Remembering the Sheffield Blitz - 81 years ago

Thursday, December 12, 1940, is a date that should live long in the memory of all Sheffielders.

Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 12:18 pm

For that date marked the start of the Sheffield Blitz, which killed more than 600 people in the city.

At 6.15pm the first warning was issued followed by two more before 7pm and the wailing air raid siren alerted families across Sheffield of the impending danger. By 7.41pm the German Pathfinder unit arrived over the city dropping 16 high-explosive bombs, and 11,000 other incendiaries over the suburbs of Norton Lees and Gleadless.

At about 10:50 pm a 500 kg bomb fell on and destroyed the C&A and Burtons buildings opposite the Marples Hotel in Fitzalan Square where many people were sheltering in the basement.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

At 11:44 pm, The Marples Hotel itself received a direct hit. It is not known exactly how many people were killed but approximately 70 bodies were recovered from the rubble. This was the single biggest loss of life in the attacks. However seven men were found alive in the rubble of the hotel during the rescue mission. The majority of the bombs on this night fell on the City Centre or on residential districts with the last bombs falling at 4 am.

The next day the city searched for lost ones and worked to start a clear up the destruction.

However, this was not the end of the onslaught and the Luftwaffe returned on Sunday, December 15 and between 7pm and 10.15pm another 11,000 bombs were dropped this time targeting Hadfields, Brown Bayleys and Steel, Peech and Tozer Ltd, steel factories although the damage was not serious enough to affect production.

More than 660 people were killed, with 132 being buried in a communal grave in City Road Cemetery, 1,500 injured and 40,000 made homeless. 3,000 homes were demolished with a further 3,000 badly damaged. A total of 78,000 homes received damage.

A Wicker tram blown in half. Picture: Peter Tuffrey

Six George Medals were awarded to citizens of Sheffield for their bravery during the raids.

The Marples Hotel