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- 28 April 2005
A lifelong acquaintance of mine, Mr Arthur Grimshaw of Wrose, Shipley told me on 14 October 2000 that he was with a group of teenage friends, walking along the road from Bradford to Shipley. This was on the night that the screaming bomb fell on Heaton woods. They heard it descending, and felt the impact of the explosion. This caused a wide crater, affecting the course of a stream that was there (incidentally, there was no mention of any dead sheep).
My correspondent at RAF, A.H.B.3, Mr L C Morrison, informed me that a full copy of the “Chronicle of Main Air Attacks on Great Britain and Northern Ireland” was available at the Public Records Office in Kew, Surrey. I went there to look at these vital documents. They contain details of daily reports of enemy air activity in “AIR22” series of documents.
Bill Berry’s version of events stated that the raid on 31 August 1940 commenced at 10:13pm; spasmodic bombing ensued until 2:40am the following day. According to Mr Berry’s account, there were:
a) 47 high explosives;
b) 7 delayed action high explosives;
c) 11 oil incendiaries;
d) 51 magnesium incendiaries.
On 14 March 1941, there were:
a) 29 high explosives;
b) 556 incendiaries.
If this, and the recently reported raid in March 1941 (involving 600 bombs) had taken place, Bradford would have shown the scars for years afterwards. There was no evidence to justify these claims, either during the war or after it.
A gentleman, who had lived at Thornton, Bradford in 1940 and 1941, told me of an unexploded bomb being dropped in Thornton. He said that it caused a crater, some 15 to 20 feet across. An unexploded bomb would only bury itself in the ground — it would not produce a crater!
The same man told me that he could see the glow of fires in the centre of Bradford. That is quite feasible, remembering that a complete blackout was in force; any fire or light would stand out against the darkness of night.
Leeds library is much better equipped than Bradford’s for information on wartime enemy activity. A very interesting item is a set of maps that illustrate the proposed targets in the Leeds area. These have been obtained from the German authorities since the end of the war. Several were bombed on occasions when Leeds was attacked.
However, the purpose of my visit to Leeds library was mainly to gain some knowledge of the part played by Yeadon during the course of the war. I found that Yeadon was not annexed by the city of Leeds until several years later. During the 1939-45 era, it had its own council, and was under the jurisdiction of Aireborough.
My own memories were proved correct when I made enquiries at Yeadon library. The A. V. Roe aircraft factory was involved in the production of Lancaster bomber aircraft. RAF Yeadon was used as a testing airfield for these aeroplanes, and their subsequent departure to operational centres. The factory was indeed camouflaged to resemble fields. Yeadon Tarn and two other stretches of water were drained off, to avoid being used as landmarks in possible attacks by German bombers.
The librarian informed me that her grandfather had come to Yeadon from Manchester as a skilled worker, to help in the construction of the Lancaster bomber. I personally knew some people who were sent to work at A. V. Roe’s. Their ordinary work was deemed to be “not essential” to the war effort. People such as these had no choice in the matter; it was compulsory. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week were the working hours, whether they liked it or not.
Having established these details, there were no records of any enemy air activity over Yeadon or immediate surroundings, according to information held by the library.
The microfilms in Bradford library of both the T&A and the “Yorkshire Observer” give an account of the August 1940 raid. Lingards and the Odeon cinema both suffered damage. There was also a report on tramlines being disrupted in Tyrrel Street (see earlier reference to Walter Hawley). Other incidents across Bradford are consistent with the jettisoning of high explosive bombs (a “stick” of five in all) and an unknown number of incendiaries. This bears out the fact that there was no recorded sustained attack on Bradford in the years 1940 and 1941.
As previously stated, I made the journey to Kew, Surrey on 25 October 2000, to visit the Public Records Office. On account of being supplied already with the details of what I was looking for, there were no problems. The records contained in “AIR22” were immediately available, in the form of a large ledger. In this, I found day by day recordings of missions flown by the RAF. More importantly for my investigations, there was also a complete rundown of enemy operations over Britain, covering the years 1940 and 1941.
