Dolphin Square during the Blitz

During the night of 22nd September 1940, Pimlico was severely bombed and many local residents sought shelter in the basement of Hawkins House, one of 13 residential blocks in the Dolphin Square estate (built 1935-1937).

When the Blitz began, Dolphin Square had offered its premises for vital war services: Grenville House hosted elements of the Free French Government-in-exile, the Square’s gymnasium became a temporary first aid post and hospital and an air raid shelter was opened under Frobisher House. The Square’s underground garage was converted into an ambulance depot.

On 22 September, the Square’s shelters and its own air raid precautions (ARP) depot were crowded with civilians and members of local Heavy Rescue Service teams seeking shelter after reports of an unexploded highly explosive bomb in the neighbourhood.

Shortly after 11pm a highly explosive bomb hit the crowded Hawkins House shelter and nearby 90 Claverton Street. Many civilians were buried underneath the rubble. Due to the earlier evacuation of the Heavy Rescue teams to the ARP depot, rescuers were deployed to the destroyed shelter within minutes. A coal gas main was damaged and with no light, the rescue team’s approach was limited to a single passageway filled with poisonous fumes.

Within thirty minutes 58 residents were taken out along the narrow escape route. Eight squads of stretcher-bearers brought casualties into the first aid post and the underground depot. The first aid post was equipped to handle minor and light wounds, but on 22 September was soon filled with severely injured.

On 15 October Dolphin Square was bombed again. This time, a highly explosive bomb made a direct hit on the underground garage, damaging and destroying 154 parked vehicles. The resulting fire was fought strenuously and eventually brought under control. Another bomb hit the south-eastern corner of Dolphin Square and at 2.30am a third bomb hit a ramp leading to the garage.

During the Blitz – 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941- Dolphin Square suffered over a dozen separate bombing incidents, which left twelve people dead. Beatty, Hawkins, Frobisher, Rayleigh, Drake and Grenville Houses were amongst the worst damaged.

Dolphin Square 1939 (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Dolphin Square 1939 (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
First Aid Class in Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
First Aid Class in Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Stretcher Part at Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Stretcher Part at Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Mobile Unit at Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Mobile Unit at Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Civil Defence and First Aid personnel at Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Civil Defence and First Aid personnel at Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Bomb Map - Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)
Bomb Map – Dolphin Square (Copyright: Westminster City Archives)

Source: West End at War

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