CHAPTER 3

DEBRIS CLEARANCE The Size of the Job

It became obvious when the 1940/1 Blitz began that the clearance of sites which had been bombed was likely to assume large proportions and, the job having been allocated to the Public Cleansing Department, an organisation was soon built up to deal with the work using, as a nucleus, the staff and employees already employed. By June 1941, however, the number of men employed had risen to 396 together with 30 lorries. Government instructions limited severely the extent of the work carried out and we were only permitted to operate to the extent of Stage I, which was "the removal of debris and the salvage of material inŽvolving the minimum demolition of walls and parts of buildings that are dangerous or necessary to square-off the roughly cleared site."

By the beginning of 1944 the work to that date was almost completed and, as permission could not be obtained to proceed with extended clearance, the number of men was reduced to a minimum. Accordingly, when the Fly Bomb attack commenced we were severely handicapped in dealing with the damage and, as extra labour could not be obtained, the ordinary activities of the Cleansing Department had to be restricted in order to cope with the clearŽance of the new damage. In almost every case from the beginning of the organisation it was possible to commence work on each incident immediately, roads being cleared of debris and clay to provide easier access for other services and, as soon as all casualties had been removed, work on the site itself began. Up to the end of March 1945, some 858 houses had been demolished and 126,696 tons of debris, building materials and fittings had been removed.

By the early part of 1945 many of the buildings which we had had to leave standing had suffered such further damage as a result of weather and interference by unauthorised persons that they were beginning to be dangerous and permission was sought from London Region to proceed with their demoliŽtion and the clearance of the sites. Eventually this was obtained.

Disposal

All metal and fittings recovered were sold while bricks and timber were supplied for repairs to damaged premises and the construction of buildings by the Government, Hardcore was supplied for the construction of aerodromes and military camps and the provision of dumps in various parts of Essex for use in case of invasion, both rail and road transport being used for this job and some millions of bricks and thousands of tons of hardcore being provided.

Up to 6th July 1944, the whole of the debris which had to be tipped was deposited on the tip at Low Hall Farm, but this grew to such proportions that further space was required. Accordingly, a mechaniŽcal excavator and dumper was purchased and the top earth stripped from a piece of ground, approximately 7 acres, between the railway and reservoir at the end of Coppermill Lane and the debris deposited there and covered with the earth which had been removed, thus raising the ground some 5 feet whilst retaining its potential value as a playing field.

Debris was also used to complete the banking around the stadium at Low Hall Farm Sports Ground and for raising the level of the remainder of the sports field. These latter operations were materially helped by an extension in the use of mechanical appliances. Early in 1945 the Government decided that the Debris Clearance organisation could be used to preŽpare the ground for temporary housing sites and the labour force was increased by the employment of Contractors under the direction of the Public Cleansing Department.

Other Work

One other important section of the work must not be forgotten and that was the care, maintenance and operation, on behalf of London Region, of the fleet of Debris Clearance lorries used locally. The numŽber varied up to 10 but the only lost time on these was due to shortage of drivers or to the delay in obtaining the necessary spare parts.

Part I - General

Part IIa - The Services

Part IIb - The Services

Part III - The Story of the Raids

Part IV - Flying Bombs & Rockets

Part V - To the Unknown Citizen