The Luftwaffe were gradually working their way through the major towns and cities of the United Kingdom. London, Coventry, Birmingham, Merseyside and Southampton were just some amongst many that had already been badly hit. Now it was the turn of the Welsh capital, Cardiff. As a major port and industrial centre it was high on the list of strategic targets. It had already been raided in July and August but now came a series of more intensive attacks.
Leonard Attwell was a schoolboy in Cardiff when the city was bombed on the night of 2nd/3rd January 1941:
I remember vividly the night in January 1941 when Cardiff was bombed. I lived in Jubilee Street, Grangetown, which was adjacent to the Canton Loco Sheds the target sought by the bombers. It was the early hours of January 3rd (my brother’s birthday) that bombs and Landmines rained down on us. I was eight years old.
We were in the Anderson Shelter which my father had built half submerged in the back garden, with several feet of soil over the top. He had also built bunks in the shelter and fitted a sand-bag shielded door to the front of the shelter. It was a bitterly cold January night that my mother, father, brother and I huddled together in the shelter. Just thinking of that night brings back the whistle of the bombs falling and the terrible explosions that followed. It was in the midst of this that my father went back into the house to get some blankets despite the screams from my mother for him to return. He did return with an armful of blankets just in time, for a nearby bomb blew off the sand-bag shielded door of the shelter, and the blast lifted the shelter a few inches, then it dropped back into place.
My father spread-eagled himself over us, to protect us and I could hardly breathe.
Until that night my mother had been afraid of thunder and lightening, but that night cured her.
The following morning after the all-clear siren had sounded we emerged into the street to discover half of it had disappeared as the result of a land-mine. I had lost most of my little friends that night, some I was later told had sought refuge under the stairs in the misbelief that they would be safe. They possibly thought that it would be warmer there than the freezing cold Anderson Shelter. I doubt that they would have survived if they had used the shelter because of the close vicinity of the land-mine.
We made our way to my Uncle Fred’s house which was a couple of hundred yards away, they escaped the bombing. We were warmly received and they were glad to see us alive.
Other relatives in Ely had sent their son Hubert on his bicycle to see if we had survived. Of course he did not find us because we were at Uncle Fred’s and he assumed that we had all perished. You can imagine the joy that his parents knew when a couple of days later we turned up on their doorstep.
See BBC People’s War to read his full story. The seventieth anniversary of the raid was remembered by BBC News in 2011. For much more on the Cardiff Blitz and the history of the city see Discover the Past.
Anderson Shelters, relatively crude constructions with their base below ground level, were usually cold, damp affairs. The Ministry of Information was keen to get across the message that they were very effective in protecting against all but a direct hit.
Cardiff would be hit by a succession of raids in early 1941 and would not see the last one until 1944. Nevertheless there were attempts to rebuild before the war was over. The following image shows how the British authorities supported the well established Muslim community in Cardiff with rebuilding efforts.