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Fulton, London firemen lay wreaths at churches in memory of WW II blitz

Stephanie Backus/FULTON SUN photo: Dr. Rob Havers spoke at the Westminster Memorial Church just after the bells finished ringing. The bells rang at the same time at the church as bells were in London to commemorate the firestorm created by the largest air raid against Britain in World War II. The time of the ringing — 12:15 p.m. in Fulton and 6:15 p.m. in London was the exact time the air raid began 70 years ago on Wednesday.

Stephanie Backus/FULTON SUN photo: Dr. Rob Havers spoke at the Westminster Memorial Church just after the bells finished ringing. The bells rang at the same time at the church as bells were in London to commemorate the firestorm created by the largest air raid against Britain in World War II. The time of the ringing — 12:15 p.m. in Fulton and 6:15 p.m. in London was the exact time the air raid began 70 years ago on Wednesday.

After church bells pealed at the same time in London and Fulton, two Fulton firemen Wednesday afternoon laid a wreath at the entrance to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton.

It was part of a British-American commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the blitz bombing of London during World War II.

Firemen in London and Fulton participated in the joint church bell ringing ceremony.

“Since London is six hours ahead of us, our bells in Fulton rang out at 12:15 p.m. for the blitz raid that started exactly 70 years ago at 6:15 p.m. in London,” said Rob Havers, executive director of the National Churchill Museum.

Church bells rang at the same time for two minutes at St. Paul Cathedral in London and at the Church of St. Mary in Fulton.

Daniel Berry, a Fulton Fire Department engineer, and Fulton Firefighter Michael Bainbridge laid a wreath at the door of the Church of St. Mary in Fulton at the same time that a wreath was placed by firemen from the London Fire Brigade at the St. Paul Cathedral in London. The wreaths in each city were placed at the churches in memory of British firemen who lost their lives fighting fires during the blitz.

“This is a great honor for me to participate in this ceremony at the same time our fireman brothers halfway across the world are doing it at the same time to honor fallen firefighters and their bravery during World War II,” Berry said.

“Some people don’t even realize that this reconstructed church in Fulton is the same church that was destroyed in London,” Bainbridge said.

Fulton residents Bill and Betty McAtee were among about two dozen people who braved the cold light mist to observe the bell-ringing ceremony. “We have two sons who graduated from Westminster College and we are interested in history. We saw the article in the Fulton Sun about today’s ceremony and decided to come to the event,” McAtee said.

Pelham and Elaine Adams of Columbia also attended the event. “Our ancestors came from England so we wanted to come her and see the memorial,” Adams said.

Havers told the gathering that the St. Mary Church was destroyed during the German blitz bombing of London in December of 1940. “Brick by brick and stone by stone,” Havers said, “the remaining pieces of the church were brought to Fulton and reconstructed here in 1969 as a permanent memorial to Sir Winston Churchill.”

Havers said the commemoration also honors the bravery of firemen in London who fought fires during the blitz. “Members of the Fulton Fire Department will lay a wreath in memory of their comrades in the United Kingdom and to remember friendships born in war and peace between the British and American people,” Havers said.

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