‘Nuisance raid’ on Bristol kills 44

A passing newspaper photographer took these images moments after the raid on Bristol on 28th August 1942.

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.

General.

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.

Damage.

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).

Casualties.

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

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Editor September 3, 2012 at 11:27 am

John

All new information to me, many thanks for the update.

Martin

John Selkirk September 2, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Are you aware this one bomb, 250 kg, was dropped from a Junkers Ju86R, which was essentially an experimental high altitude bomber from an experimental unit? The Ju86R could reach an altitude of 40,000 feet and utilized a pressurized cockpit for the two crew members, extended wing tips, turbocharged engines and a nitrous-oxide injection system at altitude. The unit had only two aircraft and commenced operations on 24 August. The aircraft which made this attack, at 39,000 feet, was based at Beauvais and made a successful escape after bombing. Given that the Lufwaffe was essentialy a ground support force, equipped for low and medium level operations, not used to bombing at high altitude and the unit had only been operational for four days, it is hard to imagine the bomb-aiming in this case did not depend on a great deal of luck. Surely a very lucky hit for the Germans and terribly bad luck for the victims.

Information on the aircraft and unit from Winston G. Ramsey, editor, The Blitz, Then and Now, Vol 3, pp 158-159. Battle of Britan Prints International Limited, London, 1990.

BTW, I really enjoy your website.

John

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