A London Metropolitan police commander has paid tribute to seven firemen killed by a German bomb dropped on Soho 80 years ago, one of them having been his Jewish great-uncle from the East End.
In a ceremony held on Friday, Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Clayman, BCU Commander for the Met’s East Area (Barking & Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge), remembered his relative Myer Wand, an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) firefighter killed by the bomb at the start of the Blitz on 18 September 1940.
Wand, a 31-year old father when he died, lived in Stepney, Tower Hamlets, was killed by the bombing of their Rathbone Place fire station that day.
Harry Errington, who was later awarded the George Cross by King George VI for his bravery and endurance on the night survived, making him one of very few firefighters in London to have received a Gallantry medal.
The German high explosive bomb demolished the whole building, killing the firemen and several civilians sheltering there, and ahead of the Rathbone Street ceremony this week the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said a plaque would be fitted at the site.
Addressing fellow officers, Clayman said he was there “to remember the sacrifice that these firemen made and the gallantry they have shown”.
He said: “The building that was in use as a fire sub-station received a direct hit. 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, Myer Wand, his colleagues and a number of civilians were very seriously injured and died as a result of their injuries.”
He said it was “remarkable” that the building itself still stands today, and that the plaque would be “a poignant reminder” of the Blitz and its impact on London.
“I can’t imagine what it must have felt like, especially for the emergency services working there at the time,” said Clayman. “This is only one example of such an incident – the Blitz costs thousands of lives.
“I am extremely proud to follow in my great-uncle’s footsteps and protect Londoners by working in our emergency services. Myer and Harry were both from the London Jewish community, the children of immigrants.
“My great-grandfather arrived in the UK at the turn of the last century, escaping the antisemitism of Eastern Europe and seeking a better life. Like so many immigrant communities, they have contributed to London life, culture and prosperity.”