Archive | August, 2013

The Bombing of Barrow-in-Furness 1941

21 Aug

At the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, Barrow-in-Furness a working class town in North West England had a population in the region of 68,000. Many generations of men and women worked in the main industries of Shipbuilding and Engineering works of Vickers –Armstrong, the Barrow Steelworks and of course the Barrow Docks. Due to the involvement in the rearmament work it was obvious to all in the town, we would be a target for enemy bombing and that proved to be the case in 1941
When war was declared in 1939 the defence of the town and Air raid precautions were set in place. Air Raid Shelters were built to cater for all inhabitants of the Town. On my own side of the street, there were 7 shelters built on the back side of the street, for housing the 28 families. The shelters were divided into two sections with a small steel door dividing the shelter. Usually three families were designated either side of the shelter. Each shelter had three bunk beds fitted. Every able bodied man who worked in the industries had a job to do, whether it was an Air raid warden, Fire watcher, Ambulance Driver, Firemen, Nursing or being in the Home Guard. Anti-Aircraft guns, barrage balloons, Sirens and smoke screens were set up in various areas of the town and rehearsals for what was eventually coming were constant. One has also to remember many of the able bodied men not associated with the rearmament, were called up into the services.
During the early days of 1941 Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) broadcast from Berlin to British listeners, that Barrow-in-Furness had not been forgotten. We were certainly not forgotten. The Blitz on Barrow-in Furness was not long, but came on the nights of 14th to 16th of April and 3rd to 10th May. In that short time over 100 houses were destroyed and 500 more later had to be demolished. The shipyard was bombed, one notable direct hit was the big crane with both firewatchers killed who were on it at the time. Barrow Railway station got a direct hit. The Copper Nob which is now housed in York was situated on a plinth on the approach to the station and was damaged. If one visits the York Railway museum you can still see the shrapnel marks on the Copper Nob. The houses surrounding the Industries took the bulk of the bombing.
There were Eighty three killed and over three hundred injured during the blitz on Barrow-in-Furness. Compared with the big cities we got off lightly but one death is a big price to pay. My Father was an Electrician by day and his duty was a Fire Watcher at night on Walney Island promenade. He told me the first bombs he heard dropped went into the sandy mud between Walney Island and the Shipyard. He said he just heard plop, plop and plop. The unexploded bombs will still be well down in the muddy sand this present day. Incidentally I still have my Father’s steel helmet. The people of Barrow-in-Furness and surrounding areas did what the nation asked of them. Hopefully the many future generations of Barrovians will look back with pride in what their fore fathers and mothers did during the Blitz. I was seven years of age when Victory came in 1945 and it is only when one gets older and much wiser. That I am proud to say, it was a privilege in my life, that I was amongst honest, brave and hardworking people of my home town of Barrow-in Furness, all those years ago.
Alan

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