BOMBS ON NORTH-WEST VILLAGE
TWO PEOPLE KILLED AND OTHERS INJURED
Two bombs were dropped on a North-west village on Wednesday afternoon, killing two people, gravely injuring two more and a number of others received minor injuries.
The killed were:
The gravely injured residents are Miss Alice Robinson (53) whose house was demolished, and Elijah Halstead (62) who received injuries about the head and eyes when his cottage was damaged. Both are in hospital.
Among others detained in hospital on Wednesday night were:
Probably a further dozen villagers who received minor injuries were treated by first-aid parties on the spot.
The raider flew extremely low so that the German markings were at once
observed. It circled the village and then returned, dropping two bombs
which several people saw fall from the machine. One of them struck a house
at the foot of a brow, completely demolishing it and severely injuring
the solitary occupant, Miss Robinson.
The row of houses between which the second bomb fell, were heavily damaged, and another group of houses near the bottom of a hill also got the full force of one bomb. Windows were shattered, the roofs were pierced and, in many instances, furniture was damaged and flung about the rooms. Minor casualties were sustained.
It was Wednesday October 30th 1940 at around 2.00 pm in the early part
of the war. We were living at the Post Office. Being Wednesday, half day,
we closed the shop at 1.00 pm. I was waiting at the bus stop which was
about 50 yards from the house, to go to Clitheroe. All was quiet when
suddenly a German Heinkel 111 flew over the village very, very low. I
watched him circle round and fly back over Grindleton.
A bus containing Royal Engineers from the Barracks at Low Moor then arrived.
They took my sister and I to the doctors at Clitheroe to be treated for
cuts etc. We had to go via Downham and Worston, the village being cut
off from all the traffic. They opened up an Emergency Centre at the Work
House, Coplow, which is now the Clitheroe Hospital. All the wounded were
taken there and treated. We joined them there later, four of us being
detained there for 10 days, three old ladies and myself.
The Post Office and shop was transferred to the big room at the Brown Cow, having to use boxes, trestle tables and any kind of shelving they could find. However, they managed it, opened up for business on Friday morning and people were able to draw their pensions and get their rations etc. Then was the task of salvaging all the stock they could, having torrential rain on the Wednesday evening did not help matters. Boxes and boxes of tins without labels, fancy a tin of soup and it would be a tin of fruit.
It was a very difficult time, no home, and no clothes, what furniture they could salvage was stored in the Institute, which is now the School Hall. We were all housed by friends and relations, luckily after a while my parents were able to get rooms at the School House, (which is no longer there), until we were able to find somewhere permanent. It was almost 8 years before they rebuilt our house and shop, and then came the job of moving everything back from the Brown Cow. No easy task.
He recalls that as a young man he was home on leave for a short time,
and, standing outside his house on Crow Trees Brow, which was the main
road through the village from Clitheroe. He heard the plane and being
trained to identify enemy aircraft, noted it to be a Heinkel 111. The
first bomb dropped at the top of Ribble Lane and took all the end of the
Post Office building down
From knowledge acquired later in his military service, Bill is of the opinion the pilot circled the village to find the best approach to the mill. In his approach from Grindleton he passed over the length of the building with a better chance of hitting his target, luckily he missed. Bill also thinks had the plane been a little higher or not going as fast he would have been successful, with far more casualties and devastation.
Florrie and her workmate Dorothy Wilson, daughter of Mrs Mary Wilson who died, had just returned to the top floor of the mill after lunch, when there was all this noise and the glass roof and windows were shattering all around them. Several people were cut and Florrie's friend Emmie Lees was later taken to Clitheroe Hospital. As they were not allowed outside they were ushered downstairs into the weft cellar, until it was safe to go out.
Florrie got to her house on Shaw Gardens, by the back way and found
her mother safe and well, but everything around shattered. The roof had
blown off, and the front door had been blasted through the house to the
The plane was so low in the sky that the pilot wearing his goggles could be clearly seen. Florrie's mother said that he was so close, "if anyone had had a gun, they could have shot him!", but Florrie thought herself fortunate that her mother had survived, whereas her friend Dorothy's mother, Mrs Wilson had sadly not.
The blast had blown the cooker from Miss Robinson's house to land on top of the roof of the Post Office.
From the shock of the bombing, Florrie's mother developed a cough, which was described as a 'nerve cough'.
Florrie and the family were evacuated - her mother and father went to one of their daughters. Florrie and one of her other sisters went to sister Freda's. They each gathered bits of furniture together and took them with them.
But that night they thought they were being bombed again because there was such an awful storm and Florrie kept thinking about all their personal belongings getting wet at their house because there was no roof on.
They were evacuated for 8 months.
Many exciting things have happened to me during my life, but one I remember vividly took place in the village in which I was born, and still live in, Chatburn, situated in the beautiful, quiet and peaceful Ribble Valley in N E Lancashire.
