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The Blitz

O

O.C.

Guest
No one could put into words the terrible carnage that came to Coventry and Birmingham in the dark days of the Blitz, our Ma lost 3 homes through the bombing Dad was buried alive in one of them till he was dug out only to have it happen again when he was on.‚.. fire watch at the local church when it received a direct hit. He was entombed for three days while our Ma had gone into labour and was being rushed to hospital by ambulance when the baby was born, the ambulance hit a shell hole and crashed, the autopsy on the baby found that a swab had gone down the baby's throat and he had choked to death. All round us growing up in Nechells we were left with the scars and memories of those terrible dark nights which started.‚.. on....................
November 19th 1940 a night that nearly destroyed everything but the Brummie Spirit
For nine agonizing hours, wave after wave of German bombers dropped over 400 tons of high explosive (5,129 High explosive bombs 48 Parachute Land Mines) on our beloved city and over 30,000 incendiary bombs rained out of the sky to burn our homes, and destroy our will, which it never did.
Over 200 homes were blown to bits and twice as many wrecked by the blasts and over 50 shops were gutted by fire. My father always said the strongest part of the house was the chimney as that was always left standing, never go in the cellar which he never did but look what happened to him
The worse incident that night happened as the men were in the factories toiling away at their machines helping the war effort, one factory got a direct hit and 53 workers were killed and 89 buried alive under the rubble. That factory was the BSA (by a strange coincidence the grave of my grandfather and my uncle is right next to the Memorial to those men in Yardley cemetery.)
When the all clear sounded that night over 350 planes had passed over Birmingham
That night was not the first night we had been bombed but it was far the worse.
Then on the night of the 22nd and 23rd the Germans bombers returned and call it what you like but fate was on our side
The water that supplied Birmingham came for the Elan Dam in Wales and a bomb had hit a viaduct cutting of our water supply so we had no water to fight the fires with, so lakes and canals were drained nearly dry to fill the tenders of the fire fighters
The Royal Engineers were on high alert to start blowing up Birmingham to create massive firebreaks if a firestorm started as that would have been the only way to have stopped it as the city would have burned from end to end.
Men were working night and day to repair the Viaduct knowing it was our only chance to save our city but they knew it was going to take least 5 days to repair
The following night came and everyone waited and waited for the end to come but the Germans Bombers never came back. I bet there were a few frightened smiles that night.
All our neighbours took a terrible pounding, 52 died in West Bromwich, Smethwick 78 died, Solihull 36 died, Willenhall 13 died and in Darlaston 12 died
With scores burnt, wounded and injured
Birminghams death toll reached 2,227 and 3,000 seriously injured and over 12,000 homes were destroyed along with 99 factories and 184 that had to be demolished
What saved the people of Birmingham? In my opinion it was the humble Anderson shelter which someone had had the foresight to issue over 82.000 enough to protect over 410,000 people. Not forgetting the Morrison Shelter made for inside the home and countless concrete air raid shelters
Lewiss Stores and Ansells Brewery provided the hospitals with annexes in their large basements
Although the German Bombers hit it, what the German High Command tried to destroy and failed was the BSA where they made the Browning machine gun for fighter aircraft, The Austin Aero engine works at Cofton Hackett, The Rover and the Spitfire Assembly Plant at Castle Bromwich
On the 11th December a night that no Brummie from the war years will ever forget came the longest night raid of the entire Blitz starting from the first bomb that was dropped at 6.30 p.m. 200 German Bombers pounded Birmingham for 13 hours and as the last Bomber flew away the clock was showing 7.30 a.m. the next morning and 263 of our folk were dead but with the water now at our disposal those magnificent men the firewatcher snuffed out the fires that could quickly have become a raging inferno
Running tirelessly through smoke, fire, shrapnel and everything that came their way to try and stop the fires while their families were taking shelter.
The next day it was business as usual for folk who had not lost loved ones and it was a task of clearing up and trying to clear roads for the traffic, but how sheer soul destroying it must have been when they did all this and on the night of 9th and 10th April 1941 Birmingham was ablaze when over 650 bombs and 1000s of incendiaries fell on the city centre destroying the Prince of Wales Theatre, New St and High Street
Back they came in 1942 and 1943 till the all clear sounded in July 1944
When talking about the Blitz, Coventry has to be mentioned as that great City was nearly razed to the ground by the Luftwaffe and the Germans coined a new word which they said the would do to any British city that word was Coventrate
Their Hell on Earth started on the 14th November and tested the men of the Auxiliary Fire Service and the A.R.P to the limits of physical endurance, the A.A, guns started firing at the Bombers who came on a night of a full moon dropping parachute flares over the city to illuminate it
And the rattle of the thousands of rounds of tracer bullets to shoot the parachutes down by setting them on fire. And then it grew in intensity.
The glow could be seen from Birmingham as the fire took hold and lit up the night sky, our firemen desperately tried to help by rushing their engines as fast as they would go in the blackout hurtling down the Coventry Road to assist those tired ARP Men, Home Guard and civilians who were trying to fight a courageous losing battle with the fires.‚..
The full fury of the attack reached its height with a savagery of bombing of almost unbelievable ferocity, which left a night of unforgettable horror with the fire taking hold and being whipped up by the thousands of incendiaries that came raining down
that went on 11 hours. When it was finally over there was an uncanny silence everywhere as though the world have come to an end, everywhere, never to be forgotten scenes of ruin and total devastation that beggared belief or description.
The word Coventrated has gone down in History coined out of tragedy and wickedness that destroyed the heart of that Medieval City.
As the World learnt what happened to Coventry there was anger and outrage that this could be done to a city as the Germans had cast all rules of engagement and battle to the wind, that made us fight back with a vengeance.
 
