Swansea Blitz Project

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My Swansea Blitz project for Essential Skills Wales

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Swansea Blitz Project

  1. 1. SWANSEA BLITZ TABLE OF CONTENTSIntroduction........................................................................................................................................................... 2 How The Blitz started ........................................................................................................................................ 2 Types of weapons used ................................................................................................................................... 2 Precautions Taken ............................................................................................................................................ 3 Shelters ........................................................................................................................................................... 3 Blackouts ........................................................................................................................................................ 3 Gas Masks ...................................................................................................................................................... 4 Extra precaution ........................................................................................................................................... 4 The Three Night Blitz.......................................................................................................................................... 4 Wednesday 19th February 1941..................................................................................................................... 5 Thursday 20th February 1941........................................................................................................................... 5 Friday 21st February 1941 ................................................................................................................................ 5 Ben Evans....................................................................................................................................................... 6 Swansea Market ........................................................................................................................................... 6 St. Mary’s Church.......................................................................................................................................... 6 Witness Report................................................................................................................................................... 7 The Impact/Aftermath..................................................................................................................................... 8The Swansea Blitz.................................................................................................................................................. 9 Deaths, Casualties and Injures ..................................................................................................................... 10 Sources............................................................................................................................................................. 11 Websites ....................................................................................................................................................... 11 Books............................................................................................................................................................. 11 Media - DVD ................................................................................................................................................ 11 Other............................................................................................................................................................. 11
  2. 2. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013 INTRODUCTION IN TRODUCTIONI chose the Swansea Blitz as my project to educate myself and inform other people about eventswhich occurred during the Swansea Blitz and the impact of the devastation caused to buildings andsurrounding communities.HOW THE BLITZ STARTEDIn around 1100 Swansea was founded by a Norman lord. In 1800 it was known well for coppersmelting and for its heavy industry of shipping; this gave Swansea a name of ‘Copperopolis’ andallowed the city to grow. Times were changing and the vast majority of materials were made in theirown country, however, by 1939 the city still produced tin plates and zinc in the lower Swansea Valley.A train network ran just around the docks and very near were several grid like streets called St.Thomas, what is now known as SA1. With such a heavy scene near the docks it was evident theywould be targets for attackers.The Blitz occurred during World War II which operated between 1939 and 1945 consisting of twoteams. The Axis Power (enemies) was Germany, Italy & Japan and the allies were Britain, France,Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, the Soviet Union, China and the USA. Adolf Hitler was theleader of Germany and the Nazi Party; he wanted Germany to rule Europe. Japan wanted to controlAsia and the Pacific. In 1937 Japan attacked China and two years later Germany invaded Poland.Starting what we know now as World War II.TYPES OF WEAPONS USED High Explosive (H.E) – Bombs which exploded with a huge bang and have the force to blow a single building apart. Incendiaries – Bombs which started fires, they had slow burning jets of phosphorous which were extremely dangerous to go near Parachute Mines – These mines were dropped from aircrafts during their flight and exploded before they touched the ground to maximise damage Oil bombs – These were in thin metal containers filled with flammable liquids which were dropped from an aircraft hurling to the ground; on impact exploded, shooting burning oil in the surrounding area.Some of the bombs which landed did not go off but this could be due to a delayed action fuse. If abomb fell with a thud instead of a bang it was certainly a bomb which failed to explode and had tobe cornered off in case it went off; apparently 1 in every 10 fell with a thud. Page 2 of 11
  3. 3. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013PRECAUTIONS TAKENSHELTERSIn around 1937, before the outbreak of war, councils were giving out Anderson Shelters. For peoplewho wanted to stay at their own premises they needed to dig out an area in their garden and putthe corrugated steel together. Once built they put sandbags on top and covered it with turf to hidethe shelter; as these were known to be a magnet for the enemies to bomb. Not many people hadthem and official archive information shows that by September 1939 just 6,500 of the 30,000Anderson Shelters were actually given out.Another type was called ‘Morrison Shelter’; this was an indoor shelter which looked like a steel tablewith a wire mesh around all sides, they were quite strong and would have been adequate to savethe people inside from being crushed by falling bricks. While the ones who had Anderson Sheltersstayed within their gardens the ones without a shelter went to a public air raid shelter called‘community Anderson Shelters’. These shelters consisted of beds, tables and some form of potty to goto the toilet in.My great grandmother Elizabeth Davies, often referred to as ‘Lizzie’ always blamed my greatgrandfather Stanley Davies for apparently causing a bomb to explode. My great grandparents livednear Brynhyfryd, Landore; being a heavy smoker he went outside of the Anderson Shelter during araid and lit a cigarette. As Germans flying overhead saw a light they decided it would be a goodenough target. They dropped a bomb and luckily due to their poor accuracy it landed four doorsdown but went off; they survived with no injuries. My great, great auntie Alice who is now 100 yearsold lived in the same street and is still alive today; however she was not available to comment.BLACKOUTS The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Department co- ordinated work of emergency services, enforced black- outs and set up sirens around the town. Blackouts meant that all lights at night had to be turned off or covered with blackout materials. Bicycle lamps had to have a cover, cars had to be adapted (lights had to be dimmed, reverse lights were prohibited and if a car was not going to be locked in a garage, part of the mechanism had to be removed or a locking device applied), and people’s houses had to have blackoutcurtains on the windows. If they did not use the curtain an ARP warden came along telling you to putthe light out. These blackouts were so air bombers could not see the light and any targets; theycaused problems for anyone in the streets as you could hardly see but effectively in the long runsaved thousands of lives. Page 3 of 11
  4. 4. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013GAS MASKSThe emergency services including ARP wardens weregiven anti-gas training and gave gas masks to eachperson living in Swansea where they had to carry themevery single second of the day. An interesting gas maskis that of a baby; they were put into some kind ofquarantine looking item, this item is illustrated by a dollin the picture to the right. This was a precaution due tothe Germans using gas in World War I; although no gasattacks took place throughout World War II.EXTRA PRECAUTIONTo help prevent deaths some children were sent to other parts of the country. For example childrenfrom Chatham, Kent went to Pontardawe in the Swansea Valley. Cities also used barrage balloonswhich floated in the air and tied to the ground by steel; forcing enemy planes to go higher. Theadvantage of using the barrage balloons were as the planes went higher they had less accuracy;also the balloons were strong so any plane which went into them would be ruined.Any buildings with windows had tape in a cross supporting the glass, ensuring it did not blow inwardsif they shattered. The government also took charge advertising how to put gas masks on, told peopleto eat and grow more vegetables, the do’s and don’ts’ and a campaign named ‘Careless TalkCosts Lives’ due to the fear of spies overhearing sensitive information.THE THREE NIGHT BLITZThe term Blitz comes from the German word ‘Blitzkrieg’ meaning ‘Lightning War’. A few nights beforethe Blitz German pilots flew overhead and took aerial shots from high up in the sky to try and pin pointtheir targets; the images were very detailed. They marked potential targets such as where railwaylines were, coal being transported to King’s dock, the depots for Llandarcy with oil tanks clearlymarked out and food stores.When the time came to bomb the city most of the bombers flew over Lundy Island (In Devon) andapproached Swansea from Worms Head, while more flew in from the east. The Luftwaffe (GermanAir Force) was unable to get a precious target as they were flying high in the air. Quite shockingly ifthe German Air Force dropped a bomb on a point target it could have landed anywhere in a 2 to3km circle; the equivalent to approximately 1.8 miles. An example being if a bomb targetedSainsbury’s in Quay Parade that bomb could travel anywhere between Port Tennant & Cockett. Dueto their poor accuracy it is said that some bombers headed home dropping their bombs anywhere;even on already lit fires making them a lot worse. Page 4 of 11
  5. 5. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013Swansea was a dangerous place during the blitz; when Lazerzone was once Castle Cinema anincendiary bomb landed on the roof but dislodged itself and saved the cinema. On anotheroccasion a raid siren went off during a film; everyone hurried to get to a nearby shelter. One lady,who was the last one out, saw that this shelter had become over packed and decided to go toanother. The all clear was sounded and the following day learned that the very same shelter whichwas jam-packed had been a target and killed many people.To try and hit British moral the German Air Force (often referred to as Luftwaffe) decided to bomboffices, shops and homes. The bombs were so brutal that just one bomb could have destroyed justone house; this happening on at least one occasion. These bombs were designed to burn sothrowing any water on them just made matters worse; their casings were made of magnesium sothrowing sand on them seemed to be the best way to burn them out.The fire-fighters were faced with destroyed water pipes while fires were blazing throughout variousparts of the city; to combat this they had to gather water from the north dock and the Swanseabaths. When some of the fire-fighters were up ladders the enemy aircrafts would fire, wounding andkilling them. With all of this going on they still had to deal with containing a perimeter aroundunexploded bombs and demolishing unsafe buildings. Swansea’s search lights were all beaming intothe sky trying to catch enemy aircrafts with artillery (known as ack-ack guns).WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 1941This night saw the very first night of what we know as ‘Three Night Blitz’. Light snow was falling onalready icy streets at 7:30pm as a black-painted German aircraft held flares, nicknamed baskets ofonions, over Swansea Bay. These flares allowed other enemy aircrafts to drop high explosive bombsover a lit up Swansea softening targets and destroying gas & water mains ensuring they created asmuch damage as possible; this meant the fires were easier to start and harder to put out.THURSDAY 20TH FEBRUARY 1941The Germans (Often referred to as Nazis) copied the previous night holding flares in the sky, onceagain lighting the city and uncovering what would become targets. The air force droppedincendiaries and even land mines on parachutes, shattering glass as they exploded. 7 wardens wereon duty that night.FRIDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 1941The third night was one of the worst; the air raid sirens sounded at 7:50pm and lasted for five hours;one firewatcher said “the incendiaries came down like snow”. The fires were so much out of control Page 5 of 11
  6. 6. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013that German pilots reported seeing approximately 7 extremely huge fires. On this night the market, adepartment store named Ben Evans and St. Mary’s church were all targets.BEN EVANSA very well known and used department store was named Ben Evans. It was built in the 1890’s andby the 1930’s the Carmarthenshire draper bought out small businesses and had a complex where 38different departments were present; they consisted of clothes, china, haberdashery and more.During the last night of the Three Night Blitz the department store which provided the people ofSwansea for 50 years was hit and now in its place stands castle square.SWANSEA MARKETOne of the most known targets was the market; Swansea hadits original market at the end of Wind Street next to the castle inthe 18th century. Approximately 1830 the market wasrelocated to a new site on Oxford Street. On this night theincendiaries destroyed the interior causing metal girders totwist, slates to crash and glass to smash. According to onewitness the girders were noticeably hot red. One of the mostdistinctive effects about the market being hit was buttermelting in gutters and the smell of burning meat throughout thetown’s air. Courtesy of South Wales Evening PostThe Market was obliterated; traders had to trade off the back of trucks until new premises could befound. After a short while the market was temporarily situated at United Welsh bus garage (whereWilkinson’s is now) until the market was cleared where it then reverted back to its original site after ashort period of time. Between 1941 and 1959 it operated without a roof; it consisted of wooden stallswith corrugated steel roofs but of course they rusted over time. The stalls were open to all weatherconditions; quite often water blown by the wind would fly off the roofs down onto ill-fated customers.The market was rebuilt on the same site between 1959 and 1961 and traders were once againtemporarily moved to the south on Orange Street and where the clothes store Primark is today. Atone point a bomb fell near the market and bounced off a wall, sliding down some steps of a publicshelter blowing to bits; many people were killed.ST. MARY’S CHURCH St. Marys Church has been located at the site since around 1328; since then it has been rebuilt several times; the last time being 1980 before the war due to it needing a countless list of repairs. Elaine Kidwell witnessed the tower of St. Marys Church exploding into a great big fireball and the bells ringing, hitting each side of the tower as they came crashing down. When the building was on fire a soldier on leave ran through the flaming church to save the altar cross. The image to the left shows how much of the church was still standing after the fire had been extinguished; and the destruction caused. Page 6 of 11
  7. 7. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013Courtesy of South Wales Evening PostThe flames throughout the city were enormous and could be seen from up to 80 miles away. Placessuch as: Cardigan, Pembrokeshire, Shropshire, Cornwall and Devon reported seeing fires. Peopleliving around the coast of Devon had a view from across the sea; the fire was so bad they thoughtSwansea was history. Although there was no fourth night the people of Swansea must haveexpected one.WITNESS REPORTOne lady who has influenced the reflection of the Swansea Blitz is Elaine Kidwell. She was theyoungest air raid woman warden in the country; just seventeen years and two months old. Her rolewas to get people safely into shelters; she was the only girl in a team of 7. She explained: “I joined up as a civil defence messenger and when I was 17 years and two months old I asked to be an air raid warden even though you had to be 18”. “The man in charge could see I was young and when I told him my true age he said ‘In war we bend rules’. So I was in”.One night the head warden Mr. Scott or ‘Scotty’ as she called him shouted at her to give him ahand; as she got closer she could see he was kneeling over a man. This man tried putting out aburning incendiary by stamping on it and blew up ripping his foot from his leg. They both triedwrapping materials around his leg to stop the blood from escaping until the ambulance arrived (avan with a piece of canvas in it). Arrived and ready to depart, Scotty threw the man’s shoe into theambulance splattering a trial of blood everywhere as his foot was still inside.Another tale of Elaine’s experience was relatively personal. She had two cousins; two grownups withtwo babies. Her father asked her to go and visit them to see if they were ok; she ran over but whenshe got there two houses had disappeared, there was nothing. A lady appeared and said “they’requite safe now you know, they’re alright, not going to be hurt anymore”; she thought to herself that itwas strange the way she said it. The lady then said “I’ll come with you, they’re over the church”;they went over to the church and walked inside. There were two coffins with ‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’ andanother square white coffin with the two babies in.The war was dangerous and no-one was safe. At one point Elaine saw a parachute mine fall towardsher. It exploded and she was blasted, rolling over and over until she was stopped by hitting a brickwall; knocking the breath out of her. She went on to say she was so young she didn’t think it wouldhappen to her, only to other people. In addition to helping people get to safety, clearing bombs,administrating first aid and rescuing people no-one had much sleep; in all she estimated to havehad around ten hours sleep, if even that, in those 72 hours. As part of her job she had to deliver badnews, she was always told to smile no matter what was said or done. Page 7 of 11
  8. 8. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013THE IMPACT/AFTERMATHIt seems not all was done to protect Swansea from an attack and questions were raised; Cardiff andother areas of the UK had more guns. Another major question asked is why there was no sound ofack-ack guns being fired on the last night; one possibility is there were plans to take the Luftwaffehead on by sending British Air Forces in and holding back fire just in case one of the British planes gothit. Of course with the night Swansea had that never happened; Swansea was trapped while theLuftwaffe had full control of the skies.The morning of Saturday, 22nd February 1941 led to the Town Clerk and Chief Controller, H. LangCoath releasing the following statement: “We found roads impassable. Fifteen schools had been destroyed or severely damaged; telephones cut off; a causality list, providentially not so large as might be expected (227 people died and 254 were seriously injured. Over 6,537 people without a home.) The post office completely demolished and all papers, books and records, including thousands of food registrations, destroyed. The shopping centre, including the market, wiped out. A total of 171 food shops destroyed, 64 grocers, 61 butchers, 12 bakers, and 34 hotels, restaurants, and café’s. Gas and water cut off causing cooking problems for those homes still standing.” “Dangerous buildings required immediate attention; the blitz area had to be cordoned off, rescue work had to go on, the dead had to be identified and buried. It just needed a match to cause panic and consternation and put everything in hopeless muddle and disorder.”He also released information saying the ARP (Air Raid Prevention) control room had more than 8,000messages and 561 incidents recorded during those three nights. Overall Swansea had 524 High Alertsand everyone in the town spent a countless number of hours under threats of bombing; by the endof it 41 acres of district has been engulfed. The effect the war had on Swansea was horrific; although the docks and industries were not majorly hit approximately 857 properties were completely destroyed while 11,000 were damaged making 8,000 people homeless. 395 shops, 107 offices and 82 industrial buildings were gone while many families returning to rubble. The worst residential areas consisted of Mayhill, Townhill, Brynmill, Manselton, Brynhyrfed, Mount Pleasant and St.Thomas. Ambulances had to pick up the injured and the dead; sorting them at the hospital for burial. Courtesy of South Wales Evening Post Page 8 of 11
  9. 9. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013 THE SWANSEA BLITZ 1st September 1940 Throughout World War II (1939-45) Swansea had 44 attacks, 5 being blitz: 17th January 1941 Blitz No.1 happened Blitz No.2 was intended to hit when the Llandarcy Blitz No.1 Blitz No. 3, 4 & 5 the docks but all missed the oil refinery was target; 178 high explosives attacked. It lasted 1st September 1940 19th – 21st 1941 and 7000 incendiaries fell several hours where either side of River Tawe 251 High explosive causing extensive damage bombs and over September October November December January February to St. Thomas. It started 1000 incendiaries around 8pm and finished were dropped; 33 around 12:50am. There People were killed were three injures but no and 115 injured. Blitz No.2 deaths reported. 17th January 1941A force of 60-70 enemy aircrafts releasing over 30,000 incendiaries and 800 high explosive bombs (66 failing to detonate) was used to wreck havocon the town; a higher concentration area than anywhere outside of London. To help with putting out fires other fire-fighters from South Wales weretravelling to Swansea to lend a helping hand. In addition twenty-two water tankers headed to Swansea to help with the wide spread issues.A majority of buildings could not be rebuilt until the 1950’s due to there being a limited supply of materials. On top of burst water mains; sewers, gasmains and electricity were off. All together forty-four water pipes were repaired within a fortnight; as fire-fighters struggled to contain the fires somefamilies had to use stirrup pumps to try and save their belongings.A diary found written by The Rev James “Jimmy” Arter, aged 26 served churches in Townhill and at the time stated he put out incendiaries by usingsandbags and how homeless people were wandering the streets trying to salvage what they can from the rubble of their homes. He wrote: “Homeless everywhere and dead lying under ruins. People white and sick looking, self among them as this just bloody murder.” Page 9 of 11
  10. 10. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013Some buildings survived the devastation of the town: The ‘Bonmarché’ building just opposite Peacocks survived and still has the lions on top Old Swansea Police Station (However it has Indentations from flying shrapnel) Swansea Museum Swansea Castle Cross Keys Inn Swansea Castle Glynn Vivian Art Gallery The Palace Theatre, just up from the train station Courtesy of South Wales Evening Post (Unfortunately it is now left deteriorated) Mount Pleasant Chapel/Baptist Church (Seen in the background of the image)DEATHS, CASUALTIES AND INJURES Three Men Women Under 16 Air- Messengers Rescue FiremenNight Blitz Wardens Workers No of 122 68 37 3 3 4 3 deaths:As seen in the table above during those three nights 227 people died; 122 men; 68 women and 37 ofthem under the age of 16; while more than 400 people were injured. 3 air-wardens; 3 messengers; 4rescue workers and 3 firemen were among those killed as they struggled to control 192 fires.387 civilian and military personal died during all the air raids. Swansea saw The Three Night Blitz as atotal failure from the Germans. The docks and industries were largely untouched and quicklyreopened. The British moral increased as there was much support towards the city after suchdevastating events. To commemorate the fallen service men a memorial statue is present atSwansea sea front. A small plaque is also present near the marina remembering the many civilianswho had a tragic ending. Page 10 of 11
  11. 11. Created by: David Evans Project Swansea Blitz 18th – 22nd March 2013During the whole of World War II Swansea had the highest Deaths throughout Wales and Injuries afterCardiff in WWII: Air Raid Casualties - Wales 1939-45 Anglesey Flintshire Caernarfonshire Carmarthenshire Locations Denbigh Injuries Monmouthshire Deaths Pembrokeshire Glamorgan Newport Cardiff Swansea 0 100 200 300 400 500 Number of casualtiesSOURCESWEBSITESWebsites I used can be seen at: https://www.diigo.com/user/devansitec/ICTProject1BOOKS‘When Wales went to war 1939-45’ – John O’Sullivan (2005)‘Images of Swansea’ – South Wales Evening Post (1998). (Images used with permission)MEDIA - DVD‘The three nights blitz: February 19th, 20th & 21st’ – Swansea MuseumOTHERPictures of ‘blackout curtain’ and ‘baby gas mask’ taken at ‘1940’s Swansea Bay’ by me. Page 11 of 11

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