|Written in conjunction with the BBC
|Looking out from the restaurant balcony of Southampton's
West Quay shopping mall across the Retail Park towards Leisure World, it
is difficult now to imagine the scene in the final year of WW2. Then, in
the foreground stood a transit camp for German POWs guarded by soldiers
of the American 14th. Major Transportation Corps.
Southampton docks laboured under the movement of three and a half
million troops, supplies and equipment bound for the European theatre of
war. Southampton High Street was mostly destroyed, and much of the
rubble had been pushed towards Town Quay to construct the Staging-Hards
for D-Day. From Millbrook to West End hundreds of bombsites littered the
|Southampton was the seventh heaviest bombed city in
Britain. It was considered an obvious target; it was Britain's Number
One Military Port, and the home of Spitfire production. Therefore,
Southampton's air-raid precautions were advanced and preparations in the
borough were intensive. The first blackout exercise in England was
staged in Southampton in June 1937, and the town was well provided with
shelters. The historic Bargate, and many of the town's 600 year old
underground vaults were utilized as bomb shelters.
|Southampton was raided 57 times, and three raids were
classified as major attacks. The first bombs fell on 20 June 1940 after
which a pattern emerged of strategic daylight raids on aircraft
factories, shipyards, docks and railway lines, with occasional small
scale attacks on populated areas and sometimes machine gun strafing of
There is a strong folk memory of certain incidents and attacks. These
include the leaflet drop,' A Last Appeal to Reason, by Adolf Hitler':
the sight of Flight Lieutenant J. B. Nicholson baling out of his burning
Hurricane over Millbrook, only to be shot by an over excited Home
Guardsman: the attack on the International Cold Storage Depot setting
alight 2300 tons of butter, which ominously burnt for 9 days: and the
harrowing destruction of the Civic Centre School of Art.
In late September heavy raids destroyed the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire
factory at Woolston, but amazingly Spitfire manufacture continued
through the dispersal of production into a variety of buildings
including garages, laundries and bus stations.
|The increasing number of attacks ratcheted up the level
of fear in the town culminating in three major raids at the end of
November 1940. The raids were of similar duration and intensity. They
commenced around 6.30 p.m. and lasted between 5 to 7 hours, with 120
bombers streaming in on each raid. The glow of Southampton burning could
be seen from as far away as Cherbourg.
Most of the High Street and thousands of homes were destroyed or
damaged. Two thousand firemen mobilised from surrounding brigades to
reinforce the courageous local fire fighters, but incompatible equipment
and lack of water supplies rendered the situation hopeless.
|It was Southampton's darkest hour. Accounts of people's
reaction varied widely ranging from the Southern Daily Echo's, 'these
people survive today amazingly cheerful, and full of courage'; to Mass
Observation unit's, 'people are broken in spirit', and the controversial
Hodsall Report (made public in 1973, and heavily refuted) claiming
incompetence of the local authorities.
There had been numerous acts of individual heroism, and most people
remained defiant. But understandably the most immediate public reaction
to the blitz was to vacate the town at night, and for a while 'trekking'
became a way of life for some people
|Although sporadic attacks continued, the worst was over
with the last big 50 bomber raid in June 1942. The Spring of 1942 was a
turning point. In February the docks re-opened to receive Lease-Lend
cargoes from America.
Then there followed the gradual build up to D-day and Operation
Overlord, with Southampton people playing an important role working long
hours in the factories and ship yards, and building the Mulberry
Harbours. South Western House became the headquarters of Combined
Operations Military Movement Control.
The US Army 14th. Major Port Transportation Corps arrived in July 1943
and took over docks organisation. One of their final tasks in 1946 was
the embarkation of British war brides for the USA and Canada.
|Southampton Blitz : The Unofficial Story. Compiled and
edited by Claire Frankland, Donald Hyslop and Sheila Jemima.
Publication: So'ton Local Studies Section Oral History Team (1990).
|Southampton and D-Day, Peckham, I. Hyslop, D. & Jemina,
S. Publication: So'ton Local Studies Section Oral History Team (1994).
|Southampton's Children of the Blitz. Andrew Bissell.
Redpost, Bournemouth (2001)
|Southampton: The English Gateway. Bernard Knowles.
|Southampton at War 1939-1945. Anthony Kemp. Ensign
|The Southampton Blitz. Anthony Brode. Pub.Barry Shurlock
|Got Any Gum Chum; Reminiscences of War Time Southampton.
Marion Ainsworth. ISBN 187356001X
|Springboard for Overlord: Hampshire and the D-day
Landings. Anthony Kemp, Milestone Publications (1984)
|Hampshire Evacuees. Eric Wyeth Gadd. Paul Cave
|Hampshire and D-Day. Martin Doughty. Hampshire Books
|Southampton An Illustrated History. (Chapter 12) Adrian
Rance. Milestone (1986).
|An Account of the Blitz, Lawrence Burgess. Pub. by
Friends of Old Southampton (1981).
|Yanks At Southampton. Paul Pothecary ISBN 0 902129775
|A WW2 Photograph from Monica
|Dear Mr. Simpkin,
As I mentioned at your talk last Tuesday to the U3A, I was on your
"Blitz Walk on the Monday and thought you would be interested in this
old photo of wartime which requires a little explanation. The occasion
was the day my father received his long awaited Home Guard uniform and
we decided on a family photo of us all in uniform.