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Di.Poppitt

master brummie
Thank God I was only three years old, and slept through most of those raids - I guess that is how I can sleep throough a thunder storm now. It left my mother terrified, we were always in the house alone as my dad was on fire watch duty, but we a;ways shared a neighbours shelter.

I've written this story before, but as it was ages ago maybe I can tell it again.

Because I was two when the war started I always slept with mom when dad was on fire watch. in fact I don't rememebr him ever being with us during a raid. We would go into mom's bedroom and I would lie and watch mom drag the tallboy over to the bedroom door, in front of that she would put the linen basket and on top of that would go a chair. She always said the same thing 'That'll stop the b.....s getting in here if they land.'

When the sirens sounded she would wrap me up in a blanket, put on dad's dressing gown, move all the furniture and rush down stairs. Once out of the back door she'd pick up the line prop and slide it over the boards between our back yard and our neighbours. She aimed for their fanlight over the back door, and rapped the glass until they woke. She would be muttering to herself as she rapped, 'They'll die in their beds one of these nights. Come on, wake up' Once she saw their bedromm light go on we were out of our gate and into the garden two doors away. This happened, according to mom, until almost the end of bombing. She only stopped after putting the prop straight through the fanlight. ::)
 
O

O.C.

Guest
Di, My Ma was holding my brother John in her arms as the sirens went and the house next door was hit the blast blew John across the room under a settee and the wall collapsed on top of it when they dug him out he only had a bump on his head. She went through a lot our Ma.
 

Di.Poppitt

master brummie
Women were brave weren't they Crommie. There they were next morning getting the children ready for school and worrying about what to give them to eat when they got home.
 
G

Grace

Guest
Crommie, whilst you mother was going through such a truly dreadful ordeal mine was preparing for her wedding. She lived in Park Lane and the night before the wedding my dad was on fire watch at Lucas'. On the morning of the wedding my mother found that the florist shop supplying her flowers had been damaged and the police wouldn't let her get down the street. A woman saw her crying in the street and got some neighbours together and they managed to gather a bunch of Crysanthums for mom to carry. They where always her favourite flowers. The wedding date was the 24th November. Very different memories Crommie.
 
O

O.C.

