Next week marks the 80th anniversary of the bombing of St Peter’s Church in Walworth. For many local people during the Blitz, the crypt had become their regular air raid shelter, a safety haven where several hundred folks would gather every evening to escape enemy bombardment.
On the night of 28/29 October 1940, two 50 kg semi-armour piercing bombs dropped from a German plane, penetrated the roof and then the floor of the church before exploding in the crypt.
The blasts had a devastating effect, and claimed the lives of at least 67 souls, including one entire family wiped out in a moment of time.
To commemorate those who tragically lost their lives, a handful of events are taking place. The first, on Wednesday 28 October at 7:00pm to 8:00pm, is an online Zoom talk conducted by Neil Crossfield for the People's Company.Neil, who lives close by St Peter’s, will be looking at some of the folks who were deeply affected by the bombing. Neil has carried out extensive research into the lives of a number of the victims, searching wartime records and contacting family members. If you are interested in the history of Walworth this will be something you will not want to miss. Join the Zoom room at:
Meeting ID: 848 4237 3081 Passcode: 336159
The second event is the annual Memorial Service due to be held inside St Peter’s Church on Thursday 29 October at 7:00pm and conducted by the Rev. Alan Wild. Much of what we know about that fateful night comes directly from the detailed memoirs of the Rev. John Markham (pictured below). Markham’s The Church Under Fire is a stirring account of his involvement with civil defence as an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Post Warden and Bomb Reconnaissance Officer in Walworth. All this whilst carrying out his calling as the Rector of St Peter’s Church in Liverpool Grove.
For the service in the church building government guidelines regarding COVID 19 will be observed, such as physical distancing, the wearing of a face mask, track and trace, one way system and hand sanitisation. Although the service is fully expected to go ahead, because of the constantly changing restrictions, you are advised to check details right up to the last minute.
Selected passages from The Church Under Fire have been made into readings by a number of us, ably recorded by our good friend Julia Honess, who has done so much regarding the oral history of Walworth.. These audio files can be found Here (Part A) and Here.(Part B) * Rather poignantly the readings were done in the crypt of St Peter’s Church where the tragedy actually took place 80 years ago, and where the lives of so many local people were cruelly cut short.
We will remember them.
* Recorded extracts from the private papers of Reverend John Gabriel Markham, Rector of St Peter's Church, Walworth 1937-1944. Read by Steven Davies, Jack McInroy, Neil Crossfield, Father Alan Wild, Nigel Scott-Dickeson. Thanks to Julia Honess, Walworth Society, InSpire at St Peter's and St Peter's Church, Walworth. Please note that slight edits and changes of order have been made for these recordings. The original papers are held at the Imperial War Museum.