The first of two major attacks on Sheffield took place on the night of 12th-13th December 1940. It was not until the morning that an attempt could be made to investigate the pile of rubble that had formerly been the Marples Hotel. At a quarter to midnight on the 12th a bomb had penetrated the building before exploding in the middle of the store, above the ground floor. It was known that there were many people sheltering in the basement but not thought that any could have survived. As the digging continued throughout the 13th some seventy bodies were recovered, although the final death toll was never firmly established. Miraculously seven men were found alive, trapped in a separate compartment of the basement. It was the largest single incident in the city, where 370 people died in the two nights of the blitz.
See also the story of the death of local benefactor George Lawrence who died after insisting that he visit the workers at his razor blade factory. He travelled into the burning town with a supply of food but died alongside many of them when the shelter took a direct hit.
54. An attack lasting nearly nine hours was made on the night of the 12th-13th and was concentrated mainly on the centre, north-west and south-east of the City. Although over 200 incidents were reported, the main Steel Valley largely escaped, and only four cases of substantial damage have been reported. The attack on the night of the 15th-16th lasted three hours, and was mainly in the east and east centre; many factories were hit, but only nine of these suffered substantial damage.
55. The effect on war production has not been serious, except indirectly through damage to public utilities. The Neepsend Gas Works’ were severely damaged, and this, together with many broken mains, resulted in extensive failure of gas supplies. Electricity was not so badly affected, but the water distribution system in three of the city’s zones of supply suffered considerable damage, and it has been necessary to supply them from carts.
56 Transport was badly disorganised and many roads and main-line railways were temporarily blocked. A start has been made in restoring tram routes for munition workers, but it will be some time before trams run through the centre of the city.
57. The material damage caused was extensive, particularly in the central commercial part of the city, where numerous fires were started.