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The Blitz - 14th November 1940

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Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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436 of 443  Tue 27th Jul 2021 11:42am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3409

Coventry, 1pm Thursday November 14th 1940. Early closing. Sandbags everywhere, bitterly cold, the wind sends dry leaves gambolling down the cobblestoned church yard, down the steps of Priory Street. We kick them in the air, trample on them, then race for the tram, leap aboard. A boy cracks a smutty joke, we punch each other playfully as we scramble for window seats. Smokey voices of shop girls as they pass by the window, close for half-day. Dusk descending, no one carries gas masks anymore, no street lights. Machinery hums in the distance, a man singing, belts turning. Home, and the night closes in. About two hours later, sister’s reading a book on the corner of the sofa, mum’s feeding my little twelve month old brother. My two other brothers are squabbling on the floor, and dad rushes in. "Right, everyone to the shelter, now". The sirens wail, we know the drill. “Not you, Kaga, you come with me”. Mum begins to protest, but dad glances. “Kaga, take the bird”. The family rush down the garden to the shelter that dad had built like a WWI trench. I hid the bird in the washroom under the sink, covered him up. In the distance the planes begin to hum, we can hear them from three miles away, and then the big aa gun roars. Red streaks of light follow the shells into the sky, soot tumbles down the chimney, cups, plates, saucers bounce off the table, a photo with a glass surround falls to the floor, into a thousand pieces. The noise is bursting my eardrums. In the distance more big guns add to the noise, the ground shakes. I have my big coat and balacava on, race for my bike and follow dad. The moon is a big lantern. The planes are overhead, the noise deafening. Searchlights probe, red streaks. “Dad, is this it?” For weeks dad and his WWI friends had said the first two raids had been to assess our defences, count the guns, emplacements, searchlights, etc, but the Germans found out they had nothing to fear. A whistle noise, dad pushes me into the sandbagged wall, drops on top of me, and we hear the explosions, and shrapnel and debris peppers the street and the hut. The old canal stables that used to belong to the pub and canal have now become the firefighting hut, everyone signed the book for night duty. Someone shouts, "The Crown has gone". The man in charge sends dad and a couple of men to the scene, then the phone rings. “Kaga, go and get your dad, the cut’s busted”. I grab my bike, go for dad. It wasn't the pub that had gone,it was my aunt’s house, a direct hit. Dad, now in a quandary, but men shout “Let’s go, Arthur, there’s enough of us here”. We race back to the canal, the water was disappearing fast, tugging at the boats, mooring ropes breaking, men in the canal trying to save their wives and kids, the boats trying to go with the enormous pull of the water. My school friend was yelling for people to come and help, dad raced off to find the leak, and the noise was unbearable - wives screaming, men shouting, guns exploding, searchlights probing the sky, planes overhead. Help arrived, the boat people were saved and taken to safety, and I raced after dad. The crater was enormous, right bang in the towpath, the water rushing out like a giant waterfall. Men were trying to fill the gap. Dad shouted, "Don’t bother, we have the planks in, the water will stop in a little while”. Then he spotted the Coventry lock was open. He couldn't get past the waterfall, so shouted to close the lock, but the Skinner family had spotted it and was closing it. Here we heard and could see there was a fire raging in the cathedral and Owen Owen, flames and thick black smoke from the cathedral billowing hundreds of feet in the air. Now we had stopped to see the sky alight. People were crying, the whole city was alight. Another explosion and someone called out, “Grange Road!” Dad shouted for someone to get a plank to get him over the waterfall. He turned to me. “Go home, Kaga, get some sleep, but keep your mouth shut, don't tell mum about Grange Road, or about your aunt’s house. Morning will be soon enough”. The city was afire, smoke stung the eyes, the air was warm. There was no sleep, and they still kept coming. Not a memory. I have lost hundreds of memories, but ingrained in the deep of my soul. Kaga.
The Blitz - 14th November 1940
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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437 of 443  Sun 24th Oct 2021 12:41pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3409

I lost three very good schoolmates in Longford in the Blitz, I had known them all my life. Five days after the raid the council decided to evacuate a trainload of schoolchildren from the Foleshill and Longford area, Windmill Road School, Foleshill CofE School, the train to leave Foleshill Station, then Longford Station. I do not know how many turned up, I did not go.
The Blitz - 14th November 1940
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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438 of 443  Sun 14th Nov 2021 9:41am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3409

Coventry Blitz. There was a great powerful moon over Coventry from the south-east, it lit up south Coventry streets like a great torch. The path-finder planes gave Smithford Street a miss, dropped hundreds of incendiary on the Burges and Hales Street etc. Smithford Street, no incendary, no fires, no fire appliance, no soot-blackened walls. Heavy bombers followed. Smithford Street, caught between powerful moonlight in the south and bright firelight in the north, was practically annihilated.
The Blitz - 14th November 1940
Helen F
Warrington
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439 of 443  Sun 14th Nov 2021 11:13am  
Moderator: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:2855

Each street had a different mix of timber buildings and brick ones. Even the quality of the brickwork varied significantly. Hertford Street was all brick because it had been built most recently. Smithford Street and Fleet Street were a mix of newer buildings and older ones, often with brick fronts. It may be that some streets were deemed less vulnerable to incendiary bombs. Alternatively it may be that what flanked the roads were the main targets and those buildings required heavy bombers?
The Blitz - 14th November 1940
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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440 of 443  Sun 14th Nov 2021 1:33pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3409

Smithford Street had no military targets, no factories, nothing that required even one bomb, yet it was the most bombed street in Coventry.
The Blitz - 14th November 1940
Helen F
Warrington
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441 of 443  Sun 14th Nov 2021 1:56pm  
Moderator: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:2855

Military targets no, but there were big buildings in the area, including the print works to the south. Smithford Street had several new arcades and the big Co-op building. West Orchard, Cross Cheaping and Broadgate were decimated too.
The Blitz - 14th November 1940
3Spires
SW Leicestershire
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442 of 443  Sun 14th Nov 2021 4:32pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2018  Total posts:96

'Precision' bombing hadn't been invented yet. I guess any bombed city could nominate a "most bombed street" - certainly not unique to Coventry.
The Blitz - 14th November 1940
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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443 of 443  Mon 15th Nov 2021 12:03pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3409

3spires, The Luftwaffe had been bombing for a number of years, Spain and Poland. Coventry did not need precision bombing. There were many means of bombing, our own ‘Dam-busters’ used adaptation of stage lights, the old Wellington bombers used old type instruments. In the bombing, very few targets needed precision bombing. At the beginning of the war, blast damage was more important to both sides, the Germans used adapted petrol tanks, all sorts of things that could be adapted for war. In Coventry, Smithford Street was about the most lit street a bomber could find, without flares or incendaries, and to me that's why it got hit so much without the use of aid. So badly was it hit, next morning there was little need for any explosives to bring down damaged walls, etc.
The Blitz - 14th November 1940

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