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The True Story of the Bombing of Bradford -Part 3

by pwprice

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28 April 2005

During the course of these enquiries, I made it known to the people I had contacted that I wished to ascertain what knowledge they may hold of enemy activity over Bradford in 1940 and 1941. This was prompted by the alleged air raid plotting by the ROC, described in the 1990 article in the T&A. I felt that this was a necessary step to take, to try to establish where from they had acquired the detailed information (that is, the precise number of bombs dropped on the city during the alleged air raid[s], if the supposed 1941 incident was to be taken into account).

The letter I received from the ROC is on the following two pages.

From: Norman Greig MBE - Vice-President Royal Observer Core Association

Dear Mr Price

I am in receipt of a letter you sent to the National Secretary of the Royal Observer Corps Association in which you seek assistance in "disproving a myth" regarding enemy aircraft activity over the city of Bradford during WW2, between August 1940 and August 1941.
Prior to my retirement from the Ministry of Defence in November 1998, I was the Senior Administration Officer for the Royal Observer Corps. When the Corps stood-down on 31 March 1996, I was the officer responsible for closing down HQROC, which was located at RAF Bentley Priory and archiving all the files and records. I regret to advise however that there did not appear be any constituent Group wartime records amongst them and I doubt very much if these ever found their way to HQROC.
In an endeavour to assist you however, I contacted a 90 year old gentlemen who is a member of the ROC Association and who now lives in Halifax, he was a class 'A' (full- time) ROC member on the Thornton aircraft reporting post 8/W1, which was located in Bradford. This post was part of No 8 Group with its Operations Room (or centre to give it its proper name) located in the GPO building in Leeds.
This 90 year old former observer had no knowledge of any raid on Bradford lasting four and a half hours and with a sense of humour, went on to say, " I must have been asleep on duty more hours than I am prepared to admit!!" He did remember one raid in particular, although he cou1dn't remember the date, we are of course talking over 60 years ago, so it's hardly surprising. With regard to the 87 runs over the city he was unable to assist, although he thought this most unlikely. I asked the gentlemen, who
had incidentally just returned from a spell in hospital, if I could give you his name, address and telephone number, but he preferred not to and I have respected his wishes.

I also spoke to a Mr Jim Millington from Leeds, who was the last ROC Group Commandant to serve in No 20 Group York. Although he was just a young lad at the time, he remembers one raid in particular on Bradford, and did in fact visit the city with his father the next day. One thing he distinctly remembers was the 27 inch wide rolls of carpet lying all over the street, he is unable however to confirm or refute the statement to which you refer.
I am sorry I cannot be more helpful, but I think the information you received from the RAF Records is likely to be fairly accurate. In any case, all hostile aircraft movement plotted by ROC posts during the war was automatically reported through the local ROC Operations Room to nearest RAF Fighter Sector Operations Room. The information was then transmitted to the Fighter Group Operations Room and finally to HO RAF Fighter Command, so you will appreciate where the RAF got the information from in the first place.
Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your enquiry, but I only received it three days ago from Mr John Sharpe, Chairman of the ROC Association.
Good luck with the 'historical dig' and best wishes.
Yours sincerely
Norman Greig

The reference to the Bradford suburb of Thornton in this letter prompted me to seek information in that area, i.e., is there an uninterrupted view of the city from Thornton? I was quite reliably given to understand that there is. This means that the observer (referred to by Norman Greig) would have had a perfect view; particularly with the use of binoculars, which would be a necessary part of his functional equipment. Consequently, he would have had an uninterrupted sighting of any aircraft activity over the city.

On the evidence of the information supplied by the ROC — and Norman Greig in particular — it is proved without doubt that there was no sustained bombing.
Also, the account of the number of bombs dropped on Bradford is a total fabrication! Not that I am in any way suggesting that Bill Berry (or, for that matter, Jim Jack) made this story up. It is quite feasible that it was instigated by other people, following the war, and enlarged upon progressively as time went by.

An article I have seen, which is contained in a book in the Bradford archives building, is a forerunner of the (almost) word for word account, submitted by these two people. There are quite possibly others who have — for want of a better word — assisted in the series of fabrications, which have culminated in such a gigantic distortion of the truth. Of course, we must not forget that the observer based at Thornton would be part of (if not actually in charge of) a detachment of the ROC, assigned to that particular lookout position. In other words, he would by no means have been referred to as a “lone ranger” in his observations.


The book I referred to is the one that I saw when making enquiries at the Bradford archives. The title is “How a city grows”, published in 1966, and the author was Horace Hird. Whether or not this was the article that inspired Bill Berry and Jim Jack is debatable, but there is a striking similarity between these various fictitious accounts.

P. W. Price

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