Shropshire History

Shropshire

Bombing

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Shropshire escaped relatively lightly from bombing in the Second World War but there were a number of specific raids. Mostly, however, it was a case of German bombers jettisoning bombs after failing to find their target. Terrorist bombs are the biggest fear nowadays and Shropshire has suffered from these too. The occurrences below are not a full picture and more will be added when found.

 

26th June 1940 – 5 bombs fell on Shawbury, damaging some houses but with no injuries.

 

3rd August 1940 – a bomb fell on Sambrook and one of these failed to explode. This caused closure of the village pub until the Bomb Squad took it away and blew it up.

 

25th August 1940 – bombs fell on Newcastle-on-Clun, damaging a cottage but with no injuries.

 

29th August 1940 – a bomber jettisoned its load of 12 bombs on Bridgnorth. One landed near the Squirrel Hotel and Ken Ritchie recalls “I was woken by a whistling sound and moments later was blown out of bed by a huge German bomb which devastated his home. Ken's parents Jack and Hilda Ritchie were the licensees of the Squirrel Hotel in Pound Street. "For about a week beforehand, the siren went every night and we went down the cellar. This particular night my dad said 'We won't go down the cellar tonight. They're not going to bomb Bridgnorth.' But they did. About 1.30am I was wakened by a whistling sound. That was it then. I must have been blown out of bed and hit the wall the other side of the room. The next thing I remember was being carried downstairs by my mum in her arms. It blew all of the front of the pub away. All the doors were blown off. There was glass everywhere. My sister Lorna was away on a week's holiday at the time. All the ceiling fell down in her bedroom onto her bed. She would probably have been killed. The Air Raid Precautions rescuers said that if we had gone down the cellar we would have been killed, as the blast went straight through it, blowing off the cellar flaps. There were 12 bombs altogether but the biggest bomb was the one dropped outside the Squirrel, on the junction of St Mary's Street and Listley Street. It made a massive crater. It was the biggest bomb they had at that time. Mr Payne's sweet shop on the other side of the junction was also blown up by the same bomb. We had to go and live at my auntie and uncle's pub, the Three Horseshoes at Wheathill, while they rebuilt the pub”. He said that his mother had only cut her feet through the broken glass. His father had been out on ARP duty when the bomb struck.

 

Oil bomb on Pound Street

Sweet shop on St Mary’s Street

 

While there were no fatalities at the Squirrel, other parts of the town were not so lucky. Miss Josephine Maynard (62) was killed by a direct hit on her house in Church Street and Elizabeth Hand (68) by another on her cottage behind the old St Leonard's rectory. Two or three incendiary bombs fell behind shops in the High Street.

 

29th August 1940 - bombs fell on Crewe Bank in Shrewsbury. May Hatfield lived on St Michael's Street and remembers that her sister Alice, who was in the WRAC, was visiting her and had spotted the German plane flying around the area. She had just knocked on the front door when the plane flew down and dropped its bomb. She recalled the house shook and they both dived under the table, together with her sister Margaret (2), thinking more bombs would follow. There was usually a gang of kids playing outside in the area of Crewe Bank and it was lucky that a shower of rain had caused them to go inside.

 

31st August 1940two high explosive bombs were dropped on Shrewsbury, one of which struck a cottage on Ellesmere Road and destroyed it while another buried itself in the road nearby. In the cottage, Mrs Jessie Broxton had gone to bed with her two small grandchildren Margaret Meredith (6) and John Meredith (4). Her husband, William Broxton, was downstairs when the bomb struck the house. Five minutes after Mrs Broxton had gone to bed, he heard her call “Oh Bill” and the next minute the bomb exploded and he was buried. When the rescuers arrived, they found him buried under 5-6ft of debris but he only suffered slight shock and some cuts on the arm.

 

5th September 1940 – bombs fell on Bishop’s Castle fire station but they were out tackling a fire at Churchstoke.

 

15th September 1940 – bombs blew out the windows of The Citadel at Hawkstone.

 

28th September 1940 – a bomb left a huge crater on Lilleshall Golf Course.

 

10th October 1940 – bombs fell on Shrewsbury.

 

16th October 1940 – 16 bombs dropped near Longnor.

 

16th October 1940 – a German raider strafed a goods train near Yockleton, hitting the tail lamps on the guard’s van.

 

22nd October 1940 – a bomb made a big crater between Caradoc and Little Caradoc.

 

26th October 1940 – the Allscott sugar beet factory was damaged in a daylight raid.

 

9th November 1940 – bombs fell on Ironbridge in a daylight raid, stopping the mayoral investiture ceremony. No injuries but several houses were damaged.

 

28th November 1940 – there was widespread activity over the county when it was estimated that over 100 incendiary bombs, 27 high explosive bombs and eight parachute mines were dropped. Among many incidents, 5 houses were damaged at Cruckmoor Lane, Prees Lower Heath. Tugford Church and three nearby cottages were also damaged.

 

2nd December 1940 – a bomb was dropped on Berwick Road, Shrewsbury. It made large crater into which woman motorist afterwards drove her car.

 

1940 - 300 incendiary bombs were dropped at Gitchfield during the year. George Gough won a certificate, signed by Winston Churchill, for an act of gallantry at Exley's Tileries. There were ladders on the roof of a building used as an explosives store and George Gough ran onto the roof and threw off the bombs.

