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The Story of the Sheffield Blitz

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The Story of the Sheffield Blitz, 12th & 15th December 1940

See also our current topic on the Blitz... Link

In Sheffield, precautions against air raids were in hand before a declaration of war with Germany had been made on Sept 3rd 1939. Anderson shelters, made out of corrugated steel were being delivered to many housholders. It was then up to the householder to dig a hole large enough to accomodate the shelter. This was done with the help of relatives, friends and neighbours all helping each other to slot and bolt together the metal sheets that made the shelters. The shelters, being built below ground were then often covered or surrounded with the excavated material. Larger shelters were built in school grounds. Teachers and older pupils were given duties of guarding these shelters. The shelters were later to become the classrooms at times when the air raids became more prevalent. Barrage balloons began appearing in the skies, their purpose was to entangle any low flying enemy aircraft.

In the city centre many of the buildings had been sand bagged and the windows covered with sticky brown paper to prevent the glass shattering when bombs fell. Posters warning anongst other things that "walls have ears" and "careless talk costs lives" appeared in prominent places.

The first Bomb fell in Sheffield on the night of August 18th, l940, and the last fell on July 28th, 1942.

The alert sounded 130 times during the war. Most of the alerts were false alarms due to enemy aircraft flying across the region while on their way to other targets. However, on 16 occasions of those 130 alerts the alarms were genuine.

The story of the raids on Sheffield is really the story of the blitz nights of December 12th and 15th, 1940 when German aircraft dropped somewhere in the region of 450 high explosives bombs, land mines and incendaries. During these two nights 668 civilians and 25 servicemen were killed. A further 1,586 people were injured and over 40,000 more were made homeless. A total of 3,000 homes were demolished, another 3,000 were badly damaged and 72,000 properties suffered some damage.

Sporadic visits to the district by German bombers which began in the middle of the previous August were recognized as reconnaissance expeditions, and after the treatment metered out to Coventry and Birmingham, the authorities-and most of the public-knew that Sheffield was scheduled for a mass raid. It came on the night of Dec 12th. Conditions for bombing were perfect. There was a full moon in a cloudless sky and a keen frost had whitened the roofs.

What is not probably known, is that the Germans flew by a beam, an early kind of Radar. This was fixed on a point and then the German bombers flew down the beam to their target. Interception of enemy radio beams indicated that Sheffield was the objective. The authorities were warned, and A.A. [Ack Ack or Anti Aircraft] guns, police and all branches of the Civil Defence services were ready. However, the British had found a way to bend this beam and instead of the point the Germans had chosen, which was the Duke of Wellington pub on Carlisle Street, the British had managed to bend the beam so that the Germans flew straight to the City Centre instead. This saved the Steel works but threw the City Centre into chaos and killed many people .

The alert was sounded at 7 p.m. and within a few minutes German planes were over the city and facing a heavy barrage. Flares were followed by showers of incendiaries. An aerial bombardment that was to last for approximately nine hours had started. Many people were still in the City and one of the most tragic losses of that night was the Marples Hotel on the corner of Fitzalan Square, which received a direct hit.

The Marples pub was a seven storey building with a network of cellars which customers could take shelter in if it became necessary. It was a popular drinking den boasting a full house most nights. On the night of Dec 12th at around 10.50pm C&A Modes store standing opposite the pub suffered a direct hit. The pub customers some suffering from wounds from the shattered and flying glass from the explosion of the C&A building were treated in the pub cellars feeling all the more sucure by the fact that the seven storey pub building had hardly been touched by a bomb dropping so close to them.

Later that night, customers and other injured were still comforting each in the pub cellars while the air raid continued. Then at 11.44pm the pub building itself suffered a direct hit from a high explosive bomb. The whole seven storey's of bedrooms, bars and lounges just collapsed into a pile of rubble. Its never been confirmed exactly how many people lost their lives. In the following weeks of searching and clearing the rubble there were 70 or so bodies or the remains of bodies recovered, half of them being women and only 14 could be named. The rest being identified through belongings such as watches, identity cards or other such items found in pocketrs and handbags.

information taken from http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~e...blitz/blitz.htm

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The 12th of December 1940

I have two little stories about this historic day. The first, is about my Nan (my mum's mum). She worked in town and was actually on her way home that night when the air raid sirens went off. She took shelter in an air raid shelter under one of the cinemas in The Wicker. She stayed there all night until the all clear was given and walked up Spital Hill amongst the devastation to get home to Pitsmoor. Thankfully her home had been undamaged but many around her had. What stands out in my mind about what she told me was how awful it must have been not knowing what was happening to her family at home - and likewise for them.

