Civilians of Streatham – Remember Them Too!

By: Lee Alley, with John Brown

In November we celebrated Remembrance in the largest civic memorial service in Lambeth at the Streatham War Memorial. Every year I’m asked what the solemn dark-grey obelisk behind the crowd is. It’s the statue to the civilians of  Streatham who died in conflicts over the years.

Sadly they’ve become an afterthought of community memory as they played a key role defending the country. As someone who found himself in the middle of two wars in the past 25 years, and lost good friends in each, this isn’t something I say lightly.

Soldiers can’t project force without lots of support. The estimate for WW2 was 10 people in support roles behind the lines for every solider on the front. For each of them at least 10 kept the economy, production, logistics, management, civil defence (firefighters, medics, etc) going back home. Streatham had its own encounters with enemy fire and the evidence can still be seen today. When you see a terrace or street of Victorian housing with the occasional modern (or 1930s) house or block in the middle this is almost always where bombs fell.

Thanks to Wandsworth Heritage Service’s microfiche copies of the South London Press reports we mentioned in Issue 5 (July 2014), you can read of L31 Zeppelin’s raid that followed the railway from Eastbourne through Streatham up to Battersea 100 years ago this past September. Premises on Greyhound Lane and Estreham Road opposite Streatham Common Station were hit leaving 9 people injured. The zeppelin continued, bombing Gleneagle Road and Leigham Court Road before killing 5 men at Streatham Hill Modern School near Streatham Hill Station.

In Zeppelins Over Streatham, John Brown of the Streatham Society wrote: ‘During a period of less than 15 minutes, Heinrich Mathy had dropped a total of 32 bombs on Streatham...killed seven people and had seriously injured a further 27 in what was the worst night of destruction Streatham had ever known.’ When you remember our fallen in the wars, spare a thought for these folk too.

Image of Streatham Hill Modern School, destroyed by a zeppelin raid in World War 1