Sheffield Blitz memorial appeal stirs memories of terrible wartime nights for city

Sheffield Blitz'' Sheffield Fitzalan Square looking to High Street Marples  Blitz Damage to left
Sheffield Blitz'' Sheffield Fitzalan Square looking to High Street Marples Blitz Damage to left
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We’re now more than a third of the way towards our £15,000 total for The Star’s Blitz Memorial Walk appeal, which has prompted readers to write in with their own memories of those dark nights of December 1940.

Here we are sharing some of the stories from Star readers who vividly remember as children just what a terrifying time it was when Hitler’s Luftwaffe attacked the city on the nights of December 12 and 15, 1940.

RELATED ARTICLE: 9 fascinating facts about the Sheffield Blitz

Many got in touch to point out that it was not just the city centre that was hit. Bombs fell on many city suburbs and the Sunday night attack was aimed at the munitions and steel factories in the East End.

The Star is backing Sheffield author Neil Anderson’s campaign to get a memorial trail set up with steel plaques in 16 key places.

Rita Whiteley is keen to see that the night when the Blitz hit the East End of Sheffield is remembered.

Heeley Blitz book

Heeley Blitz book

Her father, Robert Howden, received a letter of thanks from the chairman of the English Steel Corporation while he was working as deputy area control officer at the Vickers Works.

The letter said: “It has been brought to my notice that, during the air raid on the night of 15th December, you showed exemplary coolness and resource and were of great assistance under exceptionally trying conditions.

“I am therefore writing this letter to express to you my personal appreciation and thanks for your efforts, by which you rendered good service not only to the company but to the nation.”

Rita, who lives in Stannington, said: “I remember I was eight at the time when the bombs started dropping on the Friday. My father was an ARP warden on alert.

Lifting an unexploded bomb in Devonshire Street - blitz'12th December 1940

Lifting an unexploded bomb in Devonshire Street - blitz'12th December 1940

“My mother tried to get myself and her down to the air raid shelter in the garden but the fallout was already happening so we couldn’t get there.

“A bomb dropped on Weston Park Museum which was across the road at the time on Crookes Valley Road from where we lived.”

She remembered: “You heard thump, thump all night. I was too young to really realise the danger we were all in.”

The family had to move out of their home because all their windows had been blown in and there was an unexploded bomb on their road.

Bid for help to ensure Sheffield Blitz sacrifices are remembered by generations to come

Bid for help to ensure Sheffield Blitz sacrifices are remembered by generations to come

Rita can remember standing and looking out for her father with her mother and other relatives who they had gone to stay with

“He turned up after walking home. He had been on duty all night. As he attempted to walk to various points, he couldn’t get through as he was told, ‘you can’t go down that road’. Eventually he got home.”

Rita said that her father used to go on to different shifts to be responsible for the buildings.

She added: “The East End took a battering. We could see the red glow in the sky and we were looking to see was he going to come back?”

Robert had served in the 1/4th Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment during World War One, enlisting on the day after Britain entered the war. He won a Distinguished Conduct Medal for sustained distinguished conduct.

Rita said that her father, who died in 1975, would not talk about his war service but it is known that he worked in signals and communication, serving in Holland as well as Ypres and Verdun.

The December 1940 blitz took its toll on Laver's Bramall Lane premises;

The December 1940 blitz took its toll on Laver's Bramall Lane premises;

In June 1916 he was wounded in the arm at La Bassee and spent time recovering at a military hospital in Clipstone, Nottinghamshire.

He returned to the front and after the war served at a prisoner of war camp at Rebaix in Belgium before being demobbed.

Rita said: “I felt I owed it to him to come and talk about the East End. He wouldn’t want a fuss about him and what he’d done.”

Joyce Crookes (nee Littlewood), remembered events in Woodhouse: “My father was a coal miner and when he wasn’t at work he was an ARP warden. One night we heard the dreaded drone of the German planes passing over our house.

“My dad stood on the back step of our house. My brother and myself joined him and looking on the horizon the sky was blood red.

“My dad said it looked like Sheffield was getting it that night. He was right, that was the start of the Sheffield Blitz.

“When you heard that drone you knew it was the Germans, it was a terrifying sound, also the warning sound of the sirens.

“Even today when you hear the sirens your mind goes straight back to the war. It made a tremendous impression on me being a young girl.

“I live about four and a half miles from the centre of Sheffield. We never had any bombs drop on our village, only the incendiary bombs which caused fires etc. We had a neighbour, when the first siren sounded she would shout loudly, ‘Gas masks everybody please’.

“When we were in school and the sirens sounded we would all file out into air raid shelters in the back yard. They were horrible inside, very dark, damp and smelly. We would all sit quietly until the second siren sounded the all-clear.

“The churches and chapels used to put on special events for the village children. We had a lot of chapels to go to, also the Salvation Army was very good at entertaining us. We went to different chapels in the evenings, it was very enjoyable.

“I can remember going into the headmaster’s office and they were measuring the children’s feet. If you had large feet you got extra coupons for new shoes.

“I don’t know if it was true but it was said some of the children stuffed their socks with cotton wool to make their feet bigger to get more coupons.

“My mum took me to Sheffield one day and everywhere there were sand bags piled high.

“The old post office in Fitzalan Square down toward Pond Street bus station was one place we went to get our ration books. We had to go to a large chapel on West Street to collect them.

Sheffield was unrecognisable with all the bombed buildings.

“When shopping with my mum in Woodhouse village, there was a shop that looked like a greenhouse on Tannery Street and stuck on the windows were pictures of yellow bent clusters.

“I asked my mum what they were and she told me they were called bananas. I must have been eight or nine before I tasted one.

“There were large queues outside our local shop which stretched down the street. People had been told they had a delivery of bananas.

“One for each person in the house. This also happened sometime later when a delivery of ice cream arrived. It was delicious.

“When I was a girl I used to watch men dressed in white vests and shorts running up and down Pit Lane, now called Stone Lane in Woodhouse.

“They were called Bevan lads.

“About 30 years after this I was on holiday in Devon, sat on the beach. One day we met a couple who were there too and the man asked me where I was from because he recognised the accent.

“I said Sheffield. He told me he was stationed in a village near Sheffield called Woodhouse during the war.

“He was staying with a family who lived on my road and he was one of the Bevan Boys who was running on Pit Lane. Now isn’t it a small world?”

n Neil Anderson’s appeal, which aims to raise £150,000 in total, will also include events to commemorate the Sheffield Blitz on the 75th anniversary this December. Donations can be made to the Sheffield Blitz Memorial Trust bank account (account number 52118665, sort code 54-41-47) or cheques can be sent to Sheffield Blitz Memorial Trust, 88 Abbeydale Road South, Millhouses, Sheffield S7 2QP.

Houses in Archibald road, Nether Edge'12th December 1940'Blitz

Houses in Archibald road, Nether Edge'12th December 1940'Blitz