"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

February 02, 2010

SAVED BY SANTA

On the day after Christmas 1965, the London Fire Brigade raced to St. Matthew's Hospital and extingished flames that threatened a ward for elderly women.

"These people were saved by Christmas," said a police officer quoted by the Associated Press. "The rest of London is empty. At any other time of the year we would never have got here in time."

The fire, which broke out below the ward, "was quickly brought under control after every London district had rushed ambulances and fire fighting equipment to the scene," the AP reported.

"When the fire was discovered, the fire brigade declared a major emergency" and "after it was out, smoke still poured from the building," according to the AP dispatch, published in the Dec. 26, 1965, edition of The Miami News in Florida.

The hospital, built in 1873 as City Road Workhouse by the Holborn Board of Guardians, was damaged during World War Two, according to the London Metropolitan Archives.

On Dec. 8, 1940, St. Matthew's "received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb, which killed many patients and some members of staff and destroyed part of the old south ward block," according to the archives.

The hospital closed in 1986.