These words, paragraphs and thoughts below, are my own,
and have been here for some 15 years or more now. You may now see them
plagiarised and reproduced all over the web whenever you happen on
sites and articles that mention the blitz on Hull, but this is where
they were posted first.
As indeed are the maps. If anyone 'owns' the copyright to the maps,
it's 'AGE CONCERN'; that is where the map that I first scanned came
from, on display for several years in a case in their old building. Who owned it before
that, exactly who prepared it, is still a mystery. We have to presume the Hull City Council at the time, for only they would have been party to all the information to put the maps together. But it was myself that split the map, did the artwork on the sections to tidy them up, remove the worst
creases, and indeed made the actual plots clearer. The original map was
not in good condition. I 'restored' it, and here is where it was seen first.
If you want to use sections of the maps for your own site, or indeed
quote my words, I cannot stop you, and nor would I. The maps are not mine, but the article below is.
So, for your own use, for family history purposes, that's what they're here for, please do feel free.
As to plagarising my words, it's no good banging on about copyright to folks that cheat and lie about where they found their
material, as can be seen on websites everywhere. But an acknowledgement would be nice, indeed polite.
But then, this is the here & now, and not the age I grew up in - .
The Hull Blitz
Some Thoughts and Points to Remember
It should be
mentioned, indeed remembered, that over 1,200 people in Hull lost their
lives in these raids, and some 3,000 were seriously injured. Over
three-quarters of the total housing stock was either totally destroyed
or damaged to some degree. Some Hull families were 'bombed out' two, or
even three, times. In all the radio and newspaper reports of the time,
this great port city was usually only ever referred to as a "North East Coast
Town", supposedly to avoid giving tactical information of damage, and
succour, to the enemy.
Consequently, it is only in more recent years that Hull has been
recognised as one of the most severely bombed places in Britain, and
her citizens paid a higher price than most for their chilly east coast
position. Hull often took bombing meant for more inland places, such as from
enemy aircraft fleeing down the Humber to the open sea after failing to
find Sheffield, or Leeds, or other northern towns, the victim of pilots
who needed to 'dump' their bombs.
It sounds cruel, but it was normal practice for bombers to have to dump
their unused, unloaded bombs, before returning to base. No pilot, our
own or the enemy's, would risk a potential heavy or crash landing back at base with
live and armed bombs still aboard. But the difference between our RAF
crews returning from bombing raids over Germany, and German Luftwaffe
crews returning to their bases from bombing us, is that pilots and
aircrew of the Luftwaffe didn't care where they dumped their bombs. The
RAF had strictly observed dump zones in the North Sea and English
Channel, where our pilots could unload unused bombs with minimum risk
to civilian safety. Our aircrews often had 'secondary targets' where unused bombs could be unloaded on enemy factories or port installations, but it was not always possible for an aircraft to reach them. Many an RAF crew paid the ultimate price for not just dumping anywhere, when an anti-aircraft shell, or an enemy night-fighter caught them, and scored a hit in the actual bomb bay thereby causing the aircraft to instantly blow up. The RAF did not dump indiscriminately,
without thought. Almost without exception, the RAF dumped their unused
bombs at sea, in those accepted safe zones, clearly marked on their
charts and well away from coastlines. As pointed out, just getting clear of the coast to do that was problematic with a severely damaged aircraft. Perhaps critical folk on the
continent in Holland, Belgium and France, and yes, even Germany, should
remember that occasionally.
So in their rush to dump, it would be fair to say that the German
Luftwaffe often served Hull a good deal more punishment than was
originally intended. Not that the word 'fair', as used here, is even
remotely appropriate. The Germans did not wage 'fair' war, they waged
total war. Some folks conveniently forget that the Nazi war machine,
the Luftwaffe, deliberately intended to bomb and kill civilians
right from the very start. That was the whole idea, that was their main
intention, the whole reason for the blitz, first on London, and then
the rest of British cities. They did it in France and Belgium when they
first invaded there; indeed, ask Poles how much regard for civilians
the Germans had when they flattened Warsaw in just a few days.
