When bombs rained on Batley

When bombs rained on Batley

BATLEY’S successful 1940s Vintage Day rekindled memories of less happy times – when German bombers struck the town on the night of December 12, 1940.

A soldier walking on Commercial Street was killed when he was hit by shrapnel, 578 houses were damaged and 450 people made homeless. But remarkably, only five people were injured.

St Andrew’s Church, the Gospel Hall and Weslyan Chapel in the Purlwell area were also damaged.

Details were found by the Batley and Birstall Civic Society for their project, Walking in the Shadows. Members are interviewing survivors before World War II drifts beyond living memory.

The society found that the first air raid siren sounded at 6.26pm that day and the all-clear was given at 4.06am the next morning. Many bombs failed to explode – including one that landed by the east window of St Thomas’s Church on Rutland Road at 10.27pm.

Society member Anne Dickinson said: “We believe the bombers unloaded on their way back from somewhere else.

“They would have done this to save fuel for the return journey and the bombs happened to land here.”

Around 7.45pm a large number of incendiary bombs were dropped around Bradford Road. Fires which caused the area from Branch Road to Hick Lane to be shut were put out by wardens, police, soldiers and civilians.

Unexploded bombs landed at places including Soothill Bridge, Alexandra Mills and a goods yard at Station Road.

Evacuees were taken to shelters at locations such as Soothill Working Men’s Club.

Anne and her team found many locals who volunteered for war duty. One interviewee, Walter Walker, 93, of Howley Street, remembered his sense of pride in delivering supplies to parts of Africa while in the Royal Navy.

Anne added: “Jobs were scarce, it was an adventure for many of them and they had no fear of dying.

“What many of the interviewees tell us supports what others previously said and that helps us build up a more exact picture of what happened.”

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