The 2nd story is about my dad. He actually arrived in Sheffield on the 12th of December 1940 from London to visit his grandparents. Of course it turned out to be the night of the Sheffield blitz and so to a 9 year old turned into quite a frightening adventure. A few days later he received word from back home in London that they had been hit as well and his home was gone - nothing left of it. He ended up staying here and setting up home with his parents and 2 little brothers. He never went back to London, only to visit.

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My Dad used to tell me a tale that I am not sure is true or not. He told me that the reason the city got bombed was due to a mistake by the German lead squadron following the tram lines instead of the railway lines. My Dad flew in Lancasters during the war and said it could easily happen.

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I researched this during the 70s and even spoke to a German bomber crew member. He claimed that the City Centre was always the target. An attempt to break the will of the people to continue the war. Hence the Coventry raid. They were equipped with first class maps of the town and the only error I saw was that Bramall Lane football ground was described as a boating lake! The maps were detailed to the extent of what kind of business was done where. The building I worked in on Matilda Street was correctly identified as a producer of Pewter goods at the time.

The bombers came over the moors via Woodseats area and exited over Hillsborough, or south to north.

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I researched this during the 70s and even spoke to a German bomber crew member. He claimed that the City Centre was always the target. An attempt to break the will of the people to continue the war. Hence the Coventry raid. They were equipped with first class maps of the town and the only error I saw was that Bramall Lane football ground was described as a boating lake! The maps were detailed to the extent of what kind of business was done where. The building I worked in on Matilda Street was correctly identified as a producer of Pewter goods at the time.

The bombers came over the moors via Woodseats area and exited over Hillsborough, or south to north.

I would have thought the only error was that they left it standing :P

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It did have an auxiliary fire service water tank on it so the error may have come from that. I assume you came from the north of Sheffield judging by your comment!

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It did have an auxiliary fire service water tank on it so the error may have come from that. I assume you came from the north of Sheffield judging by your comment!

Yeah sorry mate I should keep those kind of comments of this site but could not resist it. All tounge in cheek though.

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Each to his own...I'm strictly neutral but was born in Crookes so....!

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More pictures of the blitz

This was Atkinsons Department Store

The remains of the Marples with C&A Opposite.

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I researched this during the 70s and even spoke to a German bomber crew member. He claimed that the City Centre was always the target. An attempt to break the will of the people to continue the war. Hence the Coventry raid. They were equipped with first class maps of the town and the only error I saw was that Bramall Lane football ground was described as a boating lake! The maps were detailed to the extent of what kind of business was done where. The building I worked in on Matilda Street was correctly identified as a producer of Pewter goods at the time.

The bombers came over the moors via Woodseats area and exited over Hillsborough, or south to north.

This article from a BBC page seems to along the same lines that my Father had mentioned:

The main intention of the mission was to destroy the factories along the Don Valley, but the first wave of bombers (Heinkels carrying incendiary weapons) encountered low cloud in the target area. It's speculated that a navigator mistook the Moor (a commercial thoroughfare south of the city centre) for Attercliffe Road (the major arterial road through the industrial belt). By the time that planes carrying high explosives came on the scene at about 9pm, the fires that marked their target were centred in the heart of the city.

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It did have an auxiliary fire service water tank on it so the error may have come from that. I assume you came from the north of Sheffield judging by your comment!

This brown cladded building was like a large empty swimming baths , and i worked on converting it into an indoor 5-a-side / gym area with spectator gallery back in 1980. When all the building work / painting was done i remember it having the "new" astroturf installed at a cost of £40,000 alone back then! I remember playing in a sponsored 5-a-side game one sat/sun after completion, and think the old cricket pavillion was still standing (just!) The area was flattened a few years ago and was on the corner of the main car park where the proposed new hotel will be built on.

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The 12th of December 1940

I have two little stories about this historic day. The first, is about my Nan (my mum's mum). She worked in town and was actually on her way home that night when the air raid sirens went off. She took shelter in an air raid shelter under one of the cinemas in The Wicker. She stayed there all night until the all clear was given and walked up Spital Hill amongst the devastation to get home to Pitsmoor. Thankfully her home had been undamaged but many around her had. What stands out in my mind about what she told me was how awful it must have been not knowing what was happening to her family at home - and likewise for them.

The 2nd story is about my dad. He actually arrived in Sheffield on the 12th of December 1940 from London to visit his grandparents. Of course it turned out to be the night of the Sheffield blitz and so to a 9 year old turned into quite a frightening adventure. A few days later he received word from back home in London that they had been hit as well and his home was gone - nothing left of it. He ended up staying here and setting up home with his parents and 2 little brothers. He never went back to London, only to visit.

