- Contributed by
- BBC Open Centre, Hull
- People in story:
- Dorothy Maltby
- Location of story:
- Hull. East Yorkshire.
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 August 2005
The remains of the Hull central bus station, 1941. Image supplied by www.hullwebs.co.uk
After air raids in Hull, centres were set up in areas bombed to issue food and clothing coupons and to provide accommodation for homeless people. The centres also recorded details of the houses bombed and the casualties involved. Library staff, of which I was one, manned an information desk. One of my most vivid memories after a raid on a north Hull housing estate (around about March 1940) was of a mother with a very young child in her arms, possibly about 18 months old, with a slightly blood-stained bandage on her forehead, with a very white face, looking completely bewildered. Although much worse was to happen, this epitomised for me the sufferings of war and the picture remains with me to this day.
After one of the heavier raids, when I was at the information desk, a woman came to ask for news of her family. As soon she mentioned the address I knew that the whole street had been heavily bombed. On consulting my records I realised that all the family were either dead or seriously wounded. I could not possibly break this news of her in a crowded room. Making an excuse that I needed to search for further material and information I sought the advice of my boss, who took her into his office to break the appalling news.
On a brighter note, after one raid in July, 1941 I saw a blue horse and cart with an all blue man driving it! He was taking bags of ‘blue’ from the Hull Blue Factory which had been bombed, resulting in the fine powder being liberally spread all over everything, including the horse and himself. What a sight!
I find it impossible to separate the nights of May 7th 8th and 9th but I recall carrying a message on foot across the city because the bus station had been bombed, destroying many buses. Walking past the ruins of Drypool church, which was still smouldering, I saw hosepipes snaking around the area, which were un-manned because the river was too low to provide water for the fire fighters to dowse the many fires.
On one of the other nights I was again carrying messages on foot, walking from 9 a.m. to around 6 p.m. I was tired and dusty from the rubble and very thirsty. I had almost reached the library when I found my way back blocked by an unexploded bomb in Brook Street. The devastation around suggested that I might have a very long detour. This was almost too much for me and I was on the verge of tears when I suddenly noticed that the policeman guarding the entrance had been drafted in from Leeds. I had a pass, which a Hull policeman would never have accepted, but I decided to show it to gain access. I said that I had urgent information to pass on. After a short inspection he allowed me through, but advised me to walk down the centre of the street. I was too tired and frightened to wonder if this action would save me if the bomb had actually exploded. So, having given my ‘urgent’ information I made my way home to a much needed bath and meal and hoped that the bombers wouldn’t be back that night.
Edited by: Alan Brigham - www.hullwebs.co.uk
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