- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Phyllis.M.Rowe; Ivan Rabey; and the People of Cornwall.
- Location of story:
- The County of Cornwall.
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 January 2006
This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Robin.D.Bailey on behalf of the authors Phyllis M Rowe and Ivan Rabey. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.
These are extracts from a book of the same title - see Part 1 : Introduction.
1943 & 1944:
The fourth year of the war began fairly quietly.
9th: Four bombs dropped at Prideaux Place, causing slight damage to property but no casualties, reminded the people of Padstow that there was still a war on. Mid-afternoon thirteen bombs fell at Tregonning Hill, Breage, some of which failed to explode, no damage was caused.
13th: In the late evening, two high explosive and four “firepot” bombs fell at Millbrook Lake which caused no damage.
16th: In the space of about an hour between 9.30 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. many places were subjected to seemingly indiscriminate raids. Altogether nineteen high explosive, five firepot, two phosphorous and a number of incendiary bombs fell at such diverse places as Churchtown Farm, Landwednack; Chun and Bosence Farms, Sancreed and Penpell Farm, Tregony where eight 50 kg armour-piercing bombs were dropped, none of which penetrated the ground and all of which failed to detonate. In addition, Longstone and St. Tudy were subjected to machine-gunning.
The rest of the year, coinciding as it did with the Allied offensives in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, was almost peaceful, air attacks being confined to the Cornish periphery of Plymouth and except for further raids on south-east Cornwall and the massive pre-D Day attack on Falmouth on the last day of May 1944, Cornwall’s era of “when bombs fell” was virtually over.
March; April & May 1943: no recorded incidents. (this doesn’t mean there weren’t any!)
14th: Hundreds of incendiary bombs fell on Saltash, damaging St. Nicholas Church and an Anderson Shelter shed at the Police Station. Torpoint suffered the effects of a blast from a direct hit on the Devonport Dockyard and phosphorous bombs fell on Mount Edgcumbe Park.
July 1943: no recorded incidents.
13th: In the early hours, incendiary bombs rained down on Mount Edgcumbe, Barnpool, Millbrook and Lynher, Antony where one house was damaged. One person was injured at Wilcove.
September & October 1943: no recorded incidents.
17th: Early morning fourteen high explosive and hundreds of incendiaries fell at Trehill Farm, Rame, causing one rick fire. At Forder, Cawsand, there was slight damage to houses and two persons were injured. At Carbeile Farm, Torpoint, outbuildings and a hay elevator were damaged. Electricity cable at Mill Lane were also damaged.
December 1943: no recorded incidents.
January; February & March 1944: no recorded incidents.
11th: On what might well have been a “smoke screen” for enemy reconnaissance sorties (approaching D Day) was not of great significance except that the bombs dropped were of a completely new S.D. 10kg anti-personnel type. One hundred and eleven of these devices and ten 50 kg phosphorous bombs landed in two fields at Horningtops, Menheniot. Ninety-one of the anti-personnel bombs failed to explode, and although they were the first of their type to be dropped in this country, Civil Defence and Service personnel knew of their existence. Very little damage was caused.
30th: Another raid thought to have been a “smoke screen” for reconnaissance sorties; A total of 13 bombs were dropped during the night. Ten fell on Government property at Cremyll, one 1,000 kg parachute bomb fell at West Antony Farm, Torpoint and of the other two, one, a 1,400 kg fell at Penpell Farm, Stokeclimsland, and a 1,000 kg bomb which failed to explode, dropped at Glebe Farm, Sheviock. No damage was caused anywhere.
During May the assault troops increased, until every creek and estuary was crammed with landing craft, and every country lane and byway provided some sort of camouflage for thousands of troops.
30th/31st: The last great air assault on Cornwall concerned a massive widespread raid directed at Falmouth and it’s immediate environs. - A direct hit on a one and a quarter million gallon petrol storage tank at Swanvale set a fire which continued to burn for twenty-two hours. The
attack began at about midnight and by 12.30 a.m the fractured tank was blazing furiously. When the burning oil took the course of the little stream, six feet wide, the evacuation of the village below began, as whirlpools of smoke and flame erupted 70 feet into the air. Water and foam were hurled at the conflagration in a vain attempt to stifle the flames. After many hours the situation was saved when two bulldozers arrived and two American servicemen volunteered to drive them through the flames and divert the stream by damming it. Their heroic mission, for which they later received British Empire Medals, was successful and 24 hours later the battle which involved 28 pumps, 200 firemen and 500 American soldiers and sailors who were among those waiting in the area to embark for the beaches of Normandy, was over. This was one of the great fire battles of the war and it’s conduct and successful outcome reflected great credit on all those who were involved.
The holocaust at Swanvale was not all; twenty-five high explosive bombs, 23 firepots and twenty butterfly bombs were dropped on Falmouth itself and there was much machine gun and cannon fire. Extensive damage occurred at Melville Crescent where two bungalows were demolished and many others damaged. The Pentargon Hotel on the Sea Front was demolished and a number of members of the Womens Royal Naval Service, who were billeted there, were killed or injured.
The Boscawen, Carthian House and Albion Hotels and Belseto were also substantially damaged.
Other areas which were badly damaged included Melville Road and Bay View Road. Minor damage was caused at Grove Hill, Castle Beach, Harvey’s Yard, Marine Crescent, Stracey Road, Pendennis Road, Railway Cottages, Sailor’s Rest, Boscawen Road and the Pier.
Damage also occurred in the surrounding areas at Lanarth, St. Keverne where two houses were affected, at Gillan, St. Keverne and at Lower Crill, Budock where some cattle were killed. Trewarnevas, Portscatho Post Office, and Grove Hill and Blackley House at St. Mawes were also damaged by machine gun bullets, and cannon shells did slight damage at Budock Water and Polvarth, St. Mawes. In spite of this being one of the heaviest and most concentrated of the raids on Cornwall, only three civilians were killed and seventeen injured.
This was the last recorded air-raid on the county, the 420th according to official statistics.
6th: The Allied troops embarked for the Normandy beaches and from then on the enemy were far too occupied to indulge in nuisance raids on Cornwall and by 8th May, 1945 it was all over in Europe.
1945: no incidents recorded.
As will be seen from the table below, there were many civilians killed and injured in a War which at times came to Cornwall. Most people were affected in some way or other; nearly all of Cornwall’s inhabitants heard the wail of the siren, the sound of explosions caused by bombs, saw fires caused by the enemy, heard the crack of cannon or machine gun fire, the booming sound of anti-aircraft guns or the distinctive drone of the enemy bombers.
Total number of raids on Cornwall 420
Total Bombs dropped: 19,275
3,391 (high explosive)
15,720 (incendiaries inc - phosphorous, firepot, oil, magnesium etc).
131 (various anti-personnel types).
32 (parachute mines).
1 (FX 1400 kg)
Unexploded bombs (excluding those in Liskeard Police Division) 230
248 injured and detained in hospital;
421 minor injuries.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.