Leicester hit by the Blitz

Back at my house we heard a lone bomber approaching. We put in our gum shields (these were rolled up pieces of old innertube rubber) and bombs began to fall. Previous to this I had found events rather exciting (I was 9 years old) but as the bombs got closer and closer, like giant’s footsteps, I suddenly realised that above my head were the gas and electricity meters and I reasoned (in those fleeting milliseconds which felt like minutes) that if a bomb hit the house, even if we were not killed outright, we could be gassed, electrocuted, or burnt alive!

Bomb damage in Leicester following the raid of 19th November 1940.

At the beginning of the war Leicester had been considered a relatively safe location, suitable for the reception of evacuees. Now there seemed to be no part of Britain that was excluded from the danger of the Blitz:

R. E. Sperry was a fifteen year old schoolboy who recorded in his diary that he was practising his French conversation in a town centre cafe until:

Air raid warning sounded at about 7.45pm. Incendiary bombs were dropping all around Granby Street before the sirens went off. Saw terrific fires. All top story of Lulhams ablaze. Went home (i.e. to Kimberley Road) up London Road. I reached the top of London Road/Evington Road when five terrific explosions and flashes were seen over our way. All the way home I saw flashes and explosions straight ahead. After being at home some time, we (i.e. my mother and older brother, my father being a special constable was out on street patrol) went to an air raid shelter (opposite to St. Phillip’s Church, Evington Road). Many bombs dropped within a little way of it. No ack-ack fire – why not?

Later he was to recall

During those closing months of 1940 my diary entries are punctuated with the frequency of air raid warning alerts, mostly in the night hours. The German planes we could hear were invariably heading for other unfortunate targets. Our sleep patterns were of times erratic, yet the old established routine of school life did not allow even the noise and clatter of war to disturb itself more than absolutely necessary.

On the odd occasion when the sirens sounded during school hours, this respite from studies was generally welcomed. We then all trooped down into the relative safety of the musty lower regions of the school building. I must say that we felt it a little unfair when one dedicated master chose to continue the lesson even down there!

His full account is at Wartime Leicestershire where there are other stories of the same night including Terence Cartwright’s. hour by hour account:

12:30pm. Back at my house we heard a lone bomber approaching. We put in our gum shields (these were rolled up pieces of old innertube rubber) and bombs began to fall. Previous to this I had found events rather exciting (I was 9 years old) but as the bombs got closer and closer, like giant’s footsteps, I suddenly realised that above my head were the gas and electricity meters and I reasoned (in those fleeting milliseconds which felt like minutes) that if a bomb hit the house, even if we were not killed outright, we could be gassed, electrocuted, or burnt alive! It was as the explosions got nearer I felt my first twinge of fear! Thankfully, they stopped short. They had fallen a short distance away across the Green Lane Road, damaging houses and Wadkins Eng. Factory.

For more images and contemporary records see Leicester County Council.

13 thoughts on “Leicester hit by the Blitz”

  1. Does anyone know the date when Grove Road/Vulcan Road was bombed – it was possibly sometime between October and November 1940.

  2. I lived with my parents on a farm on the outskirts of Leicester in a place called ‘Bushby’. I was just 2 years old. Recent research tells us that we can’t remember things from such an early age!
    I can however clearly remember sitting on Dad’s shoulders, withy Mum beside us, watching the searchlights shining up into the sky, looking for the German bombers.
    Dad was in a reserved occupation. he was wearing some sort of uniform, Home Guard I suppose.

  3. We lived in Kirloe Avenue, Leicester Forest East and I remember the bombing of Kirby Muxloe. We had a refugee family billeted on us. The boy was called Alan Matthews and was with his grandma.
    There were only two phones in the avenue. We had one and the other belonged to a family called Frieze Green. The Wing Commander at Desford airfield had no phone and to save trouble they rigged up a string across the road between the two houses so that the FGs could swing a can of stones against the pilots bedroom window when the Germans were coming. The sophistication of Britain’s defences was truly amazing.

    Nigel

  4. I was born in Leicester in 1943. I would love to get any information about Leicester during the war. I have done my family tree and any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  5. my grandfathers family was all killed when he was away serving abroad, he came home to find nothing, no street, no family, i am trying to get the family tree of my grandfathers side, his name was frederick cecil bird, he is belived to have a few brothers and a sister, can anyone remember?
    andytidball@outlook.com

  6. I lived on Highfield St when this happenned and we went to a near by school til all clear ,we were in a schelter owned by Jeromes dancing school then ther was an unexploed bomb so we had to get out in a hurry;Iam 90 and still remember that nightl

  7. So amazing to hear all the interesting facts about Leicester’s past. Especially when one of our buildings have been around since 1867. You can read about that on our website!

  8. Does anyone have any recollection of bomb damage caused to Belgrave St Peter’s church and Mowmacre Hill?

  9. I lived in Clipstone Street and went to Gopsall Street school from the age of 3 (1939).
    I recall an unexploded landmine burying itself in the T junction of Twycross Street and Gopsall Street immediately outside the school entrance. The school was closed for a few days as the landmine was cleared away by the army but as children we all stood around the hole watching them remove it.
    Also does anyone remember bombs destroying a house on the corner of Oxendon Street and Evington Street?

  10. I lived in Clipstone Street and went to Gopsall Street school from the age of 3 (1939).
    I recall an unexploded landmine burying itself in the T junction of Twycross Street and Gopsall Street immediately outside the school entrance. The school was closed for a few days as the landmine was cleared away by the army but as children we all stood around the hole watching them remove it.
    Also does anyone remember bombs destroying a house on the corner of Oxendon Street and Evington Street?

  11. At the time I lived at fiveways where Mere Rd crossed St Peters Rd. I had to walk to Gopsall St School, and therefore had to weave a way through the rubble of bombed houses on St Peters Road. As far as I remember, school went on as usual. I was seven at the time.

  12. Excellent photo. I don’t think I’ve seen this one before!

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