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Page last updated at 10:26 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Londoner remembers the Stainer Street bombings

A former WW2 soldier and air raid warden relives one of London's worst nights of the Blitz and tries to trace his fellow workers at the Stainer Street Wine Cellars.

Workers from B.M.& J. Strauss Wine Sellars in Stainer Street, Bermondsey
Do you know someone in this photo?

Jim Smith, 89, who now lives in Brisbane, Australia, sent BBC London a photograph of himself and his co-workers from the B.M.& J. Strauss Wine Sellars in Stainer Street, Bermondsey.

Many of the men went into the army shortly after this photograph was taken.

Jim himself was a cellarman and an air raid warden when WW2 started and received his call up papers the day before the Stainer Street bombing.

DO YOU RECOGNISE ANYONE?

If you know someone in the photograph and have any memories you would like to share with Jim then please email yourlondon@bbc.co.uk and we will pass on your details.

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Jim explains: 'I went home from work one night and found my calling up papers for the army. I was on duty as an air raid warden in Ossory Road, Camberwell and the adjacent Old Kent Road. The raids were very bad that night and when I arrived at work the next morning I was horrified to find that a bomb had gone right through the roof of the arch.'

'I went into the army shortly after that and eventually became a radio operator.'

'We landed on Arromanches beach with the 50th Northumbrian Division on D Day and travelled in a Jeep with a liaison officer as far as Walcheren Island.'

'I was sent back to England for Christmas 1944 and given 28 days leave. I got married and after eight days went back to camp and was sent to India, Burma and Sumatra for 18 months.'

Jim Smith, centre, served as a radio operator during WW2.
Jim Smith, centre, served as a radio operator during WW2.

'I wondered if any of your viewers might recognise any of these men. I am fourth from the right, front row and 20 years old. I will be 90 on 15 June.'

If you know someone in the photograph and have any memories you would like to share with Jim then please email yourlondon@bbc.co.uk and we will pass on your details.

Stainer Street Bombings

During the Blitz from 1940 to 1941 high explosive bombs were dropped on many areas of London with Bermondsey getting struck more than anywhere else in the capital.

The numerous railway arches in this area acted as air raid shelters for thousands of residents. In one raid 23 people died and in 1940 alone 99 bombs were dropped.

The Southwark Blue Plaque in Stainer Street
The Southwark Blue Plaque in Stainer Street

One of the worst nights was on 17 February 1941 when a bomb hit an air raid shelter in Stainer Street near London Bridge station. Out of 300 people who were taking shelter in the arch that night 68 were killed and 175 people injured.

Many of the dead were hit by the 10 tonne steel doors that were at each end of the shelter.

It is thought that many of the victims were never recovered from the rubble and they remain entombed there to this day.

In 2003 Southwark Council erected a blue plaque in Stainer Street to remember those who died. The plaque, as voted for people of the borough, states;

'Stainer Street Arch Bombing - On the night of 17th February 1941 a bomb fell onto the arch where people were sheltering from an air raid. 68 people died and 175 were injured'.




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