On Saturday 19th April 1997, on the anniversary of the tragic bombing of the Old palace School in Poplar, a Dedication Ceremony took place at the site of the former Old Palace School, St. Leonard’s Street, London The Dedication Ceremony Order of Service is shown below and was kindly donated to me by Bryan Wotton, son of AFS Fireman Herbert Charles Wotton:
The tragic events surrounding the bombing of the Old Palace School had remained unpublished because of emergency Defense Regulations. The full details were finally uncovered six decades later by the wonderful Firemen Remembered charity which unveiled a memorial in April 1997, at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, on the site of the old school destroyed 56 years before. The story only came to light when William Somerville’s Son, Frank, discovered the story in his Father’s diaries. William Somerville was a member of the AFS Sub-Station in Millborne Street School, Hackney and he would have been at the Old Palace School that night, had he not been on leave. The other six members of his crew died that night. Realising what an effect the tragedy had on his Father, Frank decided to arrange for a commemorative plaque to be sited at the rebuilt school.
The dedication ceremony took place on Saturday 19th April 1997 at The Old Palace School Site, St. Leonard’s Street, London. The Plaque was unveiled by Cyril Demarne OBE, the former Chief Fire Officer of West Ham Fire Brigade, in the presence of The Mayor of The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Councillor Albert Jacob, The Chair of The London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, Councillor Judith Josling, the families, colleagues and friends of those who died and representatives from The London Fire Brigade, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, Old Palace School and the local community.
“In memory of the 13 London firemen and women and 21 Beckenham firemen killed on the night of 19th April 1941 when a bomb destroyed the old school being used as a sub-fire station. This is the largest single loss of Fire Brigade personnel in English history. Details of this tragic incident were recorded in the wartime diaries of Mr W. Somerville, an off duty member of the Homerton crew. It is to him and the many thousands of men and women that made up the A.F.S and the N.F.S 1939-1945 that this plaque is also dedicated.
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