And there lies my main point; it was a massive difference in mindset. I suggest
that not one RAF pilot took any pleasure from knowingly killing women
and children, however accidentally it may have happened, and most would
only say that it stuck in their craw to have to do it at all.
If any RAF pilot or air gunner had been caught by his mates deliberately
strafing civilians in the street, he would have been severely
reprimanded if not court-martialled, let alone totally rejected by
those same colleagues. He wouldn't have had any mates! Some of our own
pilots would have willingly taken such an offender out round the back of the mess and shot him themselves. But many
German pilots revelled in it, as if it were 'sport' like chasing a fox
or rabbit. More than one farmer on his/her tractor working the fields was
shot at from the air by murderous German aircrews in their bloodlust.
The documented accounts of such strafings, of chasing civilians with
machine-gun fire along town and city streets throughout the war, are
numerous, recorded as fact and undeniable. Indeed, one famously
recorded incident happened right here in Hull, when civilians were
machine-gunned from the air down Holderness Rd, and that incident very
close to the end of the war when the Germans were losing! Even then,
with defeat staring them in the face, they were murderous in the
extreme. Too many people today seem to be in some doubt just how much
effort it took to put those swines down and what it cost in innocent
You will probably also notice, as others have and I often wondered
about, the large clusters of bombs that are recorded on the outskirts
of the city in what were then fields, and also in places like Pickering
Park. I hadn't realised until recently just how many barrage balloons
were moored around this city, upwards of 80 or so, and many were moored
in those very parks and open spaces, often not too far from the
anti-aircraft gun and searchlight batteries. These balloons forced
enemy pilots to fly much higher than they'd really have liked to or else
risk colliding with the balloon itself or ripping a wing off on the
thick metal hawsers that anchored them to the ground, hawsers similar
in thickness to those used to moor a ship in the docks. Several barage
balloons, around 15 or so, were moored to specially adapted balloon
barges out in the Humber all along the riverfront, known as the 'E' Waterborne
section, and most of the others around the city were moored to a winch
on the back of a heavy lorry. These were mobile and could be moved
about from site to site, though in practice, most stayed relatively
fixed. Of course, the lorry could be driven to and from the their base
camp at Sutton for repairs to the balloon, or a total replacement if required.
RAF Sutton on Hull
Needing a local
balloon barage depot, the RAF took over a large site on farmland at
Sutton, along Wawne Road, which became 'Hull's Own Air Force Station',
to be the maintenance site for all these balloons, their lorries and
crews. Balloons weren't really effective against high level bombing, nor
meant to be, but were more designed to discourage dive bombers, Stukas,
such as those that had such devastating effect in places like Warsaw.
Dive bombers were the real worry, perceived even before the war started as the
real terror weapon, not least because of the screaming noise as they
dived - and because they pointed themselves directly at their target,
they were incredibly accurate. In the German case, ruthlessly accurate. The enemy fitted a specially designed 'screaming device' to their aircraft specifically to achieve the terryfying noise that would frighten civilians into even more panic. Continental folk that had already been subjected to divebombing called these
planes "Screaming Death." A very graphic and apt description indeed.
To that degree, balloon barrages did work, as by and large and as with
other UK cities, Hull was not dive-bombed in the way continental cities
were, the prime example being Warsaw. Alongside a balloon site was
often an anti-aircraft gun site, of four, sometimes five
3.7 inch high-angle guns, plus searchlights. By necessity, these were usually
sited on open ground - in parks within the city, and open fields
without. Additionally, the city was ringed by a system, top secret then
but common knowledge now, called 'Starfish', of decoy sites to lure
enemy aircraft away from the blacked-out industrial and real docks areas.
False fires, burning tanks of old oil, plus searchlight and
anti-aircraft batteries making the area appear to be heavily defended,
were out in the open fields ringing the city. Some farmland to the east
of the city was flooded to a shallow depth, in land cut to mimic
the shape from the air of Hull's docks when reflected in the moonlight.
