THIS MONTH marks the anniversary of one of the worst air raids to be inflicted on the Black Country. On the night of November 19th, 1940, just over a year into the war, when Hitler's Luftwaffe were still at the peak of their powers, they rained bombs upon West Bromwich and killed 52 people in one terrible night.
West Bromwich author and historian Terry Price has put our way some of the details of that awful raid, along with some chilling photographs of the wreckage which were taken in the cold light of day next morning.
A cutting taken from a local paper, which Terry has provided us with, gives an account published in 1941, which detailed all the local raids of that period late the previous year; some time after the fact, as there had been wartime restrictions on the reporting of bombing incidents. Under the heading 'Echoes of the Air Blitz', was written the following, with particular reference to the night of November 19th, 1940: "The ban on the publication of air raids having been lifted, it is now possible to give some details of local happenings during the days of the blitz, and set on record some of the hideous nightmares that we experienced.
“The first 'alert' in this area was sounded on June 25th, 1940, when bombs were dropped at West Bromwich and Pensnett without doing any damage, with the exception of making craters in open spaces. Following this, up to the beginning of this year, the number of alerts was 358, but the number of occasions on which bombs were dropped was small.
"We all can, however, recall the destruction that befell Birmingham and Coventry, where the damage and death tolls were heavy, and upon reflection we marvel that the towns of the Black Country, so near to Birmingham, escaped so lightly as they did.
"We can also remember how the nightly air was torn by the crashing of bombs and the terrific barrages from the AA guns, and how we had to stay in shelter for hours on end. For instance, during the night of December 11th-12th, 1940, we were in and out of the shelters for over thirteen hours, the first warning being sounded at 6.20 in the evening and the last 'raiders past' sounded when most of us were on our way to work.
The longest continuous warning, however, was on November 14th-15th, 1940, when it lasted just over eleven hours, beginning at 7.08pm and ending at 6.20am.
Casualties "Considering the number of bombs that were dropped the number of casualties in local towns was not heavy, and the damage to property was comparatively light."
"The total number of people killed in West Bromwich as a result of enemy air attacks was 54. 52 of these fatal casualties were caused by the raid on the night of November 19th, 1940, and the remaining two deaths occurred as a result of the raid on November 23rd in the same years. The number of men killed was 15, the number of women 22, and the remaining 17 fatalities were children.