Hi mackyD

I noticed from your post that your nan was from Pitsmoor my mother was also from Pitsmoor and during the Blitz was an ambulance driver in the Civil Defence based in Corperation St and Pye Bank School she lived on Gray St, the attached photo could bring back memories to some people??

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I researched this during the 70s and even spoke to a German bomber crew member. He claimed that the City Centre was always the target. An attempt to break the will of the people to continue the war. Hence the Coventry raid. They were equipped with first class maps of the town and the only error I saw was that Bramall Lane football ground was described as a boating lake! The maps were detailed to the extent of what kind of business was done where. The building I worked in on Matilda Street was correctly identified as a producer of Pewter goods at the time.

The bombers came over the moors via Woodseats area and exited over Hillsborough, or south to north.

It may well have been that the german bombers intended hitting the East End of the City as well as Sheffield Central. The reason for this is that Lord Haw Haw (the traitor William Joyce of Ipswich, later hanged for his deeds) came on the wireless with one of his infamous 'Germany Calling' messages. He said that the seven sisters of Sheffield would be hit that night. The seven sisters were of course the seven chimneys of the Brightside steelworks of Steel Peach and Tozer. I heard this many years ago on an old ITV programme named 'All our Yesterdays'. Of course it could have been a decoy, but he did say it.

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Here it is again. My late Uncle worked for Montague Burton Ltd (tailors) at the time of the Sheffield Blitz. He was their youngest manager - not yet old enough to be called up for war service. He managed the branch at the top of Angel Street, which is now occupied by Primark. In the 1960's Burton's rebuilt the site and opened their ladies branch of the company, Peter Robinson. He would tell us how he and other city centre workers had been issued with passes to get into the centre, should it be necessary to close it to the public. On the Monday morning after the Sunday night attack, a friend took him to work on his motorbike. It must have looked strange as both the friend's legs were in plaster casts. When they approached Wicker, they were stopped by the police at the arches and asked to produce a pass, which of course my uncle did. They were allowed through after being warned of the carnage awaiting them. The police never commented on the plaster casts on the legs. My uncle said it was an horrendous sight - bodies in the street, shop windows blown out, shops reduced to rubble and vehicles blown to bits, and on their sides. Broken water mains were cascading like fountains. When he reached Burton's it was a burnt out wreck, and as some members will remember, stayed that way until the early sixties when Burtons rebuilt the site. Evidently city planners had wanted Burton's to rebuild using the burnt out shell and they refused. Finally the site was completely cleared and a new building erected.

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There is a good book called "Raiders over sheffield" by Mary Walton and J.P.Lamb first published in 1980 by Sheffield City Libraries.

It covers the rwo major air raids in Sheffield during the second world war on the nights of the 12/13 and 15/16th December 1940.

It tells the story of the raids and of the men and women who fought against the problems.

It is worth a read if you can get hold of a copy.

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There were at least two very good Sheffield Star publications done about the Sheffield blitz, each with loads of photos. One edition was done in the 40s after the king and queen had visited here to see the damage for themselves. It is still possible to find copies now and again.

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If anyone is interested in seeing where the raiders were aiming for, the Local Studies Library has one of the original Luftwaffe target maps.

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From a Scrapbook of North East Sheffield History - a copy of a letter written just after the Blitz. Brings it home.

http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/uploads/monthly_06_2007/post-513-1182496852.jpghttp://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/uploads/monthly_06_2007/post-513-1182496864.jpg

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The Story of the Sheffield Blitz, 12th & 15th December 1940

What is not probably known, is that the Germans flew by a beam, an early kind of Radar. This was fixed on a point and then the German bombers flew down the beam to their target. Interception of enemy radio beams indicated that Sheffield was the objective. The authorities were warned, and A.A. [Ack Ack or Anti Aircraft] guns, police and all branches of the Civil Defence services were ready. However, the British had found a way to bend this beam and instead of the point the Germans had chosen, which was the Duke of Wellington pub on Carlisle Street, the British had managed to bend the beam so that the Germans flew straight t

information taken from http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~e...blitz/blitz.htm

This story is mentioned on a video "Sheffield at War" although the pub was the "Wellington" on the corner of Brightside Lane & Hawke Street. It stuck in my mind as my grandad's family lived on Hawke Street which looking at it today I can't believe they did. I did go in there a couple of times with my grandparents and I noticed last time I was home it had been demolished.

Which is the right pub then?

