Hoe Street is a central part of Walthamstow running from Lea Bridge Road to the other side of Walthamstow on Forest Road. It is packed with restaurants, churches, pubs and bakeries making it one of the busiest roads in Walthamstow. A lesser known fact about Hoe Street is that it was devastated by a V1 bomb during World War II, one of the worst bombings Walthamstow has ever had to endure.
On the morning of August 16, 1944, Hoe Street was hit by a V1 bomb, killing hundreds of Walthamstow residents in this deadly attack. 22 people died from this bomb, 144 were injured and many surrounding buildings were damaged or destroyed. The bomb hit the corner of Hoe Street and Church Hill, the area was then occupied by Hitchman’s Dairies, a milk distribution center and the Livermore Brothers, a former well-established clothier’s shop.
According to Walthamstow Memories, locals heard a buzzing sound shortly before 10 a.m. that sounded like a “loud coarse raspberry”. As London had been repeatedly hit by these V1 flying bombs, dubbed ‘Buzz Bombs’, ‘Doodlebugs’ and ‘Flying Bombs’ by the British, many already knew what the buzz meant and quickly hid in shops and surrounding buildings. The locals knew that as long as you could hear the hum you would be fine, only if the noise stopped would it mean something sinister.
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Walthamstow Memories said of the bombing: ‘Those who looked up saw what looked like an airplane with short stubby wings and a drainpipe on its back. The noise stopped and there was a short dead silence before the flying bomb dropped and exploded. There was a double bang followed by a shock wave and an awful silence. Shortly after, a veil of dust filled the air and settled on everything.
Dick Langstaff told Walthamstow Memories: “One Saturday lunchtime we heard the sound of a V1 approaching and mum and I walked into the shelter. As it passed its engine stopped we we expected the worst but it started again, having apparently been damaged by AA fire, finally stopping and crashing into the Hitchman’s Dairy depot in Hoe Street, causing many deaths Aunt Dora had a chance to escape; having mistaken a whistle at the Bains for the local warning of an impending attack, she took cover, otherwise she would have been in the dairy.”
The bomb directly hit the milk and drapery store, but also damaged the roof and lobby of the Granada cinema, causing it to close for months after the bomb. The bomb also damaged the spire of the Marsh Street Congregational Church further up the road, meaning it had to be replaced later.
The bomb damage lasted for years after the attack. Rodney Silk told Walthamstow Memories: “For six years, just after the war, I used to drive past this place on a bus on my way to school. It took many years before the damaged area was finally cleared and a new development was built on the site. I clearly remember seeing the badly damaged Burton tailors building around the corner from the main street with the pool tables still in place on the top floor which was all open to the elements.
Since this terrible attack, the area of Hoe Street and Church Hill has been completely redeveloped. Now home to restaurants and new homes it has become a Walthamstow destination spot, soon further down the road the new theater will also be in place. You would have a hard time understanding what happened there 77 years ago.