Image courtesy Flickr – brizzie born and bred.
Carlyle H. Smith was 16 and had just started work at Union Street, Bristol, England in late August 1942. He took the bus into town from Kingswood and walked the final stage of his journey from the bus stop in Old Market:
On my 5th day at work, Friday, 28th August 1942, after walking this route, I arrived at the office at the starting time of 8.30 a.m. and settled down at my desk. Immediately there was a loud explosion outside the building.
During my walk through Broadweir, I passed three double-decker buses full of people waiting to depart. These buses were not there normally, but a temporary bus terminus had been created there that morning, because the road was being repaired at the normal terminus around the corner in Lower Castle Street.
When I walked past the three buses, I heard the sound of a single-engine aircraft far above in the clear blue sky — it was a lovely summer’s day then. It never crossed my mind that it was an enemy plane; it had been eighteen months since the last major German air-raid on Bristol. Yet the lone raider was from the Luftwaffe; maybe returning from a raid in the North with one bomb left, which he decided to jettison before homing to his base airfield.
The damage caused by this single bomb was immense and catastrophic; very many people in the buses were killed, being unable to escape the fires as the buses burned out. There had been no warning at all — no air-raid sirens, which had always preceded a raid. The blast was so severe that a number of buildings around were destroyed; including a 17th century house occupied by Taylors the printers.
I couldn’t help but thank Providence that I had escaped this carnage, despite having walked right through the target area less than ten minutes before it happened.
Read all of this story on BBC People’s War.
It appears to have been just a matter of fate that so many people were killed, because two buses were hit. In other respects the incident was no different from the ‘minor’ raids that were killing people every day of the week up and down the country:
HOME SECURITY SITUATION.
There has been no concentrated bombing, but widely-separated incidents have again been reported on six days and five nights of the week. By day, the attacks were chiefly on the South and South-west coasts and on East Anglia; by night, raiding extended from the South and East coasts to the East Midlands and the North-east Coast.
There has been no damage of national importance. The most outstanding incident was at Bristol on the 28th, when 2 buses in the centre of the city were hit and 44 people killed; house property was damaged and utility services affected.
Other incidents involving fatal casualties, and damage to house property and/or utility services, were reported from Leeds (the 27th/ 28th August), Cardiff and St. Ives (the 28th), Blackhall Colliery, near West Hartlepool (the 28th/29th), Swindon and Brighton (the 29th), Lydd (Kent) on War Department property (the 1st September), Doncaster (the lst/2nd) and Teignmouth (the 2nd).
The estimated civilian casualties for the week ending 0600 hours the 2nd September are 92 killed and 91 seriously injured.
From the Home Security Situation Report for the week, as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/28/22