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Family salute hero who diced with death in Blitz


The family of a hero have spoken about his role on the night South Croydon bus station was bombed in the Blitz 70 years ago.

A memorial to the seven staff who died and the heroes who risked their lives to rescue people and buses was unveiled at the garage on 11th May 2011.

Bill Maile lived in South Croydon most of his life working as a driver at the garage for 41 years.

Glyn Price who married Mr Maile's daughter Barbara said he often spoke of the night two bombs fell on the bus station. The hero, who died aged 100 diced with death the night of the bombing rescuing five buses, one van and a number of coaches from the inferno.

Mr Maile told a newspaper he noticed the buses being fuelled the night of the bombing. He warned his colleagues: "In a tinderbox like this it will only take one bomb and the whole lot will go off." Some hours later Croydon residents scrambled into their air raid shelters as the familiar drone of the Nazi bombers could be heard overhead.

Mr Maile heard the bombs go off and realised the garage with 110 fully fuelled buses had been hit. Disregarding his own safety the hero said farewell to his wife and ran to the garage, which was 100m down the road.

He was met with chaos. Flames and smoke were belching from the front of the garage, some of Mr Maile's colleagues had been killed in the initial blast, others lay trapped under burning huscs and the fire was spreading.

Mr Maile recalled the "tremendous heat" as rows of buses caught fire with petrol spreading dangerously across the floor. Ignoring the flames, smoke and bursting tyres, he began to drive buses out of the station, at one stage resorting to pushing a van out into the road because it had no key in its ignition. As the flames subsided, the men who toiled to rescue their colleagues and valuable equipment were faced with the horror of stumbling across the bodies of those who had been killed in the initial blast, unable to escape the inferno.

Mr Maile recalled many "ghastly sights" during the hours it took to salvage what they could from the bomb site. He received a cheque for 5 and a commendation from the London Passenger Transport Board in recognition of his heroics.


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