East Area police chief marks Blitz 80th anniversary with tribute to great uncle from Stepney
- Credit: Archant
A memorial service has been held to pay tribute to seven firefighters who lost their lives at the start of the Blitz.
Det Ch Supt Stephen Clayman, borough commander for Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge, spoke at the service on Friday, September 18 to remember the men, one of whom was his great uncle Myer Wand, from Stepney.
The event marked the 80th anniversary of the start of Nazi Germany’s Blitz bombing campaign in the Second World War.
The men lost their lives after an enemy bomb made a direct hit on Soho’s Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) sub-station in Rathbone Street, demolishing the building and killing all seven as well as sheltering civilians.
Mr Wand was a member of the East End’s Jewish community and was 31 when he died. He was survived by his wife and son.
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To commemorate the day, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) held a service at Rathbone Street to recognise and honour the firefighters.
As part of the remembrance service, a plaque was arranged for the site of the sub-station to recognise the sacrifice made by London’s firemen and remember the events that unfolded 80 years ago.
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The plaque, which is due to be officially unveiled at a later date, will be placed at the side of the sub-station. It also honours Harry Errington, an AFS firefighter who risked his life on the night to rescue two of his comrades from the basement of the three-storey garage.
Mr Errington was later awarded the George Cross by King George VI for his bravery and endurance on the night of September 18, making him one of very few firefighters in London to have received a Gallantry medal.
Det Ch Supt Clayman said: “Myer Wand and Harry Errington were both from the London Jewish community and were the children of immigrants.
“My great-grandfather arrived in the UK at the turn of the last century, escaping the anti-semitism of eastern Europe and seeking a better life.
“Like so many immigrant communities, they have contributed to London life, culture and prosperity.
“Thank you to all of our modern-day firefighters and other emergency service workers for their quick thinking and their efforts at protecting the public, as they are always walking towards danger.”
Due to the Covid restrictions, the remembrance was kept to a small number, but the plaque will be officially made viewable to the public when restrictions allow.
Det Ch Supt Clayman said: “Today, 80 years on from the terrible events that unfolded, we remember the sacrifice that these firemen made and the gallantry they have shown.
“The building, which was in use as a fire sub-station, received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb. The floors above collapsed as the vehicles and the garage petrol store, also above, crashed into the basement creating a huge ball of fire.
“My great-uncle, his colleagues and a number of civilians were very seriously injured and died as a result of their injuries.
“Remarkably the building itself still stands today and the placement of the plaque is a poignant reminder of the Blitz and the impact on London and other cities, along with the toll it must have taken on those who lived through it.
“I can’t imagine what it must have felt like, especially for the emergency services working there at the time.
“We must remember the families that tragically lost their loved ones.
“It is worth remembering that these firefighters, like modern day emergency service workers including the police, represent London communities.
“I am extremely proud to follow in my great-uncle’s footsteps and protect Londoners by working in our emergency services.”
London Fire Brigade borough commander Rodney Vitalis said: “Remembering and recognising our history is incredibly important to us.
“For our firefighters, who now work at Soho Fire Station 80 years on, the bravery of those who preceded us is inspiring and it’s an honour that we are able to celebrate their memories by organising a plaque which will be placed at the site of the sub-station.”