Plaque unveiling heralds 80th ‘Baedeker Raid’ anniversary

On the 80th anniversary of the Baedeker Raid, Raids Over York was delighted to be able to unveil its first ‘red’ plaque at York’s railway station. 

It’s the first of a series of ‘red’ plaques to come from the project, which has been three years in the making.

The Baedeker Raid occurred in the early hours of the 29th April 1942 and led to damage of a third of all York’s housing. 

York’s railway station was also severely damaged in the raid. It suffered from high-explosive and incendiary bombs, which killed two railway personnel: William Milner and Robert W. Smith.

The look and sounds of the war: songs being sung to the gathering crowd for the Baedeker plaque unveiling at York Station. IMAGE: Raids Over York

The Raids Over York plaque, which is kindly sponsored by LNER, honours the loss of these two men and also tells why the station and the railways in York was the principal focus of the attack (and not the city’s cultural heritage, as is sometimes assumed by the ‘Baedeker’ title of the attack!)

Stephanie Walker, LNER Station Manager, laying a wreath in tribute to William Milner, who died in the Baedeker Raid. IMAGE: Raids Over York

The unveiling was a poignant but also uplifting event, and well attended including the Civic Party.

The event featured popular songs of the wartime era being sung by a talented chanteuse, complete with 1940s costume and hair.

There were also the laying of wreaths at the existing plaque in honour of William Milner, the Station Foreman who died trying to retrieve medical first-aid supplies during the raid.

Moving and informative speeches were made by the Managing Director of LNER, David Horne, and John Shaw, Chair of YAYAS and a leading member of the Raids Over York project team.

There was a reading of a contemporary war poem by Ken Cooke, one of York’s last few Normandy Veterans.

David Horne, Mananging Director of LNER, providing a tribute of the two railwaymen killed at York Station during the Baedeker Raid. IMAGE: Raids Over York.
Display in the First Class Lounge at York Station. IMAGE: York Civic Trust

There was also a display in the 1st Class Lounge at the Station that brought home the scale of the destruction at the station during the raid.

And then there was the new plaque unveiling itself, made by Duncan Marks of York Civic Trust and the Raids Over York project team.

The plaque stands proud outside ‘Cycle Heaven’, just to the left-hand side of the exterior of the station building.  Go have a look!

The new plaque with Duncan Marks, Ken Cooke, Sheriff of York, Councillor Ashley Mason JP; David Horne, The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of York, Reverend Councillor Chris Cullwick, and Lord Mayor’s Consort, Joy Cullwick. IMAGE: York Civic Trust
The new ‘red plaque’. IMAGE: Raids Over York

Following the morning’s plaque unveiling, there was a Baedeker walk around York Cemetery at 6pm, researched and led by members of the Friends of York Cemetery. The walk was provided by David Poole and Dennis Shaw, two men with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the cemetery’s “incumbents”. The walk remembered the victims of the Baedeker Raid by visiting the graves of 41 of the 51 victims who were laid to rest in York Cemetery.

On the evening of the Raid’s anniversary, at 7:15pm, the bells of St Lawrence rang out in memory of those who died in the raid and to those who lived through it -as did York Minster’s bells at 7.30pm. It was a most fitting and appropriate ending to a very important and significant day in the history of the City.

Bell-ringers at rest outside at St Lawrence Church, Hull road, ahead of commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Baedeker Raid. IMAGE: Kevin Atkinson.

“Little Raiders”

Raids Over York is many things for many people, but one thing it aspires to do is interest and encourage our younger generations to find out more about life and times in York during World War Two. 

On the 80th anniversary of the Baedeker Raid on York, we’re delighted to unveil a children’s animation called ‘What A Lucky Escape’ for Raids Over York aimed at 7-11 year olds (KS2 pupils).

Our eldest generation will be the final generation that remembers and experienced the war at first hand. They were children, teenagers at most, during the war, meaning that how they experienced the war was seen through eyes and understood by minds as inquisitive and unknowing as our children today. 

It has been put together entirely by University of York undergraduates, Tab Kaye and Lauren Cheetham-Birmingham and with amazing animation by Emma Gough. Their amazing video follows James on his journey around York during the night of one of the raids on the city, as he tries to find his friend, Tara. 

In his search, James discovers some of the types of problems that were faced by people on the night of that raid in York. 

…But just as it looks like it might be a sad story for Tara, is there hope among the rubble? 

