Canary Wharf Remembers

Published: 11 Nov 2014
Category: Latest News

 

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As the world remembers the Great War 100 years ago, at Protem we thought we would reflect on this Centenary and the part Docklands, Canary Wharf and our home at South Quay played in the great conflict.

London’s Docklands at the the beginning of the 20th Century was one of the busiest docks in the world.  When the War started in July 1914 the livelihood of the Dockers was drastically changed.  From an excess of poorly paid casual labouring Dockers who were competing for work, labour shortages created full time employment and even overtime for the workers. So much so that in the early months of the War 250 skilled labourers were sent to work at French ports dealing with Soldiers and equipment.

Attack from the air

Although many people think of Air raids and the Blitz as part of World War II, Canary Wharf along with the rest of London suffered aerial raids between 1914 and 1918 killing more than 500 people. Of the 74 aerial raids, 22 were by the German Gotha G bomber planes and 52 Zeppelin raids.

The Isle of Dogs was hit twice in these raids. Firstly on 7 September 1915, Zeppelin SL.2 dropped bombs along the line of Westferry Road before crossing the river to continue bombing in Deptford. On 24/25 August 1916 Westferry Road was again attacked by Zeppelin L.31 on the when it began its bombing drive over South East London.

Silvertown explosion

However not all the bombs came from above. Silvertown was home to the Brunner-Mond munitions factory making weapons for the armed forces, but 2 years in to the war with a shortage of shells the government decided to use the factory for the very dangerous process of creating TNT. On 19 January 1917 the unthinkable happened, a fire broke out in the factory and 50 tons of TNT exploded in one of the largest explosions in British history. 73 people died and hundreds were injured. The Silvertown explosion as it came to be known damaged 70,000 properties, with 900 nearby ones destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The blast shattered windows in the Savoy hotel 7 miles away and could be heard in Pall Mall.

Memorials

Memorials for those who lost their lives in the Great War are spread across the Canary Wharf area. In Barclay's Bank headquarters at 1 Churchill Place there are many memorials rehoused from Barclays old offices in Lombard Street in the City of London.

  • Liverpool and Martins bank WWI memorial
  • London and South Western Bank World War I memorial
  • Barclays bank World War I memorial
  • London & Provincial bank World War I memorial
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