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More terror from the skies in wartime West Bromwich

By gavin jones  |  Posted: December 07, 2012

Friar Park, 1941.

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WE SHOWED some awful scenes in an article of two weeks ago, of the devastation left in West Bromwich by Hitler's bombers on the night of 19th November 1940, and this week, again thanks to Terry Price, we can bring you some photographs from two other raids on the town.

Just over a week earlier than the 19th November raid, which killed 52 people, the Luftwaffe had already struck West Bromwich with some force. Though reports from the time say that no one was killed, there was massive damage to parts of the Tantany Estate, with at least one house completely destroyed.

Three of the pictures on this page were taken on the Tantany on the morning after the raid, 11th November 1940.

Haig Street is little more than a huge crater; the junction of Law Street and Shaftesbury Street has become a pool which is being pumped out, and a house on Clive Street has been reduced to a tileless roof.

1941 The fourth picture shows another huge crater and extensive damage to houses, this time at Friar Park. This was from a bomb dropped the following spring, on 10th April 1941, when the Luftwaffe were presumably aiming for the railway lines and marshalling yards at Bescot.

But back to that previous article, which has elicited several interesting responses from readers whose families were directly affected by the bombing of 19th November 1940. Doreen Simkin has been in touch by email to say: "Regarding your article last week of the West Bromwich bombing in 1940, the Harris family were my uncle and aunt. Harry was my mother's brother; he was married to Mary Ann Cook and they had four children, plus Mary Ann's daughter and granddaughter, Elsie Cook and Valerie Cook. They all lived at number 108 Oak Road, and were all killed.

"Next door at 106 lived Mary Ann's son John Thomas Cook, his wife Ivy Blanche Cook, and their baby boy John Frederick, aged 13 months; a total of eleven from my family.

"This was not spoken about in the family, all that was said was that they had been killed in the blast. I have discovered much more through researching the family tree.

"I was in contact with one of the Air Raid Wardens, whose name was Jack Aston.

He told me how he pulled all the bodies out, and said one of the boys (my cousin) was still alive, but died later in West Bromwich District Hospital in Lombard Street.

"Jack told me the were 28 bodies pulled out altogether.

I believe my uncle and his family lived at the back of a fish and chip shop, and they were all down in the cellar."

 John Pegler, also of West Bromwich, wonders if anyone has any idea what the intended target may have been: "I was very interested in the article on the bombing of West Bromwich. Thank you for publishing it. I wonder has anyone any information on what was the intended target; Lucas's in Hockley for example, or was it another case of 'let's get rid of these babies and head for home'? Alan Hunt of Guns Village, West Bromwich, emailed us with the following, which offers a likely explanation for the Germans's mission: "I have tried in the past, without success, to find any information about the bombing of Oakwood street on the 20th November 1940.

“Oakwood Street is very close to the former Swan Village station and railway sidings, leading into Swan Village Gas Works, the most likely target.

"My only information is that it fell on a row of terraced houses in the street, and that my uncle's house took a direct hit. Arthur Hunt and his wife Anne had been sheltering in their newly installed shelter under the stairs, and were trapped under the rubble. Anne was killed, aged 29, and Arthur injured. He died after the war in the 1950s, aged 49.

The site later had a new bungalow built on it, which is still standing.

'If anyone has any more information I would like to hear from them. Other local people must have had friends or family killed or injured in this incident."

 If you would like to contact Alan or Doreen, please contact the Bugle and we'll put you in touch.

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