I Was There! - Our Homes Were Bombed by the Germans

The War Illustrated, Volume 2, No. 44, Page 727-728, July 5, 1940.

On Tuesday, June 18, Mr. Churchill warned the country that increased air attacks by the Germans were to be expected immediately, and that same night and the following night raiders attacked military and industrial objectives over a wide area. Here are some eye witness accounts of the raids and of the British fighters' successes against the enemy.

Raids took place on the night of June 18 over Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Northants, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Considering the large number of bombs dropped, the civilian casualties were few, except in a Cambridgeshire town, where one bomb demolished an entire row of houses-eight homes in all.

It was here that most of the casualties occurred, eleven people being killed.

A description of the bombing was given by a parson who lives nearly opposite the place where the bomb fell.

He said: "I was sitting in my dining-room listening to the wireless. The air raid warning had gone before midnight. Soon after there was a crash."

"All the lights went out. I grabbed my torch and ran out into the street. Nobody knew what was happening."

"Then I realized that the wall in front of my house was not there. Then I looked across the street. Eight houses in a row of about 30 had been hit and wrecked."

"I hurried across to see what I could do."

"The A.R.P. people were on the spot in a few minutes, and they and other helpers got down to the job of trying to extricate people from the wreckage."

Mr. L. Dear, whose baby was killed, said that when the siren went he and his wife took their child downstairs, where they remained for 15 minutes, and then, thinking it was a false alarm, went back to bed.

"My wife and I were lying in bed with our baby in the cot beside us. There was a whistle and a boom and wreckage fell across me."

"I managed partly to protect my wife, and I calmed her and then waited until I heard voices."

"I felt somebody stand on the wreckage which was pinning my shoulder. I pushed my hand up and wriggled my fingers to attract attention."

"Helpers then moved the wreckage from my wife and myself. I was only scratched. My wife was bruised, but my little daughter was killed in her cradle."

A family who lived in the house next to that in which a mother, father and child were killed had a remarkable escape. There are five members of this family.

A son said that the family were sitting in a downstairs room, with their backs to the stairs, when the bombs fell.

"Wreckage fell round us", he said, "and the light went out. I pushed the door at the bottom of the stairs, and it opened sufficiently to allow me to get upstairs."

"I thought the light was on in the room above, and was about to climb through to put it out when I suddenly realized that what I could see was the moon. The room above had been blown away."

"I made the gap in the wreckage a little larger and helped out the rest of my family. Had we stayed in bed instead of getting up when the siren sounded we should undoubtedly have been killed."

In this same town a young father, Mr Leonard Palmer, searched through the wreckage which was once his home for signs of his two little children. Little Molly, aged nine, and Len, aged six, were both dead, killed by a German bomb.

All that their father has left are a few golden curls found among the debris and a teddy-bear the little boy took to bed with him. Mr. Palmer's four month old niece was also killed, and his wife, mother and father critically injured.

As he stood outside his demolished home he said: "I was standing at my front door when the first bomb fell. My wife was in the kitchen and suddenly the floor above fell on her."

"The kiddies, who were in bed, hurtled through the ceiling. They were killed almost immediately, and I dug frantically at the debris to free my wife."

An eye-witness of the battle which ended in the destruction of the bomber in Cambridgeshire said:

"I heard the sound of machine-gun firing and, looking out of the window saw tracer bullets flying through the sky. I could not see anything of our planes, but they must have been there all right, for Jerry, in the glare of searchlights, began to hurtle towards the earth with tracer bullets still pouring from his rear guns."

"The searchlights followed it in its fall and kept it in view until it crashed to earth with a terrific explosion which could be heard over a radius of many miles. I heard it clearly and was told later that the plane had fallen about 15 miles away."

Calm Patients in a Thames Town

The raid on a town in the Thames Estuary provided the first real test for a British hospital under raid conditions, and the result was described by the secretary as "very satisfactory".

"Without one solitary exception everybody behaved magnificently", he said.