These elaborate decoys obviously worked, and thus saved many more
lives, as shown by the plotted number of bomb falls. But, as is the way
with these things, many fell on the nearby outlying housing estates
with devastating consequences. Unintended consequences indeed, but it
does explain the maps to a large extent.
I find it incredible, and amazing, that through all this chaos and
carnage, time and effort was taken by the authorities at the time to
plot the fall of every bomb, and note every type, no matter how
devastating the raid. Without that record keeping, under the most
severe of circumstances, the map you see here couldn't have been made.
Of course, there was a good pragmatic reason for it - not all bombs
went off. Plotting a stick of 6 bombs and only being able to account
for 5 gave bomb-disposal squads a fairly good idea where the
missing one might be. For often, an unexploded bomb, lying deep in a
garden or allotment, was then buried by the spoil from another blast
close by. Sometimes, a bomb that had failed to detonate on impact would
go deep into soft earth, then actually change course underground when
it came up against harder clay. It was known for them to enter and
travel along a sewer for quite some distance. Such a bomb could often
be found several dozens of yards away from where it entered the ground,
and just because it hadn't gone off on impact didn't mean it couldn't,
or wouldn't explode, if the slightest thing disturbed it. So the
authorities needed to know everything about a raid. All in all, it says much about the British
of the time, of our forefathers and grandfathers, and their sense of
order amid chaos. I doubt we would achieve as much now in only half the
circumstances. With the way the world is shaping up at present, we may
soon find out what our limitations are and our society be found very
So I take my hat off to them, every council worker, train, tram and bus
driver, all the police, nurses, doctors and all the emergency services,
every postman and midwife, waterworks and gasman, and engineers of all
kinds as well as the myriad of other staff in every type of public and
commercial life, on the docks or in the town, who attempted to make
life as safe and as normal as possible for the many, and to mitigate
the worst effects of the horrors of total war on women and children,
and the elderly.
It is now fashionable for certain foreigners to criticise the British
for our 'stiff upper-lip". But that is just what was needed then. No
room for wailing and hysterics at a time like that. No time for tears
and histrionics before news cameras and thoughts of compensation and
someone must be sued. No mamby-pamby gutter-press journalists hoping
for people to break and crack before the all-staring camera lens. No
spare staff for counselling to make folks believe they hadn't really
just lost both their home and half their family all in one night. They
gritted their teeth, cried and grieved in private, and went to work
next morning. Sick leave just for trauma wasn't an option. As many people said - and
with a characteristic smile - "Business As Usual". And they just got on
with it. That's why we survived as a nation, and that's why we won. For
those that didn't make it, we should remember what it cost them. Hull
has its own mass graves - in Chanterlands Avenue Cemetery - to remind
These maps are therefore a testament to fortitude. May the Lord help us
if anything remotely like it ever happens again, for I'm damned sure
the society we live in now couldn't help itself. Criminal looting would
be a bigger problem now than it ever was then, even if we did have a
'shoot to kill' policy. Yes, occasionally, even back then, there were
looters. And yes, they were shot. No mistake, and no apology. There are
many accounts, not just in this city but also London and all the
others, of bombed out families coming back to their properties when the
authorities had made the street safe, sometimes a week or two later, to
find whole rooms essentially intact - and everything untouched
- I kid you not, that's how it was. It wasn't a question of just
locking the front door - many houses had neither a 'front' nor a door
to lock. But they largely remained untouched. Things broken, yes, covered in
dust and debris, shattered glass all over the place, but cupboards and
drawers still often contained personal effects, even valuable items.
We're in a much different society now. Some would say broken.
So total war involves everyone. Everyone is in the front line,
including women and children. The descendants of those 3,000 Hull
casualties can testify to that. And to go back to the issue of
unexploded bombs, 'UXB' as they were called, it should also be
remembered why so many German bombs didn't go off. It has been
estimated that between a sixth and a fifth, or perhaps 20%, of all
German bombs were 'faulty'. Unusual for such thorough German
engineering? Well, no, it was not the engineering. It was sabotage.
