Tuesday 31 October 2023

Book Review: Streatham's 41

Cover of Streatham's 41 (author's image)

In mid-June 1944, Londoners could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that the days of attacks on them from the air were a thing of the past but on 13 June, a new threat to their safety appeared in the form of the V-1, the first of Hitler’s Vergeltungswaffen or “Vengeance Weapons”. In excess of 2,400 of these early cruise missiles were to fall upon London in a campaign that was to last until early September 1944, in which the various neighbourhoods of south and southeast London bore the brunt,

The original edition of this account was written by Kenneth Bryant, Senior District Air Raid Warden of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth and appeared in 1946 as a basic record of the forty-one flying bombs that fell upon the south London suburb of Streatham. In 2019 an updated and expanded edition was produced by the Streatham Society to mark the 75th anniversary of the campaign and which has recently been re-issued once again.

This attractive A4 softback booklet provides a detailed analysis of each of “Streatham’s 41” flying bombs, each one accompanied by a map, as well as personal accounts from those affected by each incident and where available, contemporary photographs of the aftermath of each bomb.

In addition, there are useful and informative chapters on the organisation of the ARP (Air Raid Precautions), later the Civil Defence Service in general and in particular within the Borough of Wandsworth. There is also a brief history and timeline of the V-1 offensive and the counter-measures put in place, as well as an interesting chapter covering the human cost of the campaign and financial cost of rebuilding in Streatham, most notably the “pre-fabs” that sprung up across London as a temporary solution to re-housing those who had been rendered homeless.

There is also a chapter on the design of the V-1, which leads to my only minor gripe with the book, in so far that the authors describe the propulsion system as a ram jet, whereas in fact the V-1s were propelled by a pulse jet system, which gave rise to the peculiar rasping sound made by the engine.

Overall though, this is an excellent local history publication which should be of interest to Home Front historians as well as those with a love of our capital city’s history.

Streatham's 41: The V-1 Flying Bomb Offensive as experienced in Streatham

Author: Kenneth Bryant (updated edition prepared by John W Brown)

Published by The Streatham Society (www.streathamsociety.org.uk)

RRP £11.00

Softback, pp 90