30 December 2018 by Roy Preece
Su Yen had a dream of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. She thought she saw snow falling from the dome. But was it snow? What else could it be?
The St Paul’s we see now was built to replace a much older cathedral that was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. But there was a Second Great Fire of London in 1940.
England was at war with Germany. For over eight months, from 7th September to 11th May, German planes dropped bombs on London nearly every night. There was a brief respite over Christmas, but on December 29th thousands of firebombs were dropped all over London and the buildings surrounding St Paul’s were destroyed by fire. How then did St Paul’s survive this Second Fire of London?
By 6.30 pm the area around St Paul’s was burning fiercely; the same area that had been destroyed in 1666. “It looked like there was an enormous circle of fire, including St Paul's churchyard,” said one fireman. An American reporter wrote that "The second Great Fire of London has begun."
The Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered that St Paul's Cathedral should be protected at all costs. All over London firemen fought to stop the flames from spreading. On St Paul’s, special volunteer firewatchers kept a lookout as well, extinguishing each firebomb as it fell on the cathedral; 34 that night!
Then disaster threatened! Around 9.00 pm a firebomb fell on the famous dome which had dominated London for three hundred years. The lead roof began to melt. If it burned through the covering, the whole roof would catch fire, but the volunteers could not reach the firebomb up on the dome.
Suddenly, even as the volunteers watched in dismay, the firebomb slid down the dome and landed on the gallery surrounding the dome, where it was quickly smothered with sand.
St Paul’s was saved, though sadly its lovely dome is now being threatened by ridiculous tower blocks. And what did Su Yen see in her dream; was it snow, or could it have been smoke and ashes raining down from the sky?