Jim Lawes revisits Staveley Road sixty years after the attack
With Staveley Road still open to traffic, a large crowd of 400 and more people attended this nostalgic event at 6.15pm on the evening of 8th September. The short black memorial stone with gold inscription was unveiled by the Mayor of Hounslow and a wreath was laid at its foot by Cllr Paul Lynch.
Some people were locals from "down the road", and I met others who had travelled over 100 miles. It was a blessing that it was such a fine evening so that those attending could stand and talk in comfort. There was a lot of chattering going on both before and after the event as people exchanged their reminiscences. A great number of memory banks were activated and oh to have had a recording machine handy.
The event took place adjacent to No. 5 Staveley Road. Very helpfully the organisers had published a document called THE CHISWICK V2 containing pictures, maps, a press cutting, a list of witnesses and those that had help organise the event. The programme notes explained that some of the famous Cherry Trees planted in the 1920's were destroyed and later replaced and that observation of the current trees will reveal whether or not they were replanted after the blast. Hopefully more copies of this programme can be made available at the Library.
Standing on a mini 2 step kitchen ladder, so that they could seen, and with aid of an occasionally misbehaving microphone, the 3 key speakers gave very impressive speeches. Mr James Wisdom, Chairman of the Brentford & Chiswick History Society (I ought to join that) started proceedings, outlining the significance of the Event, and giving thanks to the various witnesses and others who had supported the commemoration. The acknowledgements list was lengthy and included Carolyn Hammond at Chiswick Library, Val Bott, Scott McKinlay, Christopher Jolly and many others.
Mr Frank Baldwin, Chairman of the London and South-East Chapter of the Battlefields Trust explained the development and manufacture of the V2 bomb and the hugh number of lives lost amongst British Airmen who flew to Germany to seek and blow up the V2 factories. Life for the workers in those factories didn't sound too wonderful either.
It was explained that the Community of Wassenaar in the Netherlands, where the rocket was launched, were holding a memorial event simultaneously with the event on Staveley Road, and for that reason could not attend. The Chiswick V2 programme mentions that a commemorative pack of information and eye witness accounts was to be sent in a friendly gesture to both Wassenaar and also to Peenemunde, where the Bomb was made. The V2 dev elopement was the forerunner of bigger rockets and new technology for the space age.
Your Reporter!! was also impressed with Cllr Paul Lynch's speech. He, Chairman of the Chiswick Area Committee laid the wreath at the foot of the Memorial...and in addition to leading us into a minutes silence....also invited us to cheerfully give thanks (for the outcome of the war) by inviting all to give the Churchill salute!! Quite a sight to see 400 hands (800 fingers) raised like that!!
The lonesome Mayor, Cllr Dalbir Cheema, who had unveiled the memorial, had a difficult time with the microphone system.
Ann, our Chiswick Memories forum participant, would have loved to have met the lady from Cleveland, Bristol. She was in the local Civil Defence force at the time of the bomb on the United Dairies stables and yard in Sutton Lane and performed some horrid duty there. The UD yard today was empty of horses but full of parked Porsches!
I met Brian Rogers who lived at No 58. He'd travelled up from Eastbourne for the event having had the TV cameras at his home interviewing him on Tuesday. He brought with him to Staveley Road a carrier bag of the Daily Sketch newspapers of the 1944 event. He was zippy and on the ball just as he had been on BBC1 News at 1.30pm earlier.
I introduced Brian to local boy David Stanners ( a veteran Old Meadonians footballer!) who was heralded by the organisers as he had been at the Fauconberg Road junction with Sutton Court Road (by those old rocks) when the bomb fell. David still has a full head of hair! David was encouraged to give a few autographs on the programme to a schoolgirl and others. There was such a crowd, that I didn't see a TV camera in sight. So I introduced David Stanners to another veteran there Peter Coombe.
The sound and sight of busy friendly chatter and conversation in Staveley Road this night was a classic example of how life ought to be. It was so far removed from hooded threatening yobs on bikes, abusive shoppers, and the ill mannered that it was sad to come away from the event.
The author of this article was taken by his father to view the crater on Staveley Road the day aft re the blast
Thank you to Mike Abbot and Ray Birch for providing photographs
September 11, 2004
The organisers are now working on a large information panel, which will include much of the information from the leaflet and more, and will be placed on the fence beside the memorial in the next couple of months.
Please contact James Wisdom, the Chairman of the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society at 25 Hartington Road, London W4 3TL if you can help with information, memories or photographs.