Upper North Street School in World War I

Most people associate The Blitz with World War Two, but the first airborne terror campaign in Britain took place during the First World War.

At that time Mayflower Primary was called Upper North Street School. On the 13th June 1917 the school was bombed from the air by a German plane called a Gotha. This was the first incidence of civilians being targeted in this or any other war.

“I’d never seen a man cry before, in those days, boys were brought up never to cry”

- Jack Brown, who was six years old at the time of the bombing

Video: WW1 Museum

Highlights from the special museum opened at Mayflower School in July 2014

Video: Britain's Great War

Headteacher Dee Bleach reads from the school log book as part of Jeremy Paxman's BBC One series

Video: Boming Civilians During WW1

Jack Brown, a six year old boy at Upper North Street School, retells his experience of that day.

East London Advertiser: "Poplar tree planted..."

A Black Poplar tree has been planted in London's East End to mark a First World War tragedy.

Video: Bombing Story

Hear the story of a boy who wouldn't give up looking for his sister when the school was bombed

Slideshow: Damage To The School

Pictures of the bombing of Upper North Street School on 13th June 1917 and the funeral that followed.

Map: Poplar in 1916

Poplar looked a little different in 1916, can you find Upper North School on this map?

Slideshow: Poplar Tree Planting

Pictures of the tree planted to commemorate the lives of the children lost in the attack on Upper North Street School.

If you have a question or a comment about World War I, Upper North Street School or would like to leave your own memories please add a comment.

17 comments

John Thompson - I and my sister Christine went to that school in 1953 to 1955

Kevin Corrigan - I am really sorry I missed the big day with the Queen and Prince Phillip. I have been in education for 40 years and so have a close affinity with schools and school children. The event in 1917 must have been so horrific for everyone. My grandfather's brother, little Johnnie Brennan, was one of the 18. I will be including a special section in my family history just on him and the school he was in. Good luck to the teachers and children of the school. I wish them all the best.

Kathryn Swain - My late father-in-law Harry Swain was 5 years old and was a pupil in Upper North Street School on 13th June 1917. He luckily escaped when the bomb exploded in the school. From what I have read it looks as though Harry was on the ground floor. We remember him telling us about how he had run out of the school to his home in Pekin Street and received a telling off for doing this. Presumably it was thought he may have died as no one could find him. His older brother Charles and sister Marjorie were also in the school - they too were uninjured although Marjorie got a piece of flying glass in her eye which had to be removed in hospital. We hope this small account will help towards your archives of this event.

Monica Bayliss - Was my great aunt a teacher at Upper North Street in 1917? I know that she lived at 333 East India Dock Road and attended a school as a pupil and taught there the whole of her teaching life. She was born in 1875. She was called Adeline Adelaide Coombes.

John Tomalin - Hi Dee, Not sure that I can make the Memorial Service but my thoughts will be with you and all who attend the Service of Remembrance. I have written a little poem, which you might like to have one of the children read out. It makes it all the more poignant, as I have a granddaughter who is just 5 years old.

18 Little Children by John Tomalin in memory of all the children of Upper North Street School, Poplar who lost their lives on the 13th June 1917.

18 little children
full of play and joy
The start of their life
for each girl and boy

18 little children
in their school class
Not a care in the World
but then came the Blast!

18 little children
There they all lie
Their lives snatched away
in the blink of an eye

18 little children
looking down from the sky
An angel looks over them
Is that a tear in her eye?

18 little children
We remember today
If they were here they would ask
Will we not change our way?

Kind regards,
John
John Tomalin
johntomalin@yahoo.com

Dr Dave Edmondson - My father Alexander Edmondson & his brother George plus sisiter Jessie all survived the bombing in 1917. Dad went on to serve in WW2 & died aged 98 in 2008. I do remember him telling me that as a result of the bombing a number of the surviving children were sent away for a holiday. I hope to attend the centenary in June.
Best wishes from Dave Edmondson

John Breacker - My great uncle was one of the 18. Leonard C Bareford. Unfortunately the family have no surviving photographs of him

linda dixon nee palmer. - i was,nt born then but i went to the school my mum was the school secretary at the time and miss harn was the headteacher. one of my friends was a very pretty girl called iris stanley and my other friend was anita but i cant remember her last name. she lived just arround the corner. the road led up to crisp street market.
I was there when the big church across the road was being built.2 men died building that church.i left about 1955.

