To commemorate the 75th year anniversary of the 37 people killed in Sandringham Road by a German bomb during World War Two, Watford Borough Council is hosting a service of remembrance at North Watford Cemetery for those who died in worst loss of life in Watford during the Blitz.
On Sunday 30 July 1944, a V1 flying bomb killed 37 people on Sandringham Road, injured 64 others, wiped out 50 homes and caused significant damage to 500 other local houses. After the war, local people and other Watford residents came together to rebuild the street and a communal funeral was held for the victims, with a memorial being erected on the street in August 1950.
Local newspaper the Watford Observer reported back in 2014 on the disaster.
Pamela Hart was just 15 months old when the bomb fell directly onto her family home. Her four-year-old brother Peter was trapped in the rubble, while her mother Violet was buried alive for more than seven hours. Pamela nee Howard, now 71, said: “It was a direct hit on our house. I was in a cot, I was blown out and somehow ended up sat on top of the rubble.
“They dug my brother out first, my mother was trapped for seven hours – I think something collapsed on her and that’s what took so long. We were really lucky to be alive. When she was pulled out, my mum was so swollen from the blast, her own father didn’t recognise her.”
Pamela’s aunt was also in the house, none of the family were seriously injured. But three other children in the street died in the explosion.
Pamela said the siren noises that sounded at the nearby factory to call the workers back to their shift always frightened her as a child and she never really knew why.
“My mum didn’t really talk about it until she was in her 80s. She always said she remembered it like yesterday.”
After the bomb, the Howards were left with nothing – no clothes and nowhere to live – but knowing they were lucky to survive.
Pamela’s soldier father, George, who was recuperating in hospital after being injured, didn’t know about the bomb until he saw the photograph of their blasted house in a daily newspaper.
The image (above), which shows the remains of the Howard’s house, has become one of the defining pictures of the devastation caused by the Sandringham Road bomb – now commonly referred to as the biggest tragedy of the 20th century in South West Hertfordshire.
Shortly after, the family moved into a house on Parkgate Road, opposite their destroyed home. As with many areas damaged by the War, the gap in period housing tells its own story with the epicentre of the blast still obvious below.
The V1 rocket was the first long-range missile and though very primitive with a non existing targeting system, if the bomb was were to hit then it was deadly. V1 Rockets were often known as Buzz-bombs and they would emit a distinct noise from the rocket engines. If you could hear the noise then you knew you were ok but if the engine spluttered to a halt then it mean’t you were in grave danger as the rocket was plummet straight to the ground. You can hear an actual recording below.
In the early part of the war British Double Agents and the BBC released reports stating that many of the rockets were going to far and north of London and to a degree this hd an affect as many more later fell in the relatively rural county of Sussex, south of London.
V1 rockets were relatively slow and with some skill and luck could be shot out of the skies if they were in clear view and away from civilian buildings.
Brave Spitfire pilots could out their life at stake by flying along side the V1 Rockets and nudging them ever so gently with their wings and so send them off at a slight angle which would often be enough to miss London and hopefully land somewhere less densely populated.
A 75th anniversary memorial service has been arranged to be held on 30th July at 11.00am. The service will be held at North Watford Cemetery by the A41 and will consist of a service, wreath laying, roll call and silence followed by a release of doves and refreshments, talks and artefacts from the tragedy.