Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Another story from Tony Goulding ..... the bombing of Chorlton-cum-Hardy Christmas Blitz 1940 together with raids from March and May 1941

What follows may serve as a salutary and timely reminder of the human cost of what are now known rather euphemistically as "strategic air strikes." 

A factor it behooves us to reflect on, whether we be for or against, when we consider such actions over Syria, Iraq, or any other "targets"

On the nights of 22/23rd and 23/24th December 1940 Manchester was visited by the German Luftwaffe and Chorlton-cum-Hardy did not escape the resultant death and destruction.

This "Christmas Blitz" was the heaviest attack suffered by Manchester during the conflict but there were several other raids both before and after this one. One such one, and particularly devastating in its consequences for Chorlton-cum-Hardy, occurred on the night of May 1st. 1941
         
These rows of new houses on Chatfield Road (top) and Corkland Road (bottom) were built on void sites, left as a result of these German bombing raids during World War 2.

The present homes were built in the 1970's (1974 - according to one resident) and replaced the "prefab" temporary housing erected in the immediate post-war years.

Those on Corkland Road providing evidence of the impact of the onslaught on that Christmas Eve, Eve 75 years ago.

The destruction caused by the later raid of May 1941 is indicated by the Chatfield Road development.

They mark the sites not only of severe property damage but also of a tragic loss of life.
 
The greatest death toll (1) at a single location was at 1-3, Chatfield Road, known at the time as Chatsworth Road. At no.3, there were four fatalities all middle-aged to elderly ladies, and a Swiss couple Charles Albert and Ida Caspar, both in their 60's, perished at no.1.

Still another death was recorded at the adjacent house on Cavendish/Corkland Road. No. 19 witnessed the sad loss of David Maitland Hebert, a baby of just 7 months. (2)

This sad toll had almost been matched during the Christmas raids when a massive bomb cut a swath of destruction from the top end of Corkland (then known as Cavendish) Road through to Wilbraham Road, where the Post Office now stands. (3)

On Corkland/Cavendish nos 2-4 were destroyed no 2 being the home and surgery of a prominent local dentist Mr. Stephen Laurence Wilson.

The devastation on Wilbraham Road was worse the old post office building and the adjacent  Martins Bank (nos.553 & 551) were severely damaged whilst more tragically in the flat above 549, four members of the Carr family were killed , the father Ernest, mother Jeanne together with their 9 year old son William died at the scene. 11 year old Hazel died of her injuries the following day in Withington hospital.

Additionally at no.545 a 65 year old widow Mrs. Mary Coffey was also a casualty that night.

It has been speculated that the bombs which fell on Chorlton on the night of 1st. /2nd. May, 1941 came from a "rogue" aircraft.

The pilot, being off course through navigational or error instrument damage, jettisoning the planes bomb load before following the railway line south heading for home.

There are some grounds to support this hypothesis in that on this night there were only 8 deaths recorded in Manchester and all of these occurred in Chorlton-cum-Hardy however, without any hard, documentary, evidence this must remain a matter for conjecture.
       
On the contrary, there could be no doubt that the Christmas Blitz was a concerted brutal attack designed to smash both the infra-structure and morale of the city after which German propaganda boasted the city was a burnt out shell.
           
Mid-way between the blitz of December and the isolated bombing in May there took place another heavier assault on the Manchester area which resulted in a larger number of casualties throughout the city as a whole but with just three fatalities in Chorlton.

This raid was particularly memorable as the stands and pitch at Old Trafford football ground suffered huge bomb damage of such severity that Manchester United were required to play for the first three post-war seasons at Maine Road, the home ground of cross city rivals Manchester City.

A curiosity arising out of this arrangement is that, apart from record aggregate attendances(4) at Maine Road during the seasons concerned, is that the largest number of spectators to attend a UNITED "home" league fixture (and still the national record ) remains the 83,260 who, somehow, squeezed into CITY'S ground on the 17th January, 1948 to watch Them Vs. Arsenal.

On this air-raid, also, a cluster of bombs fell on the Sandy Lane area leaving a trail of death and devastation.

The  impact of some of these bombs is clearly discernible by observing the "new-build" semi-detached houses on Torbay, and Dartmouth Roads.

In these locations were the Chorlton deaths. At 19, Torbay Road young Peter Goodyear was a 2 year old victim whilst in neighbouring Dartmouth Road at no.32, Ida Teer and her 20 year old daughter Barbara Mary died.

My friend David was born, less than 3 years after the bombing, close by the bombsite (and still lives) on Dartmouth Road and although his testimony may be uncorroborated hearsay I still think it worth the telling.

He gives two anecdotes about the event, firstly he relates how his mother was at church (it would have been High Lane Primitive Methodist) as the bombs fell.

When news reached her that a bomb had hit a house at the Sandy Lane end of Dartmouth Road she had rushed home fearing the worst. His second story tells that the two individuals who lost their lives  at 32, Dartmouth Road were sheltering, as per Home Office guidelines, in the cellar whilst the father,

William who was upstairs in the kitchen when the bomb struck was thrown out into the rear garden and survived.

Notes:
1) There was a total of  more than 20 fatalities in the Chorlton district during the two nights of bombing 66-8 Newport Road and 18-20 Cheltenham Road suffered multiple deaths. Casualties were also recorded on Claude Road (where a member of the Home Guard was killed), Silverdale Road, Clarendon Road, and  Saint Werburghs's Road.
2) Another resident of Cavendish/Corkland Road was to also to die in an air raid precisely a month to the day later. Mr Albert Henry Bowers, a 54 year old designer, who lived at no.40 was killed at 80, Cumberland Street, Deansgate whilst carrying out his duties as a firewatcher. He was one of 8 such volunteers to die that night in what proved to be one worst raids on the city with around 45 fatalities in Manchester with a similar number in Salford.
One of these deaths was another Chorltonian , Mrs. Frances Mary Curphey the 33 year old wife of Jack of 84,Whitelow Road. She died at George St./Portland St.
3) My mother, as a young teenager, would have witnessed this devastation at  very close hand as she was living at the time only 50 yards away at 5, Keppel Road. It is very likely she was, at least, acquainted with young Hazel Carr.
4) The population having been starved of any meaningful competitive  sport for more than 6 years,  In the immediate post war year football crowds soared dramatically (to unprecedented and un-repeated heights) and attendances for both clubs regularly passed 60.000 whilst it was not unknown for them to approach and on occasion surpass 70,000

©Tony Goulding, 2015-12-12

Pictures; Corkland Road, Wilbraham Road from the collection of Tony Goulding, and Wilbraham Road from the collection of Tony Goulding, and Torbay Road,08620 & m08621 , 
courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

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