Eva Beasley
Agnes Louise Bond
Edwin Bowen
Charlotte Bowen
Thomas Newman Brine
Edith Mary Brine
Lucy Cannon
Ivy Chambers
Julia Ann Cowland
Walter Cowland
Alice Collip
Walter Collip
Edna Adele Crabtree
Sarah Jessie Doherty
Walter J Dodge
William Evans
Daisy Florence Evans
Gertrude Emma Ellner
Florence Alice Fairbrass
Walter George Fairbrass
Patricia Mattie Fox
Sidney Martin Fox
Helen Brice Francis
Walter Good
Jean Cynthia Good
Gladys May Halliday
Dorothy Jeanette Hockett
Elizabeth Mary Holland
Eliabeth Holland
Jean Mary King
Edith King
Martha Kennedy
Sarah Loxton
Frederick Mardle
William Moffatt
John Moffatt
Minnie Moffatt
Blanche Lilian Hilda Moffatt
Stanley Mowlem
Ellen Alice Nicholson
Kenneth Frederick Preston
Ethel Preston
William Parker
Norman Pearman
Violet May Ponder
Brian Edgar Peacock
Gerald Preston
Bertie William Radley
Kitty Margaret Radley
Kitty Maud Radley
Pamela Blanche Radley
George Sloss
Elizabeth Spurr
Ethel Blodwin Sutcliffe
Arthur Timms
Mary Watkins
Charles Watkins
James Wilkinson
Richard Albert Waters
Ellen Minnie Walton
Edithe Mary Walker
Arthur Baker Warman
Nellie Warman
Isabella Warrington
Walter Thomas Willson
Roy George Woodbridge

*Updated: Postscript, 9th June: 

The decision of the Inspector in regard to the Inquiry into the compulsory purchase of properties in West Hendon is expected to be announced at any time now. In the meanwhile, here is a comment from reader Val Newman, whose great aunt, Doris Georgina Wiggins, then in her twenties, was one of the victims of the West Hendon bombing: 

"I have read with great interest your blog about the Hendon Air Raid. 

I am the great niece of one of those seriously injured in that raid. 

She lived in Ravenstone Road although she never returned there after the war, as her injuries were so severe she came to live with her sister in Carshalton. 

I always understood from her that Ravenstone Road and certain parts of surrounding roads were referred to as 'sacred ground', given the number of potential bodies that were possibly scattered in the area. 

 I find it quite atrocious that their memory is being obliterated in such a high handed manner by the local 'authority'. 

 If it is possible I would appreciate it if you would let me know how I could make my feeling known and also to keep me informed of all developments. I am sick and tired of these flaming 'developers' who tread all over the place with little or no disregard for its past and what it may mean to local families". 

Val's great aunt was lodging in a house in Ravenstone Road, which was at the very heart of the now unimaginably large area of destruction left in the aftermath of the bombing raid. 

Says Val: 

"I believe she was living with a colleague from the soap factory. I have her admission papers to the Middlesex Hospital where she was treated ... She always spoke about the massive devastation in the area and was quite adamant about the non-building on the land ... "sacred ground" - I vividly remember being quite taken by that - I believe it's also used to refer to shipping wrecks from the war - and they are dedicated as such. 

I believe that there is a mass grave in the burial ground at Blackbird Hill in the same grave yard where her parents are buried and where we subsequently scattered her ashes. 

She did not die until 1972, but the effects of her injuries were certainly a contributory factor, as she was permanently disabled from the date of the raid ... she was buried underneath rubble and was lifted out with a large gash down her face and a piece of glass in her eye - the eye was lost - in fact a was a rather grizly child and I used to play with it! - she was a very keen ballroom dancer and had won medals at Kilburn Dance Hall - but the effect of the air raid was not only on her appearance but it aggravated rheumatoid arthritis and she was bedridden for the rest of her life. 

She was intially taken to the Middlesex Hospital and then transferred to Stoke Mandeville. 

