29th December was the 75th anniversary of the bombing raid on the City that created the fire storm known as the second great fire of London. I joined many others in the City on the 29th to remember that day. Vintage fire engines were outside St Paul's Cathedral and at Dowgate Fire Station and could be seen and heard driving through the streets, with their crews dressed in the uniforms of the period. There were second world war soldiers and airmen, along with newspaper sellers and general public all equipped with their gas masks. Massey Shaw, the fireboat, was on the Thames pumping water as it had done 75 years ago. An air raid siren sounded (rather more quietly than it would have done in 1940) and finally there was a short service of commemoration for the fire fighters who lost their lives, by the Fire Fighters Memorial close to St Paul's Cathedral. The Fire Fighters Memorial is well sited in the shadow of this iconic building. In 1940, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that St Paul's must be saved at all costs, and it was. It is a favourite story of mine to tell visitors about the incendiary device that lodged in the dome and which, had it fallen inwards, could have spelt the end of the Cathedral. However it fell outwards and was extinguished. Wren's great cathedral rose from the embers of one great fire and survived this second one and it is still one of the most wonderful buildings anywhere in my view. I never get tired of it.
Churchill described the firefighters as heroes with grimy faces and how true that still is today. It was wonderful to see a modern appliance and its crew join the procession and the service on the 29th.
My Father, who is now in his nineties, remembers the 29th December 1940 because as an air raid warden in the Docks, he could see the glow in the sky as the City burned. I was glad to be part of the events to remember what he and all his contemporaries went through.
For a great description of the 29th December go to A London Inheritance