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Bombs on Bristol

by Lancshomeguard

You are browsing in:

Archive List > The Blitz

Contributed by 
Lancshomeguard
People in story: 
Mr & Mrs Harvey and son Stan
Location of story: 
Bristol
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4155211
Contributed on: 
05 June 2005

This story has been submitted to the People's War website by Don and Betty Tempest of the Lancshomeguard on behalf of Stan Harvey and added to the site with his permission.

During WW2 I was a schoolboy in Bristol and lived through all the Blitzes and daylight raids. We had some scary experiences which, at the time, being a schoolboy, I thought were more exciting rather than dangerous.

My Father was in WW1 and survived being in Palestine and then later on in the trenches. He never spoke about his experiences and as I grew older and following his death, I found out much about him and the times he had been through, from his brother, my Uncle. I now realise why he did not speak about them, it was because he couldn’t — those times were so horrific he just didn’t want to mention them This was a general feeling by many others who had lived through those times. However, in WW2 he became an Air Raid Warden and was responsible for our road, and some adjacent roads in Bristol

Our first experience was a raid on Good Friday, 1940. We heard the sirens about 9.30pm. These were followed by a tremendous barrage coming from a battery of 12 x 4.7 anti-aircraft guns, stationed about a mile from our home. The guns made far more noise than bombs! The next sight we saw were many flares being dropped over the City. We lived about 3 miles North of the City Centre. Bombs, many of which were Incendiary bombs, then followed the Flares. These we couldn’t hear, but slowly we saw the skyline being lit up by the result of this type of bombing. We were not aware at the time why the centre of Bristol was being attacked, as it contained only several very fine shopping centres and the usual city offices.

I stayed up with my Mother. Father paid occasional visits just to say he was OK and that there had been no local damage. The raid went on until late in the evening and early morning. I can’t be sure of the time, but it was the next day before I went to bed. That is, I entered my bedroom. I was greeted, when putting on the light by a gaping hole in the ceiling. My bed, about where my knees would have been, was a mess! I shouted for my parents and then went to check the cause for this mess. I found in my bedclothes a large bomb splinter about four pounds in weight. This had crashed through the roof, broke the ceiling of my bedroom and then, because it was hot, scorched my bedclothes down to the top sheet. This meant that my eiderdown and two blankets had large scorch marks and burns in them. How the bed never caught fire will remain a mystery. I thought it was terrific! I could now sleep downstairs on a settee which, at the time, seemed a very good idea - simply because I did not have to enter the bedroom again until the mess was cleared up.

Next morning I was able to go down to the City. I went with some schoolmates, as it was Saturday. However, having walked about two miles towards the City Centre, we were stopped by the Police, who told us that the road for the remainder of the way to the Centre was closed as all the buildings had been destroyed. This was true. Later, pictures in the local paper showed complete destruction, not only of this particular road, but also the entire shopping areas of the City Centre. Total destruction had been caused, and that included some very fine Bristol relics - a Dutch House dating back to about the year 1600 and a church from about circa 1200. Devastation was general and about 1000 people had been killed around the parameters of the City Centre and adjacent housing areas. We had been lucky where we lived, except for the damage to my bed and many windows broken by flying shrapnel and bomb fragments.

The second raid a short time later — I cannot remember the date - saw similar sights. The dropping of flares, a huge amount of bombs falling, and slowly the sky turning red from a multitude of fires. The Germans were just making sure that any repair work being done was terminated, and that any places they missed in the first raid were hit. The area of bombing was spread further across the city and was obviously aimed at destroying the people and lowering morale. We stood outside our house, being visited occasionally by my Father, watching the AA Gun Shells bursting far above us and also hoping that the German Bombers were being caught in the many searchlights stationed around the City. We never saw any Bomber lit up but later we heard that several had been brought down by gunfire and had crashed around the outer limits of the City and Countryside. Later on during the war, I was lucky to see some relics from the crashed bombers, and one of the items was a photograph book showing many German pictures of Bristol and surrounding area taken by them from high flying aircraft about 1937/38. These became very interesting because until then no one thought much about the raids but when this information was published, the hatred, felt by locals, became more intense than it had been, as it was obvious the Germans knew all about us, our home, factories and local train routes. In addition, about that time, we suffered the knowledge that many of our local troops had been injured in raids across the Channel, Dieppe, St. Nazaire and others.

The third raid started in the usual manner, the sirens about 9.30pm, the droning of the bombers as they flew overhead and the dropping of flares. Some of these were now being dropped further out from the centre of the City. We knew that this might happen, as we had the Bristol Aircraft Company making Blenheim Bombers and Beau fighters. Also several outlying small factories were making parts for Spitfire Fighters and many other War Time necessities. It was obvious from this raid that the outlying places were being targeted.