In addition to the fab video, Tab, Lauren and Emma have produced a cartoon education pack for KS2 pupils and teachers to use; have a look here

From Sanctuary to Salvage

To commemorate the ‘Baedeker Raid’ today – Friday, the 29th April – Raids Over York has been working with University of York student, Eleanor Richardson, to produce three, short YouTube videos about the raid.

Eleanor has been with the Archives Team at York Explore Libraries & Archive as part of an IPUP placement, working through their collection.

Her third and final video focuses on the important role the city’s 20 Rest Centres played during the raid, and the scale and impact of the emergency billeting of the thousands of people who had lost their home in the bombing.

Experiencing ‘the Raid’

As a prelude to the 80th anniversary of the ‘Baedeker Raid’ this Friday – the 29th April, Raids Over York has been working with University of York student, Eleanor Richardson, to produce three, short YouTube videos about the raid.

Eleanor has been with the Archives Team at York Explore Libraries & Archive as part of an IPUP placement, working through their collection.

Her second video charts the memories of ARP Warden Shearing of the Baedeker Raid.

Eleanor’s final video, which will be posted via the Raids Over York and York Explore’s social media tomorrow on Friday, examines the importance of Rest Centres and rehousing people following the destruction.

Inaugural “Raid’s” Plaque set for Unveiling

Bomb damage to York Railway Station and sidings beyond – photo taken the day after the Baedeker Raid on York by the RAF for L&NER. IMAGE Tim Dryland

Raids Over York is delighted to announce that the project’s first “red” plaque is set to be unveiled this Friday – 29th April – in time with the 80th anniversary of the Baedeker Raid on the city.

The new plaque will be unveiled at York Railway Station shortly after 11am to the front, left hand side of the station (outside ‘Cycle Heaven’). The plaque and unveiling event is in conjunction with LNER due to the plaque’s railway-focus. It acknowledges the station and its infrastructure as being at the heart of the Luftwaffe’s attack on York.

It also honours two railwaymen who lost their lives in the attack: station foreman William Milner, 42, and 64-year-old railway policeman Robert William Smith.

The station foreman, who was a keen first-aider, gave his life trying to get a box of urgently-needed medical supplies. Milner was posthumously awarded the King’s commendation for gallantry.

Robert Smith, a railway constable, who lived with his wife and two daughters at 34 Kensington Street, South Bank, was working in the station’s post room where he was killed.

A wreath laying and service will take place at 11:00 at the existing William Milner memorial plaque on the main concourse with the new plaque unveiled outside Cycle Heaven shortly after.

Platforms 1, 2 and 3 at York Railway Station after the raid. IMAGE: NRM/SSPL

Trouble brewing on the horizon ?

As a prelude to the 80th anniversary of the ‘Baedeker Raid’ on York this Friday – the 29th April, Raids Over York has been working with University of York student, Eleanor Richardson, to produce three, short YouTube videos about the raid.

Eleanor has been with the Archives Team at York Explore Libraries & Archive, working through their collection.

Her first video is an overview of the Baedeker Raid – and can be seen below.

Eleanor’s two other videos, which will be posted via the Raids Over York and York Explore’s social media tomorrow and on Friday, examine the experience of A.R.P. Wardens and Officer Shearing in particular during the Raid, and the importance of Rest Centres and rehousing people following the destruction.


Digital Map is GO!!

Raids Over York is delighted to launch its interactive digital map today – ahead of the 80th anniversary of the Baedeker Raid on April 29 2022.

The map records how and where people experienced the raids, including structures that were built to allow them to best cope with the raids, and also where there’s evidence of the war still remaining today.

The map allows you to explore widely across the city so as to better understand how the city’s communities were affected by the 11 raids.

The map is the creation of the University of York’s Department of Archaeology, one of the partners of the Raids Over York project.

Celebrating ‘the people’ at the heart of York’s raids

Our ‘people’ element of Raids Over York is starting to take shape:

It celebrates the lives of those who were directly or indirectly effected by the 11 raids on York during WW2.

Part of this task is to help identify those who are often now sadly forgotten or only known to their family. This has led Raids Over York to seek information of those who feature in a handful of ARP group photos that were taken in York during the war and are now held at York Explore City Archives.

Following a story of the appeal in York Press, the fabulous details of the ‘missing names’ on our ARP group photos keep on coming.