Guest
Grace, A lot of the people who got married had lovely big wedding cakes but at lot were made out of cardboard, just for the photo as everything was on ration, some people started saving bits of their ration each week to make a cake and trade with other people,our Ma use to scrub peoples steps and clean their houses for a bag of sugar.
 
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brummie nick

master brummie
I had a schoolfriend killed in the 19th Nov Bombing, we were both seven years old.
I can remember the teacher telling the class " we wont be seeing Gordon again, hes gone to be with Jesus"

No counseling in those days.
 
O

O.C.

Guest
Brummie nick, same here I had a friend who lost his father on the railway he was by a coal truck that got hit he was blown to pieces, growing up in Nechells it seemed as though every family was affected.
After the war I think their was a Devil may care attitude, it was if nobody could throw any more at us than they allready have.
 
O

O.C.

Guest
As hundreds were made homeless, loudspeaker vans toured the areas telling people were they could get food from and accommodation. The City Engineers were quick to organize military squads to get the traffic going and clear the streets all the debris was tipped on waste land on the outskirts, Sewer gangs run by the Royal Engineers got to work to stop major heath problems before they began, and other services such as gas, water and electricity were all co ordinated with the work of filling in of the craters in The roads. All furniture that was in any damaged building was taken and put in storage and the buildings demolished, all this work was done as quickly as it possibly could under wartime conditions, to try to get the city back on its feet.
 
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sylviasayers

master brummie
In reply to Di's story about wartime weddings, it was quite common for the bridal gown and/or bridesmaids dresses to be made out of parachute silk.
 

jennyann

master brummie
Staff member
Good report about the Blitz in Brum, Cromwell. People didn't talk much about what happened during those awful bombings and the terrible loss of life and homes, etc. so it is definitely interesting to revisit these times. These people were heroes no doubt about it and they didn't complain seemingly...just got on with it. My mother spent hours with my newly born brother under the stairs and in the shelter and later on when I was born, while my Father pedalled hisi way to Bournville Power Station dodging all kinds of hazards and working 12 hour shifts to keep the power going.

I remember seeing that map of where the bombs were dropped in Brum at the 1985 exhibit held at the BAGM that summer. I bought the book that was put out and also I was very impressed by the way this exhibit was staged. They had the reconstruction of a bombed house, a Morrison Shelter was on display and models wearing the uniforms of many of service units around Brum at the time, plus lots of films and relevent information.

The wedding photo is great Di. People were determined to do the best they could under the circumstances and I believe it brought families closer together at such times. The fashionable hats
are so great.

Sylvia where do you think the brides to be got their parachute silk for their wedding gowns from.
Did they sell it ?

A friend of mine lived in Enstone Road, near to the old Wylde Green Pavillion cinema and that was the first street to receive a bomb hit when the war started. I recently acquired some photos of the bomb damage to two houses in that road. The windows were blown out of just about all the houses in this small cul de sac and some of the doors as well. There were quite a few people killed in the Goosemoor Lane area during the war and the pavements are still scarred from the bombs.

I always watch the film "Hope and Glory" starring Sarah Miles and Ian Bannen when it comes on TV. For me it tells so much about the spirit of the British people in such terrible times.
 

sylviasayers

master brummie
Jenny Ann, I too visited the exhibition on the blitz at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, it was most impressive, and although I was only 7 when the war ended I remember seeing the remains of bombed houses, with sometimes pictures still hanging on the walls and beds and furniture dangling precariously from the upstairs rooms.

I went to this exhibition with my friends mother, they had been bombed out in Tower Road, and her husband was in the army so she and her sister in law decided they would leave Birmingham, they boarded a train but didn't know their destination, en route they were told they were going to Ashby de la Zouch, Mrs. Inson was only young and turned to her sister in law and said "oh Else they are sending us to France". I still smile to myself every time I relate this.

On the other point, I don't know where they got the parachute silk, perhaps from airmen who had crashed landed, but I know it was common practice, a friend of mine showed me her aunt's wedding photo and all the dresses were made from it. It was also used by the women of the day to make underwear and nighties.
 
O

O.C.

