- Contributed by
- Bradford Libraries, Archives and Information Service
- People in story:
- William Thompson
- Location of story:
- Bradford, Yorkshire
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 November 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War website by Carol Greenwood of Bradford Libraries on behalf of Pat Atkinson and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site terms and conditions.
The following is a transcription of the text of a letter from Pat's father William Thompson, an ARP warden, in September 1940.
Dear A and D
I am sorry the newspaper cuttings caused you to be anxious about us, as I told you, we are not hurt and the dirty business is passed now. The experience has left its mark on the older people and ones nerves are not always under control, but the general result of the raids has been a stiffening of our determination to win the war. If Jerry ever gets to bradford there will be no need for the Home Guard, the women will wipe them out with kitchen knives.
Mother came to tea yesterday and looked fairly well. She worries more about me doing duties than about the war in general.Dad was in bed, trying to get some lost sleep.Everytime they send for Ciss to go to the ambulance depot he gets up with her and stays up until she returns home. They had been up till 4 oclock on Thursday morning. By the way Ciss was not on duty during the big raid.
As you seem anxious to have the details of Bradford's experiences ( and I suppose it's only natural) I'll try and oblige, hoping the letter is not censored.
Up to the first week of August theings were rather stale and boring, wardens in uniform were treated with rather a sarcastic smile and looked upon as a nuisance if he called about lights. About the 11th jerry came over and dropped his eggs on Otley Chevin and Guiseley. If they were intended fro Yeadon, it was a bad miss, but it made people sit up. One neighbour of ours said " if he makes the same margin of error next time but on this side of Yeadon we look like catching it at Heaton" and sure enough we did.
On the 22nd I had an 8 hour duty at the Post and signed on at 10pm. At 10.10 the plane came over and I went outside with the full time man to watch the searchlights. (dozens of them) Suddenly we heard the whistle of the bombs and did we duck?
The whistel ,or scream, as some people call it, of the bombs is ten times worse than the explosion, for about 10 seconds while it is dropping you feel terrified and you have the impression that it is coming straight for you. as you know these landed in Heaton Woods, in the bed of the stream.
Incidently it isn't true that there are 50 sets of silk knickers waiting to be claimed at Heaton lost property office.
I went home to Hilda as soon as possible and found her calmly feeding MAry. All the houses round about had been shaken but no damage done.
Again on the 26th and 27th Jerry dropped an egg in Stanley Rhodes ( the builders)yard in Leeds Road. There was no end of broken glass about, including the Fever Hospital windows, but again no one was hurt.
Last Friday night 30th the sirens sounded twice and kept us out of bed till half past three on Saturday morning. Mary wakened for a feed soon after five oclock and both Hilda and I had to be satisfied with less than two hours sleep. The funny thing was Jerry did notheing. On Saturday we were both like Barney's Bull if you know what I mean, and we decided that we would nt' get up for any planes unless the sirens sounded. We wakened once or twice during the night and heard the planes but the sirens never went. We didn't know a thing more till Sunday morning.
I cann't give you all the details because they are too numerous but this is a summary. The first bomb dropped about 10.30pm when the amusements werefinishing in Tyrell St. People dropped flat on the causeway and later ran for it. Jerry turned again and dropped five big bombs which scattered smaller incendiary bombs when they exploded. These started fires in Nelson St, Lingards, and the meat market. After that the fun was fast and furious. The police had to charge one crowd of people before the AFS couls get to work. The fires gave Jerry all the light he needed and for 4 hours 30 planes in relays of 2or 3 or 4 and did just as he liked. When the AFS were fighting one fire he came down to 400 foot and dropped a high explosive plumb in the middle of them. The Odeon picture was hit soon in the raid but had just emptied.
A packet of incendiary bombs dropped on Fairweather Green and were all put out without a mojor fire by the wardens. Ciss's first aid post received a hit but all the staff were in the shelters. St Peter's Church received a bomb plumb in the centre and has a 9 ft. crater in the isle. A delayed action bomb burst just outside the church at 8.20 on Sunday evening. It is believed that the church will be condemned and will have to be entirely rebuilt. This must be a bitter blow for Pr Mc Adam who by the way is very ill.
One narrow escape was at Valley Gas works, a bomb fell between two gasomemters and idn't wreck them. Some queer things happened too, a wool warehouse in Manchester road district had a slice cut clean out of its middle, a huge knife couldn't have cut cleaner.
a nasty mess was made in the Laisterdyke and Tyersal districts, whole rows of houses were wrecked and many delayed action bombs caused people to leave home. Over 200 families had to evacuate the district without having time to collect a thing. Laisterdyke signal box received a direct hit and just vanished. The signalman had just entered the steel one manshelter attached to the box and was left high and dry. He had to jump to a telegraph pole near his shelter and climb down, his only injury being shock.
There are dozens of incidents and stories that could be told, nearly everypart of the city wa visited except Heaton. Perhpas they didn't want to disturb the (courters?) again. I nearly forgot the Otley road bomb. It fell in the middle of the road just at the end of Butler St. A big stone set was hurled into Whittam's doorway.
You must find it difficult to believe all these stories when only one person was killed and less than 200 injured, but the damage done runs into millions of pounds. Harry Emmett managed to get round the central area (he would) and he says there isn't a button left where Lingards once stood.
Jerry had a real picnic for 4 hours and there wasn't one gun or British plane in the town.
Most of this has been written at the Wardens Post, but when I get I find that Hilda has been writing also. We have decided to send both letters although they are much alike, it will give you two impressions anyway. Before closing I must tell you a story Cissie brought uptonight. A friend of hers was in town when jerry first came over, a bobby in Tyrrell Street called to evrybody to drop flat and after the explosion nobody moved for a little while and there was dead silence. All at once a man shouted "what the hell is he dropping cauliflowers?" As the people had dropped a woman had sent her basket flying and a cauliflower had dropped into the man's hand.
I don't know how true this one is, but they say a first aid party found a man lying on the pavement in a funny position making queer noises and movements. They rushed for a stretcher and were deciding what the injuries were when they found out he was just turning off the watermain tap.
That's all the news for the present so we'll start getting ready for bed. It takes ten minutes extra these days you know.. uniform at the ready. Tidy upthe room in case neighbours get scared and come in for comfort, fix the little table lamp and electric fire and put cussions on the floor of the shelter under the stairs. if things get too hot we can use a neighbours' Anderson shelter. If the sirens go we will feel safe. It's when they don't go that the eggs begin to drop. All the best, Bill.
PTO Saturday am - two siren warnings during the night. Incendiary bombs on Bingley but no damage. Am I tired? Bill
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