Friday, 3 October 2008

Magdalen Laver: Blitz Of The Harvest Moon

‘The Blitz of the Harvest Moon’ (24 September to 1 October 1917) was the most intense period of German aid raids on London during the Great War. (see entry, ‘The First Blitz’, 12.9.08). Revd. Edward Reeve, Rector of Stondon Massey, wrote of his experience at the time dodging the shrapnel in Magdalen Laver. Knowing the places personally one can follow his footsteps that moonlit September evening. He wrote in his notes [ERO T/P 188/3]:

3rd October 1917

We have had a succession of nightly raids during the moonlit period.

The evening of Wed Sep 26 was cloudy. This kept off the Germans and we held a Harvest Thanksgiving Service at Stondon Church undisturbed by alarms!

On Saturday a number of the enemy appear to have got through to London and to have caused considerable damage. The loss of life and number of personal injuries is not perhaps so great as might have been expected, but the population has been instructed to take shelter, and numbers have been accommodated in underground shelters, and in the corridors of halls of our underground and “Tube” railways.

Guns have been greatly multiplied lately all round London, and here at Stondon we are nearly in the centre of a ring of fire, guns being placed at Epping, North Weald, Fyfield, Radley Green, Swallows Cross, Barretts Corner, Ingatestone, the nearer London suburbs and so round to Epping again. The danger for us is the dropping of our own shells.

On Sunday evening Sept 30 a Harvest Festival Service was held at Magdalen Laver Church and I was invited to preach the sermon. The moon was full, and there was a good congregation. I did not expect the probable Raid till past eight o’clock and most people elected to stay awhile in the building. I was to stay the night with Sir Godfrey Thomas at Wynters, and we had about 1½ mile to walk from the Church. We set out, and had reached the Rectory when the scream of the shells and the roar of the guns all round us suggested shelter there temporarily. A number of pedestrians followed our example. When, after half an hour or more we pursued our way we found in the solid granite highway a hole some 5 inches in diameter and a foot of more in depth made by a falling shell, and we were ready to admit that our delay has been dictated by prudence. Lady Thomas and the other ladies with us were not sorry I think when Wynters was safely reached at a little before nine o’clock. The bombardment lasted about an hour longer.

On Tuesday Oct 2nd we heard the heavy drone of German “Gothas” at mid-day, but understand that the raiders met a “warm reception” and returned without reaching London.

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