Robert Putt - I attended Upper North Street School between 1934 and 1939, when I and most of my schoolmates were evacuated out of London. My mother's younger sister married a man named Jack Brown and he attended the school and was present tre when the bomb fell. His account of that event has always been with me and I would like to pass it on to whoever may be interested. At that time the school had three floors of classes. Girls were on the top floor, boys on the second and infants on the ground floor. After the bomb exploded on the ground floor my uncle remembered being brought down and led out into the playground, where bodies of the children who had died were being carried out and laid on the ground. He also remembered being taken home after the tragedy and his first sight of his mother, who was running towards him. One of her shoes had come off but she stopped only to pick it up and carry on running. There was also the rather strange reaction of his father, who was at work in the docks when he received the news of the bombing. He ran all the way to the school and when he saw the children’s bodies laid out against the school wall he thought he recognised my Uncle Jack’s boots sticking out from under a blanket but, returning home, the first sight that met his eyes was that of his son. Uncle Jack remembered him walking straight past him and his mother and walking on into their backyard, where he immediately put his head into a full bucket of cold water. As rider to this, my memories of Upper North Street are with the boys of my class, under a teacher named Mr Robinson. I have a picture of us, taken in 1936, and can name practically all the boys in it. Our headmaster was a man named Mr Lacey.

Dee - Dee Bleach - We have had many people contact us since 'The Great War' programme was aired. If you have a story to tell please add it here. We feel that by collecting stories we are passing on history to the next generation.

Dee Bleach - Dave H-G that sounds really interesting, thanks for letting us know.

Dave H-G - Hi - I am a Volunteer at Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome in Essex (the only WW1 Aerodrome left ) & we are building some dioramas in our 'New' Museum housed in 3 of the original buildings - one of the dioramas is of your school on 13th June 1917. - Finished by Easter 2016 & then opened to the Public.
Dave H-G https://www.facebook.com/Volunteers-at-Stow-117019345054734/?ref=bookmarks

John Tomalin - You and the children might be interested in an article with photos that I posted some time ago about that fateful day in 1917 recounting the bombs also dropped on Liverpool Street Station.You will find it at: wandering1500.co.uk under the title "1500's at War - A driver's tale". It recounts the story of engine driver Robert William Beard Coleman, as recorded by his son in his diary. Robert had just brought the Cromer to London Express into Liverpool Street Station at around 11.30 am on Wednesday the 13th June 1917, when the bombs started to fall on the station. I still have the Great Eastern Railway fork from the Dining Carriage, which received a direct hit in the raid. It is pictured in the article and is not only bent but also partly melted from the force and heat of the explosion. It was very sad to read about all the little children killed and injured in the attack on your school. The 2007 BBC documentary about the air raids on England, by first the Zeppelins, and then the Gotha bombers, including footage about the raid on your school can be viewed on utube at: m.youtube.com/watch?v=FJAKMJCDrsQ .I believe that this raid by Gotha bombers was the final trigger for the Royal family to change their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, with the announcement being made by King George V on the 17 July 1917, just over a month after the raid.
Regards from John Tomatin - johntomalin@yahoo.com

Nuzhat - It was really sad listening to the story about the bomb with tazkias tablet

tazkia - It's very sad listening to a story about little children dieing

Dee Bleach - We are now starting to plan for a special commemoration of the centenary of the bombing of Upper North Street School. This will be held on Tuesday 15th June 2017. We will update details as they are confirmed. We hope that anyone who has any links with the old school will join us.

Dee Bleach - We have had many relatives contact us since 'The Great War' programme was aired. We feel that by collecting stories we are passing on history to the next generation. We do hope that anyone with a story to share will attend our event on Wednesday 2nd July from 9.30 -3.30.

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