These vital records show that there was no deliberate, sustained attack on the city of Bradford during this period; these revelations support my certain belief that the bombing of Bradford on 30n August 1940 was an isolated incident.
Without doubt the accounts, by various people connected with the T&A, of the bombing of 14 March 1941 are totally unfounded. There was no such incident, according to these previously confidential files, which are shown to have been made public in the year 1972.
Upon obtaining “AIR22” records, I was further supplied with a ledger comprising “S.1405”, which contains further documentary evidence of German air activity over Britain.
In the letter received, quoting “D/HAB (RAF) 8/13”, from the Air Historical Branch (RAF), Leeds is listed in the chart. The table shows that Leeds was bombed 4 times in 1940, and twice in 1941. One of these bombing raids is listed under the heading “Main Attacks”. Apart from showing Bradford as having only one raid, no other references in the table are made to Bradford.( The chart is at the top of the page)
Air Historical Branch (RAF)
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
Room 308,3-5, Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HW
2 October 2000
Dear Mr Price,
Thank you for your letter of 12 September 2000 concerning the bombing of Bradford during 1940 and 1941.
Please find enclosed an extract from the 'Chronicle of Main Air Attacks on Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Their Effects on the Vital National War Effort' that records Bradford as being bombed once during this period. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate the exact date of the bombing. A full copy of this document is available for research and photocopying at the Public Record Office (PRO), Kew, Surrey (Reference AIR 20/7288). I have enclosed a PRO information sheet for your attention.
For further information about the bombing of Bradford I can only suggest, if you have not already done so, contacting a local museum that may hold some information in their archive. Alternatively, you may wish to search through daily reports of enemy air activity that are also held at the PRO (AIR 22 series of documents).
I hope this information is of some use.
L C Morrison
As I continue my research into what really happened regarding the bombing of Bradford, one thing is becoming abundantly clear. One person has clearly started off these fictitious accounts. Others have come along to copy, and enlarge on, the subject. I have found that these accounts have been repeated, almost word for word, in articles I have read — especially the numbers of missiles allegedly dropped on the city.
As I go around, I am constantly approached by people who were present in 1940 and 1941. They heartily support my views on what really happened in that period of time, and simultaneously agree with what did not happen. Following the war, stories of wartime Britain have been written by individuals who were born long after the end of the hostilities. They can only write dubious accounts, passed on by those who did not know the facts themselves. It is far more serious when newspapers are prepared to highlight such unfounded stories. Even the cities and towns, which in truth were heavily attacked, did not know the full facts until many years afterwards, due to strict censorship imposed by the Government; probably until 1972.
There was a housing shortage for several years, from 1946 onwards. This was not necessarily due to wartime devastation, particularly in many parts of South, West and North Yorkshire. These areas had not suffered as greatly as the main enemy targets. There was a serious housing problem to be faced, due to the need to replace old and defunct properties, and the need to supply an increasing population with adequate dwellings.
Until 1974, Shipley was an urban district council, independent of Bradford. Much of the old housing stock was demolished, and progressively replaced by modern housing. Most of this was achieved by direct labour. The result was the envy of many cities and towns, far and wide. As an initial stop-gap, prefabricated bungalows were erected in Gaisby Lane, Shipley in the early 1950s. Also, pre-fabricated flats (including the Wycliffe estate) were constructed at a later date by private contractors.
Following my demobilisation from the RAF in 1946, my wife, myself and our small children were not housed until 1952. For those 5-6 years, we lived in a two-bedroom house with my wife’s mother. This was a gas-lit house with no bath or hot water. The shared toilet was at the top of the street; all very primitive. This illustrates the acute shortage of living accommodation. Of course, we were by no means an isolated case. This bears out the fact that, if anyone became homeless during the war, there was no chance of being re-housed in new property because there was none to be had. Everything had to be concentrated on the prosecution of the war, especially in the early years of 1940 and 1941. These were desperate times for everyone in Great Britain.
