Peabody Close, Pimlico

Ronan Thomas writes at the West End at War website:

“At 3 am on 1 July 1944, in pouring rain, a V1 flying bomb slammed into the Peabody Building flats just off Westmoreland Terrace, by Lupus Road at the southern end of Peabody Avenue, Pimlico SW1. Seven people were killed and 85 injured.

Mercifully, most of the residents of these six Peabody blocks (built in 1875) were already gathered in surface shelters following a previous incident on 30 June when another V1 hit nearby Winchester Street.

The shelters successfully withstood the blast and so limited casualties. But Block Y was completely destroyed. Blocks K, L, M, X, Z and Block 1 of Peabody Close were badly damaged.

Electricity supplies were cut off; gas mains were ruptured and leaking; those in the shelters were plunged into darkness. The heavy rain added to the confusion and arriving rescue teams found their access restricted in and out of the debris.

The local Civil Defence Post mobilised quickly and ambulances, mortuary vans and a mobile canteen were all dispatched to the scene. As the incident unfolded, Westminster Civil Defence records show that every care was taken for the Peabody tenants. Requests were made for cod liver oil for the displaced children and epilepsy medicine for several others. By 5.45 am, over 300 residents had been evacuated to rest centres elsewhere in Westminster.

The flying bomb assault on this part of Pimlico was not finished. On 5 July a second V1 exploded yards away, on nearby 93 Westmoreland Terrace. Ten people were killed; 62 others were injured and taken from the scene by army lorries. Repair crews working on the 1 July Peabody Avenue attack site were temporarily trapped in the rubble. Hundreds of people were made homeless; removal vans carried away the salvaged belongings of over 200 separate families. Rescue efforts were again hampered by broken coal gas mains. In Westmoreland Terrace, Blocks L and M suffered serious damage. Four other blocks (K,L,M,Y) were subsequently demolished.

To celebrate VE Day on 8 May 1945, Peabody residents held a joyous and well-attended street party outside Block D, Peabody Avenue. Block 1 in neighbouring Peabody Close was rebuilt in the 1950s. A new 55-flat block was opened at the southern end of the Peabody Avenue estate in 2011.”

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