Blitz remembered: Bombs brought end to children’s party

2 January 2016

AVERIL GOLDSWORTHY (nee Coombs) remembers the night of the Blitz, 2nd January 1941.

Her father Dick had a shop at 177 Corporation Road, opposite Ebenezer Chapel and she had been at the hall there with 140 other children for the Sunday school’s annual Christmas party, when the air raid siren sounded.

“These parties were renowned and there was always an increase in the numbers of pupils a few weeks before Christmas.

“The parties continued throughout the war years, the government food office allocating a basic food allowance for the children, and adult members sparing as much of their own meagre rations as they could, to top things up. The store cupboards were opened and out came the boxes of decorations collected over the years. Tinsel, paper chains, balloons, Chinese lanterns, strings of coloured fairy lights and of course there was always a large Christmas tree suitably decorated, reaching to the ceiling with a pretty fairy doll, holding her wand and gazing down upon us from the top branch.

“Luxury goods had disappeared entirely from the shops during the war, no sparkling displays in shop windows so stepping into Ebenezer basement at party time, from the blackout was like stepping into fairy land. Mothers tried to make party dresses for children often by cutting a garment of their own.

“The tradition was to hold three annual parties on separate days, one for infants, another for older children and the third was for young people. However because of the air raids, the authorities concerned advised the Chapel to condense the parties into two days as this would not require the A.R.P. to provide extra men in our area on three days of the week.

“Arrangements were made to hold the infants party at 4pm and finish by 6pm. Usually bombing raids commenced rather late in the evening or in the night.”

The shudder of our building was frightening, and the screaming bombs petrified us

“On the afternoon of 2nd January, 1941 140 children were brought to Ebenezer for their party which proceeded happily. However, suddenly the air raid warning siren sounded. Some parents had arrived early to collect their children, grabbed their offspring and fled. My sister myself and a friend were rushed across the road to my home and father’s shop where it had been previously arranged that two young ladies were to look after us for a few hours as both my parents were involved in running the senior party at the chapel.

“Usually there was a short lull after the siren went before the guns opened fire and the bombs crashed down but not this night. Our minders rushed us under the stairs considered the safest place in the house. Suddenly my father appeared and we were rushed back to the chapel basement considered to be stronger than mere houses. Crash after crash, splintering glass, the sound of bricks tumbling down all around us. The raid went on hour after hour and it was too risky for anyone to leave the building. Wave after wave of German aircraft came over, their peculiar irregular engine noises familiar to us.

“The shudder of our building was frightening, and the screaming bombs petrified us. A few of the men present went up into the rafters to join the fire watchers (already on duty) in order to man the stirrup pumps and sand buckets to fight the incendiary bombs as they landed.

“All of our decorations were considered a fire hazard so were speedily pulled down and taken outside – our temporary fairyland had gone. Just before midnight the doors opened and ARP wardens and policemen rushed in and a number of rescued people in various states of shock, cuts and bruises etc., were added to our number. I remember seeing one or two ladies faint and I thought that they had died never having seen anyone faint before. Because of houses being badly damaged about 100 local people lived in this basement for approximately two weeks while the soldiers cleared the area of time bombs. They worked night and day.

“Finally in the dawn we were taken home and I still remember the dust and smell of smoke and gunpowder, the glass on the roads and pavements, and pieces of shrapnel and shell cases and I picked a piece of shrapnel to keep as a souvenir which suddenly disappeared – I think that my mother was the culprit and got rid of it!”

This was the damage in Ferry Road

“My aunt and uncle lived nearby in a new house, but after this night it was no more, they were saved by being in their garden Anderson shelter. Not so fortunate was a bakery higher up the road, the premises had a large reinforced cellar and about 30 people were taking shelter there when they received a direct hit from a land mine and all were killed.

“There was little chance in any civilian shelter or reinforced cellar if you received a direct hit from a heavy bomb or landmine, and it was a miracle that Ebenezer with all those youngsters came through unscathed, although it had been thickly surrounded by bombs and incendiaries. Fortunately too, the munition factory (Currans) which was only separated from us by the width of the River Taff has comparatively small damage and so it did not blow up and take us with it.

“A thanksgiving service was arranged within a few days and it was very well attended, some people had never been inside any church for years.

There are a lot more Blitz stories on the Grangetown history webpages

 

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