Tens of thousands of civilians in conquered European countries, but
particularly Poles and French, were used as forced slave labour in
German munitions factories. They knew full well what they were doing,
and took immense risks to sabotage the bombs themselves. Perhaps their
main motive was in thinking that the bombs they were being forced to
assemble would be used against their own countrymen, so I don't pretend
that in all cases they were especially thinking of sparing the British.
But that is the effect it had, and many of those unfortunate slaves
paid for their silent resistance with their lives when caught.
However bad it was during the blitz, we should remember that it could have been
much, much worse had it not been for people now long forgotten; and
it's also worth remembering that many of them were actually German.
Yes, the Nazis used some of their own people, mainly dissidents, union
members or those thought be be remotely left-wing, as slaves. Many were
women, and when caught sabotaging armaments, the Germans did execute
them, often by beheading on a guillotine. At the very least they were
shot, and that usually after torture. We owe them all a huge debt of
gratitude. So not all German people were our enemies - and likewise,
not all Frenchmen or Russians were our friends. Look up on Google the
'White Rose Society', and you'll see we're not talking Yorkshire here.
For folks who cannot for 'concience reasons' wear a red poppy, I would suggest they wear a white rose instead.
I would happily wear both.
It has also been fashionable in recent years for some "British" folk to
question our actions against Nazi Germany, with regard to our
retaliatory bombing against Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin and the cities of
the Rhur. Those people tend to forget who started it. One big
difference between our veterans, and German veterans, when ours all
line up on November the 11th to remember their respective dead - our
servicemen and their descendants do not have to search
their consciences for the reasons they were fighting and giving their
lives. Germans, in the main, were not fighting for survival, they were
fighting for a megalomaniacal dictator who promised them great things and great wealth
at other peoples' expense. They were a nation hoodwinked by clever politics, yes, but
that doesn't alter the facts. Germans have to try to forget that when
remembering their comrades in arms that died for a murderous tyrant.
Our veterans will never forget it, and probably not let them forget it
Terrible things are done in time of war, by all sides, some out of
sheer cruelty, but many are out of accident or lack of imagination as
to what could or might happen. Such is the fate of war. But in the
realms of sheer cruelty, if ever there were two names of European
cities that should always be remembered as monuments to evil, they're
Warsaw, and Guernica. If you don't know where the latter is, look it up
on Google, or see the link below. Hull was at least spared that. Even
Coventry and London were spared that. Probably due to the forethought
and careful placing of barrage balloons and the people that manned and
maintained them - and another point worth remembering is that later in the war, after around 1942, most of those
anti-aircraft sites, searchlight batteries and balloon tenders, were
manned solely by women. And very good they were too.
The Bombing of Guernica 1937 and also Hitler's
Destruction of Guernica. If you're young, and never heard of this,
these accounts will shock and horrify you. Read them before you
criticise the bombing methods we had to take to destroy the swines that
could do this, and moreover, laugh while they were doing it. It's because Britain
did eventually defeat the Nazis that you can happily still speak
English, elect your government, and can even dare to question anything
at all to do with government. For German youth that did criticise and
question what the Nazis were doing, I mention here again what happened to members of The White Rose Society.
That's not pleasant reading either.
If you would like to see an authoritative diary of day-to-day action
over the North East, including up to Tyneside, do see NE
DIARY - and look for Sunderland and the account of the Heinkel
Bomber that was shot down over some terraced houses there, killing a
mother and wounding her husband and daughter when it finally crashed
into their house. That is typical of the tragedy of war - our little
victory in stopping that bomber going further, but a mother's death as the price for it. That sort of thing happened
not once, but with variations, hundreds and hundreds of times.
