Regent Palace Hotel W1

30 June 1944

By Yi Luo

When the Regent Palace Hotel opened on Glasshouse Street north of Piccadilly Circus in 1915 it was the largest hotel in Europe with 1028 bedrooms. At nine floors high the steel-framed Regent Palace was faced with glazed terracotta with marble-clad Art Deco interiors. In its heyday over 1000 staff worked on the premises.

During the Blitz the National Fire Service (NFS) operated an observation post from the Regent Palace Hotel's roof. Bomb incidents took place at the Hotel in 1940, 1941 and 1944.The first damage was inflicted by a high explosive bomb which struck outside the Hotel's entrance in October 1940.

In the first phase of the Blitz people from the East End often headed west to avoid bombing. Many sought temporary accomodation in West End hotels including the Regent Palace. During 29-30 December 1940 Alf Gitter, a civilian from the East End, booked in with his father to spend the night in the Regent Palace. He recalled that guests were not permitted to go higher than the third floor due to the risk from shrapnel and incendiaries. All the guests spent the night on the floor of the Ballroom. Many of the staff took their chances in the basement. Around 2am Gitter remembered that many people poured into the Hotel after a bomb dropped near Piccadilly.

On 17 April 1941 at around 2.15am, a high explosive bomb hit the Regent Palace Hotel Annexe on Brewer Street, adjacent to the Hotel. The Annexe contained 160 staff bedrooms, mostly for chamber maids. It operated a large laundry service for the Regent Palace's sister hotels and was linked to the main Hotel by an underground tunnel built in the 1930s and licensed by Westminster City Council. The number of people trapped under the wreckage remained unknown until later that day. By 8.58am one body was found and rescue teams had assisted 19 other casualties.

On 30 June 1944 at 12.40pm a V1 flying bomb bomb struck the the north eastern corner of the Annexe's roof, badly damaging its internal courtyard and much of the surrounding area. A fleet of ambulances, Heavy and Light Rescue Team vehicles was dispatched to the scene. Some 38 casualties were found by 3pm, but the exact number of injured was still unknown. Four more casualties at 53 Haymarket were initially feared. Six ambulances took the injured people away. Around 4.09pm, all casualties had been cleared from the site and all services returned to depots. An initial Air Raid Damage report put the number of casualties at 80. A later report confirmed 168 injured and one person killed. 58 casualties were hospitalised and a First Aid Party took care of the other 110 casualties. The individual killed in this incident was believed to be a chambermaid blown out of an upper floor window.

During the war the nearby Windmill Theatre employed scantily-clad and nude dancing girls. The Windmill was famous in the West End for its tableaux of near-naked women who remained stock still during performances. One artiste reputedly started in fright - not surprisingly - when a bomb hit close to the Regent Palace Hotel, the only time a nude performer had ever moved during such displays. When the bomb hit the Theatre shook, a rat reportedly fell from the rafters above and she ran for her life.

In 2006 the Regent Palace Hotel closed for a £300 million refurbishment of its Art Deco interiors. The former Hotel premises reopened in 2012 as 'The Prow', 1 Wilder Walk W1, part of the Quadrant 3 scheme of shops, restaurants, flats and offices. The Hotel's 1930s Ballroom is now occupied by the Brasserie Zedel restaurant.

Photo:Regent Palace Hotel before the Blitz

Regent Palace Hotel before the Blitz

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:ARP message form, 30 June 1944

ARP message form, 30 June 1944

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:The Smoking Room of the Hotel before the Blitz

The Smoking Room of the Hotel before the Blitz

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Photo:Bomb Map: Regent Palace Hotel and its Annexe

Bomb Map: Regent Palace Hotel and its Annexe

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Regent Palace Hotel and Annexe, Piccadilly

This page was added by Yi Luo on 21/06/2012.

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