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Stories of the Blitz

ImageA Saturday afternoon in September 1940 turned to terror in Hackney.  Suddenly bomber planes filled the skies, and people were scrambling for shelter. The Blitz had begun, leaving masses of memories for us all to read, watch and hear.

You can find loads of things on this page - stories & memories, photographs & films, pictures & poems.   Please read first about the Coronation Avenue Campaign.  Many years after one of London's worst disasters of the Blitz, a community in Hackney is still trying to make sure that those who died there are not forgotten.  Read on to find out what the Coronation Avenue Campaign has achieved so far - and please help us with the final phase of the Campaign if you can . . .

Coronation Avenue
Seventy years after over 160 people died on one night at a block of flats named Coronation Avenue, in Stoke Newington, a campaign was formed to ensure that the tragedy is always remembered, and that the memory of all those victims is properly honoured now and in the future. Please click here to see a powerpoint slideshow that tells you about Coronation Avenue - and the tragedy that befell it. 

Phase One - a plaque was installed in the place where the tragedy had happened.

Phase Two -  a book called Just Like the End of the World was published.  Thanks to an amazing number of people who had family links to the disaster, it is packed with pictures, stories and memories.  Linking together their contributions and material from the archives, the book tells the sad story of what happened and describes some of the individuals who lost their lives there.  To read some of the responses to the book, please click here.

In October 2012, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the disaster, a lot of people with memories of that terrible day - and families of others who were caught up in the tragedy - came back to Stoke Newington to remember and talk about how it had affected their lives. If you click here, you can read what people had to say - and the plans for final phase of the Coronation Avenue Campaign: to restore the civilian war memorial in Abney Park Cemetery: or if you prefer to listen to what was said, please click here.  

Phase Three - the final objective of the Coronation Avenue Campaign, led by TimeLine, is to restore the civilian war memorial.  The memorial was placed in Abney Park Cemetery on Remembrance Day 1948 - please click here to read what was said at the very moving ceremony in Stoke Newington Town Hall.  The local authority promised the relatives it would be look after the memorial, but it has fallen into a very bad state of repair.  Twenty years ago Betty Perkins, whose mother and two sisters had died in the tragedy, said

"We were very, very upset when we went there.  It's been very
neglected . . . If the memorials are not kept up, people will forget about the
war,  about the Blitz and about all the innocent people that were

Twenty years later, things have got even worse.  The Campaign needs to raise £5,000 for this phase to be completed. To help us reach the target please consider purchasing the book about Coronation Avenue (stuffed with stories and pictures - £24 hardback or £15 paperback).  To find out how to buy the book please send an email to TimeLine (the publshers) at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it : some local bookshops are selling the book, or TimeLine can supply copies, but please note that it is not currently available through Amazon.

There are lots more people to find out about on this page . . . .

If you would like to read and hear some memories - and see photographs to show what the people looked like during World War Two - please have a look at this page. For example, if you click on a name in this list, you will be able to read the wartime memories of somebody from all those years ago. Some are memories of growing up in Hackney, and others are by people whose Hackney connection came later in life. 

Sheila Briant

* Elsie Wilmott 
* Rene Broider 
* David Hawkins 
* Dorothy Raddon 
   Iris Parry
* Dennis West
   Dennis West - evacuated to Norfolk 
* Shirley Collier 
   Frances Carter
* Dorothy Holmes
   Louise (of Crondall Street)
   Sheila Hawkins
   Syd Williams 
   Adrian Ziderman
   Barbara DeFries

and some brilliant creative writing here:

The Sights, Sounds and Smells of War - by Shirley Collier  
Footsteps - by Anne Prasad
The Blitz - by Isabel Linden
Blitzed by Night - by Catherina GB
Ethel's Diary - by Kitty Woods

Sound & pictures   The Putting on the Blitz slideshow was made specially for the 70th anniversary of The Blitz, with pictures, voices and music, in which older people answer questions put by children and young people about what life in Hackney was like during The Blitz.