It still amazes me that so few today understand anything about what
happened in this city during those dark days. Perhaps ignorance is
truly bliss, for they don't know how fortunate they really are. But
with all the information there is around now, all the museums and films
and books and rolls of print on how it was in WW2, telling what it was all
about, and the price that was paid, how can so many folks still not
know? Do they know it is almost impossible to buy a house in Hull built
BEFORE 1939 that WASN'T damaged - not an easy task? 86,715 homes were
wrecked to some degree - 152,000 people were made homeless. Only some
5,000 homes had no damage at all. And that is just in ONE city in the
UK - others were just as or nearly as bad - London, Manchester,
Sheffield, Glasgow, Plymouth, Coventry; the list goes on. And as I've
pointed out, the Germans were already well practiced in the black arts
of terrorising civilians from the air before they launched their black
wrath on us. We can count ourselves fortunate that combinations of
forward planning, the RAF, Fire Watchers and our emergency services,
and all those tragic folks who made sure there were so many faulty bombs, all spared us
much, much worse.
As to the intensity and severity of Hull's suffering, I reproduce here
an excerpt from the 1960 autobiography of Herbert Morrison, one of
Churchill's wartime cabinet. He was firstly Minister of Supply, and
then Home Secretary for much of the rest of the war. He frequently
toured the country, with and without Churchill, to see for himself
blitzed towns and cities. This is what he said about the blitz on
Britain, comments I first saw on a BBC People's War history site
recently, though I suspect they have been widely used elsewhere:
"The Coventry raid was, of course, appalling in
its intensity and as it was the first serious attack on a provincial
town it goes down in history for the creation of a new word for human
brutishness - coventrated. London with its sixty consecutive nights of
bombardment received the greatest tonnage of bombs, as well as daylight
raids, but London is very big and as the world knows London could, and
did, take it. But don't underestimate the troubles, anxieties and
sufferings of the Londoners. Plymouth, as a naval town and easily
identifiable on the coastline, received a terribly concentrated series
of attacks and Liverpool had a nasty week. Manchester, Belfast and
Clydeside had nasty times. There were others.
But in my experience and from remembrance of the reports, I would say
that the town that suffered most was Kingston-upon-Hull. We had reason
to believe that the Germans did not realize that they were bombing
Hull. Morning after morning the BBC reported that raiders had been over
a 'north-east town' and so there was none of the glory for Hull which
known suffering might produce.
The raids on Hull were only occasionally concentrated so that the
devastation of a few houses did not produce stories of disaster and
heroism to repeat far and wide. Hull often suffered for what might be
said to be no rhyme or reason except that it was an easy target. But it
was night after night. Hull had no peace. I have since been honoured by
this courageous town by being appointed High Steward and it was a
privilege for me to tell the citizens that the government was fully
aware of their sufferings during the war and the heroic manner in which
they had endured them.
So, as far as Hull is concerned, and how bad it was - 'nuff said.
added 26 Sept 2005
It was recently brought to my attention of a serious omission
to the bomb plot data on Map 5.
On the night of 14th April, 1942, a High Explosive bomb fell into the
back gardens of 2 and 4 Woodlands Road, just off Willerby Road. The
bomb destroyed a garden air raid shelter, and 4 females from those two
houses were killed, one of them a two year-old baby.
I am grateful to Mr Terence Vickers, whose grandfather lived nearby and
attended the scene to assist in the rescue of those trapped and
injured, for bringing this omission to the original data to my
attention. Therefore, Map 5 has been duly amended to set the record
The details are recorded in the Civilian War Dead Index, and in the
NE DIARY quoted above.
THE ONE AND ONLY FLYING BOMB:
Further news: A correspondant contacted me in 2017 to say that, as a 12 year old boy living on Spring Bank West, he had witnessed a flying bomb, V1, pass over his garden heading towards Willerby Rd. Mr Don Pattison said it was very low, and had frightened him and a neighbour at the time, as it only just seemed to skim the top of the nearby railway bridge and embankment. It would seem that the rocket was flying very low, almost level and similar to the manner of today's cruise missiles. It had been air-launched from an adapted German bomber off the coast. He had awakened to the roar of the rocket engine, and recalls seeing the tail of the flaming rocket exhaust as it passed over. He also recalled the date was Christmas Eve, early hours, and indeed, there is such an account, with a few more technical details, on the HULL & EAST RIDING AT WAR website.
