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First to Last Watch

What are the decisions we make to serve and protect that place us in harm’s way? The St Paul’s Watch was a voluntary organisation of over 260 men and women, founded June 1915 to protect the Cathedral from bombing raids by airships during the First World War, and then again during the Second World War.

 

Their duties were to identify and extinguish fires caused by bombs during the air raids, and for this they were given training from the London Fire Brigade. The Watch earned a reputation as ‘the best club in London’, on account of its diverse members which included architects, academics, business men, civil servants, and members of the clergy. This “ragtag” bunch of civilians at the Cathedral’s service risked their lives to diffuse bombs, abseil towards smouldering explosive devices armed with only buckets of water and wit. In the archive of their nightly logs are listed dinner menus and toasts prepared in each other’s honour, suggested working hours, uniform etiquette and classes they took in preparation for the role, and how the defended the cathedral through harrowing experiences, particularly a night when the third bomb fell and the sky “seemed brighter than day lit with flames”.

Rise Up

Patience Agbabi

First to Last Watch

Inua Ellams

The Nurse, the Admiral and the Duke

Anthony Anaxagourou

Reconstruction

Deanna Rodger

In the Whispering Gallery

Kei Miller