Friday, November 05, 2010
Remember, remember the fifth of November...(and other things)
This was the "traditional" introduction on the PA to tonight's Newham Mayor Guy Fawkes Night Firework display on Wanstead flats. Click on College to bring up detail.
The venue was packed with local residents with lots of families - kids, parents, uncle and aunties and grandparents, all together and enjoying the occasion. Thankfully the rain held off, it was quite warm and the sky was relatively clear.
The firework display and music was simply fantastic and a real special treat. It was enthusiastically received by the crowd.
The explosions, bangs and bright lights did I must admit once again set me thinking about this location 70 years ago during the London Blitz. When Wanstead flats was the site of massive anti-aircraft batteries, barrage balloon stations and search lights trying to defend East London against German bombers. Every few minutes or so tonight you could see an aircraft fly (high) over the display. Some of the fireworks resembled the "Ack-Ack" anti-aircraft tracer fire and the flares that would have been fired in anger from roughly the same spot during those terrible times.
Last week while waiting to attend the Civic Reception for our local Territorial Battalion, 7 Rifles, at the Old Town Hall, Stratford I had a look at the Newham special exhibition to remember the 70th Anniversary of the Blitz. Local residents of the time were quoted as saying that the first they knew of the mass raid on 7 September 1940 was when they heard the guns in Wanstead flats open fire on the enemy.
My Scottish Grandfather served in London during the Second World War in a Edinburgh TA Royal Artillery anti-aircraft regiment. We are not sure where he was based but the family think that it could have been on Wanstead flats. My father remembered as a child travelling down by train from Edinburgh with his Mum and little sister to visit my Grandfather and staying with a local London family in a terrace house overlooking a "park". Who knows - it could even be the street or even house I live in now. Wouldn't it be great to find out?
Later during the war this part of Wanstead flats had a German prison of war camp built on it. It has also been used ever since as a site for large fun fairs and circus. During the 2012 Olympics the Police are proposing to temporally site a "briefing centre" at this spot.
On the way out I bumped into Newham Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, who had during the event been wearing his chain of office and had spent most of the evening being asked by children to pose for a picture of them with him.