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My Mum always told me that My Dad and her (both deceased) had been at the Marples that night and had left early to get back to Rotherham on the tram. I can clearly remember going to Sheffield with my Mum on a Tram. I seem to remember downed buildings and such would that have been possible at least 4 maybe 5 years after the war?? (I was born in 46).

David Cooke

A Yorkshirelad in the USA

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My Mum always told me that My Dad and her (both deceased) had been at the Marples that night and had left early to get back to Rotherham on the tram. I can clearly remember going to Sheffield with my Mum on a Tram. I seem to remember downed buildings and such would that have been possible at least 4 maybe 5 years after the war?? (I was born in 46).

David Cooke

A Yorkshirelad in the USA

The Marples site was not built on until 1959-60 when Henry Boot built the present building. I helped take the builders progress photo's of the site.

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The first Bomb fell in Sheffield on the night of August 18th, l940, and the last fell on July 28th, 1942.

The alert sounded 130 times during the war. Most of the alerts were false alarms due to enemy aircraft flying across the region while on their way to other targets. However, on 16 occasions of those 130 alerts the alarms were genuine.

The story of the raids on Sheffield is really the story of the blitz nights of December 12th and 15th, 1940 when German aircraft dropped somewhere in the region of 450 high explosives bombs, land mines and incendaries. During these two nights 668 civilians and 25 servicemen were killed. A further 1,586 people were injured and over 40,000 more were made homeless. A total of 3,000 homes were demolished, another 3,000 were badly damaged and 72,000 properties suffered some damage.

Sporadic visits to the district by German bombers which began in the middle of the previous August were recognized as reconnaissance expeditions, and after the treatment metered out to Coventry and Birmingham, the authorities-and most of the public-knew that Sheffield was scheduled for a mass raid. It came on the night of Dec 12th. Conditions for bombing were perfect. There was a full moon in a cloudless sky and a keen frost had whitened the roofs.

What a gem, I have been looking for this confirmation of a date to a story my dad told me about German raids before the Blitz in December 1940. August 18 and "sporadic visits to the district by German bombers which began in the middle of the previous August" are what he was refering to. I am sure I have come across a list of all the raids on Sheffield from Aug 1940 to July 1942 but can no longer find it!

My dads story was that the siren sounded for a raid on Sheffield while he was at home so it was a daylight raid. He said there were only a few planes. As they were walking through the court (a communal yard for several houses) to the communal shelter an "aeriel torpedo" (Dad's exact words, presumably a type of bomb) exploded several streets away. A piece of flying debris from this explosion hit a young lad who was a friend of my dads on the back of the head just as he was walking past an old tin bath hung on the courtyard wall. the lad was not seriously hurt but was knocked to the ground and stunned. Quickly helped to his feet by the others walking to the shelter the lad said "Aye Narden, whose just 'it mi overt 'ead wit bath!", being absolutely convinced that someone behind him had just hit him with the bathtub! Obviously this caused some hilarity and the group went into the shelter without further incident.

Dad told me the story in 1986 after I had been in Castle Market with him. He suddenly remarked "I know thar bloke over there, I haven't seen him since the war". He went up to the man and just said "Aye Narden, whose just 'it mi overt 'ead wit bath!" and the two instantly recognised each other although they had not met for over 45 years.

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My father's memories of Sheffield Blitz.

Hi .Talking about Sheffield Blitz my father John Sullivan remembers that the Sunday the 15th raid on the east end of Sheffield was shorter than the one in the centre on the 12th. He thinks it was over in around 3 or 4 hours. He lived on Hoban Street in Attercliffe – a cul-de-sac off Heppinstall Lane- the entrance being opposite the Roman Catholic Church and School whose playground was on the roof!! As far as he can remember his father was putting on his hat and coat ready to go out to The Sportsman pub on Attercliffe road; he opened the door and said, ‘Oh no I don’t think so’, and came back in. The family headed for their usual shelter space under the stairs. His Mum, in her wheel chair was placed there and older brother, father and my dad joined her. After a short time they realised things were worse than normal - the sky was bright with fires from incendiaries - so they decided to head down the yard to a surface shelter (which had a slightly larger opening than normal to allow the wheelchair to be pushed through). Traversing the back door step the wheelchair slowly closed depositing his mum on the floor fortunately uninjured – in their rush the chair had not been secured. It was like daylight with the fires as a lot of the shops on Attercliffe Road were well alight by then. My father got the wheelchair and followed his older brother and his father carrying mum into the shelter.