On Friday 3 November 2000, I caught a bus in Saltaire Road, Shipley. That service operates between Cottingley (Bingley) and West Bowling (Bradford), via Bradford Interchange. When the bus reached Market Street (Bradford) and passengers began to board for West Bowling, an elderly man sat beside me. We got into conversation, and I asked him if it was necessary to change buses, in order to get to East Bowling. I explained that I wished to make enquiries there about the pre-fabricated houses, which (according to the T&A) had been provided during the war to house bombed-out people.
Here, I really did strike gold! This man told me that he had lived in one. He had served in the army throughout the war, and had been allocated a prefab a while after the war, when they were being constructed! This shows beyond any reasonable doubt that they were not provided during the war for bombed-out people. He also confirmed that the structures in the gardens were put there for gardening purposes. There are bound to be other people in the East Bowling area today, who experienced the same set of circumstances as this man.
These were the very same prefabs depicted in the T&A, in the article titled “The night terror rained from the sky”, printed on 31 August 2000. The article alleged that they were provided for people who were bombed out of their homes in 1940 and 1941.
There was an air raid on Leeds on the weekend of 31 August and 1 September 1940. The incident over Bradford on the same date was probably a part of it. Leeds was also described as a “North East town”.
After all these years, it does not make sense to specify how many bombs were dropped, and where. To emphasise once again, there were no official records; strict Government censorship made sure of this. Bombs consisted of the high explosive type and incendiaries, which were designed to burn the target. To say that six hundred were dropped does not, in any case, differentiate between high explosives and incendiaries in the newspaper account.
The overwhelming evidence from the different reliable sources shows that Bradford did not suffer a sustained air attack at any time during the course of the war. It all suggests that there will be people with extremely vivid memories, even today. Some of the people who lived in 1940 and 1941 are remembering things, which will have become somewhat distorted with the passage of time.
As far as Germany was concerned (and fortunately for those living in or near the city), Bradford was not an essential target. Being traditionally involved in the production of wool textiles, it was seen as being “of no significance” in the furtherance of hostilities against the German nation.
With regard to my letter to the T&A, in which I wrote “some other people who were around at the time may care to comment”, I naturally expected support for my beliefs. The very fact that Mike Priestley suggested that I might be suffering from “senile decay” resulted in my making these extensive enquiries. It is quite obvious, from the overwhelming evidence I have collated, that I was right in the first place, my memory being perfectly intact!
What, to me, is a most extraordinary feature is that history can become distorted in such a relatively short space of time when, for instance, we had the Roman invasion in the early part of the first Millennium AD reasonably well recorded. Yet in more than 60 years, this part of the history of Bradford is well nigh corrupted!
What, to me also, was potentially the conclusive chapter in these findings was the involvement (if any) of the hospitals. That is to say, if these “intensive” bombings had taken place on the City of Bradford, there would ultimately have been a great number of casualties; either those killed or the many, inevitably maimed or injured. Upon enquiring, it seems that Bradford Health Authority had no records (or even any knowledge) of anything of this nature; either of “intensive bombing” or of any ensuing casualties emerging from any such hostilities.
In trying to explore all the possible channels in these investigations, I realised that there was a very important piece of “jigsaw” still to discover. That was, to verify what part the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) had played in the story of the bombing of Bradford. The question being, how did I get in touch with this organisation, bearing in mind that it may no longer exist?
My enquiries began at the Army recruiting office, based in Leeds. Upon making my request known to the sergeant on reception, he looked at me blankly and virtually admitted that he had never heard of the ROC. However, he went into a room at the rear, presumably to seek information. He emerged with a piece of paper, on which had been written a telephone number and nothing else. That number eventually led me to the answer I was looking for. Although the trail led from Hertfordshire to London, the essential letter arrived through my letterbox from Scotland!
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