The Thick Plottens…

So – that siren – it’s definitely NOT the Barrier, folks. Adam did an FOI request and got this response:

Thank you for your enquiry about a siren which you heard on March 12th at 7am. 

I have done some investigating and whilst we had our monthly test closure on Monday 12 March operations, and therefore any noise, did not start until 09:30. On a normal day operations do not commence here until 08:00 at the earliest.

We do not have any “sirens” as such on the Thames Barrier. We have a public address system and local “klaxon” type, “two tone” alarms on each pier. The latter are more of a “die dee die dee..” sound than an air-raid type siren noise. They are also very local, directional and are used to alert staff that equipment close to them is about to move.

I can categorically state that the siren you heard was not generated by the Thames Barrier.

I note from your address that you live to the south west of the Thames Barrier. Our shift workers commented that they too have heard a loud siren coming from the wharfs and works along the south bank of the river to the west of the Thames Barrier early in the morning. They have not been able to pin-point exactly where it comes from but suspect the gravel transfer stations at Angersteins or Christies wharves, one of the riverside works or from within the Meridian or Lombard trading estates.

I hope that this information is of use to you.

Martin Earlam

C.Eng M.Eng B.Eng (Hons) MIMechE
Thames Barrier & Associated Gates Asset Management Team Leader
Kent & South London/Flood & Coastal Risk Management
South East

So – sounds as though the guys at the Barrier are as puzzled as we are. My money’s still on one of the aggregates yards.

But it does seem to me that a siren that sounds just like a WWII air raid warning should actually have someone in authority know what it is – a councillor, the police – someone like that – or have it generally known that it’s not actually the Luftwaffe coming to murder us in our beds.

I don’t want to be cruel, but the people who were kids when the original air raids were happening are now approaching the age where memories haunt, and it could be very distressing – especially at 7.00am when many will still be in bed. It would be useful for relatives to be able to say ‘oh, it’s alright it’s just the (insert siren here)’

But maybe I’m making too much of this. It is, after all, just a siren.

12 Comments to “The Thick Plottens…”

  1. Bill Ellson says:

    Yes, you are not only making far too much of the idea that people who remember the war would be distressed by a / the siren, but you are being incredibly patronising.

    Air raid sirens in London (and I presume the rest of the UK) were maintained and regularly tested (by sounding them) in the 1960s and those who remebered the war did not get their knickers in a twist about it.

  2. Fair dos… I still want to know about it…

  3. Benedict says:

    Perhaps there is a little bit of Greenwich that has been stuck in a kink in the time-space continueum and consequently still think that the Lutwaffe are indeed coming…….

  4. Bad Witch says:

    Having cared for my two elderly parents with dementia, until their deaths, I would think that anything that brought back memories of bad experiences from childhood should be avoided. Obviously people with normal faculties wouldn’t get upset, but those with dementia can seem to go back in time in their minds and forget all that has happened since. They are not rational and it can be difficult for carers to help them when they get distressed.

  5. Chris says:

    My mum (who came from an area in Brimingham that got a bit of a pasting from the Luftwaffe) would always walk out of the room as the credits rolled for Dads Army as she wanted to avoid hearing the siren which sounded right at the end.

    “It gives me the heebie-jeebies.”

    Well, someone is going to have to ask at Murphys. I’ll see if I can drop in there at some stage.

  6. Jim Ashworth-Beaumont says:

    I grew up in Edinburgh during the late 60′s and early 70′s, when nuclear war with the USSR was a very real possibility and those Observer Corps public info films were regularly on the telly. Anyway, I vividly remember the air raid sirens being tested across that city every few months. Even now, the sound of that bloody klaxon has the power to evoke those feelings of fear. Did you Londoners ever have such siren tests, back in the day?

  7. David says:

    Same to report as Chris; Our Mom and Dad, Central Brummagem, can’t bear the sound….. it stirs deep memories…

    Wonder what it is? As the Phantom says, someone in authority – the police, council – SHOULD be briefed to answer enquiries. It is a very emotive noise. A question to ask of the local Councillor or the MP?

    Ain’t heard it myself in Chevening Road; but that’s because I wear ear plugs on account of the missus snoring :-)

  8. 16" East says:

    Can’t here anything from Maze Hill…starting to feel that I am missing out….

  9. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    I have neighbours in Maze Hill who have certainly heard it.

    However, my double glazing must be working as it has never disturbed me.

  10. Wolfe says:

    Yes, GP, you’re possibly making too much of this. It’s only a siren. It’s probably on an aggregate wharf. If you all find out where it is you’ll go “Oh”.

    More importantly: Those who oppose the FOI Act love hearing about requests like the one above. They frequently suggest that the Act should be repealed, that its scope should be narrowed or that charges should be introduced for using it and they cite trivial or frivolous FOI requests as a prime reason for their arguments. Something that could be settled by a phone call, an email or a visit to the Thames Barrier Information Centre. But I’m sure that all got done before such a burning issue of public importance was subject to a FOI Act request. Didn’t it?

  11. carrie says:

    Heard the siren this morning, 7am, and wondered what it was. I’m in Deptford, by the river.

  12. greenwichstudent says:

    i too hear it without fail every monday. i am right near charlton station and can hear it really clearly. someone has posted a video of it on youtube quite recently:

    my nan would have a fit if she had to hear it as frequently as i do, she used to cry whenever she heard it. x