Chiswick may be more famous for its eponymous Palladian house, Arts and Crafts Bedford Park and Fuller's Brewery but it’s also the site of the first recorded V2 rocket attack during the Second World War.
On the evening of 8 September 1944, a rocket exploded in the middle of Staveley Road, Chiswick, outside number 5. Staveley Road lies just south of Chiswick House, the elegant mansion built in the 1720s for the 2nd Earl of Burlington by William Kent, and comprises a series of smart family houses constructed in the 1920s and 1930s.
The explosion created a crater 9m in diameter and 2.5m deep. Three people were killed, including a 3 year-old girl, Rosemary Clarke. She died in her cot and was probably suffocated by the blast. Next door at number 3, Ada Harrison, aged 68 was also killed. She and her husband ran a handful of sweet shops and newsagents.
The final casualty was Sapper Bernard Browning, whose family lived in nearby Elmwood Road. He was on leave and was on the way to Chiswick Station to visit his girlfriend, when he was caught in the blast. Though he was buried in the family plot his headstone is white, signifying a war grave as he died in active service.
The V2 rocket had been launched by the Wehrmacht from the Netherlands and took just 7 minutes to reach its destination. Measuring nearly 14m long and carrying a 1 tonne warhead, more than 3,000 of these ballistic missiles were fired. The highest number of casualties took place on 25 November 1944, when 160 people were killed in New Cross, South East London.
A memorial to this tragic event was unveiled by the mayor of Hounslow in 2004, with a similar memorial being unveiled in Wassemar, a suburb of The Hague, where the V2 was launched.