Retro: Memories of a terrifying night for firefighter

Peter Tuffrey collection -  Sheffield High Street Marples Hotel  remains left 1940
Peter Tuffrey collection - Sheffield High Street Marples Hotel remains left 1940
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Two years ago, Doug Lightning spoke to Retro about his experiences in the Blitz.

Here is an extract of what he said: “I was young enough and adventurous enough to know that this was different firefighting than what we were used to. I’d got to make my own mind up what to do.

“The old Black Swan was burning and the fire was also spreading along the roofs of Queen Street. The best thing I could do was to put the fire out on the Black Swan and concentrate on the roofs.”

Doug went to the Marples Hotel, scene of the worst tragedy of that night. He said: “I’m the only one who knows what happened at the Marples. I was the only one that was there, at the top of Snig Hill.

“During the early part of the night when I was there, I’d got these two crews working on the Black Swan.

“I went up there to have a look at what was going on. There were fires everywhere.

“The Marples was just burning down. It was lit at the top and burning down to the first floor.

“The one-kilo incendiaries that the Germans used were as very good fire bomb. They dropped them everywhere.

“Everything that was near then was set on fire. They were made of metal that burned and had a fuse inside.

“They fell on the road and lit the whole place up. You felt as though you were on stage.”

Doug said he made the mistake of dousing one with water and it exploded. Later, he saw that he had burn holes all over his jacket. He said he was lucky it didn’t reach his face.

Another firefighter was permanently injured by one of the incendiaries in the firestorm on the Moor.

There was nothing Doug could do for the Marples. “I wanted a lot more water, a lot more hose and a lot more men.

“The next time I saw it, it was just gravel burning brightly.”

Later, Doug learned that his sister-in-law was one of the victims in the Marples. She used the pub and stayed in there that night.

Her mother made her way home as the bombs were still dropping. Her daughter never came home again.