Colin Grainger

Celebration of the life of Dr Andrea Angel – hero of the Silvertown Explosion

A special celebration of the life of one of the heroes of the Silvertown Explosion is being held next month.

And a blue plaque has just been approved to mark the achievements of Dr Andrea Angel.

Dr Angel, who was living in Crescent Wharf, Silvertown, at the time of tragedy, was just 40 when he died.

The symposium, called Christ Church, Chemistry and the World Wars is being held at Christ Church, University of Oxford on March 17.

It will mark the centenary of the death of Andrea Angel in the Silvertown Explosion on January 19 1917.

Dr Angel  was an undergraduate and Chemistry Tutor at Christ Church. He perished in Explosion at the Brunner‐Mond factory, when a fire broke out in the TNT processing area and 50 tons ignited. The resulting explosion killed 73 people and injured over 400.

Up to 70,000 properties in the surrounding area were damaged and 900 nearby were destroyed.

Dr Angel. Picture: Newham Archives and Senior Common Room, Christ Church, Oxford

Dr Angel, who was Chief Chemist at the site, attempted to rescue his fellow workers but was killed in the explosion. In recognition of his heroism he was awarded (among other tributes) the Edward Medal (1st Class) – the precursor to the George Cross.

Though a civilian, Dr Angel’s name appears on the World War One memorials at Exeter School, Christ Church Cathedral and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

He is also remembered on the memorial stone located near the site of the explosion, now in the middle of the Royal Wharf development.

He was identified by his clothing by his wife. The Stratford Express reported in 1917 that a memorial service was held at Christ Church, Oxford, where he had been a tutor in chemistry to non-collegiate students since 1903 until the outbreak of war. “His teaching made a great impression on pupils and he was universally respected,” said the paper.

He was laid to rest in a quiet ceremony attended by only a handful of people at East London Cemetery.

“The service was of the simplest nature, except for the fact that the grave was lined the purple cloth, ” the Express reporter revealed. “The utmost sercrecy was maintained. The cortege  consisted of an open hearse and was met at the (cemetery) gates by the Mayor and representative of the Town Clerk’s department, together with directors of the factory. There were less than a dozen people in all, among them being the widow.

“There were floral tributes from the directors of the factory and its employees, one of single daffodils ‘from his children’ and another of pink and red carnations ‘from his wife’ .

“A wreath of laurels, tied with scarlet ribbon, was inscribed from “The borough’s respectful homage.”

Coverage of the funeral in the Daily Sketch. Picture: Newham Archives

Dr Angel has also recently been recognised by the Royal Society of Chemistry as one of their “175 Faces of Chemistry”.

The Oxford professor was doing voluntary war work at the plant and was attempting to help put out the fire when the explosion happened, and devastated the area.

A Blue Plaque has just been approved for display on the site of his Banbury Road home by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board.

The first part of the event will focus on Andrea Angel, the Brunner‐Mond Factory, and life in Christ Church during the World Wars.

In the second session there will be talks about Professor Lindemann’s role in World War Two, and Chemical Warfare and the World Wars. The afternoon session will be conclude with a short discussion concerning the moral questions faced by scientists in the context of defence and warfare.

There will be an accompanying exhibition in the college’s Picture Gallery where it is hoped to display various heirlooms from the Angel family archive including the Edward Medal and other honours together with contemporary press cuttings etc. There will also be a poster display by pupils from Exeter School (Angel’s secondary school).

In addition to members of the college, it is intended that this event should be open to members of the University, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the wider public (though numbers are limited to 100 attendees).

To book a place at this event please use one of the following options:

A booking form can be downloaded from the Christ Church Chemists’ Affinity Group website and returned electronically or by post.

Payment instructions are included on this form. In case of any payment problems please contact the organisers directly (e‐mail to

Bookings can also be made via Eventbrite (which may incur a booking fee)

In the last week, one of the relatives of a woman killed in the explosion called for the memorial to include the names of residents who died in the blast.

The memorial currently includes the names of workers who died, along with the names of people who perished in battle in World War One.  Royal Wharf developers, Historic England and Newham Council are meeting to take the issue forward and see if the memorial can be added to include the names or some reference to those who died or if another memorial or plaque can be provided.


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This article was written on 22 Feb 2017, and is filed under Dr Andrea Angel, Oxford, Silvertown Explosion 1917.

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