Baedeker Raid: ARP Wardens’ accounts

1,104 ARP Wardens in York were involved on the night of the raid. The reports of each Ward were written-up after the Baedeker raid on York by their respective Ward Head Warden and based on the notes they recorded at the time of the raid. Details of the A.R.P. Wardens’ reports, on a Ward by Ward basis, and with occasional additionally sourced material, can be read below.

While each of York’s Wards was unique in its experience of the raid, several common themes run across many of their experience. These can be read on the larger ‘write-up’ of the Baedeker Raid here.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Acomb

Ward Head Warden: Harold Richardson

A series of unexploded bombs fell in post A.3 in the Wetherby Road, Acomb Fronst Street vicinity. One fell on Front Street behind Hudson’s joinery shop, destroying a pigsty, greenhouses and sheds, and another in the foldyard of Tomlinson’s Farm, where a 500kg bomb was found and removed by the Bomb Disposal Squad on Sunday 3rd May.

Another of the unexploded bombs was reported at 6.50am on 29th April at York Maternity Hospital leading to its evacuation to a prepared annex.

Bomb damage to main rail lines to north of city near Water Lane water treatment site. The purpose of the building with camouflage roof has not yet been identified. IMAGE Tim Dryland

High explosives fell in fields owned by Mr. Bean between the L.&.N.E.R. East-Coast mainline and Low Poppleton Lane, on an allotment field next to the Sugar Beat factory, and others on the east side of Beckfield Lane, midway down. None of these bombs caused any casualties or significant damage to properties.

Lavender Grove was less fortunate. A high explosive bomb completely demolished Nos. 14 & 16 and nearly damaged all odd numbered houses between Nos. 3 and 27 and with ‘[s]uperfical damage to practically all the remaining houses’. Two other properties burntout as a result of incendiaries but there house numbers aren’t recorded. Tragically, one ‘invalid woman died from shock following injury to [her] leg’.

Further high explosives damaged properties at No.37 Malvern Avenue, Nos.43 & 45 Plantation Drive (leading to a fatality of a man ‘trapped in [a] home made shelter at No.45, whilst his ‘two sisters remaining in the house were quite safe’; as was the role of fate during the war.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Bootham

Senior Post Warden A. Robinson of B.1 Post [based at No.50 Bootham]: High Explosives fell in B.1 Post, damaging properties at: No. 54 Bootham; Nos. 46/48 Bootham, which was ‘wrecked’, but five people escaped unhurt; two houses in Bootham Square, off Bootham Row – leaving the rest of the flats there uninhabitable and one person dead and another seriously injured; and destroying gates near (the earliest location of) Manor School.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Clifton

A very large number of incendiaries were dropped in Clifton Ward: in Granville Drive, Rosslyn Street, Burton Stone Lane near Lumley Barracks, St. Peter’s Grove, Pickering Terrace and Newborough Street and adjacent district. But ‘out of the very large number of fires started’, reported Head Warden Clark, ‘a matter of six only got out of control’. The most serious of these was in Bootham Terrace. A National Fire Service [N.F.S.] engine had been dispatched to combat the fire, but had been put out of action by a high explosive bomb – a stick of four bombs falling in Bootham Crescent killed three firemen, the Deputy Ward Head Warden Colman, a solider and ‘some civilians’.

The raging fire in Bootham Terrace attracted – according to the Head Warden – subsequent high explosive bombing.

The other fires that raged extensively were in Pickering Terrace, two in Queen Anne’s Road, and two more opposite The Avenue in Clifton. ‘In these cases the N.F.S. arrived but there was insufficient pressure of water’ to fight the fires.

Detail of map made by City of York shortly after the Baedeker Raid showing the location of a high explosive bomb (red smudge) that entirely destroyed Pickering Terrace off Newborough Street and behind the old football ground in Bootham. IMAGE: York Explore Libraries & Archive.

