Bombing The Potteries
Early this year we hosted David, a History student eager to help us catalogue and digitise some of our Second World War collections. One of David’s jobs was to scan in a scrapbook recording air raid damage across the city.
Here’s what David uncovered in some of his own words:
I find it hard to comprehend that less than eighty years ago Nazi bombs were falling over Britain. My grandad was born early in 1935 and thus grew up with the war; it never ceases to amaze me when he tells me about seeing the German planes in the sky, and about how he took cover in the Anderson Shelter and heard the bombs come whistling down. Over the past couple of days, as part of my volunteering at the Potteries Museum, I have been looking through and cataloguing ARP photographs of bomb damage in the local area, taken in 1941 and 1942.
One image show Taylors Avenue in Maybank. The photograph was taken on either 1st or 2nd June 1941. For me photograph is the most striking out of all the ones I have seen, for it is closest to home, quite literally; I live only a street or two away.
A woman was killed in the blast; she was married to my grandad’s godfather, who became a priest after this private tragedy. Here are two more photographs, again one from June 1941, the other from the present day. I know this street very well and think it is very pleasant and homely, so it is remarkable to see how it was once so utterly ruined and yet was so perfectly repaired.
Above is another photograph showing terrible bomb damage. This was taken on Heathouse Lane, Bucknall, on 23rd August 1942. As can be seen, the bungalow on the left has been completely destroyed, and the house on the right has plainly suffered too. One David Salt remembers the incident:
“I was born on 29th January 1941, in 10 Hulton Road, Abbey Hulton. The earliest memory, that I can recall, is being carried in pitch blackness into an Anderson Shelter in our back garden by my mother … Very shortly after being taken to safety (I presume an air raid siren must have sounded); there was the loudest noise I had ever heard: a bomb had been dropped nearby by a German aircraft. The aircraft was trying to drop bombs on the Aluminium Works at Milton but dropped them too early and the bomb landed in a field behind the houses in Heathouse Lane, Bucknall, causing considerable damage to the backs of the houses and leaving a crater in the field. That was on the night of 23 August 1942 and I was 18 months old.”
It is a similar case to the Taylor Avenue bombing, therefore: the Germans often tried to bomb Shelton Bar in Etruria, according to my grandad, but again the bombs often went awry.
Above is a photograph taken on Pittshill High Street, dated 14th March 1941. Curiously, I have been unable to match it with a present-day view, either because the buildings were knocked down or because the buildings in the area all look so alike I am unsure. Either way, I have been able to find an interesting account by Phyllis Willis, who remembers the bombing here:
“During the Second World War a bomb was dropped near the bottom of Pittshill Bank during the Second World War. You never hear about it do you? I mean there are records of bombings in the city but not here. Four people were killed that night including the mother and father of one family including John Fereday who’d been on fire watch. Their son, also John Fereday, was blown into the fields but he survived. He is a lovely man who still keeps in touch with some people I know.”
It is these remarkable personal stories, as well as these striking photographs, which helps one to better comprehend and understand the War. One gains a sense, for example, of how these personal tragedies and mass destruction contributed to an iron resistance against the Nazis. I can imagine that mixed with the sadness of loss there was a fierce anger against the bombers, a sense of ‘how dare they’.
And that’s not all from David, we look forward to bringing you his second blog post very soon, which was also written during his placement.