Kerry C. contacted Raids Over York after her father recognised his father (Kerry’s grandfather), Ernest Pallister, in the Layerthorpe / Hallfield Road ARP photograph.

Ernest Pallister

At the time of the war, Ernest lived in a street off Hull Road and worked at the local brickworks. Kerry said her dad picked Ernest out of the picture and was surprised he was in the ARP, as Ernest never mentioned it to his son. (Sadly too frequently was the case!). While Ernest died when Kerry was only 2 years old, her mother remembers Ernest had a limp and had told her it was a shrapnel injury he got in the war; (maybe whilst the raids were happening?) Ernest worked for many years at York Railway Station as a Porter until he died. 

Read about other identified and still to be identified York ARP heroes:

‘Raids’ going global

Raids Over York has gone global !! – with Jane contacting us from New Zealand to tell us about her grandpa, Cyril Barlow, who was an A.R.P. Warden in Strensall.

Cyril was 37 when war broke out and was very involved as a civilian at Strensall camp. (In civilian life, Cyril had a cycle and taxi business, based out of his house on Station Road, Strensall. He worked in it until his death in 1974)

Cyril Barlow and Strensall ARP ‘pals’; Cyril stood second from the right. Image: Jane Smelt

Jane has also provided a great group photo of Strensall’s ARP personnel. Cyril is standing and second from the right, the names of the other ARP can be found on the ‘People’ page of Raids Over York: … Perhaps you are related to one of them?

Cyril Barlow, assumed to be outside his home in Strensall. Image: Jane Smelt

Jane mentions that her mother (Cyril’s daughter) also served in York during the war – in the Observer Corps on the Knavesmire where she was based with “B Group”.

The openness of the Knavesmire provided an excellent position to spot incoming Luftwaffe planes, and hosted some of the city’s main anti-aircraft batteries.

Can you help identify York’s forgotten Civil Defence heroes?

Do you have a relative who helped protect York from the Luftwaffe during WW2? Can you help recognise someone in long-forgotten photographs? If so, we’d love to hear from you! 

As the Raids Over York project has highlighted in its coverage of the first six – soon to be seventh (this coming Saturday) – bombing raids on York during WW2, the role of the Civil Defence force was hugely important. It was also incredibly dangerous; nearly 7,000 Civil Defence workers were killed in Britain during the war, including in York. 

In total, 2,554 ordinary people risked their lives as Air Raid Wardens, medical orderlies, and firewatchers in York as part of the civil defence of their city; finishing their daytime jobs and duties, then donning their Civil Defence service helmets or grabbing their medical kits and heading out on Civil Defence duty, often until the early hours and regardless of how bad the weather was. 

Civil Defence Photograph #1 – taken on Library Lawn with the multangular tower and City Walls to the rear. The names of the people are unknown.
IMAGE: Explore York Libraries and Archives / City of York Council

The names of many of York’s Civil Defence forces are sadly now lost to us (although as families we may know of stories of individual relatives who volunteered.) Fortunately, Explore York’s Archive Team have located a small number of group photographs of Civil Defence volunteers. 

You can really get a feel for the individual characters in the photographs. (Please save the images and open to zoom in on the individual sitters!) You can see that many have their day or work clothes on underneath their uniforms – different ties, blouses etc; some have smart shoes on, others army-style boots.

Civil Defence Photograph #2 – A.R.P. wardens from Layerthorpe/Hallfield Road.
Back row left to right: first four unidentified, W Walkington, W Wain, Joe Calam, Mrs O Calam, [?], W Brett,[?] ,[?];
Seated: F G Hemenway (in white helmet), Joyce Calam (far right).
All others unidentified.
IMAGE: Explore York Libraries and Archives / City of York Council

A few of the photos detail the names of the people in them, which is great as it allows us to put a face to a name – some of whom are mentioned in the official A.R.P. reports of the raids.

But two of the photos – both photos in this post – give only a few or no names. It’s a bit of a long shot, but as we know how popular genealogy is these days, and how good people’s historical and internet research skills are – let alone the sheer quality of local history knowledge out there! – we would really like to hear from you if you know or can recognise any of the people in the photos? 

  • Do you know any of the volunteers in the photos?
  • Are any of them a family descendant?
  • Are you the young lad sitting in front of one of the groups?
  • Do you recognise where the photos were taken?

If so, please contact the Raids Over York team using the reply section below, emailing, or via our social media channels.