In the case of Pickering Terrace, off Newborough Street near then old football ground in Bootham, the high explosive bomb destroyed the whole, short terrace of eight houses for ever – and killed three people: 7-year-old June Leeming and her mother, Doris at No.4, and their neighbour at No.6, Katherine Cooper. (A smudgy red dot on the City of York bomb map recorded shortly after the raid hardly does justice to the scale and totality of the destruction it caused.)

Clark concluded that ‘[c]onsidering the very large number of incendiaries dropped, the results may I think be considered good’. He singled from out among his Wardens, Deputy Head Warden Mrs. Saul, who ‘should receive special commendation … [for[ the work which she did both during the raid and for thirty-six hours afterwards, although, like many of us, she knew her own house was in a state of ruin’.

With an unfortunate hint of a Dad’s Army-sensibility, Head Warden Clark signs off his report by saying ‘I may add that I had my bicycle seriously damaged by blast, and have sent it to be repaired, hoping that this will receive approval’ for compensation.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Holgate

Ward Head Warden E. Hardisty

‘Great damage was caused [to the Ward] by High Explosives and Incendiary Bombs’ so starts Ward Head Warden E. Hardisty’s report of the Baedeker Raid in Holgate, with 31 High explosives and ‘scores of Incendiary bombs’ know to have dropped on the L.&.N.E.R.

In J.1 and J.4 Posts, near St. Barnabas’s Church Hall and Kingsland Terrace, respectively, nine people were ‘buried under their houses’. Wardens and Police ‘were able to get all the trapped people out; three being dead. Two other persons were killed in this district’.

Similar to other Ward reports, the lack of water caused fires to get out of hand, and ‘great damage’ was caused in Garfield Terrace, Hanover Street, Engineers Deptartment, L.&.N.E.R., Duke’s Laundry, two bungalows, and Holgate Tank Company.

In the Poppleton Road area, the local school was damaged ‘by a direct hit’ around 3.35am, but no casualties were suffered there. The neat splitting of the school in two by the bomb that fell made for an iconic image of the destruction that has featured long after the raid. It is highly emotive when thinking of schools as bombing targets – even if this was not the case, but rather one of a stick of four bombs that were targeted at the railway lines but over-shot.

Arguably more tragic was the bombs that fell the other side of Poppleton Road at practically the same time. One high explosive fell in Amberley Street, another in Chatsworth Terrace. The damage resulted in 23 people being buried in the rubble ‘with not much chance of being got out alive’, reported Deputy Head Warden A. J. Hudson, and 17 others who were trapped were rescued by wardens and the Rescue Party and taken to warden’s homes. Those who were injured and needing the attention of Dr Bateman were taken in by Mr(Mrs?) Patterson at 14 Amberley Street, before a Rescue Party from Hull arrived to take charge. It ‘was at these incidents’ continued Mr. E. Hardisty that ‘two Wardens from J.2 [post – based at Poppleton Road School] lost their lives. Wardens formed rescue parties at the incident, who, worked very long until they were received by a rescue party [from the Acomb depot on Beckfield Lane]. At 5.45am all the bodies had been removed. At these incidents 23 persons lost their lives’.

There were more warden casualties in J.3 Post [in the vicinity of the Methodist Chapel on Acomb Road], when a high-explosive bomb fell at the rear of Collingwood Avenue causing damage. One warden was killed and another was badly injured.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Fishergate

Ward Head Warden Barrington [?], 83 Fulford Road:

Four ‘incidents’ were reported in the Fishergate Ward. The first three were reported as occurring at 3.10am and so possibly came from a ‘stick’ of bombs. Each bomb led to casualties and extensive damage to properties:

On Heslington Lane at the junction with Grants Avenue, Flight-Lt Otty of 79 Heslington Lane, was killed outright having been ‘out in the open’ when the bomb fell in the roadway in front of him, leaving a large crater. His home was also badly damaged, as was neighbouring properties at Nos. 73, 75, 77, and 81 Heslington Lane.