Dad had been in the Home Guard right from the beginning, but now he had
a uniform and a gun. (there was also a Sten Gun which was kept right by
the kitchen door). My brother in the strange looking uniform on the left
was a member of the Army Cadet Force at his school. The uniforms were
left over from the Great War - no concessions there !
Copyright Monica Cornforth
|These uniforms caused trouble when the boys were exercising in the
school yard one afternoon and a Messerschmit swooped out of the mist and
raked them with machine-gun fire - fortunately none of them were hit.
"Lord Haw-Haw" announced over the radio that the Germans had attacked
big concentrations of troops at Odiham that day. They also dropped a
bomb, but that is another story. I am the girl-guide on the right. I
don't think my cat would have put up much of a fight.
|At the time we were really expecting the invasion at any
time, watching every night Southampton burning in one direction and
Portsmouth in the other. My father was a most happy man and he never
looked as stern as this, but if Hitler had come who knows ! We all
survived the war except for the cat who was run over by a tank. Hope
this might be useful for your archives.
Sincerely Monica Cornforth.
PS I did enjoy both the Blitz Walk and the talk on Southampton Parks.
|Pearl Miller's Memories...
|My son and I watched the dvd this morning and I am
absolutely delighted with it. Am going to order one for my grandson for
his birthday later this month. Steve and I were very taken up with the
American soldiers carving their names in the wall - we hadn't heard of
|I was born in 1939 and as a small child lived in Romsey
Road fairly near Maybush corner. I recall one or two incidents towards
the end of the war- one being the 'marbles' which were turned out at
Green Lane and which my friends and I used to pick up on our way home
from school. Another memory is that of having a ride on an American
soldier's motorbike. Gosh, we used to trust people in those days, didn't
we? It must have been a very short ride (from Green Lane to Maybush
Corner). Several children were given this 'thrill' and I happened to be
the last one as I lived nearest to Maybush Corner.
|Another thing I recall is a trip to Bournemouth when I
was about three. My father attended to all the sound equipment for the
aerodromes - Hurn, Ibsley, Thorney Island, and others which I can't
recall. On one occasion my mother and I went with him for the ride and I
remember there being lots of barbed wire along the beach at Bournemouth
(or some seaside place) and as I was paddling a huge wave drenched me
and we had a long wait for my father to finish his inspection. There
were several American soldiers relaxing on the beach and they saw that
mum was in a bit of a dilemma, so they sat with me whilst she went off
and bought me a dress.
I don't know how she managed to pay for it or get enough coupons but I
remember the dress as clearly as anything. It was yellow and white check
with a white collar. I am often amazed at the trust she put in these
chaps, because as far as I can recall I only wore a coat to keep me warm
as it wasn't summer, and everything else was soaking wet.
Sadly mum died when I was 17 as she had been ill since having rheumatic
fever as a child
|I recall going to the Co-op in St.Mary's and having tea
and cakes in the restaurant and it was furnished with Lloyd loom style
tables and chairs, but I cannot remember the colour - it was definitely
either peachy/pink or turquoise. I know the tables were glass topped.
|I also remember Lyons Tea House where mum and grandma
would take tea on our trips to town. There were lots of wooden barriers
along the road there stopping people falling into the bombed areas and I
tore a coat on a nail protruding from one of these fences.
|I have so many odd memories of those post war years. My
grandma and her friend who lived in Janson Road, must have looked a
strange sight in Shirley. They were extremely smart and must have looked
rather odd walking along in their tailored suits, fox furs, white gloves
and posh hats. They'd look even more odd now, wouldn't they?
1605 air-raid alarms
475 tonnes of High Explosive bombs (2361 bombs)
631 dead: 898 seriously injured: 979 slightly injured.
963 homes destroyed
8927 seriously damaged
32,019 slightly damaged
|Merchant Navy Memorial is the blitzed ruin of Holy Rood
preserved to commemorate the 38,000 members of British Merchant Navy who
were lost in WW2.
|The Cenotaph. Located in London Road.
|Civilian War Memorial. At Hollybrook Cemetery; a raised
platform of Purbeck stone, with a Portland stone wall containing the
|Roll of Honour of Civilian War Dead. A heavy gold
embossed Remembrance Book - located in Mayor's Reception Room.
|Memorial Plaque in Hoglands Park, on site of public
shelter which received a direct hit.
|The Art Gallery Chamber, Civic Centre.
|WW2 Memorial Plaque. Located south side of The Bargate.
|The Supermarine Memorial. Located in Spitfire Walk,
|The Battle of Trebouba. Memorial Plaque located in
Trebourba Way, Millbrook.
|US. 14th. Major Port Transportation Corps. Memorial
Plaque attached to Southampton's Mayflower Memorial, located opposite
the Royal Pier.
|Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial, Holly Brook
and a second memorial at Southampton's Crematorium.
|Burma Star Memorial. Located in Grosvenor Square (off
|Jack Mantle, V.C. A children's corner at Municipal
|The Polish Community. Located in Bowden Lane, Swathling.