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Memories of the Blitz - Doug Sanderson

by Terryvardy

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Doug Sanderson
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27 November 2003

This story is by Doug Sanderson.

For several months after the outbreak of war, the bombing and the air raids that everyone had been expecting failed to appear. The 'Phoney War' was finally over when the bombing of many of our major towns and cities started and the people of Sheffield began to wonder when it would be their turn to endure the horror and dangers brought by the German planes as Hull, Liverpool, Manchester and other towns suffered. The frequent air raid warnings with their haunting wailing note, followed a little later by the 'All Clear' had lulled the people of Sheffield into a false sense of security so that the populace went about their normal business with the theatres, cinemas and public houses doing a brisk trade.

As a youth of eighteen, expecting to be conscripted into the Royal Air Force in a matter of weeks I was in the city on that fateful Thursday evening, December 12 1940, the first of the two nights when Sheffield bore the brunt of the might of the Luftwaffe. Studying accountancy at evening classes in the buildings of the Sheffield Technical College at the corner of Leopold Street and West Street, students had been informed that, should an air raid take place, we had to stay in the building until 9.30 pm. Anyone viewing the building today, many years later, can still see that the ground floor windows are only partly below street level so that the classrooms could hardly
be said to ideal air raid shelters. The tranquility of the clear cold moonlit evening with the wail of the warning sirens which brought any thoughts of study to the twenty or so students in my group, to an end. For a few brief minutes after the sirens sounded, a hush seemed to descend on the city, broken only by the faint sounds of the whistles of the air raid wardens as they eneavoured to clear the streets and get people into the shelters. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the faint drone of aircraft and the distant sound of ack-ack guns as they hopefully filled the air with shrapnel. With all lights extinguished in the classromm, students peered round the edges of the blackout curtains at the night sky that was becoming transformed with a kaleidoscope of searchlights as they criss-crossed the sky searching for enemy aircraft.

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