At Garths End off Grants Avenue, a high explosive bomb fell to the rear of Nos.2 and 3 Garth End, demolishing Nos.2, 3, 12, 13, 14, and 15, badly damaging No.4, and leaving a crater approximately 30 ft in diameter and 7-8 feet deep. Mr and Mrs Crosby and their son had been sheltering in their Anderson shelter at No.3. The shelter, with the three of them in it, ‘was blown … into the next garden’ at No.4, leaving all three of them slightly injured – a miracle in itself – and being sent to hospital.

The third incident was at Crosslands Road, also off Grants Avenue. Similar to the Crosbys at No.3 Garth End, a mother and two children had been sheltering in their Anderson Shelter at No.9 Crosslands Road when a high explosive bomb fell at the back of Nos.8 and 9, leaving a crater 30 ft in diameter and 7-8 feet deep. Wardens R.H. Airey and A. T. Finlay rescued the three inhabitants of the ‘badly damaged Anderson shelter .. all uninjured’. The neighbours at No.8 were less fortunate, and were ‘buried beneath the debris of the two collapsed houses – Nos. 8 and 9 Crosslands Road. ‘With the aid of two more wardens and three neighbours, and with Warden Airey directing operations, with hands and shovel they were able to rescue a member of the W.A.A.F about 4ft down, and who had only slight injuries to the base of her skull. She was able to inform the Wardens that the occupants, Mrs Smith and her two year old son, ‘were somewhere near’. After ‘removing much more debris’, Mrs Smith was found and gave verbal guidance to the wardens trying to free her, but was pinned down by part of an inner wall, which cold only be removed with a tackle, and took 20 minutes to remove. Mrs Smith was taken to hospital but her son was declared dead at the scene.

The fourth incident is noted as occurring at 3.45am with two high explosive bombs falling at Cavalry Barrack Square. It led to ‘[e]xtensive damage to property on Fulford Road from Alma Terrace to Ordnance Lane, and the death of one officer and five privates and several injured. The Military Authorities took charge of this incident (and these casualties are understood to have been omitted from the overall number of people killed in the raid).

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Guildhall

G.2 Post [Public Library] P.T. Warden T. C. Harrison: Incendiaries had caused fires to the front and ground floor of the Probate Office on Duncombe Place. Wardens and Firewatchers from High Petergate tried to use stirrup pumps and sand to battle it, but the result was all too predictable: ‘too slow’ to have affect. It required two A.F.S. men connecting a hose from an interior hydrant at the Theatre Royal, through a stage door, to bring adequate water to combat the fire. Harrison makes a commendation ‘for A.F.S. man, name unknown, who continued to hose during H[igh] E[explosive bombing] and machine gunning, while himself an illuminated target.

The chaos and sheer scale of the threat from incendiaries is captured in Harrison’s quickly jotted notes: ‘….Attention drawn to apparent fire on N.A.A.F.I. roof (Museum Street). Phone dead. … Minster illuminated by fire glow from several directions. … To G.2 [Public Library] to report. Fires from riverside observed. To Bootham Bar shelter. Blaze from Exhibition Buildings etc. Sprained ankle on debris. To G.2 to report and take cover. … to Blake Street. Detour necessitated by damaged ankle.’ And he pitifully ends by noting: ‘Above report not guaranteed in strict chronological order’

Extract from G.2 Post’s Warden T. C. Harrison of his endeavours during the Baedeker Raid in the St Leonards, Duncombe Place, Blake Street area.

Fires are fleetingly mentioned in Coney Street, Tower Cinema, and a need to conduct the Hull Auxiliary Fire service to the fire at the Railway Station. It was not until Warden Harrison managed to team up with S.P. Warden Newey and Warden Hardy that his account gains more purpose. He pointed out danger from potential masonry falling from Leopard Arcade on three fireman tackling the blaze at the Church of St Michael Le Grand, with Newey bravely crossing the ‘danger area’ to warn them (although they then only moved aside ‘a few feet’ (for which Harrison recommended a commendation for bravery).

