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Driving Through a West Bromwich Air Raidicon for Recommended story

by Patrick Moren

Contributed by 
Patrick Moren
People in story: 
Location of story: 
West Bromwich
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 February 2004

It was Tuesday November 19th 1940.As an 11 year old,I lived at the family drapery store in the High Street at West Bromwich. Coventry had suffered a heavy raid the previous Thursday November 14th and Birmingham had already had a few of its 86 raids. Early in the evening the light on our tuning signal on our bakelite EKCO radio narrowed. We knew then that German aircraft were expected, we presume because the strength of the BBC transmitter had been reduced.There was a high powered transmitter at Droitwich in Worcestershire.
The sirens duly sounded and my parents together with my brother and I trooped down to one of the cellars under our shops where we had camping beds, emergency oil lamps, food and drink.This had become a regular routine and familiarity breeds contempt as many previous nights were undisturbed by air raids in close proximity.
We soon heard the familiar drone of the German engines and this time the incendiaries started to fall followed by the high explosives.The whine of falling bombs was a distintive sound amongst the general noise.
Peacocks warehouse(a retail chain store) was set alight, together with the Gas showrooms in the High Street, Hill and Long's furniture storage, a typewriter factory in Victoria Street and many others.The high explosives caused many fatal casualties in nearby streets, and there were many acts of bravery.. At Richard Street South a young boy bravely held his baby sister above the floodwater that had crept up the stairs in the cellar of his wrecked home. They were rescued after many hours. Broken mains water was a threat in bombed homes. There was a direct hit on a fire engine near Edward Street, and the Edward Street hospital boiler unit was destroyed. Part of the boiler came through our roof and landed on my brother's bed. We found an unexploded incendiary bomb in a roof gutter months later.
As the light from the many fires increased my father suddenly made an extraordinary decision to get the family Standard saloon car out of the garage and drive us all out of the raid.The garage had a first floor storage area reached by a wooden step ladder on the wall.
My father had to drive over a girder blown into our rear garage access alley.The drive through the raid is clear in my memory, with the many fires and the sound of the bombs and anti-aircraft guns near I think to Stone Cross.
We made our way to a small village called Bonehill near Tamworth in Staffordshire about 20 miles away.We stayed the rest of the night at the home of the Lycett family in Park Lane. I had been evacuated there from my Guns Lane primary school in West Brom at the start of the war in September 1939.Like most of the other school children I had returned home after some months as there had been no raids at that time.The Lycett family were very kind to take us in.
I only recently found out after 60 years, why my father suddenly decided to risk taking the family out in the car through a heavy raid. My brother told me that there was emergency petrol supplies stored in the loft of the garage, and as the fires were nearby my father was concerned that the garage would blow up together with the family car. As a badly wounded 'Old Contemptible 'from the Great War, my father had already sadly experienced German warfare under much more severe conditions.
As a postscript, there were George Medals awarded for bravery in the town including one to a teenager called Charity Bick.She cycled around with emergency messages to civil defence posts when communication was broken.
When we returned home from Tamworth the following morning we found all of the shop windows blown out by bomb blast,and much of the stock destroyed.
During the night my mother found time to write a brief letter to my eldest brother away in the Army.
This letter took three years to reach him as he constantly moved camp. She said we have had 'A night of Hell'.That seems to sum up our experience. He still has the letter with the various post marks.

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Message 1 - Driving through a West Bromwich air raid.

Posted on: 25 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

This is a most unusual story, your father took a great risk but I can see why. A terrible ordeal for all of you.

Kind regards,

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

The Blitz Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Birmingham and West Midlands Category
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