Leicester hit by the Blitz

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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Bowles December 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm

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.

Clive Cartwright July 27, 2012 at 6:57 am

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

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