- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Bill Johnson, Tim Mears.
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 January 2006
8th-9th May 1941.
I was one of a party, usually about eight of us. We were known as the Shire Hall Fire Brigade but were a sort of full time fire watchers. Our job was to man two roof pill boxes in telephone link with the Air Raid Precaution County Control, situated in the cells under the courts. Also two men examined all the council offices and courts on one side of High Pavement, to the county Police station. The others did the same on the opposite side - County Library (then on Halifax Place), County House, Taxation Building, corner of St. Mary's gate and calling at the County Court (then on Fletcher Gate). Under the County Library, there was shelter in the caves.
On the night of the raid, a warm night, we were sitting on the steps of our office on Kayes Walk, opposite the back gate of St. Mary's Church Yard. The lamp fitting over the gate was the first street lamp in Nottingham. While we were sitting we were watching criss cross lines in the sky - perhaps target planes? Then the bombs started to fall.
The first very loud explosion, quite close near circus street, then showers of incendiary bombs. Some were in the trees and on tombs in the churchyard. Fires started in all directions.
A young man on our staff, Tim Mears, said to me "What should we do Bill?" we teamed up together and Tim went upstairs and came down looking like a Christmas terr. he had two stirrup pumps and two fire buckets and our axes. We went to the top floor of the taxation office. One of the offices belonging to to the department of the Medical Officer was well alight. we just threw the water buckets into the room to no avail. now, of course, no buckets! Tim scouted around and came back with a bucket of coal - not much use for putting a fire out - so coal out on the floor.
The water by now had run out from the mains around the Sire Hall area. We managed to fill our bucket from the hot water taps and after a time we put the fire out, an incendiary had gone through the roof and into a steel filing cabinet (no key), but managed to chop it open with an axe to get at the bomb.
Outside again, there were fires everywhere. The top floor of the education offices to the rear of the Shire Hall was well alight. Men from the City Brigade were trying to axe their way through the mian doors of the Shire Hall. I went round and opened them from the inside. outside again we saw one of the men from St. marys - either Bishop Talbot or Dr. Blandy, not sure which. He said "Will someone help me to save my church?" We took him across to where he could see over lean side where the small church (was it St.Johns?) was in sheets of flame. Then to satisfy him we climbed up to the roof of the church (St. Mary's) and tried to deal with an incendiary, but not much luck. The city brigade managed it afterwards.
We joined a party of people trying to rescue bits and pieces from the Washington buildings Public Assistance Offices near Commercial Square. The Director of Public Assistance was telling us what to save. He said "Could you get the safe out, it's rather important." So we started rolling it over and over to the top of the stairs. He said "Don't roll it down the stairs, it will spoil the carpet." As the building was well alight, we carried on and let the safe roll into the street.
After a time, most things with not much water, were left to burn away. The old Alhambra Theatre on St. Mary's Gate, oppisite the end of Kayes Walk, went up with a bang, raining, what appeared to be, typewritrs, around. With all the destruction around, I think we at the Shire Hall were lucky to get away with so much.
The next day, new mains were laid from the trent to the City and Lace Market along the road surfaces.
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