Hornchurch Bouncing Bomb.

Discussion in 'General' started by redtop, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Not sure what to post this under
    Very interesting blog by Martin .Stanley
    With his permission I am posting hoping for more information.
    Hornchurch & The Bouncing Bomb
    by ukcivilservant
    Can anyone help solve this mystery?


    This – surely unique – bomb-proof building was constructed at great expense a couple of years before the Second World War. It sits in the grounds of a house in Emerson Park, Hornchurch, then owned by a senior naval architect called Lazarus Serafim Polychroniadis. He had left Athens to make a career in England at the end of the 19th century and was particularly knowledgeable about the effect of water pressure. His daughter Dorothea worked for Winston Churchill during the war and it is believed that Churchill visited the Polychroniadis family during the war.

    The 5 metre square building has extremely thick concrete walls and was provided with its own heating, ventilation, and flushing lavatories. . The only external ‘window’ was a pressure-defying re-purposed submarine hatch. And the only external door was made of strongly reinforced steel, whilst its hinges, too, were made of very thick steel. A 10 ton crane stood outside, powered by non-domestic three phase electricity, which is used in industry etc. to power large electric motors of the sort that are to be found in big cranes.

    Here are photos of the submarine hatch (from outside), steel door (from inside) and a hinge (from outside the building).

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    It seems clear that the building was used for some very special war-related development work, possibly connected with bombs which were designed to bounce off the surface of water and then detonate at specific depths and water pressures. London Gardens Online says that “Wartime experiments were carried out [in Capel Nelmes, Hornchurch] including development of the bouncing bomb across flooded land.”

    The building is not far north of RAF Hornchurch, which may well have supplied the necessary labour and expertise. And the soggy Rainham and Hornchurch Marshes lie near the Thames just south of the airfield.

    There is however no known link with Barnes Wallis and the team who later developed the ‘Dambuster’ bombs.

    Can anyone help with further information, or suggestions about avenues of investigation that might be followed? (We are already in touch with the War Museum and Kew) If so, please email Martin Stanley .
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
  3. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Hi CL1
    Along with my brother I refurbished the first shelter shown on that site.
    It is in the grounds of a house used as an HQ for the Home Guard .about half a mile from the one in question.
    My first thought was a personal shelter
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Yep mate reckon it is.
    I have checked if it is listed as a WW2 defence structure but it isnt.
    Have you checked if there are any stampings on the steel this might give a clue.

  5. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Am checking planning request for that time ,may be a clue.
    CL1 likes this.
  6. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Well done mate
  7. Simon JB Lewis

    Simon JB Lewis New Member

    I apologise for the rather late response, but one of my brothers has just picked this up!
    Lazarus was our grandfather and lived in Capel Nelmes with his wife Hilda and four children...Eugenia, Olga ( our Mother), Dorothea ( Dody) and Peter.
    You correctly say that Lazarus was indeed a naval architect ( hence the porthole/submarine hatch in the side of the shelter ). Alas, it was intended purely as an air raid shelter, and many of the neighbours also used it as such. Lazarus thought it would survive a direct hit, which fortunately was never tested!
    It was built right next to the house, so it would never have been used to test Barnes Wallace bouncing bombs or anything else explosive.
    Capel Nelmes was just used as a family home during the war and had no other use apart from that.
    Lazarus went to the US as a naval architect to help with the the design and building of the Liberty ships in the Boston and Washington areas, subsequently living there post the war.
    There were no visits by Churchill to our family. Dody joined the Wrens and was one of the first and last to train at Greenwich before training was moved from there to somewhere a little safer. Dody went on to work in SHAEF headquarters in Portsmouth prior to D-Day under Eisenhower, in what capacity we're not sure, but after the war worked briefly in the British embassy in Washington, living for a short while with her father and cousins.
    Olga joined the British Red Cross after the Munich crisis and served until the end of the war in local hospitals.
    Peter attempted to enlist while still in his school shorts but was rebuffed, but later joined the Royal Navy and was certainly on the Atlantic convoys before switching to the Royal Marine commandos in time for D-Day, completing his training also in Portsmouth!
    I hope this helps, albeit rather late.
    Kind Regards

    Simon Lewis
    CL1, Peter Clare and Harry Ree like this.
  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    In the mid 1930s Britain was gripped with a bombing panic. In 1934 Churchill had predicted enormous civilian casualties following the out break of war (Hansard vol. 295 col. 859, 28 November 1934) with up to 40,000 in London in the first 10 days alone and millions fleeing in panic to the countryside. Papers ran a series of sensationalist items - the Daily Mail being a particular offender predicting the destruction of most of Liverpool, mass starvation due to the stoppage of food imports through the destroyed docks and bands of refugees looting and pillaging in the countryside (Daily Mail, 1 February 1935). Matters were not helped by the release of the film "Things to Come" .in 1936, which predicted the mass destruction of cities and general anarchy.
    One result was the building of private shelters to act both as a refuge from the bombs and as a protection against the mobs. The one in the OP appears to be an excellent example of the kind. Back in 1952 my parents bought a house in suburban Sale Cheshire. A previous owner had a reputation as somewhat eccentric, a loner and what would today be called a survivalist. In 1937 he had built a buried bunker in the back garden. It was made from very thick steel reinforced concrete and intended to be capable of surviving a direct hit. According to the neighbours it had also had a big steel door to keep them out. Like many bunkers it suffered from the defect that Hitler's more spacious affair did - a tendency to flood and had to be filled in on the grounds of safety but its walls still existed and all that could be done was to pave over the area it occupied and put a potting shed on it. I believe that the building of such shelters was a lucrative business for some builders

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