The Second World War had started and many young men from the village
had already been called up for active service, and there was also an active
group of others who were in the Home Guard.
Then one day in October 1940, when work had hardly started after lunch, the noise of a light aircraft was clearly heard. "Was it one of ours?" "It had to be". I rushed to a window and couldn't believe my eyes, for what looked to be a German fighter plane was passing in the field just beyond the road, the Swastika on its side clearly visible, as was the pilot. He was so close I could clearly see he was wearing a brown leather flying helmet with the strap which should have been fastened under his chin, hanging loose. We seemed to look at each other then he was gone.
I rushed outside and saw the machine flying towards Chatburn, then to my complete horror the plane banked and I saw two bombs leave the plane and fall through the sky towards the ground. Then the village disappeared in clouds of smoke and dust. I remember standing there and praying none of my family had been killed or hurt.
As soon as I was given permission I cycled like mad towards home to see what had happened. A scene of complete horror met my eyes - wrecked homes, broken glass and roof tiles everywhere. At the top of Ribble Lane there was a huge crater, which filled the road. It was deep enough to hide a double decker bus inside. A detached house owned by a Miss Alice Robinson had taken a direct hit, and a petrol tanker passing at the fatal moment was caught in the blast and blazing petrol was pouring down the main street and gushing into the stream which ran through the village. It was a complete scene from hell.
Several people were killed and many more injured. Miss Robinson died
from terrible injuries, a solid wooden beam from her home passed right
through her body and both ends had to be sawn off before she could be
put in the ambulance, her bath and dog were later found over 200 yds away
on top of the mill. The driver of the tanker died from shrapnel wounds.
A Mrs Wilson also died.
I lived with my parents at the top end of the village but my grandmother lived close by to the devastation, so that was where I went first to see if she had escaped injury. Her home was badly damaged and she was badly shocked but unhurt.
As it was wartime and her two sons who lived with her had been called up into the army, I slept at her home to keep her company. It was obvious we couldn't stay there, so my grandmother went to my parent's home and I was evacuated to "Meadow Bank" at the top of Downham Road, the home of the local Customs and Excise Officer and his family.
Hundreds of people from far and wide came into the village to see the damage for themselves, so collecting boxes were brought in and people were generous with their contributions.
He was on leave and having a drink in Clitheroe when news came through that Chatburn had just been bombed. "I got on a bus, but police stopped it at the Pendle Hotel in Chatburn. I was in uniform, so was able to walk through the village. It was terrible. There were plenty of rescuers, so there was nothing I could do to help. They were trying to get an old lady out of the house opposite where I live now".
The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times report was not able to say where the
raid took place - "Bombs on a North West Village" - still less
speculate why the village was attacked or what the target was. It contented
itself with understandable descriptions of everyone being "unafraid,
but full of fury at the insensate, cold-blooded attacked".
Mr Neville Croasdale (grandson of Mrs Wilson) writes:
The lesson had just started when I saw a bomb leave a well-marked German
plane and clearly saw a pilot in the plane as I sat against a window facing
I was not allowed to go out that day to see the damaged area because the bombs had killed my grandmother, a favourite person in my young life and also left an aunt and uncle homeless and they both came to live with us for a while.
Reports obtained from Ministry of Defence
Part 1 - General Summary
Raids by enemy aircraft during the day were on a small scale and little serious damage has been reported.
Most of the air activity was again confined to south east England. A few bombs were dropped in the south eastern outskirts of London and in Kent and attacks with H.E. bombs and with machine gun fire were made on Margate, Folkestone and Hythe.
A few bombs were dropped in Lancashire after mid-day and some interference with the Farington Steel Works, near Preston, has been reported.
No. 10 Region (North Western)
Some unexploded bombs which fell in the Farington Steel Works, Leyland, near Preston at 1352, have caused the evacuation of the factory. There were 11 minor casualties.
An H.E. bomb was also dropped in Chatburn near Clitheroe, 2 people were killed and 14 were injured.
After the usual series of morning reconnaissance flights - about 12 aircraft
- mostly off Kent and the Thames Estuary, activity was confined almost
entirely to two main attacks on London, both from the Calais/Dieppe area.
There were no further reports of Italian bombers in use against this country.
Raid 72, one He.111 appeared suddenly over the Wash and was intercepted by No. 1 Squadron and later crashed near Ely at 1450 hours. Two of the crew baled out and all are now prisoners.
An intelligence interrogation report on the crew of Raid 72,
shot down at Priggs Yard, Ely
Crew Rank Name Age Service
The crew gave their Staffel, and the unit has been assumed from the aircraft lettering. Both Staffel and Geschwader are confirmed by the Disc and Feldpostnummer.
There was a large built-in camera fitted to the aircraft but according to the crew no film for it. There was also a Leica camera, but this, it was stated, was not used.