Her love of Hendon was always manifest which is why we took her ashes, at her express wish, to Blackbird Hill with a small quantity being thrown on to the Welsh Harp. I remember as a child being taken to Ravenstone Road and being shown one particular plot where absolutely nothing there and that's when the whole 'sacred ground' was explained to me. 

I was at the dedication of a green plaque in Wandsworth yesterday commemorating those people who died in an Air raid on Hazelhurst Road Tooting ( where my husband lived when it was re-built): it was a beautiful ceremony, and some of the survivors unveiled the memorial. 

Surely this is the least that the local authority could do - even better not develop the land at all but since they are all driven by avarice, I feel that is unlikely." 

Here in Broken Barnet, where avarice rules supreme, and the 'sacred ground' bearing the remains of the victims of war is not only being built on, but was given away, in secret, for free - publicly owned land, and a memorial park - to facilitate the best interests of developers ... well, indeed: one might confidently agree that it is highly unlikely the inconvenient history of this site, deliberately ignored by Barnet's planning service, and by the developers Barratts themselves, will be honoured in any way at all. 

This is nothing less than an insult, in my view, to the memory of the people who lost their lives or loved ones, or their homes, their livelihoods, or their health, as a result of the events of 1941 - and to the latterday residents whose legacy this history represents, a legacy valued by our council, and their commercial partners, as nothing more than an obstruction in the process of profiteering development, and in the way of the absolute, final destruction of the community of West Hendon.

*Updated 15th June

Oh dear.  

A couple of days after updating this post, a postscript which received rather a lot of visits, and not all of them from the London Borough of Broken Barnet, Mrs Angry was sent a rather intemperate email from ... the London Borough of Broken Barnet, apparently incensed by a renewal of interest in what, exactly, lies beneath the 'sacred ground' flogged to developers for £3 -  but expressed under the pretext of a failure to pay the London Borough of Barnet a suitable fee for the use of the photograph, the only known photograph, of the terrible destruction wreaked by enemy bombing, on that night in February, 1941.

Regarding the photograph of the damage done by the “West Hendon Bomb” and other images that you’ve used on facebook – these documents are copyright of London Borough of Barnet and should not be used without permission. We generally charge individuals and companies for the limited right to publish images in hardcopy publication or on their webpages. Please can you refrain from using such material in the future.

Well of course Mrs Angry could not give a flying f*ck about the fee due for documenting our social history, and indeed disputes the exclusive copyright now claimed by Barnet Council. 

Here is her response, slightly edited: 

The photo of the bombing I first used in March 2014, with no objection. 

I used it again in January this year, with no objection. 

I noted at the time that it was freely available on google image, from where I downloaded it, as far as I recall - so I hope that you will be writing to all those other users. 

This image I believe was taken by an aerial photographer, with whom I would assume the copyright still remains, rather than Barnet, but I would be happy to see proof that in fact exclusive right of copyright is with Barnet Council. 

The other images are mine, taken with permission after I paid the appropriate fee, several months ago, and used, several months ago on my blog, and in a submission to a government Inquiry, with no objections, indeed I was thanked by the council's QC for submitting the information and images, which the authority's own planning officers had overlooked, somehow, in their researches. 

I am happy to allow the council, or Capita, or indeed Barratts, to use them, should you wish, for a reasonable fee, which will be forwarded to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, or any appeal that may well be made soon for a memorial to the victims of the bombing. 

Perhaps you would like to indicate the level of fee that you think is appropriate for me to pay, for use on my blog, which does not have a paywall, and is a personal website? 

And perhaps you could explain to me the ethical basis of charging residents of this borough to see the evidence of their own history? I rather suspect that is an unfair question to ask, but you might like to pass it on. 

This email, by coincidence, occurs a couple of days after I updated my post with evidence from a distressed relative of one of the victims of the West Hendon bombing, who confirms the fact that this area was considered to be 'sacred ground' for the residents of this area who survived the terrible events of February 1941, and deeply objects to the development on this land. 

