A BBC docudrama will this month tell the stories of six people who worked and volunteered during the Blitz, including Ita Ekpenyon — a Nigerian-born air-raid warden who lived on Great Titchfield Street in Fitzrovia.
Broadcaster Lucy Worsley explores the lives of real people who lived, worked and volunteered during the Blitz.
The six lives at the heart of the film are 17-year-old Jewish shopgirl Nina Masel, from Essex, who reported for Mass Observation; Frances Faviell, a Chelsea artist and socialite who received just a week’s training to become an auxiliary nurse and would end up treating a dying victim in a bomb crater; Barbara Nixon, an out-of-work actress who worked long hours as an ARP warden, expressing her outrage at judgemental attitudes towards East Enders who had lost everything; Frank Hurd, a full-time fireman whose day job was to keep the raging fires of the bombing raids under control; Robert Barltrop, too young to enlist, who worked as a porter in a Sainsbury’s warehouse and volunteered as a firewatcher; and Ita Ekpenyon, a Nigerian teacher.
Ekpenyon was born in Creek Town, Calabar, Nigeria in 1899. He left Nigeria to study law in London in 1928. When war broke out he volunteered as an air-raid warden.
He lived at 146 Great Titchfield Street (the building no longer stands) and he served as a volunteer in the Marylebone area supervising air-raid shelters and putting out fires during the bombing.
He also made several radio broadcasts in support of the British war effort. One of the talks was later published as Some Experiences of An African Air-Raid Warden (pdf).
His daughter Oku Ekpenyon MBE continues to live in Fitzrovia and is leading a campaign to create a memorial to commemorate the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade.
Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley will be shown on BBC 1, at 8.30pm on Tuesday 23 February 2021, and will be available to view afterwards on BBC iPlayer.