My father’s mother asked him to put his hand over her left ear because that made the world less noisy as she was quite deaf already in her right ear – bombs, ack ack guns it was like being in a battle. He remembers the all clear going within 3 or 4 hours and fortunately all safe they returned indoors. My father then went to see if his friend Albert was okay. As he walked down Heppinstall Lane he was surprised to find himself walking uphill. When he got to the top he discovered it was the side of a bomb crater and the Beer Off at the Corner of Heppenstall Lane and St Charles Street was no more. He eventually arrived at Albert’s at the end of St Charles Street, went down the passage to the back door, knocked at the door and the door fell off! Albert? He had gone with his parents to the fortress like communal surface shelter on Oak’s Green.

The next morning my Dad’s father discovered he would not be heading out for the Sportsman again as it had been destroyed along with the Co-op on Staniforth Road and many of the shops between Heppenstall Road and Oak’s Green.

He also remembers a fortnight before the raid on the centre he and Albert had caught a tram into the city expecting to catch a bus out to Dronfield to tell his Aunty Mary her mother had died. Waiting for the bus in Pond Street the sirens went. The bus wasn’t to go so they were shepherded to the basement of C&A Modes along with many others. He shared a bin for a seat with Albert and had to keep swapping sides as the bin had no lid. They stayed for a couple of hours and nothing seemed to be happening so they decided to walk home as there were no trams running. There were plenty off search lights across the sky, the usual barrage balloons but they heard no gun fire or ack ack. It was seemingly a very pleasant evening’s walk home. In later week’s how thankful he was that Grandma hadn’t lived a fortnight longer.

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Fantastic post Pat enjoyed reading that - any more ;-)

My father's memories of Sheffield Blitz.

Hi .Talking about Sheffield Blitz my father John Sullivan remembers that the Sunday the 15th raid on the east end of Sheffield was shorter than the one in the centre on the 12th. He thinks it was over in around 3 or 4 hours. He lived on Hoban Street in Attercliffe – a cul-de-sac off Heppinstall Lane- the entrance being opposite the Roman Catholic Church and School whose playground was on the roof!! As far as he can remember his father was putting on his hat and coat ready to go out to The Sportsman pub on Attercliffe road; he opened the door and said, ‘Oh no I don’t think so’, and came back in. The family headed for their usual shelter space under the stairs. His Mum, in her wheel chair was placed there and older brother, father and my dad joined her. After a short time they realised things were worse than normal - the sky was bright with fires from incendiaries - so they decided to head down the yard to a surface shelter (which had a slightly larger opening than normal to allow the wheelchair to be pushed through). Traversing the back door step the wheelchair slowly closed depositing his mum on the floor fortunately uninjured – in their rush the chair had not been secured. It was like daylight with the fires as a lot of the shops on Attercliffe Road were well alight by then. My father got the wheelchair and followed his older brother and his father carrying mum into the shelter.

My father’s mother asked him to put his hand over her left ear because that made the world less noisy as she was quite deaf already in her right ear – bombs, ack ack guns it was like being in a battle. He remembers the all clear going within 3 or 4 hours and fortunately all safe they returned indoors. My father then went to see if his friend Albert was okay. As he walked down Heppinstall Lane he was surprised to find himself walking uphill. When he got to the top he discovered it was the side of a bomb crater and the Beer Off at the Corner of Heppenstall Lane and St Charles Street was no more. He eventually arrived at Albert’s at the end of St Charles Street, went down the passage to the back door, knocked at the door and the door fell off! Albert? He had gone with his parents to the fortress like communal surface shelter on Oak’s Green.

The next morning my Dad’s father discovered he would not be heading out for the Sportsman again as it had been destroyed along with the Co-op on Staniforth Road and many of the shops between Heppenstall Road and Oak’s Green.

He also remembers a fortnight before the raid on the centre he and Albert had caught a tram into the city expecting to catch a bus out to Dronfield to tell his Aunty Mary her mother had died. Waiting for the bus in Pond Street the sirens went. The bus wasn’t to go so they were shepherded to the basement of C&A Modes along with many others. He shared a bin for a seat with Albert and had to keep swapping sides as the bin had no lid. They stayed for a couple of hours and nothing seemed to be happening so they decided to walk home as there were no trams running. There were plenty off search lights across the sky, the usual barrage balloons but they heard no gun fire or ack ack. It was seemingly a very pleasant evening’s walk home. In later week’s how thankful he was that Grandma hadn’t lived a fortnight longer.

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Fantastic post Pat enjoyed reading that - any more ;-)

Glad you enjoyed the story. My dad is 84 and has a hundred stories of life in the east end in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. I also have stories of other family members. I will try to write more if they could be of interest to other Sheffield lovers.

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