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Pealing church bells today to recall U.S-British link during World War II

The sound of pealing church bells shortly after noon today will symbolize a historic link between Fulton and London.

The sounds will come at the same time from the bell towers located at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury on the Westminster College campus in Fulton and at the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The two churches in London and Fulton will ring out at the exact time of the 70th anniversary of the largest German air raid of World War II. The corresponding time for the Fulton church bell ringing will be at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.

“The event was organized by the London Fire Brigade. They asked us to participate, and we are pleased to be a part of the commemoration,” said Dr. Rob Havers, executive director of the National Churchill Museum.

“Since London is six hours ahead of us, our bells will ring out at 12:15 p.m. for the raid that started exactly 70 years ago at 6:15 p.m. in London,” Havers said.

On the night of Dec. 29, 1940, a coordinated massive attack by the German Luftwaffe created a firestorm in London that destroyed the Guildhall and eight churches built by famed British architect Christopher Wren, including St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury.

After the blitz, the St. Mary church stood in ruin until its remaining structure was brought to Fulton in 1969 and restored stone-by-stone on the Westminster College campus as a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill.

“This wasn’t just any church that was brought to Fulton to be reconstructed. It was a church that was destroyed during a war in which the United States and Great Britain were fighting shoulder to shoulder. It’s nice to remember that time, as well as the role of Winston Churchill during the war,” Havers said.

Havers also has a personal connection to the London blitz through his mother, Rhona Havers.

“My whole family is from London. My mother was a young girl during the bombing of London. She remembers vividly the air raids in London and having to go to air raid shelters during the bombings.

“When the people of Fulton think of the Church of St. Mary, they also think of the Churchill Memorial. But the shared endeavor by the people of Fulton and London during the war is also something we should not forget. This event brings it all into focus,” Havers said.

The London firestorm caused by the raid destroyed eight churches built by Wren. But since the raid was at night the loss of life was decreased in the area. A total of 160 residents of London died and more than 500 were injured during the raid.

Exactly 70 years after the largest raid of the blitz, a group known as London Firemen Remembered will commemorate the occasion in memory of those who lost their lives that night by driving a convoy of wartime fire equipment used during World War II through the same London streets. The firemen also will be dressed in the uniforms used by firemen 70 years ago.

The firemen will begin their trek at Dowgate Fire Station on Lower Thames Street at 6:15 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. This is the time that the first bombs fell in 1940. The corresponding time in the Central time zone in Fulton is 12:15 p.m.

A wreath will be laid in the Fireman’s Memorial in London at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

A wreath also will be placed at the Fireman’s Memorial on behalf of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury Church and its destruction during the bombing and eventual reconstruction in 1969 on the Westminster College campus in Fulton.

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