"The nurses, domestic staff and, of course, the doctors; all proceeded calmly and without any fuss to their appointed tasks."

"Some of the nurses kept going round the wards, and even as bombs exploded cheered up patients who were seriously ill."

"The patients themselves they were all awake - remained calm and quiet and, despite their helplessness, maintained a courage which made it possible for the medical and nursing staff to do their work without hindrance."

"Five or six babies, the only ones we have in the hospital, were taken immediately into a shelter, where a few nurses consoled them."

"Apart from them, all the patients were moved away as far as possible from windows. This proved to be a wise precaution, as there was a good deal of broken glass."

Air Duel on the Essex Coast

An "Evening Standard" reporter, who saw a German bomber shot down in flames off the Essex Coast, said:

"The raider was one of a dozen which crossed the coast here at intervals between the warning sirens, which lasted four hours."

"As the raider approached the coast it was picked up and held by the searchlights. Immediately the anti-aircraft guns opened fire."

"Then we saw a silver flash rip past the bomber. It was a British fighter with its machine-guns blazing."

"At once anti-aircraft fire died down, and in the rays of the light we watched the duel in the sky. Time after time the fighter returned to the attack, while the bomber dived and twisted in an effort to escape."

"Within less than 30 seconds of the attack opening sparks began to fly from the bomber. Its nose dropped while the fighter followed it down."

"Long before it struck the sea the bomber was blazing fiercely. Then it hit the water and its bombs exploded with a crash that shook the town."

"A moment later all that was left was a dense cloud of black smoke which drifted slowly away in the bright moonlight."

"Each one of the raiders was picked up with deadly accuracy by the British searchlights and subjected to a tremendous barrage."

"For minutes on end the sky was vivid with the glow of tracer shells and bullets and the flash of exploding shells. So hot was the fire that two of the raiders turned and fled out to sea immediately they had crossed the coast."

"The last one to be fired at was making its way home after dawn had broken. All the Germans flew at very great heights."

Shelters Saved Our Lives in N.E. England

In the series of raids on the night of June 19, bombs were dropped on the North-East coast, in North-West England, Lincolnshire, South Wales and the South of England. Among the nine people who lost their lives was an A.R.P. warden, Mr. J. Runton, a veteran of the last war, who was struck by a bomb splinter while warning people not to stand about outside their homes.

The desirability of taking cover and, still more, of making use of shelters where these are available, was well illustrated by various incidents.

Five miles outside a North-East coast town five people escaped unscathed in a rough, home-made dug-out.

A man said: "When we heard the explosion near the farm we rushed there and began searching for, the five occupants of the house, To our great delight they suddenly appeared from the shelter 30 yards away from the building."

One woman, Mrs, Spurrs, said they took shelter in the cellar when the warning went. "We could hear bombs dropping and then a crash, but did not think our house had been hit", she said.

"Later when we looked out or the cellar we were amazed to find our house had been hit. Not one of us had a scratch."

Mr and Mrs. William Beavis had their home and their car smashed to pieces. The wreckage of the car was flung around them. But they were unhurt - they used their Anderson shelter.

One story typical of many acts of courage comes from a house where an A.R.P. warden, Mr. Maurice Reginald Baker, lives with his wife and five year-old son Nigel.

"Before I was out on the job", Mr. Baker said, "the first bomb, exploding in an adjoining garden, threw me down as I was hustling Nigel and my wife to safety in the house."

"I then went off to Frederick Jolley the Mayor's chauffeur - but he had been killed by a bomb-splinter, and I spent the next half-hour attending to other case."

"Then my wife, Nigel and my wife's sister went into our Anderson shelter with a neighbour's dog. The neighbours were the Cooks. They were all hit and went to hospital."

"All through the warning Nigel was peeping out and looking at the searchlights, shouting: 'Are they getting anywhere near him?' We did not hear a whimper out of him all the time."

Articles in the I Was There! category