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Survivors and relatives gather to honour 70th anniversary of Highbury Corner bomb

18:58 27 June 2014

The mayor and residents gather at the scene in Highbury Corner, including Brian Monti (seventh from left) and Tracey Shaw (third right, front row)

The mayor and residents gather at the scene in Highbury Corner, including Brian Monti (seventh from left) and Tracey Shaw (third right, front row)

Archant

A man who was blown up as a schoolboy and a woman whose grandma died in the blast were among those who paid their respects on the 70th anniversary of the Highbury Corner bomb.

Police stopped traffic on the busy gyratory as survivors, relatives and local dignitaries gathered for an emotional minutes silence at exactly 12.46pm this afternoon.

Seven decades ago in 1944, during World War II, 26 people lost their lives and 150 more where injured when the German VI flying bomb exploded in what was then a residential street.

The blast completely destroyed 11 houses and the Cock Tavern, as well as damaging many other buildings, including the old Highbury and Islington station.

Brain Monti, 79, of Florence Street, Islington, was a pupil at nearby Canonbury Road School when the bomb hit.

He said: “We were all out in the playground kicking a football about when we heard it come over.

“Before we could get to cover it blew up.

“All the kids in the were blown away and some of them were very badly injured, although I don’t think any of them actually died.

“I suffered a break in my hand and a perforated ear drum for the rest of my life – it kept me out of the armed forces.

“That’s why I am here today, to pay my respects to all the people who died or were injured.”

Margeret Girdlestone, 81, was also at school during the explosion.

“I was eating my school dinner,” she said. “Suddenly all the glass from the windows shattered into our food.

“I remember it clearly because it was so dramatic.

“We had to walk the back way, round [nearby] Liverpool Road, and I remember my brother not liking it one but.

“When we were evacuated I remember being put in a tin bath as soon as I got to my new home.

“I didn’t know why until I saw the Gazette front page – we were all covered in soot from the steam train.”

Tracey Shaw, who lives in Herfordshire, lost her grandmother Elizabeth Harding in the explosion 70 years ago.

“I only found out about the ceremony today,” she said. “My father and I have been down before but he couldn’t make it this time.

“My grandma was working in the post office. She was doing an extra shift that day when it happened.

“My dad was only five at the time so my great aunt had to identify her. Her husband, my granddad, was in Italy with the army, but they wouldn’t let him come home.”

The bomb took around half an hour to arrive after it was fired in France.

As it flew over Hackney the engines were switched off to mask its approach.

Historian John Shepherd said: “Afterwards the blast they created Highbury Corner, because the houses on both sides of the street were destroyed.

“There are still basements, cellars and foundations under the road.

“The sad fact is it did its job as far as the Germans were concerned - it caused massive death and destruction.”

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