Remembering the Swansea Blitz of 1941

Friday 18 February 2011, 09:08

BBC Wales History BBC Wales History

This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of the Swansea Blitz. On 19 February 1941 the gentle calm of a quiet evening was smashed by the heavy and sustained bombing by the German Luftwaffe. The blitz lasted for three days.

Up to 70 enemy aircraft dropped some 35,000 incendiaries and 800 high explosive bombs over the three-day period. The raging fires could be seen from the other side of the Bristol Channel in Devon.

A total of 230 people were killed and more than 400 were injured, and the bombing changed the face of the city forever.

Centre of Swansea in 1941 that has been destoryed by German bombs

The centre of Swansea was flattened in the blitz

In the radio programme Swansea In The Blitz, which was broadcast in June 2010 on BBC Radio Wales, Mal Pope met experts and eye-witnesses to talk about the three-day blitz, the collective resilience of the people of Swansea, and how the bombings changed the city for ever.

In this short clip Mal speaks to Elaine Kidwell, who remembers watching her beloved St Mary's church burning during the bombing.

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You can read more of Elaine's memories of World War Two on the People's War website.

BBC South West Wales also collected some of the memories of the Swansea Blitz.

Yvonne Greco (nee Sulsh) left this comment:

"I lived in Elved Road, Mayhill at the time. I remember my mother had a square dining table with four matching chairs. When the siren sounded, my mother would put the chairs on their sides around the outside of the table to form a barrier.

"She would pile all cushions around the inner edge of the table and put my sister aged two years, myself aged three-and-a-half and my baby brother under the table, then try to squeeze under herself ending half in and half out.

"Teilo Crescent took a beating and there were many deaths. Listening to my mother and neighbours talking - one Teilo gateway was roped off and the body bits were collected and put there.

"My grandfather lived at 82 Pantycelyn Road and was an ARP [Air Raid Precautions warden]. Some years later, it was said that the Germans were trying to disrupt the supply of oil from the docks to Llandarcy oil works which was called PLUTO - Pipe Line Under The Ocean.

"I remember being at my grandmothers on one occasion in Kilvey Terrace, St Thomas. The house had three levels - the lowest being below the level of the street. The air raid warning went off and we all piled into the coal house on the lower level - it was pitch black. We were standing on small coal - I had no shoes on. My feet were full of chilblains - I was crying because the adults kept stepping on my bare feet. An incendiary bomb landed in the back garden - but it was soon dealt with. As young as I was - I can remember it as if it were yesterday. We were were terrified."

Terry Jones, Redditch wrote:

"I was five years old at the time of the three nights bombing of Swansea.

"We lived in Clyngwyn road above Tirbach colliery in Ystalyfera, this gave us a clear view down the valley.

"As there wasn't much chance of sleep during the raids I remember clearly sitting on the low garden wall seeing the fire and explosions, then a slight delay before the 'crump' of the explosions was heard up the valley."

There are more memories from the Swansea Blitz on the Wales History website, and you can find out more about Wales during World War Two.

You can also read Royston Kneath's in-depth account of the three-day blitz on the South West Wales website.

In Swansea this weekend there will be a series of events marking the anniversary of the blitz. Find out more on City and County of Swansea website.

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