 

1940 – bombers jettisoned two bombs at Edgebold. Eva Sambrook recalls “I remember the night it happened; all of our windows upstairs and down burst open, and with no lights (you daren’t have any lights on) we couldn’t see a thing! Claire and I were sleeping in the same bedroom at the time as we were so frightened at night and I remember Father coming in and calling out ‘You alright girls?’ We were alright but of course we’d woken up with all the windows blowing open with the force of the bombs. Luckily it didn’t damage anything and nobody was hurt, not even any animals. I remember hearing afterwards what actually happened; everyone had something to say about it all. Kynastons, the people who had the farm at the time, were friends of ours so we went with others in a vehicle to have a look at the great big craters that had been made by the bombs, they were huge! But the bombs dropped in two fields and didn’t cause too much damage at all. They missed Shrewsbury town altogether”.

 

April 1941 - Eddie Sutton and Ernie Edwards from Cleobury Mortimer, both ARP messengers, were killed by a delayed action bomb which had fallen on high ground north of the town. It was one of several dropped on Ditton Priors Ammo Dump but this one had missed.  The boys cycled up to see what had happened and must have been examining the bomb when it went off. They were killed immediately.

 

1942 – a bomb fell in a field behind the social club at Chapel Bank, leaving a huge crater.

 

 

November 1942 - on a foggy day, a German bomber was seen flying over Shrewsbury. It was so low that the swastika and the pilot in his cockpit could be seen. He was apparently looking for the Railway Station but he didn't find it and jettisoned his bombs on the Ellesmere Road about a mile away. There was no damage or casualties.

 

7th December 1944 – 12 bombs were dropped over the Bedlam furnace. One bomb fell near the Swan, one fell at Bower's Yard and one fell in the waterfall at the bottom of The Spout. The latter made a big crater and caused the waterfall to stop. A Broseley man, Mr Finch, was getting timber with his horse and they were injured by pieces of limestone broken off by a bomb.

 

24th December 1944 – a number of Heinkel bombers from Holland set off on a special mission and attached under each wing were V1 rockets. These were launched at the Lincolnshire coastline and aimed at Manchester. Not all made it there and one fell in a ploughed field east of Newport, about 300 yards from the Newport to Gnosall road. A huge explosion damaged half the buildings in the town and there was glass everywhere. Mary Dutton recalls “There was a noise that sounded like a boulder or tin can being dragged up the path and then there was such an almighty bang. I hid under the bedclothes. I went into my parents' bedroom and my father was sitting bolt upright in bed with his hair standing on end. And then he screamed What the bloody 'ell was that?“. The only casualties were a rabbit and frog. The site was quickly cordoned off by the Army and Home Guard as the wreckage was cleared. Pieces of it are still on display in the RAF Museum at Cosford. There was only a small crater, which was unusual as a standard V1 had a warhead of more than 2,000 lb. This was enough to flatten an entire street, yet homes only 300 yards from the impact crater only suffered superficial damage. The answer lay in pieces of paper lying around the bomb crater. On closer examination, these turned out to be letters from British Prisoners of War being held in Germany. Each was a photocopy of a brief letter from a serviceman to their family, marked with a footnote from the prisoner's commandant, assuring relatives he was being well looked after. Most were quickly picked up by the authorities, although many people claim they still have copies. Apparently, this was quite a common event where V1 attacks had happened. The idea of the Germans was that relatives would write to the PoWs after getting the letter and this would show how effective the bombing had been.

 

20th February 1989 - two IRA bombs exploded in the army barracks at Tern Hill.  Fifty members of the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment escaped injury when sentry Lance Corporal Alan Norris spotted two men acting suspiciously in the early hours of this morning.  He raised the alarm and the barracks was evacuated, shortly before the two bombs went off. The bombers escaped in a stolen car, which was later found about 10 miles from the barracks. Lance Corporal Norris was on patrol duty at about 0300 hours when he spotted the terrorists. When he challenged them, they dumped a sports bag, containing a third bomb, and ran off. The soldier fired three rounds from his rifle but missed. Some minutes later, the first two bombs exploded but nobody was hurt. Regimental Sergeant Major Bob Powell said "He had cleared the building of those people sleeping and then cleared the area. Had he not done that at that time, lives could have been lost and it was from his swift, prompt action that lives were not lost".

 

Soon after Brian Fleet, who lived about a mile from the barracks, was awoken by a man banging on his front door in the middle of the night. He assumed there had been a road accident and went to the door but when he looked out and saw a man armed with a pistol shouting angrily in what he described as a broad Irish accent he decided not to open the door. The gunman then forced his way into another house further down the road and seized the owner's Ford Montego car after threatening to shoot his wife. The car was later found abandoned.

 

24th August 1992 - the Great Hall of Shrewsbury Castle was damaged by a bomb planted by the IRA. Structural damage was slight but it severely damaged the Shropshire Light Infantry regimental museum. Another bomb was planted in the Staks soft furnishing store in the town's Charles Darwin shopping centre but the fire was put out by the shop's sprinkler system. Another bomb was later found in Wades furnishing store. It had caused a small amount of charring to furniture but the fire had been extinguished of its own accord. The centre of Shrewsbury was severely disrupted as it was sealed off for police searches during the day. The town's railway station was closed for a while and town centre traffic diverted.

 

November 30th 2016 - a bomb disposal unit was called in after a postbox was badly damaged by an explosion on Rock Road, Telford. The road was closed in both directions between the Ketley Business Park and Overdale and a 100 metre cordon was put in place for the surrounding roads. Around 20 residents were moved from the area as a precaution but later allowed to return home. Nobody was injured in the incident.