We had two such factories in our area and we heard some bombs falling much closer than before and several places around us had fires. These were soon contained and during a lull, my Father paid a brief visit - or so he thought! First we heard a shout from next door. We rushed in to find a small fire in a rear bedroom, caused by an incendiary bomb. We brought up a stirrup pump and I was pumping like nothing else mattered, to supply water for my Father. He managed to put out the fire but not before some furniture and a lot of bedding had been damaged. (The remains of the bombs found their way into my back garden later on and I added them to my collection of bomb and AA shell splinters!!)

After putting out the fire, we were standing on the pavement outside our house when I heard a tremendous rushing sound coming down. My Father, using his WW1 experiences just picked me up and threw me towards the front door. There was a tremendous crash, a huge explosion, and then many bits and pieces fell from the sky, together with the noise of much shattering glass. We stayed still and then he got up, pulled me to my feet and we looked towards the pavement. We were amazed, as the sight facing us, was a crater about four feet across and three feet deep. A kerbstone being blown out of the pavement at the other end of the road, where the bomb had hit, had caused this damage. The bomb had destroyed three houses, killed 23 people and blown the kerbstone down towards where we had been standing. If it had not been for my Father's knowledge of sounds, we probably would have received the kerbstone right on our heads! Later that night when we reckoned all was over, I was asked to put on the kettle. This I did, and later, after it had boiled, I went and collected it from the kitchen. I was walking back with the kettle when I felt myself being lifted up in the air and down the passageway. The only thought I had at that time was that if I dropped the kettle full of boiling water, I would get into trouble from my parents. I landed further down the passage and was amazed that the kettle had landed on its base with hardly a drop of water spilt!! The cause of this happening, was a landmine - a very large bomb, hitting the road junction just around the corner from us. It had caused a crater over 60ft. deep. Partially destroyed houses on the junction and blowing out all surrounding windows. We lost all our front windows. I was very shaken, but my parents could still make a fresh brew of tea!

The next incident I remember was a surprise daylight raid. This occurred about 8 to 8.30 am one morning. The bombers came over and dropped bombs randomly. They did much damage to buildings, trying to be rebuilt after earlier raids, but they also hit several buses, which had just arrived in the City Centre, taking people to work. Several hundred people were hurt but little damage was done to other buildings.

Two other daylight raids followed this, the target being the Bristol Aircraft Factory at Filton. The first struck just after the morning shift began and much damage was done to construction sheds where Beau fighters were being built. Many workers were killed. The worst incident was concerning a troop of Home Guards. They had just started to walk as a troop from one factory to another, for guard duty purposes, when the raid began. The Officer in Charge thought he could continue with the march, but then they were struck by a direct hit, killing everyone.

The next raid was more daring, as, after dropping their bombs around the factory, the bombers came back around at a low height and were machine-gunning anything and anyone they thought was moving about. We were just going to school when a continual whistling and splintering sound surrounded us. We found out later, after several residents ran out and told us to get on the floor or behind a wall, that this was the sound of machine gun bullets being fired at us. It lasted only a few seconds and when the noise stopped, we got up and went on to school. We didn’t think about anything else at that moment other than getting to school and not getting into trouble for being late!!

Later on I went many times to London to stay with friends of my parents. This was on the outskirts of West London and as the War was slowly getting to a victory with troops in Europe, the urgency of staying close to such places eased considerably. However, it was not until we saw the mysterious flying machines with fire coming out of their tails that we understood this was a new type of bomb sent over by the Germans. We soon learnt to watch these machines and if the engine suddenly stopped, just to watch in which direction the machine fell. Fortunately, none of them came my way! No one knew when the V2 rockets arrived, there was just an enormous explosion and everything within about 200 yards disappeared.

That is about all the events I can remember, except for one other occasion. This was the morning of Tuesday, 6th. June 1944. I was at school having a history lesson. I was sat in a window desk, and my attention was drawn to the many aircraft flying overhead with large black and white stripes painted across their wings. I now know that at the time, this was for recognition for the invasion. Suddenly I was hit with a heavy blow above my right eye. Blood started to pour and I felt my eyebrow sagging over my eye. It transpired that my History Master, seeing I was looking out of the window and not paying attention, threw the blackboard rubber at me. It was the rubber hitting me over the right eye, which caused the bleeding.

Without any kind of apology, he took me to the school office where the bursar took me to hospital to have four stitches on my eyebrow. So I can say that I was wounded on D-Day, 1944. How! Is another story!!! I can say that my parents were not amused as to the reason for the stitches, and said it served me right for not paying attention. How I wish we could bring back those types of Schooldays!!

I trust these past memories will be useful to your history gathering.

Stan HARVEY.

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