It was stated that there were no bombs on the aircraft, and that this was their first war flight, merely to get to know what a war flight was like, and incidentally make a weather report. They said they were supposed to go as far as a large electrical and equipment works at Salford, which seems a very long way for an inexperienced crew.
Visibility was very bad, and they did not see land all the way. They were flying at about 7,000 feet, when one engine began to fail, so they turned for home, but were suddenly attacked by one of three Spitfires from behind. The port engine was shot through, and the pilot made a fairly good belly landing. Two members of the crew baled out without orders, as soon as the trouble started.
Morale - fairly good - probably unreliable
Further Report on Ju.88
This crew had only been six weeks with L.G.1 as Chateaudun; with the exception of the pilot, the crew came from the Erganzungs Kampf Gruppe at Krakow, where there were some 150 men training on He.111's and Do.17's. There were no Ju.88's, though it was stated that crews go from this Erganzungs unit to various Kampf Geschwader.
They had only done one previous war flight, a reconnaissance along the south coast about 14 days previously, which was unsuccessful because of A.A. and clouds.
It appears that the last flight was an Armed Reconnaissance to the factories in the Manchester district; a slip of paper gave the target number of the Metropolitan Vickers Electric Co. Ltd. At Salford - 7381c.
The flight was made at roughly 10,000 feet, taking advantage of the clouds, and flying just above them. They crossed the coast near Tangmere, passed near Oxford, and then up towards Northampton. They did not reach Manchester, and scuttled their 2 x 250-kg. bombs from above the clouds, when attacked by fighters.
It can be noted that fighter command had logged the plane as an Heinkel 111, but the above report states it to be a JU88.
Raid at Leyland
On the same afternoon bombs were dropped on the Farrington Steel works and was reported in the press as: "Bombs from 500 ft".
Circling over houses at less than 500 feet, a two-engined enemy bomber dropped bombs on a Northwest district yesterday afternoon. Anti-aircraft guns engaged the plane, which rose to the clouds and disappeared.
A E Kirby was on a roof when the plane dived, and he told a reporter, "Machine-gun fire started and thinking the crew in the bomber were machine-gunning the roof, I slid 50 feet down the steel ladder to the ground and ran for shelter. Mr Kirby saw two bombs drop. The machine dived low out of the clouds, and according to one householder, "just skimmed the tops of buildings".
Soon after it first appeared ground defences went into action. A householder who was attracted to the door of his home by the drone of the aircraft told a Lancashire Daily Post reporter, "I was startled to see the plane so low suddenly attacked by anti-aircraft fire because I thought it was a British machine. It circled round very low and appeared to be going very slowly. I could make out that it was a twin-engined plane but I heard no bombs drop". Apparently the machine dropped two bombs, one a time bomb and the other an oil bomb. Precautions are being taken near the time bomb.
Three premises in the vicinity were evacuated for a time for safety but at one of them people returned some time later.
A woman said she was standing in the yard when she heard the plane coming over and then heard machine gun fire. She shouted, "It's a Jerry", and then, to use her own words, "I ran to warn the others". They immediately went to a shelter. Another eye witness said the plane flew so low that it was actually beneath the top of one industrial chimney in the town. There were no casualties and so far no damage has been reported.
End of Daily Post article.
One of the problems is the time scale. This raid was first plotted near Market Harborough (East Midlands) at 1351, then travels north to Settle. The bombs that dropped on Chatburn were shortly after 1400. Home Security Intelligence reports bombs dropped on Farington Steel Works, Leyland at 1352, however Lancashire County Councils Regional Control Centre first received news of the attacks on Chatburn and Farington at 1435 and 1439 respectively. To me it seems probable that the same plane was responsible for both raids, but how to explain the times is difficult.
However some posts became saturated with aircraft overhead and could
only give approximate numbers, others found themselves dealing simultaneously
with raiders at the tree top height and 2800 ft., often while under machine
gun or bomber attack.
Several theories have been put forward most common was that the plane
wanted to off load weight to get home. Another one being that he mistook
the village mill for either Low Moor Mill, three miles away, which was
a base for the Royal Engineers, or the I.C.I. works even nearer to Chatburn.
The problem with this theory is that research has shown the factory was
built in 1940/41 and catalyst production, used in the manufacture of aviation
fuel, started in 1941.
Low Moor in 1932
I.C.I site in 1932
Or was he just lost and looking for an opportune target, even seeing
the petrol tanker convoy.
Only recently I was told of a tale about the bomber being chased by a British fighter plane and that it dropped a bomb on Slaidburn Fell where even today the crater is still visible. Another story is that he was chased and shot down in Morecambe Bay, unfortunately neither of these can be found in official documents.
As I stated earlier my task was to get an answer but unfortunately so
long after the event and the lack of official documentation, the answer
sadly may never be found.