S.P. Warden B. Newey’s report from G.1 Post [Minster Choir School] is more calmly presented than Harrison’s, but is tellingly light on details in ways that other Wards were detailed (Heworth’s report of a single incident lasts three sides of A4, for example). It gives a real sense that the Wardens in the heart of the city were metaphorically, and in some cases literally, ‘firefighting’, responding to an ever-developing situation but never master of it. The devastation of the fire at the Guildhall is simply stated as ‘03.10: Fire at Guildhall’

S.P. Warden B. Newey’s report for G.1 Post.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Heworth

Ward Head Warden: W. G. Birch:

There was only one incident to report from the Heworth Ward.

A high explosive bomb fell on 11 Mansfield Street, which was unoccupied at the time – but several houses were demolished by the bomb and trapped the occupants at Nos. 9 and 13 seeking refuge under their stairs. Those at Nos. 9 were rescued uninjured, but ‘[u]nfortunately in No. 13 an old lady was found to be dead .., but her daughter escaped, suffering from slight shock and minor cuts on the hands’.

All other householders and occupants of damaged houses ‘were accommodated in a nearby shelter until … [t]wo gentleman lent their cars … to take them to the Rest Centre at Heworth … and all concerned expressed their gratitude’. The inclusion of such a gentility of phrasing, choice of words, and sentiment is startlingly at odds with the urgency of what was happening in the Guildhall Ward, barely a mile away across the city, at the time.

Birch signs off by bemoaning that the bedding in rest centres was damp and the lighting at Bull Lane Shelter is inadequate ‘with practically no oil in the one lamp provided’, and others needs heating and says ‘[i]t will be interesting to know whether other Head Wardens with more experience then we had in Heworth Ward have had any similar complaints’; some of them were evidently too busy to care.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Knavesmire

Ward Head Warden Harold De Burgh [?]:

‘I have pleasure in reporting that no incident, of any importance, took place in Knavesmire Ward during the …raid on York’, reported De Burgh.

This did not prevent a bit of inter-Ward rivalry occurring. Senior Post Warden C. E. Johnson of K.1 Post [St. Clement’s School] in the Knavesmire Ward, ‘[d]ecided to give what aid we could to Scarcroft [Ward] at Nunthorpe Road and Price Street’ – two areas that had major, ongoing incidents. After finding ‘[t]wo women walking about dazed’ and getting them warm drinks and into a neighbour’s house to rest, he commented ‘[a]ction by Scarcroft Wardens very slack’. Johnson also bemoaned that the police had yet to give the “all clear” on an unexploded bomb at the rear of Scott Street and Nunmill Street, which Wardens of K.1 Post [St. Clement’s School] had found, meaning he had ‘lost a morning’s work’.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Micklegate

Ward Head Warden Donaldson:

The Ward had three main incidents. The Bar Convent received a direct hit killing five nuns and injuring others.

A high explosive dropped in the middle of Cynett Street, Price Street and Nunthorpe Road demolished houses and needing the evacuation of other properties to the Rest Centre at St. Clement’s Hall. Four people were killed and others seriously injured.

On the Holly Bank Estate, one bomb exploded in Collingwood Avenue, leading to pieces of shrapnel being wrongly reported as potential unexploded bombs nearby. The bomb blast severely damaged houses, and residents on Olive Grove needed to be taken to the Rest Centre.

Interestingly, Wardens from M.4. and M.6 Posts, in the vicinity of Dringhouses, helped the numerous casualties ‘in the train which came out of the Station to Holgate Bridge station’ – presumably the 10.15 express train to Edinburgh that had been bombed on arrival to York Railway Station.

ARP Head Warden Reports ~ Walmgate

S.P.W. J. Carlton:

Incendiary bombs were reported between 3.10 and 6.30am having fallen in the Tang Hall area, including Tuke Avenue, Osbaldwick Lane, Alcuin Avenue, Lang Avenue, Tang Hall Lane and Ingleboro’ Avenue. Were these ignited – at 2 Temple Villas, Nos. 18 and 19 Tuke Avenue, Nos. 13 and 16 Osbaldwick Lane and 139 Alcuin Avenue, these were ‘dealt with by Wardens and neighbours’, and the ‘situation was always well in hand and civilians in [the] vicinity worked well and quite up to expectations’.

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