Thursday, 19 June 2008

The Battle For South Lambeth Road

It's Quarter-Final time, and tonight, ladies and gentleman, Vauxhall becomes the front line. And not for the first time. Kennington Park was the home to a shallow 'trench-style' public bomb shelter during the Second World War, a site that was bombed in 1940, at the height of the Blitz.

The shelter was large enough to accomodate hundreds, and maybe thousands, of people, and it filled the whole of the south field in Kennington Park... [it] was an unpleasant place, and people only went there because the government stopped them going down into the nearby underground stations. One witness reported that "The public shelter was horrible, smelly. It had a mouldy slab of concrete for a roof. But you couldn’t go anywhere else - the Oval Station was full of barbed wire … they wouldn’t let you near it."

The direct hit on the shelter inevitably caused huge damage and horrible injuries. One witness reported that he "was 17. My job was helping to dig the bodies out. We put curtains up, so that people walking past couldn’t see in the pit. Eventually we couldn’t do anymore and we covered the remains with lime.". The chaos of war along with the need to keep up morale meant that no official toll of those dead and missing was announced, but historians now believe that 104 people were killed. It is said that 46 bodies were recovered but the majority of the bodies were left unrecovered when the site was levelled.

While lime-encrusted ghosts still walk the park, things are somewhat brighter in the area these days. Today, South Lambeth Road is famous for being the most Portuguese place in the world - Lisbon lags laughably behind in this regard.
And less than one mile away from the strip of Portuguese cafes, bars, bakeries and bookshops is The Jolly Gardeners, where the Germans are brewing something. And it doesn't come in steins. Nor does it have a reliable centre-back pairing.

That was London's small-but-vocal German community during their 1-0 win over Austria. If you think that got them excited, well... you didn't see the wolf-whistles they gave Angela Merkel when she appeared on the big screens. The Germans are frisky, and the Portuguese will be all hopped up on salt-cod and lamprey rice. And let's face it, if you're hard enough to stomach that, then you're definitely on a war footing.


John said...

The Portuguese celebrations in SLR on the night they knocked England from the Euro in 2004 were priceless and well worth the agony. I recommend the Estrelha, obviously.

dan hancox said...

That, followed by Orbital at Brixton Academy made for a really memorable evening :)

John said...

Then about four hours of Pro Evo and the news that we had apparently left the gas on all night and filled the lounge with gas or something...

dan hancox said...

haha yeah i mean way to make a fuss about nothing. gas-leak shmas-leak

to record the story of walking down south lambeth road for everyone else:

john, alex and i decided to be true englishmen, swallow our heartache, and - with an eye on self-preservation - we nobly and politely clapped the portuguese who were driving up and down, honking their flags, waving their horns and so forth.

the righteous circle of common decency was completed when said portuguese, seeing our sportsmanlike gambit, returned our gesture in the only way they knew how, by chanting in homage to us:


gosh, my eyes are a little damp after re-telling that.