The darkness of those days


Bomb damage in Aston around 1940. Image from the Ministry of Information, via the Imperial War Museum and Wikimedia Commons.

Mindful of the day and occasion, regular contributor and blog stalwart Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler wrote to me with an interesting couple of things to check out relating to the Second World War and Birmingham. I wasn’t aware of either, and they’ve been eye-openers, to be quite honest.

It’s worth pointing out that Peter is a genuine Brummie lad (if you haven’t already worked that out) and his connections to the Aston and Witton areas, particularly to the Kynoch factory  are deep and strong, and he’s done lots of research into the war’s effects there. It seems clear that up here in the coalfields north of the conurbation, we were fortunate to avoid the kind of bombardment and daily threat those just a few miles further south experienced.

Thanks to Peter. As ever, comments and debate welcome.

Hi Bob,

The run up to Armistice Day had me reflecting on some of the recent articles centred on 1940.


Brian David Williams, from his remarkable website.

The families of my parents lived within 100 and 500 yards of the Kynoch munitions factory. Three of my mother’s brothers had been called up, and her father, who had fought in the First War and suffered the affects of gas for the rest of his life, was now under constant bombardment by those who he had fought to defeat. I wonder just what he thought of the Armistice Day of 1940?

My mother said that of course they tried to make the best of things, but also that it was bloody horrible, and would not wish it on anyone.

I managed to stumble across the wonderful Diary by Brian David William All the days of my life, which can be seen here.

He was a schoolboy in 1940 and the entries for that year can be found here.

The entry for November 11th 1940, with some later addition reads:

MONDAY 11th NOVEMBER: Neville Chamberlain is dead.

Poor Mr. Chamberlain the peacemaker is dead. He died on Saturday night. He was 71. He was M.P. for Edgbaston, so all the flags are at half-mast and people are wearing black on their sleeves. The War made him ill. The Germans tried to drop bombs on his house in the country but they missed.

WEST MIDLAND NIGHT RAID: High-explosive bombs were dropped in a Midland country district last night. No casualties are reported. In an industrial area a number of high-explosives were dropped, damage being slight. (Birmingham Gazette, Monday 11th November 1940)

Germany’s communiqué yesterday claimed that on Sunday night, ‘in a factory of the aircraft industry near Birmingham large columns of flames were seen coming from the target.”'(Birmingham Gazette, Wednesday 13th November.)

Many newspapers carried the report the usual Armistice Day service at the Cenotaph and other war memorials in the country would not be held on Monday. Owing to the risk of confusion with air raid warnings the signal will not be given for the two minutes silence. It is proposed that November 10th shall be observed as a day of remembrance and dedication.

There does not seem to have been an air raid targeted on Birmingham on Armistice Day 1940. There were raids on the 9th of November, daytime at Cotteridge and Sheldon, and at night Solihull Lodge and Over Green near Minworth.

The next raid was on the 13th at Barnt Green.

For a list of the bombs dropped on Birmingham, see this article from the Birmingham Mail.


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