"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

November 04, 2008

DOCKLANDS ABLAZE

Photo: Museum of London
West India Docks, Sept. 7, 1941

The Docklands were a prime target for German bombers during the Blitz of 1940-41, and firefighters faced a variety of hazards.

In the 1949 book ``Fire Service Memoirs,'' Chief Fire Officer Aylmer Firebrace recalled:

``There were pepper fires, loading the surrounding air heavily with stinging particles so that when a fireman took a deep breath it felt like breathing fire itself.

``There were rum fires, with torrents of blazing liquid pouring from the warehouse door and barrels exploding like bombs themselves.

``There was a paint fire, another cascade of white hot flame, coating the pump with varnish that could not be cleaned off for weeks.

``A rubber fire gave forth black clouds of smoke that could only be fought from a distance, always threatening to choke the attackers.''