History tells us now that this was the one and only V1 bomb to land in the Hull district, though apparently some others overflew Hull to land much further west, even Pocklington. At such early hours of the morning, Don was one of the few to have seen it, though many will have been awoken a few seconds later by the enormous blast when it landed. Ironically, Don also says that his father, who was stone deaf and never knew a thing, didn't believe him when he recounted what he had just seen! Such is fate.
The story of such a late V1 attack, Christmas 1944, perfectly illustrates how, just when Hull's inhabitants could well be forgiven for thinking that 'all that was over', you could still never be sure. Allied forces had long over-run the V1 and V2 launching sites in Northern France, and so the Germans went to great expense and trouble to devise how to launch them from the air over our own coasts. Some today are in great admiration for such German industriousness and clever ingenuity; I still can't consider it to be anything but a determination to perpetuate their sadistic evil for as long as possible, even when defeat was as good as certain by that time. Remember, the war ended but 4 months later. Clever it might have been. It was still evil.
Our Very Own Crater
The picture below is the enormous wartime crater covering the gardens at the
back of our houses in JRA, caused by a parachute mine that fell in 1941. It looked
rather like a large metal dustbin and packed with explosives. It was
set to go off at a pre-determined height, usually around 20-30ft or so,
to cause maximum blast damage as well as a rather large hole. Houses
just at the edge of Garden Village can be seen in the distance. When it
was eventually filled in, after the war, several old buses and cars
were used as filler, as well as hundreds of tons of rubble. The lady
next door was killed when this parachute mine went off. (see more news
below). This was by no means exceptional, albeit quite a large bomb,
there were similar craters to this in residential areas all over Hull
and in all our bombed towns and cities. Mind you, to hear some Hull
folk talk today, you'd be hard pushed to realise all this was only 70
years ago - just two generations, and many have already forgot. If a
town has a memory, a collective memory, it seems to be woefully short
these days. I'm pretty sure that Poles, Russians, Czechs, French,
Belgians, Dutch, Danes, and all the other nations that were wronged by
their bullying neighbour won't forget in ten generations, let alone
two. It's just we British that are soft. Forgiveness is one thing.
Forgetting is something else.
ADDITIONAL NOTE : added 2 Mar 2006 - Click this link to go to a
Separate Page for more information on this particular land-mine,
and the incredible coincidences that led to extra information about
this tragedy some 60 years later.
| This small image is a link
is to part of a fascinating aerial photograph, taken by the RAF in
1943. The more I look at it, the more I see. In the large format book,
PLAN FOR KINGSTON UPON HULL 1945, two of these huge photos appear
covering both sides of the city. This is about a 20% extract from the
East Hull photo.
Landmarks are : Holderness Road running SW to NE across the
bottom of the pic, with part of Newbridge Road just visible
across the corner ; Barnsley, Buckingham, Mersey, Durham Streets
all slanting away in parallel across the middle to the NW ; our area of
the bottom end of James Reckitt Avenue , top end of
Endymion Street , and the various railway embankments, bridges,
etc ; the whole of Garden Village to the right, clearly
showing The Oval and most of Holderness House ;
the large field that was to become Archbishop Temple School
at the top of Westcott Street , and the large areas of
allotments at the back of the drain and Reckitts sports field
, now the site of Dove House Hospice ; East Park
Boating Lake is just visible, top right ; the dark line running
across the bottom left corner is the old low level railway, that
crossed Holderness Road via a level crossing - most of you will know it
better now as Mount Pleasant , running parallel to
Courtney Street ; and finally, the old Drain runs up the left
side of the photo.
Bombsites show starkly in the snow, and this is, for the most part,
some 2 years after they fell - and JRA shows all the original young elm
and lime trees, planted in opposite pairs, all the way up to
Chamberlain Road and beyond. . The elms were lost in the 80s to
Dutch Elm disease. The photo opens in a new browser window.
[ 307Kb ]
You'll need to give this photo a few secs to load, into a new
browser window. Just close it when you're finished with it.