My own father was an auxilliary fireman in this period, in the Hendon area, and spent many nights risking his life to rescue people from this sort of incident, and indeed may well have been in attendance that night. 

I think he would have been appalled to find the local authority now seeking to exploit the memories and documentation of wartime losses in this way, rather than remember those who lost their lives, or homes, or loved ones as a result of enemy action, and worse still, sell the land in which some victims still remain, to developers, for the sum of £3. 

Best wishes Mrs Angry 

PS ... Please feel free to forward this to any member of the senior management team who may be worried about the lost opportunity for income generation that may have occurred, as a result of my use of the bombing picture.


John S said...

Absolutely brilliant, I am proud to know you and I have no doubt the people of West Hendon being persecuted and robbed of their homes and community on the altar of greed and avarice are equally proud of your efforts.

The social cleansing of Barnet by Conservative councillors has been going on to my certain and definite knowledge for more than 30years. Lest hope your efforts combined with the efforts of everybody involved in the save a West Hendon campaign, reap the rewards you all so justly deserve, and expose the reality once and for all, that Councillor Davey and the leader of the local Conservative council councillor Cornelius. Coupled with the local Mr runaway MP Mathew OFFORD, are simply unfit to hold public office.

Anonymous said...

Just stunning Mrs A. There is no such thing as the Little people . There are only Giants waiting to be unleashed . And those Little people !! The Residents will bring those ? How can I say this money grabbing scum the Torie council & Developers to Heal ! Be strong & trust in the strength of your unity

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Section 123 Local Government Act 1972 (Disposal of land by principal councils) states:
…(2) Except with the consent of the Secretary of State, a council shall not dispose of land under this section, otherwise than by way of a short tenancy, for a consideration less than the best that can reasonably be obtained.

It is not immediately clear how giving the land away for no monetary consideration complies with the s.123 requirements, unless Mr Pickles consented.

Mrs Angry said...

DCMD! Good to hear from you ... Uncle Eric did sign off the 'transfer': but he cannot have known the full circumstances, as these have only really been exposed in the course of the Inquiry.

There is a difference between a genuine regeneration - or a scheme which is presented as one on paper, and one which is simply a private development. I believe that there are tax incentives for the former, too. The localism act is meant to give communities greater say in decisions affecting their lives: clearly in this case the opposite has occurred and they have been told what will happen rather than listened to, with the result that now they are being excluded, in a very clever process, from the new housing. As for the use of public land for private profit: how much has the local taxpayer lost in terms of the value of this deal? Where is the benefit to us?

Red Sonia said...

Personally, I think most if not all councils and developers routinely collude on "regeneration" schemes, knowing full well that they will never happen. They then break promises and just go Plan B - the one that was never written down but they all knew would be the outcome - social cleansing and highest profit - some BIG numbers.

The beauty of calling something a "regeneration" scheme is that so many checks and balances can then be ignored and so much can be fast-tracked. And with luck it also gets tax breaks and tax write-offs.

Oh, and forget S106 payments - no matter what the list the developet pleads poverty and they all disappear!

Mrs Angry said...

Yes, Red Sonia: it seems to me it is absolutely necessary, in order to stop the rot, to ensure any tax incentives or deals involving S106 agreements are subject to strict controls, to safeguard the public purse, and minimise the risk of schemes being pursued for the benefit of developers rather than residents. No tax breaks unless the outcome of a fair provision of social housing is delivered, and s106 payments to be made immediately, and not lost in a trail of broken promises. Viability studies must be subject to scrutiny, and not hidden for years behind the pretext of commercial sensitivity. As for handing public land over to private developers with no benefit to those promised the regeneration of their community: I simply cannot believe that such a transaction can be considered acceptable to any resident or taxpayer.

Red Sonia said...

"Acceptable to resident or taxpayer" - that ethic bit the dust many years ago. My own council defined its "clients" as developers years ago. Why? Because the council was raking in more money from the plannning department in fees etc for planning applications than it was raising from council tax and government rebates combined! A big planning application can raise six figure planning fees!