City of London Commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Worst Blitz Raid

On December 29th London commemorated the 75th anniversary of one of the worst raids of the Blitz. To begin the commemoration, the City of London sounded an air raid siren. On December 29, 1940 at 6:05 pm precisely, the streets in Square Mile echoed with that siren, that once warned everyone in the city that the Nazis had started bombing.

Organizers of the event decided to go with a hand-operated siren instead of the original pole-mounted equipment, because they feared if they used the pole equipment it would raise fear in the people living in the city and cause a panic.

One would think that there wouldn’t be much preparation for a simple event such as this, but the organizers have had to take extra precautions. One of the police spokeswomen said that the organizers had given notice to the police department when and where the siren would be sounded. They ensured that it was just for the commemoration, and that no danger was imminent. The rise in fear and the need for extra precautions was due to several rumors and warnings that a terrorist attack would take place on New Year’s Eve. The fear was the siren would make people think there was a warning and a cause for panic and concern.

A man who works for the Fire Service Preservation Group, Neil Bloxham, said that this siren will be something that people haven’t heard in a long time. He also said that the sirens used will be from the wartime Tangye system. These systems were mainly used in schools or factories and were distinct from the original wartime siren, this means that the sounds of the sirens were not confused with each other. Mr Bloxham mentioned that the original three-phase siren that would be used is too loud for an event such as this. It is designed to be heard from miles away and this could cause problems and alarm people.

One of the organizers of the event, David Rogers, said that although it will be loud, the siren won’t be as loud as the original that was used during the first raid. They will try to do as much as they can so people will come and enjoy the event.

The siren is just located outside of Dowgate fire station by Lower Thames Street, which is about a half mile from St. Paul’s. The people working with the organization, like the Fire Service Preservation Group and the Massey Shaw Education Trust, dressed up in vintage uniforms to play the part. They then took a convoy of World War II fire appliances to the cathedral for a service, commemorating at the fighters’ memorial those who fought for Britain.

Decades ago, December 20 through 30 in 1940, the raid was known as the Second Great Fire of London. On the night of the raid some  24,000 explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on the city by the Luftwaffe.  Those bombs altogether started more than 1,500 fires which developed into a large blaze that nearly destroyed St. Paul’s.   Thanks to major efforts on the part of firemen and volunteers, the fire was put out before it reached the cathedral. But more than 160 people were killed.

The air raid horn was in operation up until the early 1990s, but was decommissioned because radio and television had become more popular sources of alerting the people and communicating danger to them.

These air raid horns, played an important part in the war and they  helped to save lives during the Blitz.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE