Heavy casualties in raid on Hull

18th July 1941: No lull for the most bombed city outside London

Hull was regularly bombed, partly because of its accessibility on the east coast and partly because of its importance as a port and shipbuilding centre. Smouldering grain cascades slide into the river at Hull after the raid on the night of 7/9 May 1941.

The Blitz may have been temporarily over for Londoners but intermittent raids continued around Britain. Hull was one of the cities regularly targeted.

Air raid shelters were only a refuge against bombing in the vicinity. They were far from bomb proof. One of the reasons casualties were so high on the night of the 18th was that a communal shelter in Musgrave Street took a direct hit. Dozens were killed and whole families wiped out.

On the 18th July Norman Lyons was about to celebrate his 18th birthday with his twin brother Gordon. They lived in the east coast town of Hull which was becoming very familiar with German bombers. When the air raid siren went they sheltered in an alleyway between the houses while their family went to the air raid shelter:

On the night of 18th July 1941 East Hull was heavily attacked by German bombers. A lot of incendary bombs were dropped on our street followed by a huge bomb which exploded less than 80 yards away from us.

Gordon and I suffered the indignity of being blown on our backs and covered in dust and rubble. The rest of the family were safe but shaken in the shelter.

Estcourt Street was in a terrible state. The school had been burnt to the ground along with the Cussons shop at the top and pile of rubble was all that remained of 2 terraces of houses. The main shoping area was in ruins and it was deprived of gas, water and electricity so we had to rely on mobile kitchens for food and drink.1

Hull (17th / 18th July).

The attack lasted for about two hours. 160 fires were started but only four became serious. Over 3,500 people were rendered temporarily homeless. Public utility services received considerable damage but repairs are well in hand.

Several important factories were affected, the more important of which were :— Messrs. Spillers Ltd. Swan Mills. Completely gutted. Messrs. Sanderson & Co. Oil refinery put out of action.

111 were killed and 108 seriously injured.2

The bombing was becoming so frequent that around a third of the population were regularly ‘trekking’ out in to the surrounding countryside every night. They spent the night wherever they could, suffering discomfort rather than risking a night of bombing.

The Chief Warden, Robert Greenwood Tarran, went to investigate a few nights after the 18th July raid. He drove about four miles out of Hull and parked on the outskirts of the village of Bilton. There he asked if there were any billets for the night and was directed to a Piggery:

I eventually found room in one of the pig sties in the Piggery and apologised to the families who were in this sty, for disturbing them and asked if they minded me joining them. Then with my respirator as my pillow and my light rug, I lay down on the straw. In this up to date pig sty each sty or pen had its own lavatory accommodation at the back - for the pigs - which was constantly used as I was to find out later by both sexes during the night.

‘Well, never mind, I would sooner have British rats than Hitler’s bombs.

After about half an hour when everything had been very quiet the rats started. I seemed to have chosen the place which was a traffic road for the rats. Probably that was why no-one was sleeping there. They ran over me, then ran under me, but seeing that there were children in the same pig sty as myself, I kept very quiet for fear anything 1 did would waken the children and they would become scared.

Slowly I heard rustling of straw in other pig sties and a man would say to a woman very quietly, ‘There’s rats.’ Gradually the talk of rats became more audible until the inhabitants of the pig sty talked to the inhabitants of another. One man said there were a couple who’d been doing a dance on him. Someone from another pen said, ‘There has been one running across me with clogs on.’ From another pen a woman’s voice said, ‘Well, never mind, I would sooner have British rats than Hitler’s bombs.3

1

‘Birthday Greetings from Adolf’ BBC People's War.

2

From the Home Security Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/18/2