Listening  And you can  listen to Hackney schoolchildren reading aloud seven peoples' memories here - just click on the person's name on this list:
David Hawkins

There were just so many bombs - click here to see where they fell in Hackney just on the first two nights of the Blitz.

ImageThe Bravest of the Brave

Plus - and you must have a look at this bit - you can read some stories here about specially brave people in Hackney. Almost nobody nowadays has heard about what people did to save lives in Hackney: the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney put their names on a Roll of Honour, so that they would always be remembered.  Please click here to see who they were.

This is how TimeLine heard about a few men who were so incredibly brave that they were given special medals by the King of England:  we got a letter from Terence Wood, telling us about his amazing dad.  If you would like to read his letter too, please click here.  After we read it, we could not wait to know more about Terence's father, but we had a problem because Terence forgot to put his address on the letter!  So, our history detectives put their thinking caps on and  ..... soon they had discovered exactly why King George had given Mr Wood a medal for being so brave. 

If you would like to see what we found out, all you need to do is click here to read about some incredible Hackney people in World War Two.  We just hope that Terence finds out that loads of people are learning about his dad here. 

Luckily, the Hackney Archives Department is stuffed with documents and information about what life was like during World War Two - and anyone can just go along and have a look.  For example, if you would like to know what it was like in Hackney on the very first days of the Blitz, click here to read how Mr. Brown describes those first days when he was on duty as an ARP Warden in Hackney.  And please click here to see what information the wardens had to fill in on their Incident Report forms.  If you are a teacher and would like to arrange a visit to the Hackney Archives Department for your class, just give them a ring on 0207 241 2886.

Many people died in Hackney during the Blitz: if you would like to learn how over 160 men, women and children met their deaths one night in a terrible disaster, please click here.

Rene Broider
If you would like to add your memories, please send them by either by e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or by post to TimeLine at PO Box 44684, London N16 0XY so that we can add them to this page.  Please don't forget to tell us your name and your contact details - you will see that each  of the pages we have included in the list on this page has a little Fact File about the person.  If possible, please do include those details too when you send your reminiscences to us. 
When Sheila Briant, the little girl in the picture on this page, grew up she got married to the little boy in the picture on this page.  Nowadays Sheila and David Hawkins live near to London, and they still have a very soft spot for Stoke Newington and Hackney.

Thank you very much to everybody who has helped us to tell these Stories of the Blitz!   And a big thank you to Sweet Patootee for the sound recordings and to David Verry for the picture of people sleeping during the Blitz in Old Street Underground Station; to Joe Jones of Mossbourne Academy and Donald Verry for their photographs; to all the students and teachers at Hackney schools who took part in the Putting on the Blitz event at the Hackney Town Hall, and to Nicola Baboneau of The Learning Trust, who has worked alongside TimeLine every step of the way as we do our best to commemorate Hackney and the Blitz seventy years on.

Dorothy Raddon aged 4

Mellissa Karacas of City Academy, Hackney reading Dorothy Raddon's memories

Chamaria Allen from City Academy, Hackney reading Dorothy Raddon's memories

Elsie Wilmot - 1943

Ines Bert of Rushmore School reading Elsie Wilmott's memories

David Hawkins

Joel Baraitser of Betty Layward School reading David Hawkins' memories

Shirley Collier - 1942

Lettie Williams of Betty Layward School reading Shirley Collier's memories

Rene Broider - 1942

Rebecca Jenkins Waddle of William Patten School reading Rene Broider's memories

Raymond Oke of Hackney Free & Parochial School reading Dennis West's memories

Dorothy Holmes - 1938

Neamh Breen of William Patten School reading memories of Dorothy Holmes

Syd Williams - 1941/2

Adrian Ziderman (right) and siblings

Joe Jones taking photographs at Putting on the Blitz
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