King Street, St James's

23 February 1944

By Katlynn Miller

On 23 February 1944, a stick of four high explosive bombs caused massive damage to the area of Clubland between King Street and Pall Mall SW1 and northwards as far as Jermyn Street. This incident took place during the so-called ‘Little Blitz’ of early 1944, when night raids on London resumed after a general respite enjoyed since mid-1941.

The bombs struck the roadway on Pall Mall, Pall Mall Place, the corner of Duke Street St James's and King Street and just behind the London Library (1845). The Orleans Club, close to Rose and Crown Yard, was completely destroyed. Nearby, several small houses were pulverised. The corner of Duke Street St James's and King Street was demolished and a hole blasted in the roadway on King Street itself. Massive damage was caused to a taxidermist’s shop on Pall Mall, the St James's Theatre, parts of the Marlborough Club and the London Library, St James's Square, where valuable records and thousands of books were lost.

At 11.50pm, a City of Westminster ARP Supplementary Report issued for 8-11, St James’s Square requested an ambulance for two isolated casualties lying in this area. A local warden’s post was also reported destroyed with several ARP wardens killed. After coal gas and water mains were ruptured, a fire raged out of control among the debris. The District Warden took control and rapidly restored order. 

The next day, the eighteenth century brick houses and contemporary buildings situated between King Street and Pall Mall were seen to have suffered most. Although looting of the ruined houses and club buildings occurred, nearly half a million pounds worth of valuables were later salvaged.  A total of nine fatalities were recorded, with 48 injured, the worst tally suffered by Westminster during the period of the ‘Little Blitz’.

Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke (by 1944 Chief of the Imperial General Staff) noted the physical damage in his diary:

'During the afternoon (24 February 1944) went for a walk to look at last night's air raid damage. Corner of St James's and Pall Mall badly smashed up by a stick of bombs. All windows of St James's Palace and the clock are gone. Hardy (fishing shop) and all adjoining shops, Conservative Club windows all blown in. Spinks (auction house) completely gone and also picture shop alongside poor old Orleans Club. German bombs seem to be much more powerful than they were...After dinner, another air raid, lasting 1 and 1/2 hours and very noisy !' Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, WarDiaries 1939-1945 (1957)

Photo:King Street, St James's SW1, February 1944

King Street, St James's SW1, February 1944

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:HE Bomb Damage to King Steet, St James's, 24 Feburary, 1944

HE Bomb Damage to King Steet, St James's, 24 Feburary, 1944

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:ARP Supplementary Report, King Street, 23 February 1944

ARP Supplementary Report, King Street, 23 February 1944

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:Damage to King Street, St James's, February,1944

Damage to King Street, St James's, February,1944

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:King Street, St James's, after the night raid of 24 September 1944

King Street, St James's, after the night raid of 24 September 1944

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:Bomb Map: King Street

Bomb Map: King Street

Copyright Westminster City Archives

King Street, St James's, SW1

This page was added by Ronan Thomas on 06/09/2010.
Comments about this page

My maternal grandmother, Hilda Margaret Monger was one of the ARP wardens killed on Feb. 23, 1944 when the local warden's post was hit during this raid. It was one day before my mum's 14th birthday. Her sister was 15. 

By Gwyneth
On 20/05/2017

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