A V2 in Usk Rd and Petergate 1945 – a survivors’ account
Brothers David and Dennis Weatherley were aged 10 and 6 at the time. Dennis Weatherley sent this combined account of their memories of the day.
We were at home at 9 Petergate at 3.56 pm on a cold, grey Saturday afternoon. It was still daylight. My brother, sister and I had just sat down at the table in the back room upstairs to have afternoon tea. My mother was around. My grandfather and aunt were downstairs. My father was at work at Battersea Power Station.
Suddenly everything went black. No explosion was heard but my cousin’s grandmother nearby in her house at the far end of Petergate heard it. The room was filled with thick choking dust. We found ourselves blown under the kitchen table and surrounded by rubble. My mother was slightly injured when the kitchen door fell on her. The roof went and rubble peppered the upstairs, including cobblestones from the wide cobbled alleyway opposite. Fortunately we were protected by the sturdy kitchen table. We picked our way out and went downstairs. The bottom section of the staircase had come away from the wall. My mother shouted at my grandfather who had a broom and was trying to sweep up.
Outside, it was clear that we had had a narrow escape. The explosion had taken place in the backgardens of the houses opposite inside a small rectangle formed by Usk Rd, Petergate and a section of York Rd. These houses took the full force of the blast and were reduced to rubble. Most of the casualties were here.
We were told to stand in the middle of the road. I can still see my father hurrying down the road looking for us. We were told not to go back into the house. After a long wait, we were directed to a rest centre in Hugon Rd, just over Wandsworth Bridge. All I remember here was a large house, very crowded and a doctor on the following Monday saying that my brother and I should go back to school tomorrow.
Some facts from Home Office files in the National Archive at Kew and the local incident file in the Wandsworth Heritage archive in Battersea Library. 17 dead (later 23). 107 taken to hospitals, 44 detained. 20 houses demolished. 20-30 seriously damaged. The V2 was one of 10 launched that day from the Hague area of Holland, 200 miles away. The crater was 42 feet wide but only 6 feet deep (explosions were set to occur 6 feet above ground to maximise the blast). The time came from an entry in my grandfather’s notebook which I still have – BANG 27 January 1945 3.56pm. The first 12 houses in Petergate, nos. 1-12, which were diirectly opposite the blast were subsequently pulled down. This included our house No 9.
My cousin, aged 9 at the time added the following postscript.
My mother and I were living with my grandmother at 31 Petergate, the opposite end to York Rd. My father was in the Navy. When the V2 fell my grandmother was alone in the house. On hearing the explosion she ran to where I was at a Guides’ meeting. When we got back we saw that the upstairs windows were broken. When my mother arrived she repeatedly went to and fro to find out who were casualties. She also went to the local hospital to see grandmother’s friends. I remember my mother losing the use of of her legs later for a time, caused by the shock of the terrible things she had seen.
The V2 fell in the back garden of my aunt’s house in Petergate. She was alone at the time. Both her legs were broken and she was taken to hospital. I remember going with my mother to look at the crater. Mum picked up some of my aunt’s belongings in what had been her back garden.
I would appreciate any photos or contact from other survivors Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org