|Cover to the book - Bill Regan at front, extreme right (author's photo)
|Wartime damage repairs to Greenwich Foot Tunnel still apparent today (author's photo)
Arguably the saddest part of the diary also shows that despite becoming hardened to the worst that the Blitz could throw at him, Bill Regan's humanity remained intact in the aftermath of the bombing of Saunders Ness School, in use by the Auxiliary Fire Service and which was largely destroyed on the night of 18th September 1940 with great loss of life. It soon became clear that the majority of the work for Bill's Squad would be recovery of victims, rather than rescue and he writes with great tenderness of how he personally insisted on removing the bodies of two young AFS Firewomen who had been recovered some time after the actual incident. These two girls were quite unmarked, looking to all effects as if they were sleeping and Bill's account of how he gently removed the two girls is extremely moving. Bill later learned that the two girls were named Joan Bartlett, aged 18 and Violet Pengelly, aged 19. They had the same Christian names as his own daughters (as well as his wife, Vi) and this fact moved Bill to tears.
|Memorial Plaque at Millwall Fire Station to Joan Bartlett and Violet Pengelly (author's photo)
From the violence of the First Blitz, Bill Regan's diary goes on to cover life on the Island during the relatively quiet years of 1942 and 1943 before covering the Little Blitz and the V-1 campaign of 1944. The diaries end rather abruptly in mid-August 1944 without covering the remaining part of the V-1 campaign and omitting the V-2 Rocket incidents and VE Day completely, so perhaps this is the portion of the diary that Bill had already disposed of when his daughter Ann discovered it.
Despite this minor disappointment, Ann Regan-Atherton, together with Mick Lemmerman and Con Maloney have produced a fascinating and invaluable record of life in wartime London and I highly recommend it to you. The book runs to 200 pages and is priced at a very reasonable £10.95, with all proceeds from sales being donated to the Friends of Island History Trust, which is a charitable trust run by local people who wish to preserve and record the local history of the Isle of Dogs.
Heavy Rescue Squad Work on the Isle of Dogs: Bill Regan's Second World War Diaries - Ann Regan-Atherton, editors Mick Lemmerman and Con Maloney - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. ISBN 9781519610867