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Friday July 31st 1942: German incendiaries destroy coach builders

By john workman  |  Posted: February 17, 2013

Sievwright & Co. Ltd, the morning after the bombing.

Sievwright & Co. Ltd, the morning after the bombing.

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Photographers have been despatched to a location in Wolverhampton where an overnight German incendiary bombing raid has destroyed several buildings, including the Seivwright Coach Building Works in Cleveland Road.

An eyewitness of the aftermath, schoolboy Gerald Hanrahan, gave us the following details this morning: "I decided to cycle from my home in Bilston to inspect the damage and there's not much left of Seivwright's. Nearby I saw a bloke with bright red hair, I think he's the gent's hairdresser, sifting through the rubble of his shop. I didn't know what he was looking for at first, but I went a bit closer and watched. I shouted over, ‘What you looking for?’ He was looking for his cash box, and then to his immense relief he found it. I watched as he opened the hinged lid. It was full of scorched bank notes!" The air raid caused a lot of additional disruption in the area, especially at the fairly new St Giles Crescent off the Willenhall Road. Initial reports suggest at least 17 houses have received some kind of damage and perhaps five have been totally destroyed.

There are however no reports of casualties at any of the locations.

To end this report, here is an important public announcement: "From today, Saturday August 1st 1942, no motor car will be allowed on the roads of Great Britain unless the owner can prove to the satisfaction of his local Petroleum Officer, that he is using his car for essential service. Taxi cabs will no longer be available for long costly journeys, and there will be drastic cuts in public coach services. Travel is to be discouraged: This is the end of the public announcement."

 We have to thank Gerald Hanrahan L.R.P.S. in his capacity as archival secretary at the Wolverhampton Photographic Society, for providing us with this dramatic story, including his own personal memories. Gerald contacted us after reading a request in the Bugle from Mr Clark for information regarding fire bombing of the Royal Hospital in Cleveland Road, Wolverhampton.

"The hospital was very well protected by fire watchers, who were workers trained to deal with incendiary situations should they arise during enemy action,” said Gerald. “No doubt they provided this protection on the night of July 31st 1942, and prevented any damage.

“The Royal was situated in Cleveland Road and was surrounded by important buildings such as the Wolverhampton Corporation's Bus Depot, an extensive local abattoir and St George's Church (now Sainsbury's).

Thankfully the bombs that fell that summer's evening missed those particular sites but scored direct hits on the opposite side of the road. One of those as you can see from the photographs (courtesy of W.P.S.) was the works and offices belonging to Seivwright & Co. Ltd., Coach builders.

“The buildings were completely destroyed, as were some of the adjacent shops near to Raby Street. The name Tatlow was a well-known builder's merchants in Cleveland Road and that went the same way as Seivwright's, as did other smaller shops in the street. After the mayhem of the bombing raid Seivwright's did rebuild and managed to restore confidence in that particular corner of Wolverhampton.

The Ring Road now drives through near where the coach builders used to stand, and all those smaller streets in and around Cleveland Road were swept away during the road construction.

But thankfully the memories live longer than bricks and mortar.”

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