Sheffield Blitz memories - 'The whistling of falling bombs, thudding explosions and anti aircraft fire - scary for a five year old'
December 12, 1940, the first night of the Sheffield Blitz was also my fifth. Birthday. We lived at 10 Scotia Close, Manor Estate with views over the City. Our dad, William Wolstenholme survived over two years on the Somme WW1 serving with the KOYLI.
Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Too old for active service in WW11 he joined the ARP. (Air Raid Wardens) based at St. Swithens Church Hall, Baseldene Road Manor. ARP. Wardens patrolled all neighbourhoods checking domestic Blackouts. All houses had to have blackout curtains to prevent any stray light been seen by German Bombers. If ARP. Wardens saw a chink of light they knocked on the door and told the resident to close the curtain.
The few vehicles on the roads had metal discs over their lights with just a thin slit allowing enough light out for pedestrians to see the vehicle. Trams and buses had blackout blinds over the windows the only way passengers knew where they were was when the conductor called “Next stop Wulfric Road” pedestrians were allowed a torch, this had to have a cardboard disc with a small hole allowing enough light through to avoid bumping into trees etc. I was dressed in a “Siren Suit” a one piece dark brown woollen garment with a hood, mittens and socks made to put a child in quickly.
Every House had been issued with an Anderson shelter, corrugated galvanised steel tough enough to protect occupants from shrapnel or falling masonry. In each block of houses one shelter was brick built with a concrete slab roof and fitted with wooden bunks, this was the type in our next door neighbours, Mr. & Mrs. Harvey’s garden and as our shelter was always flooded they invited us into theirs. December 12, 1940 dad left after tea to patrol his area. I was in my Siren Suit when the alarm sounded. Mom rushed us to the brick shelter and we heard the first wave of bombers, they had a growl, different sound to the RAF, Planes we were used to. Then the whistling of falling bombs, thudding explosions and anti aircraft fire, scary for a five year old. Then quiet, back into the house, this repeated throughout the night with bombers arriving in waves until the “All Clear” sounded in the early hours . My brother, Tony, a trainee metallurgist in the steel works arrived home on his bicycle having worked all night clearing debris following a direct hit on his works machine shop. He took me to the end of Scotia Close. The sight memorable. As a five year old I was used to blackout but now the whole sky over Sheffield was a bright pulsating red with the flames of the burning buildings.
Mom was worried about my gran and aunty who lived on Claywood Road, above the Midland Station. She asked my two older sisters to walk down Duke Street to check. Just below the top of Granville Road on City Road was a pile of rubble where houses had a direct hit. Gran was safe so my sisters walked me passed Midland Station to Fitzallen Square where men were working on the remains of Marples Hotel. A policeman sent us home. As a five year old I was aware of smoke, smells of burning and rubble on roads but didn’t appreciate the significance of what I had seen and heard until I was much older.