Guest
Well I can tell ya were the parachute silk in most cases came from heard of the "Spiv's" "it fell off the back of a lorry love" ( Arthur English ) a lot of it was on  what you call the "Black Market"
and who could ever forget the gravy browning that the ladies of the time washed their legs with and when dry drew a line with an eyebrow pencil all up the leg to look like the seam of a stocking (the artists of the time had a great time getting it just right ) Wonderful times  but how strange as you could die tomorrow but that was the attitude
 

rowan

Born a Brummie
My Grandad, George Clegg, was blinded in one eye by an incendary bomb thet had landed on
the railway line at the back of his house in Woodwells Road.

Being a devoted Railwayman, he was an engine driver,he felt it was his duty to make sure the line
was safe so he dashed down to remove the bomb which exploded blinding him.

He always said "It was my duty to clear the line"
 

jennyann

master brummie
Staff member
Life is for the living" was probably a popular mantra back,then. Cromwell, I couldn't resist this link in relation to the "dropped off the back of a lorry and the reference to Spivs. There were a few around our area according to my Father. . The opening of this website is very good. This company deals with job lots of genuinely damaged goods and have three warehouse stores in the Vancouver area. I love going there for a mooch and have found some great bargains.
Sylvia, you are very observant as to what you saw and remembered after the war and, of course, many other things from the time when we were growing up.
Regarding the bombed homes and the items still in the homes. It really is something that you never forget and when I go past places that I saw these sights I remember them like it was not so long ago.

Glad that you were able to see that Exhibition about WW2 in Brum. I liked the story about your friend being sent to Ashby.......very nice. My mother-in-law was living in London during the blitz but eventually moved to Brighton.She told me that she had some friends who moved to Margate to esape the bombardment in London but their house was bombed by a plane that was ditching the last of it's bombs before heading out over the coast and they were all killed. Such irony.
 
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Di.Poppitt

master brummie
It really was a time of 'all in together boys', but mostly girls. My undies at one time during the war were slilk, from the black market. It was great for mom and her sisters when one aunt with 'connections' said she'd managed to get hold of some parachute silk.

Everything was shared, clothing coupons and dockets, which were needed to buy bed linen. Tins of fruit spam, condensed milk were doled out when there was one for each of mom's sisters and brothers. The only thing the family were short of was butter. During the week we had butter mixed with marg, but on Sunday we had butter. :)
 

Pomgolian

Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team
:angel: I too have posted this before ...

Essential Workers

Because of his poor sight my Dad was not in any of the armed services during WW2 and my Mom would never let him talk about his experiences at home in the war, all we kids heard about was her time in the A.T.S. and her army, Navy and Air Force friends.
Which I know was very important, but it would have been nice to know about how life was for people like my dad who were working just as hard on 'The Home Front'.
I do know that he was in the Red Cross and helped as an ambulance assistant, he also helped with rubble clearing after air raids on Birmingham. So with him coming from Aston and living at 230 Park Lane he more than likely help clear those sites mentioned in some of the posts.
He once told me about seeing the big air raid on Coventry and standing under 'The Minories' by Lewis's seeing the sky light up just like a big fireworks extravagance.

Chris :angel:
 

Di.Poppitt

master brummie
Mom used to give us dried eggs fried in any fat she had, a dollop of egg mixed with water and dropped into the frying pan. Bacon fat was best, but that was savedi for the Sunday morning treat.
 

Pomgolian

Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team
:angel: Hope you poster's don't mind?

Jamie (My Grandson) has printed out parts of this 'Thread ' as part of his required reading for his English Assignment paper.

Chris :angel:
 
B

Brenda Barr Phillips

Guest
Sylvia, l remember going over to Burlington St School with a tin to get some sand from the sandbags which were stacked up around the windows for your sister ivy, i,m sure you remember lvy wetting the sand and rubbing it on her legs as a lot of other woman did, womens ingenuity can'nt beat it, also does anyone remember how we made necklaces out of sea shells, the shells were painted and sewed onto some coloured cord and walla! a necklace
 
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