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Block Mills Disaster

by AlfredT

Contributed by 
AlfredT
People in story: 
Alfred Taylor
Location of story: 
Portsmouth Dockyard
Article ID: 
A2424304
Contributed on: 
14 March 2004

On the 24th August 1940 at 2pm, Portsmouth experienced its heaviest daylight air raid of the War. More than 500 German bombers dropped many tons of high explosive bombs on the City. A few were incendiary bombs, more of these were used later in the night-time raids.

The bombers were mainly Heinkel 111's and Dornier heavy bombers.

The Dockyard area was of course the primary target, but quite a number of stray bombs landed on homes in the City; one in Kingston Crescent leveling a large public house.

One of the high explosive bombs dropped on a place called the Block Mills in the Naval Dockyard. This establishment was famous in Victorian times, for making wooden pulley blocks for sailing ships of the Royal Navy.

One bomb penetrated a metal ventilator plate and exploded in the catacoombs underneath the building where many people were sheltering from the raid. Twenty eight people were killed, including my father, and four of his chargemen. The following day I retrieved his bicycle from the site, it did not have a scratch on it!

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Message 1 - Block Mills Disaster

Posted on: 18 April 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear AlfredT

I was very much interested to read of your impression of this large raid and the details you were able to give. I was also sad to hear of the untimely death of your father.

This was indeed a terrible raid but it did not involve 500 bombers. This was at the height of the Battle of Britain, in fact 24 August is regarded as the start of the third phase when the Luftwaffe switched tactics to large formation bombing.

The raid on Portsmouth was the third heavy attack on England that day. It consisted of about fifty Junkers Ju88s of Lehrgeschwader 1 (LG 1) escorted by a similar number of Bf110s. LG 1 managed to slip through whilst Spitfires of 609 Squadron were over Ryde in the Isle of White, LG 1 having turned up earlier than radar had predicted. LG 1 therefore continued untroubled to Portsmouth, where it dropped more than two-hundred 250-kilo bombs in four minutes. Considerable damage was caused to the city and to HMS Acheron, a destroyer in port (later sunk by a mine in December). The death toll at Portsmouth was the highest in the war, to that date, in a single raid: 104 killed and 237 injured civilians and upward of 50 naval personnel. A fuel oil store was also hit and burned for over 36 hours before it could be put out.

Full details of the raid are in "Battle Over Britain" by Francis K. Mason (Aston Publications Ltd, 1990)

Reference to HMS Acheron here www.wolftree.freeserve.co.uk/Naval/Naval_Actions_WW240.htmlAbout links

Kind regards,

Peter

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