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15 October 2014
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Busman's Holiday? Bombing in Coventry and Grantham

by coventrated

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Irene, Brian and Graham Whitehead
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Contributed on: 
09 November 2003

‘A Busman’s Holiday’

I was born in Coventry in 1938 and lived with my parents and older brother in the Stoke district of the city. The main effect of enemy action in the suburbs, perhaps two miles from the city centre was from incendiary fire bombs. As they hit the roof of a dwelling they were quickly dealt with by firewatchers or the ARP (air raid police) warden whose house was identified in every street. My brother, Brian (six years my senior) recalls handing up a bucket of sand to my father in the loft of our 1938 end of terrace house, which he used to put the property out of danger. In the garden we had an Anderson shelter into which were invited whenever a raid occurred, our next door neighbours (who had no children) Mr and Mrs Tom Flowers.

At the end of road which was a continuation of the avenue in which we lived, and where the bus terminus was situated, was a bungalow which had a direct hit, and an enormous bomb crater was left until after the war when the bungalow was rebuilt.

My grandmother, who lived with my grandfather on the other side of the city, had a sister who lived in their birthplace of Grantham. It was decided, after one of the heavy bombardments of Coventry, (I imagine it was after the raids of April 8 and 10 in 1941) that my mother would take my brother and me to stay with mother’s aunt Lydia (Mrs Dawson) who lived at 13 Rutland Street Grantham, for a brief interlude from enemy bombardment. We had no car at that time and the journey was made by bus, changing at Leicester and travelling through Melton Mowbray. On arrival in Grantham, my brother Brian aged 8, carrying the suitcase, and my mother with me in a push-chair (folding baby buggy for those who do not know what a push chair was) we alighted from the bus to witness a day-light raid by a German fighter'plane which was firing at a stationary train, waiting on the viaduct for a signal to enter Grantham station. This railway viaduct (a bridge over the Harlaxton Road) and some five minutes walk from Rutland Street, afforded some temporary shelter from the incident on the bridge overhead. Presumably this German aircraft had been on a daylight raid to one of the nearby airfields, perhaps Swinderby just outside Grantham. Although I was too young to have any memory of this, my brother Brian (now living in Australia) recalls the raid vividly. Apparently the speed with which my brother carried the suitcase and my mother pushed me in the push-chair was unprecedented! On arrival at 13 Rutland Street (now alas demolished for a bus station) my great-aunt , sheltering from the raid in the cellar of her home, ignored the frantic knocking at the front door thinking it was the fall of shrapnel. Presumably the persistence of knocking or the all-clear alerted aunt Lydia to open the door and accept into her arms the waifs and strays from bomb-ravaged Coventry.

Graham Whitehead

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